Our Trip West

On our way west from Georgia, we wanted to visit some historic sites we've missed in previous vacations.  Here's a few photos from places we visited along the way.

You've heard of prarie grass, I'm sure.  Well, this stuff was all over the place when we came out in April.  According to old history books, pioneers had to come west when during the months there was enough forage for their animals or they draft animals would starve and die.  That really limited the months they could travel.
prarie grass

Pioneers also had to travel close to where their animals could get water or they would die of thirst.
Most Utah pioneers and many California and Oregon pioneers followed the North Platte River.
Here's what the North Platte looks like in Wyoming.  It doesn't look that muddy or deep in this
photo but, depending on the month, it was often trecherous to travelers who had to cross it.
Of the often muddy North Platte, some said, "It's too thick to drink and too thin to plow!"
North Platt River

Remember Wyoming is cowboy country -- the real kind, not the kind you see on TV.
These guys were riding the range except most of the range is fenced in these days.
They let their cows graze during the day but they heard them toward the coral toward
the evening.

This cowboy approached and we waved at him as we drove past...

... so he returned the wave.  Friendly folks out west.  Notice this cowboy isn't wearing
the traditional hat or boots.  I asked some real-life cowboys about that.  They said
some still wear the old traditional hat and boots but most these days just wear work
boots and baseball caps.  It kind of spoils the image, doesn't it?
cowboy waving

One remarkable fact along the Mormon-Oregon-California trails (yes, they're the same in places),
 are the ruts left by many thousands of wagon wheels from the 1840s until about 1870s when
railroads replaced wagon trains.

The rock is very soft here.  You'll see examples later.  As thousands upon thousands of wagons
migrated west, ruts would appear.  Rain, snow, and wind would erode the rock further only to
be cut through again by more wagon wheels.  In some places the ruts are several feet deep!

Here I am standing in the ruts with my video camera.  See how the top of the rocks are
almost up to my shoulders in places.  Notice behind me where teh rut on the left is cut
deeper into the soft rock.  We would see that in places.
me in ruts

Here one they call Independence Rock.  It was a famous landmark to the pioneers.

Independence Rock

You'll see why they called this one "Register Rock" or as the sign says, "Register Cliff."
register rock

People have been carving their names in this rock for over 150 years!
reg rock 2

Here's a family who came through in 1878.  They listed all their names.
reg rock 3

This is one of the earliest we found -- 1859.  They protect the early names with chain-link
fencing.  That's the shadow you see.  I blew this photo up so you could see it more
clearly.  See what I meant earier about how soft the rock is?
reg rock 4

This sign marker tells how tens of thousands of Utah pioneers came west along this route.
trail ruts sign

This sign tells a little more of the history of the trail.  People didn't always stick to the
same path.  For instance, the Utah pioneers veered southwest toward the Great Salt Lake.
Others went north toward Oregon.  But most of the hundreds of thousands who came
west, followed similar paths for hundreds of miles.
trail sign

Among the most famous of trail markers was Devil's Gate, a cut in solid rock through which
the Sweetwater River flows.
devils gate

The early pioneers were grateful to see this aptly named river.  It was a pleasant change
from the North Platt for them and their livestock.
Sweetwater River sign

This small but deep river (in places) is the one the Martin handcart company was too fatigued
to cross.
Sweetwater 2

Most westward pioneers chose wagons as their preferred means of travel.

But thousands of them were too poor to afford a wagon and team.  For these, the solution
was to load what they could in a handcart and push or pull their belongings over a 1000
miles to their destination.  Most made the trip in safety.  Some did not.

This is the saga of Martin's Cove which lies a few miles from Devil's Gate.  To remember
the sacrifice many of these handcart pioneers had to make, their decendents and others
go on a "trek" here and elsewhere.  Hundreds of latter-day saints come here every summer
to join the "trek" where they can get up close and personal with their ancestor's legacy.
Martins Cove sign

The trail was long (2 miles one way) but we thought we could make it.  Big mistake!  We
were not used to the altitude that climbs over a mile high across the continental divide.
trail 1

After walking over a mile, as out of shape as I was, I was ready to trade the camcorder
for a ride (or even a drink of cool water).  Fortunately, we found both nearby.
trail 2

What a refreshing sight!
cool clear water

We were still only a little over half way there but fortunately we met others.  One of those
others turned out to be a gas powered cart.  The driver was glad to show us inside the
pump house where they stored drinking cups.  After several cool drinks, he gave us a lift
almost to our destination as far as he could.  It was still a dificult climb for us afterward.
me and Linda

Here was the Martin Handcart Company's place of refuge.  A cove is what we'd call back
home a hollow (or holler, as country folks call it).  Between the hill to the left of this
photo and the mountain to the right, there's a dip that offered them some protection
from the snow and freezing temperatures.

This was the end of the trail for many in the Martin Handcart Company and for us as well,
in this photo essay anyway.  Go back to the home page for other photo links you can see.
Thanks for joining us on this trip and remember what sacrifices our pioneer ancestors have
made to build the beauty and grandeur we now enjoy.