Friday, August 26, 2011

Leaving California- heading to South Dakota

Aug 15 – 18th – Sunday evening, we said goodbye to Laura and Dave, after a really good 10 days of visiting (it is never enough and it is always hard to say goodbye) and, Monday morning, headed East. Our destination was Murdo, South Dakota, where the Joslin side of the family was having a small family reunion at the South Dakota homestead where my mother and her brothers were born.

But…we had 1,500 miles to cover and 5 days to get there……

Driving from Oakland, CA,  across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was very scenic…and Lake Tahoe is beautiful! That will have to be a destination stop one day…..perhaps a family get-together on the Lake? Our first night on the road, we stayed at a campground in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Then on past the Utah salt flats (weird, white stretches of landscape that looked like snow or beach sand, but was salt deposits) …..towards Salt Lake City, Utah. Our second night on the road, we stayed about 60 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, at a campground in Evanston, WY.

Our third day of driving took us across much of southern Wyoming and on up to Casper, WY. On these days of driving, we were just trying to cover the miles. We enjoyed the ever- changing landscape as we passed by and marveled at how vast and different the United States is. As we drove, we noted those areas that we would stop at longer when we had a chance…..figuring that Northern California might have to be one of our regular destinations, at least as long as Laura and Dave are there. : )

Our overnight stops were more determined by the miles we needed to drive and convenience to our route, than for the beauty of the campsite. We have gotten good use from the “Trailer Life Campground Directory”.   However, when chance handed us an opportunity…as it did on the road to Casper, WY…..we enjoyed it.

We were traveling on Hwy 220, south of Casper, when we decided that we needed a ‘pit stop’. Seeing the sign for Martin’s Cove Historical Monument and Visitor's Center, we figured “Why not”, surely they had a bathroom, or at least a place to pull off so we could use the camper. What we found was much more interesting.

The first thing that came into view was Devil’s Gate, a rock formation that was used as a very recognizable landmark along the Mormon Trail. The Mormon Trail marked the westward passage of 70,000 Mormon pioneers as they traveled on foot from Iowa City, IA to Salt Lake City, Utah….a journey of 1,300 miles. Lacking sufficient funds to supply their family with a wagon and horses or oxen to pull it, a number of these pioneers purchased a handcart  for just $20 and loaded their meager possessions and joined a guide and others that were similarly equipped to form a ‘company’ heading west.


One such company of 600 Mormon settlers, the Martin Handcart Company, got a bit of a late start form Iowa City, and, along the way, encountered a winter storm on October 19, 1856. They endured a difficult last crossing of the North Platte River, near present-day Casper, WY, followed by 9 days of below zero temperatures and wind and snow, before they were rescued by volunteers sent from Salt Lake City by Brigham Young.

The rescued Mormon pioneers were brought to Martin’s Cove, a more sheltered spot, to ride out the storms. Tragically 150 of those pioneers died before reaching Salt Lake City. Their story, one of determination and great faith, is remembered and celebrated at this site. Many present-day faithful Mormon families come to Martin’s Cove Monument to ‘re-create’ a bit of this experience in traditional clothes and pushing a handcart, which one can borrow from the Visitor’s center. These two families,below, had their camping gear loaded in the handcart, and were walking the 6 miles to their campsite for the night.


We watched, in admiration, before getting back into our car and heading on to Casper……

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