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Linda Trent
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« on: April 12, 2009, 01:34:45 PM »

We had the great priviledge of being invited out to Casper, Wyoming a couple weeks ago to give a presentation, and I must admit that we learned a great deal about the trials and tribulations of the ill-fated company.

When we first touched down the weather was beautiful.  Apparently a few days previous there was a storm that put the white caps on the mountains so it was absolutely breathtaking.  But as the handcart company learned 150 or so years ago, winter in Wyoming can change in the blink of the eye.  When we were preparing to leave we were the last plane out of Casper due to the storm.  The airline crews were out there with snow shovels clearing the drifted snow from the plane's wheels so we could taxi to the runway.  Wow!  What an experience! 

A special thank you to our hostess Janet Wragge who took us around Casper and to the Historic Trails Interpretive Center.  The simulated Conestoga ride through the N. Platt was remarkably well done, the simulated stagecoach ride was so well done that I actually had to disembark due to motion sickness. Shocked  But perhaps what struck me most was the Willey Handcart Company room.  For those who don't know, they were near Casper when a severe winter storm broke and the snow and howling winds, and sub-freezing cold fell upon them.  Not well enough equiped about 67 LDS immigrants perished about 6 miles outside of Casper.

My biggest regret is not having made it out to the site of the mass grave, but the video presentation in the museum was very moving.  I would highly encourage anyone who plans to be in the vicinity of Casper to stop at the museum and take advantage of the wonderful hands-on aspects.  The Willey and Martin Handcart Companies have always held a special place in my heart because of what they endured.  I would however make note not to visit in October/November (when they did) or early April (like we did).  Grin

I'm just dying now to go back out west and portray a Mormon pioneer!  Come on folks, let's get enough folks together to do a first person, full immersion event!  I'm sure we can work something out!  Grin

Linda.

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Vicki
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2009, 01:58:30 PM »

My husband's great-great grandmother traveled in the Willey Handcart company.  I'm up for it.  Wow, what an experience that would be!
(Can't speak for my dh....not sure that he's quite THAT dedicated to re-inacting  Wink)
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2009, 03:05:16 PM »

(Can't speak for my dh....not sure that he's quite THAT dedicated to re-inacting  Wink)

That's cool about your husband's great great grandmother!  And as far as dh, I think he'd be surprised at how easy it really is, particularly when everyone else stays in character!  Grin  Seriously though, I'd really like for us to come up with something.  The main thing we'd have to come up with though is a/are handcart(s).  I'm not thinking of actually doing either the Willey or the Martin companies because that would require snow and cold, and as far as I'm concerned, been there done that.  Roll Eyes  But I would still like to do something in Wyoming or Utah, wherever we could get the most participants.

Linda.
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2009, 04:04:34 PM »

BTW, I just wanted to clarify one thing, I'm not looking to organize an event, for one thing we live too far away.  I'm just looking to see if there's enough interest to make a suggestion to have someone out west organize one.  Grin  I am willing to help assist in the planning and researching part!
Seriously though, another option is doing a carpe eventum style event at an event already planned.

Just throwing out some ideas.  Heaven only knows there's enough documentation with the Deseret News online, "Uncle Dale's Old Mormon Articles," as well as tons of trail diaries, letters and journals, and such.  Like I said, we just had so much fun out west we wanna go back and see what it's like when it isn't snowing and/or raining. Grin

Linda.
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2009, 05:32:04 PM »

Ahhhh, come on Linda!  The weather wasn't that bad........it was just a tad unpredictable.   Roll Eyes  I will admit, June is better, but the thunderstorms can be wicked.

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The main thing we'd have to come up with though is a/are handcart(s).
The folks at the Martin's Cove handcart place would probably let you use their handcarts if you do it on their site/vacinity.  They've got a ton of them and trekkers come out and use them all the time.  You don't need to do a lot of miles each day to get the experience of trail life, especially if you're dragging one of those buggers around. 

On the other hand, you can do events without handcarts - they only used them for a fairly short period of time, understandably so, and when you read the diaries, there would often be a wagon train of non-Mormons in one camp, Mormons in another.  The non-Mormons were curious about the Mormons, but didn't always interact.  The Platter River often divided them.  There's a group of us (Liz included) who have discussed doing an event at Ft. Bridger portraying when the Mormons owned the fort.  It could be fun and interesting if we can get a decent combination of both Mormon and non-Mormon willing to do it right.  I'm not LDS, but I have a group of friends from Utah that come over to play who are.  They have at least 1 wagon that I know of, maybe 2, plus the fort has one and a friend of mine who lives here has one.   I'm always game for anything!  It's something to think about.

Happy Easter!
Janet
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Muriel Carbiener
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2009, 07:16:29 PM »

Paula & Linda - Have you seen the PBS, LDS produced video on the Martin & Willy Companies?  Of all the emigrant trail videos, I think this is the best because they used real people in mid 19th C. clothing in the snow.  I would assume that the handcarts they used are the ones at Martin's Cove that Janet talks about.  My husband (a LDS descendant, but not handcart) ) pulled one there, and in one area I had to push because of the sand, and the handcart only held our lunch.

Do either of you know about the book: "Emigrating Journals of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and the Hunt and Hodgett Wagon Trains" by Lynne Slater Turner, 1996.  ISBN: 0-9658281-0-7.  It has diary entries, and lists of the emigrants.

Muriel
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2009, 08:58:27 PM »

Ahhhh, come on Linda!  The weather wasn't that bad........it was just a tad unpredictable.   Roll Eyes  I will admit, June is better, but the thunderstorms can be wicked.

Yeah, but I have to gripe about something.  Everything else was really great!  Grin

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The folks at the Martin's Cove handcart place would probably let you use their handcarts if you do it on their site/vacinity.

How large is their site?  Can we get away from the asphalt and modern buildings?  Where could we go from there? 

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On the other hand, you can do events without handcarts - they only used them for a fairly short period of time, understandably so, and when you read the diaries, there would often be a wagon train of non-Mormons in one camp, Mormons in another.

Yes, the LDS Perpetual Immigration Fund used handcarts from 1856-1860, though those immigrants who had their own financial independence could and did use wagons.  To me what I'm most interested in is the handcart experience.  The experience of pushing a handcart several miles from point A to point B.  Of course handcarts were and still are well known for breaking down, and if that happens then we just camp out wherever it broke down and "wait for help" from Ft. Bridger, Salt Lake, wherever.  Smiley  So the event just goes on as though we broke down on the trail 150 years ago. 

I was just totally mesmerized by the film at the museum.  It was such a moment that tears streamed down my face.  To me, I want to know what it was like to be a part of the LDS PEF, I want to experience pushing and pulling the handcart over similar ground to what they covered.  It's a religious experience to me both in the "church of the living history" as well as my real life religious heritage.  I'm the lone LDS member in my family, a convert several years ago, so unlike Vicki's husband and several others I don't have family that were these pioneers, but I still consider it my heritage through faith.  And while Hank isn't LDS he's offered to portray a Mormon for me, and I know that he will do a great job! 

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The non-Mormons were curious about the Mormons, but didn't always interact.  The Platter River often divided them.  There's a group of us (Liz included) who have discussed doing an event at Ft. Bridger portraying when the Mormons owned the fort.  It could be fun and interesting if we can get a decent combination of both Mormon and non-Mormon willing to do it right.
 

That would be good too.  Perhaps we could take a handcart or a wagon to Ft. Bridger?  I'm not talking a long ways, but enough to know we've done something.  I'm picturing probably being one of those people who threw a lot of unnecessaries out along the way to lighten our load.  Grin

When I attended an ALHFAM conference several years ago, there were two guys who did a presentation on their experimental archaeological trek pushing a handcart over Immigration Pass into the Salt Lake Valley.  Knowing the pass I can honestly say I'm not that suicidalWink  But the intrigue never left.

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I'm not LDS, but I have a group of friends from Utah that come over to play who are.  They have at least 1 wagon that I know of, maybe 2, plus the fort has one and a friend of mine who lives here has one.   I'm always game for anything!  It's something to think about.

Yeah, that does sound good too.  Really, I'm open to most anything.  But doing a handcart company arriving in the proper season would be way cool.

Muriel,

No I've not seen the video, but it sounds cool!  I'll have to look into it.  Smiley

Thanks,

Linda.
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Vicki
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2009, 07:29:31 AM »

We're out here at the Independence, MO side of things, so I don't think we could act as "planners". However, if anyone wanted to step off from around here..... Grin Maybe you could combine something like this with Heidi Hollister's big trek in a couple of years?

(Also- I had no idea there were other LDS people around here....other than Liz....very cool.)
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Paula
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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2009, 09:33:49 AM »

Muriel-  Are you talking about the movie made by Lee Groberg a few years back?  Lee lives next door to my in-laws and my sister-in -law and nieces were "extras" If that's the one you are referring to we love it. Wink

Linda-  When I was 14 I had the opportunity to participate in a "Trek"  Youth Conference that BYU came out to PA(near State College) and put on for us.  We were divided into "families," assembled (parts were pre-made) our handcarts, loaded our carts mostly with clothing, bedding and water, and "trekked" up and down the mountains  in PA for 4 days.  PA mountains are nothing compared to the "real" mountains of Utah but good enough for me!  Shortly after our Trek BYU was forced to modify the Trek experience so that it wasn't so "realistic"  (too many injuries requiring hospital trips and dehydration, etc)  It was a life altering experience and one I would love to do again when my kids are a little older for them to experience. 

Janet--About that Wyoming weather... A few years ago our family went out to Martin's Cove for a family reunion.  (In late June) The day was great and everyone pitched their tents and laughed at the family members who wimped out and went to a hotel.  During the night a storm blew in, blew down the tents and soaked everything.  We then realized who the smartest family members were (and they don't let the rest of us forget Smiley)  So not to knock Wyoming weather but....... Grin
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2009, 12:21:54 PM »

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It was a life altering experience and one I would love to do again when my kids are a little older for them to experience. 
I know they're still doing treks out here - whenever I'm set up at Ft. Laramie or Bridger, we have numerous families visiting who are on their way to one or have just completed one.  I don't know how they're scheduled, but the opportunity is there and if you have your own group of folks, I would imagine they'd do that for you - but I really don't know how it all works for certain. 

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During the night a storm blew in, blew down the tents and soaked everything.
Ha - that sounds familiar!!  "Blew in" being the key words - the wind blows a bit out here, and when a storm comes in, it's usually in a hurry - but it leaves fast, too.   Wink Last summer during the documentary when we were at the interpretive site at Martin's Cove, a thunderstorm blew in and the lightning was so nasty I refused to go out in it.  The film director wanted to give the kids the "experience of pulling a handcart in the rain," but even the folks at the site wouldn't let us go out.  The same type of storm resulted in one of their bulls being zapped and killed by lightning just a week earlier.  Young kids on hills hanging onto a cart with metal wheels probably wouldn't fare much better.   Shocked  It's the only kind of weather out here that I'm really afraid of and pretty much refuse to go out in.  Scary stuff. 

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I was just totally mesmerized by the film at the museum.  It was such a moment that tears streamed down my face.
Linda, you really need to go to the Martin's Cove interpretive center, even if it's just to visit.  Their film is far superior to what you watched, and will touch you even more.  Cry I've watched it several times with students I bring out there, and it never fails to impress upon me how awful the whole experience had to have been.  I can't even imagine. Walking into the actual cove is quite a hike, even without the handcarts, and it's easy to imagine why they chose that spot for protection, but again - I just can't imagine.  I may not be LDS, but I can appreciate a great story of hardship and survival.   Smiley

Janet
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Muriel Carbiener
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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2009, 12:55:08 PM »

Yes Paula - that is probably the same movie -- added to my collection of about 8 trail videos.

Muriel
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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2009, 07:37:39 PM »

I saw that video on PBS, and before I had seen it, I never knew about that portion of Westward migration at all! Even though I live within 10 miles of Paymyra and have many LDS acquaintences. To me, it was like watching the trail of tears, only self-inflicted. Over and over, the wrong time of year, too late, too early, not equipped well. So sad. I don't know anything about it, but was the orginal handcart maker out here somewhere?I might have to poke around this summer and find out more.

I have always thought it was a very economical and practical way to migrate, more than the covered wagons and lots of livestock. I have frequently thought it would be handy to have at an event. One just big enough to fit in the cargo section of the wagon (the car) and then when you get the event, put in the axle and pop on the wheel and handle, load up and go! But I digress. It would be very cool to try. I wonder if there's LDS out here interested.
Bevin
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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2009, 09:01:33 PM »

Bevin
I'm no expert, but I am LDS.  I'm betting if you wander over to the visitor center located in Palmyra  (603 State, Rt 21) they'd be able to point you in the right direction.  (Or beg your expertise in period clothing  Wink--although Palmyra was mostly 1830's)  I'm sure there are LDS members in the area who would be interested.  My understanding is that many of the handcarts used by LDS pioneers were assembled in Council Bluff, Iowa and surrounding areas but I'm also guessing that they were also used in other settings.
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2009, 09:10:16 PM »

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I have always thought it was a very economical and practical way to migrate, more than the covered wagons and lots of livestock.

For the LDS church is was economical considering that the Perpetual Emigration Fund had dwindled to virtually nothing.  Up until about the first or second World Wars Church members were encouraged to pick up and leave Europe and the eastern US and settle in the Utah country.  Large numbers of immigrants came to the US having little funds, so the Church paid their way west starting around 1847.  Over the years the funds dwindled and it became necessary to find a cheaper method of getting the converts west, and the idea of handcart companies was decided upon.  The handcart companies ran from about 1856-1860, and as soon as another means of transportation became available they used it.

The new mode of transportation was wagons pulled by oxen.  New?  Well, perhaps not but...  By now the Salt Lake Valley had blossomed and livestock and crops were plentiful, the decision was made to hire Utahans to travel east to the Missouri River in trains of wagons pulled by oxen carrying provisions.  As they passed the various depots they deposited provisions for the return trip.  There was an enormous expense in purchasing wagons and teams on the Missouri, so sending trains of wagons to pick up the immigrants was seen as more economical, and employed more men living in Utah.  Think about it, in 1861 President Young wrote Elder Cannon telling of "four companies for Florence left on the 20th ult. There were upwards of 200 wagons and 4 yoke of oxen to each. They take some 150,000 pounds of flour to deposit at suitable points east of South Pass."   That's a lot of wagon makers, wheelwrights, farmers... This remained the main form of travel for LDS immigrants till the railroad came through.

For the above and more on the freight [wagon] trains see http://books.google.com/books?id=XgLIT0OrVb8C&pg=PA179&dq=#PPA191,M1

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I have frequently thought it would be handy to have at an event. One just big enough to fit in the cargo section of the wagon (the car) and then when you get the event, put in the axle and pop on the wheel and handle, load up and go! But I digress. It would be very cool to try.  Bevin

I'll tell you, it all depends upon the event.  I've seen far more times than not that the four wheeled carts and/or handcarts get stuck in mud, or the participants having more trouble pushing them up or down hills, having problems crossing streams...  To me, if the event is about handcarts then we need to have handcarts to have the experience, but for the average normal event I've just seen too many times carts becoming more of a hindrance than a help.  Thus, in one of my earlier posts I said that handcarts were and still are well known for breaking down.  I believe at both Marmaduke's Raid as well as Into the Piney Woods, the handcarts proved to be more of a burden than a blessing, and one person suffered some broken fingers trying to push the handcart at Piney Woods.  I'm sure someone who was actually at Piney Woods can give a more accurate account on that.  The poor people at Marmaduke's Raid got part way down the hill and then gave up and camped where they were.

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I wonder if there's LDS out here interested. Bevin

I don't know.  But people don't have to be LDS, I'm sure other immigrants probably used handcarts -- and I'm sure plenty of people on this board can tell you more than you'd care to know about that.  Roll Eyes  But if you'd like to organize something I'd be more than happy to come up.  Of course I'm looking for an immersion event with round the clock first person action and interaction.  It's been a long time since I've been in western NY.  

It's a lot like Wyoming.  If you don't like the weather wait five minutes.  Yeah, I was leaving Rochester on a plane in snowstorm.  One might think that all I do is travel in bad weather.  Grin

Linda.
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2009, 05:07:39 AM »

I have always thought it was a very economical and practical way to migrate, more than the covered wagons and lots of livestock.

Y'know, I've wondered about that. The Mormons have become so famous for their handcart companies, that a lot of folks just assume it was a typical option, but I'm curious if there are any examples of non-Mormons using handcarts for travel, either in the east or west, especially for the typical "refugee" situation often portrayed at events.

I know that handcarts show up a lot in cities, and it makes sense that city vendors could push a handcart easily over city streets. The one time I've used one was in Selma, AL collecting urine door-to-door (tent-to-tent at the reenactment) for the nitre works, and it was very easy and practical--certainly no harder than carrying a 20-pound pack. But we were on hard-packed, fairly level dirt roads, with probably no more than a half mile circuit each morning.

But in rural areas, under what circumstances were people using handcarts for travel, besides Brigham Young's emigration idea? Are there any period examples?

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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2009, 05:40:22 AM »

By the way, on the practicality,  I think there was a difference between Mormons immigrating to Utah where, presumably, the church would "take are of them" somehow, and individuals immigrating to Oregon or wherever, basically expected to supported themselves when they arrived.

When we were at the Wyoming musem, there were some displays on what was necessary to take west. As I recall, a pound and a half of food per person per day was recommended. A handcart carried 100-400 pounds, and about five people were assigned to push a single handcart. That's just not enough for food, let alone tents and other necessities, and in fact the Mormon handcart companies had wagons with flour and tents too, because western migration simply couldn't be done with handcarts alone.

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The Willie Company had five hundred emigrants with one hundred and twenty handcarts, five wagons, twenty-four oxen, and forty-five head of cattle. The Martin Company had five hundred and seventy-six people with one hundred and forty-six handcarts, seven wagons, thirty oxen, and fifty head of cattle. http://www.thefurtrapper.com/martin_handcart.htm


Janet said that regular folks on the trails expected to take enough food to last for the months of the trip *and* to get them through the first winter--makes sense if your trade is farming and you're arriving in the fall. I dunno, but I expect that Mormons figured they could find work or charity immediately in Salt Lake and thus only needed food for the trip. In other words, a family with a handcart didn't need to be almost self-sustaining for months with only what was in the handcart, while those who took wagons might plan to be.

So I think the use of wagons and livestock was more economical and practical for the situations where they were used. Handcarts were more economical if supplemented with wagons for the specific situation of LDS emigration, and of the two choices, are certainly more economical to recreate today when only a short distance of a longer journey is recreated.

But as far as overall cheapness and practicality, up to about five or six days I think backpacking beats any kind of period travois or vehicle, unless the goal is to transport items not to be used on the trip like household belongings, or unless the road is very hard and flat for a handcart. Beyond that time, the burden of food starts to add up, if you can't count on being resupplied.

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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2009, 06:16:49 AM »

In my research on the Oregon-California-Mormon emigrant trails I have not come across any non Mormons using handcarts.  I believe there was one man who used a wheelbarrow to push his belongings during the CA gold rush.  Janet???

Muriel
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« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2009, 06:22:27 AM »

I've been meaning to get over there and check things out, but of course, time gets away from one and we always seem more inclined top visit places not in our locale!

Maybe each family had it's handcart and a larger, slower wagon train with more provisions in it followed them? Do I remember that from somewhere? In hilly situations, yes, they would be a liability. But on open plains, perhaps they'd work well? Certainly at most events I get to, there is fairly flat and easy terrain (gotta accomodate the guests in wheelchairs) where one could easily haul and push the cart for set-up, and then some type of "transport" business or street vendor. FOr hills, I would prefer backpacks, or a donkey. Still like canoing the best, though!!

Well, alot to look into. Thank you!
Bevin
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« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2009, 07:00:52 AM »

In my research on the Oregon-California-Mormon emigrant trails I have not come across any non Mormons using handcarts.  I believe there was one man who used a wheelbarrow to push his belongings during the CA gold rush.  Janet???

Muriel

I agree Muriel!  I can remember somewhere in the recesses of my mind people cutting down their wagons to a smaller rig as their animals gave out, or abandoning them altogether and putting what they could in other peoples' wagons, but always with an animal of some sort pulling them.  I've also read of them carrying what they could towards the very end because of losing all their animals, but never pulling something themselves.  I don't think people saw themselves as beasts of burden - why carry it yourself if you've got a critter to do it for you?  They were as common to them as cars are to us. 

I think the handcarts were a true act of desperation - this was a group of people who were feeling such a strong need to leave one place and get to another that they were willing to do this thing - they genuinely felt threatened.  People who were going for whatever reason - land, gold, etc. - would not have felt that need and would have been willing to make the proper arrangements, even if it was to sign on with a family and work their way across. 

The trip to SLC, Utah is much different than the trip to Oregon or California.  Other than that last bugger of a hill into the valley, the trip to Utah is the easier part of the journey.  After that, it just gets ugly.  I keep thinking of trying to pull a handcart over the Barlow Road or the Mountains in California.  Oh geez!!  It's why so many animals died doing it. 

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Janet said that regular folks on the trails expected to take enough food to last for the months of the trip *and* to get them through the first winter
Sadly, it seemed the impossible task - especially for the 1st winter.  So many of the diaries are painful to read when they get to that last month.  They're starving, their animals are dying - they've tossed everything they don't need.  I'm always amazed at their strength.  What a thing to do with your kids in tow, no less.  Cheesy

Janet - who loves her car!  Wink
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« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2009, 07:43:45 AM »

However, if anyone wanted to step off from around here..... Grin Maybe you could combine something like this with Heidi Hollister's big trek in a couple of years?

I don't know anything about Heidi's trek. But, the one thing that I want to avoid is doing a carpe eventum at an event similar to the one described in Wyofile.com http://www.wyofile.com/managing_mormonism_on_mormon_trail.htm  Where they say, "Mormon church groups pulled handcarts, drove big support RVs, and even played sacred music along the trails over big loudspeakers drawn on trailers behind pickups."  Or that have cameras (movie or still) in our faces the whole way. 

I'd like to do something like the many roughing it style events like Marmaduke's Raid/Piney Woods with no modern support, or at least very minimal modern backup, but it stays out of view the whole time.  These are just my thoughts, I know others mileage will vary. 

Linda
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