This section of the trail of the ground that is hallowed because of the tremendous loss of life to those who were in the Willie handcart company, just in the last two places that I have camped, there have been 28 who were frozen to death. My grandmothers handcart company had just passed this exact spot about six or so weeks before this tragedy took place and it is a humbling experience to walk in the same footsteps and trail of those that would have eventually passed away where I am tonight.I crossed the famous “Rocky Ridge” section of the trail today, which is considered to be the most difficult section of the entire route because of the struggle to climb this two mile section that has about a 700 foot rise in elevation and is strewn with boulders and rock ledges. A number of pioneers who were caught in that early October snow storm in 1856 died trying to cross this ridge. What took me about nine hours to do, took them 27 hours because they were starving and didn’t have sufficient clothing. It is on this hallowed ground that I walked today that is the scene of the largest loss of life in the entire westward migration. Between the Willie and Martin handcart companies, there were 197 people died in about a weeks period of time.
For me, who has walked each mile of this trail and felt the closeness of those pioneers and that time, I am humbled by those who literally had “Faith Greater Than Pain” to give their lives for what they believed in.
I have also told you in the past that I have found miscellaneous items on the trail life wagon bolts etc., well I made a special find today by finding three oxen nails on the trail on Rocky Ridge. You have to understand that those oxen nails have been there around 150 years, through rain, snow, erosion, thousands upon thousands of youth pull handcarts over that spot every year and I was rewarded by reaching down and putting them in my pocket.
Tomorrow I am going to try and cross South Pass, which is the continental divide at 8200 feet. It is difficult walking this original two rut dirt trail but it is the only way that you can get that closeness to those pioneers. I see what my grandmother saw and from the same perspective. Most of the ground has never been plowed and appeared at it was in 1856. That’s my reward, to be in those same footsteps and feel what they felt as they saw the Wind River Mountains or Chimney Rock for the first time. I’ll let you know how it goes.