What a day and what an experience. I walked about 6 miles from my camp last night to the Pathfinder Ranch and then began the hardest 10 mile section that I had walked so far. With my chase vehicles not being allowed on the ranch property, I loaded up my handcart with my pistol (for rattlesnakes), my rattlesnake kit, a couple of biscuits, my video camera and the last 5 bottles of water that I had and disappeared into the overgrown sage. You have to understand that being the first handcart to walk this trail in a long time (if ever), it had become overgrown with large brush and grasses and the soil was deep blow sand. I don’t know what you could do with that soil as a ranch but it was more than miserable to pull 217# through. It was just the worst conditions and as the site of highway 220 disappeared behind me and having only walked the first couple of miles by myself, I was already soaked with sweat and worrying about running out of my dismal 5 bottles of water, especially since I was going to be walking 10 miles of this stuff. Ahead of me lay rolling sand hills and alkali lake beds and my other concern was that if I accidently got bit by a rattlesnake that I would be in serious trouble because there is no cell signal out here and I wouldn’t be able to walk the 10 miles out or I would die or I would die by having to wait for them to come find me that evening when I didn’t show up, so walking through the brush was a bit un-nerving.
After about 4 miles of hard, hard pulling, I started to enter an area that had these alkali lake beds and because the alkali makes the soil puffy, like baking soda, it made it that much more difficult to pull through but there was less also vegetation to have to worry about. Through all of this difficulty, I still marveled at the opportunity to walk where my grandmother walked.
On more than more occasion, I would be able to see her struggling to pull her cart with all of her belongings and her 2 year old child riding. How exhausting it must have been. Today for me, with the temperature in the high 90s, it was just tough going all day long but I had 5 bottles of water to help get me through, but for her, even if she had water, she wouldn’t be able to carry enough for her and her 6 children through this tough stretch.
As I entered a section of alkali, there were some small puddles of mud water and so I took my flour sack towel and used it to soak my shirt and then put it over my head to keep my head cooler. I had done that in the past because of the heat in Iowa, but now I was needing this to save, literally my sanity and life. I tried to ration my water enough to have one bottle per hour but I was sweating that much out in 15 minutes. So when I was in the bottoms and couldn’t see Independence Rock and that is when my outlook looked the worst but eventually when I gained altitude again and could see the rock in the distance, I then had an obtainable goal and mentally, everything changed. Continuing to soak my clothing and head towel, things began to look positive and I eventually made Independence Rock by my scheduled 3 PM and had a cold drink of water.
After a short break, I then continued on to Martins Cove to arrive by about 6 PM and set up camp. It was a warm welcoming from the senior missionaries that give tours of the facility. I can’t tell you how much of an emotional boost it is for me to have so many people that know of your journey and are excited to see your arrival. Martins Cove is a huge mental hurdle to arrive at because it makes me feel like I am close to home. Less than one month and I am finally amongst friends again. It has been a long and trying time.