Odyssey 2015 MPNHT Journals

Eastern Segment
Nauvoo, Illinois to Fort Kearny, Nebraska
September 11 to October 9, 2015

Thursday—September 11, 2015
Trail Day—00
Trail Mile—0.00/000.0
Location—Nauvoo (Beautiful Place) , Illinois

A fairly short drive to reach this trailhead, much shorter than the distance I had to cover earlier this summer, out to Idaho, then Wyoming. I’m in Nauvoo now, the Visitor Center, Church of Jesus Christ, LDS

Here, I’m immediately greeted by Sisters Hintze, Maile, Schenck, and Mikolyski. I’m then introduced to President Brinley, Nauvoo. I also have the pleasure of meeting President Gibbons, of the main mission.

I had emailed the church earlier in hopes of finding a place to leave my truck while on this trek. I’m assured by President Brinley that it will be worked out. I’m no sooner told of this good news than I’m invited to dinner at the Brinley’s and to spend the night!

There’s a play this evening at the Cultural Hall entitled “Rendezvous in old Nauvoo.” President Brinley and his wife, Sister Geri have parts in it, and I’m invited to attend. And a grand production it certainly was! The Mormons are known for their musical talent. No surprise—the entire performance was most professional. Everyone, on stage and in the audience (a packed house) had an absolute fun time.

After, I meet Elder Robert Apperson and his wife, Sister Debbie. Come to find they’re not only from Missouri, but from my hometown, Russellville. Robert attended school there, graduated there, and recently returned for his class reunion—in Russellville. We have many mutual friends!

After the play, we all attend a lecture about early church Saints, presented by Elder Robert Durant and Sister Susan Easton Black. It was interesting learning about the ancestors of Joseph Smith.

What an exciting day. Immediately, and again, right at the beginning of another journey, I’m on the receiving end of much energy, generosity, and an overwhelming outpouring of sincere kindness. Just a whirlwind of an event-filled day—to begin my trek o’er this eastern segment of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail!

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”
[Erin Majors]

Friday—September 11, 2015
Trail Day—01
Trail Mile—23.6/023.6
Location—Montrose, Iowa

A fine night’s rest at the home of Elder Douglas and Sister Geri Brinley. A beautiful day to begin another journey, but such a tragic day in American history.

Geri and Doug are stirring around six-thirty this morning. So, I rise, make my bed and head for the kitchen, where Geri is preparing breakfast, pancakes and melons. Great energy to start my first day back on the trail!

Elder Doug has an early meeting at the center, so we’ve got to be off. I thank Sister Geri for her kindness, for the wonderful meals she prepared for me, both supper and breakfast. Doug has me back to my truck before eight.

There is much to see here at Nauvoo. I want to begin this Mormon Trail Trek from the LDS Visitor Center, so I get my pack organized and packed, shoulder it and head for the banks of the Mississippi, from where the Mormons crossed that cold, fateful day in February of 1846, from where they began their journey west. On the way I pass the shops of the gunsmith, tin smith, the livery, the post office and the newspaper. On Parley Street, the street leading to the river, there are many markers, with entries from the Mormon emigrants that left Nauvoo behind that day.

At the river now, and at the memorial, I pause to look at the wall of names, those Mormon emigrants that died during their trek from Nauvoo to the valley of the Great Salt Lake.

Returning to the LDS Visitor Center, I’m greeted by Elder Robert and Sister Debbie Apperson, new friends from my hometown, Russellville. President Brinley is also here. I’m relieved to find I’ll be permitted to leave my truck in the center parking lot. Also, what a joy to know that Elder Robert and Sister Debbie plan to come for me in Keokuk when I’ve completed this trek, Keokuk being the closest I can get to Nauvoo.

A few pictures with these dear new friends, my daily prayer “A Path by the Side of the Road” and I’m off to Fort Kearny, Nebraska.

Last stop in Nauvoo—a visit to the temple on the hill. There also, to see the magnificent bronze statues of Joseph and Hiram Smith, mounted on their horses—for their last ride. The temple, the statues, the grounds—quite remarkable. Glad I saved them for last.

I’m finally hiking out of Nauvoo a little after ten. Got a 24 ahead of me this very first day, with a very late start. So, don’t know.

I make good time, all the way to the river bridge across from Fort Madison. Here at the Iowa line, the middle of the bridge, the bridge tender pulls me over, then calls the cops. They soon come and haul me off the bridge—to the Iowa side. No pedestrians allowed on the draw bridge—didn’t know that! Didn’t get cited, just a stern scolding and the reprimand: “Don’t try it again.”

Dinner is downtown at McDonald’s in Fort Madison. From there I make good time on down to near Montrose. I’m fortunate to get water for the night from a security guard at Siemens. Just before dark I find a spot under the pine. Very tired…

A bit different way out of Nauvoo for me. The emigrants led by Brigham Young crossed the river from Nauvoo to what is present day Montrose, quite less a distance across than this long-mile day up the river, across, then back down, but not such a heart-rending day for me, as it was for the pioneers.

“By the fall of 1845, [Brigham] Young and the Twelve had divided the Mormons into companies of a hundred families each…Parley Pratt reported that 3,285 families were organized by the end of the year; this made roughly sixteen thousand people. They began to sell their property to buy wagons, oxen, and supplies. On February 4, 1846, the first wagons rolled down Parley Street and across the Mississippi, out of Nauvoo and into the wilderness.”
[Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People]

Saturday—September 12, 2015
Trail Day—02
Trail Mile—22.0/045.6

Sunrise comes much later and sunset much earlier, a very noticeable difference than when Bart and I were hiking together earlier this summer.

I managed to find a spot under the pine last evening, just off the road. It was not yet seven-thirty, but the sun was setting and I just managed to pitch before dark. This morning I’m awake at six-thirty, but it’s just first light. This time squeeze is going to take some getting used to!

I ended the day last just short of reaching Montrose, so I’m soon in and at the markers, where the Mormon Pioneers landed after crossing the Mississippi, directly across from Nauvoo, not two miles distant. Took a 24 for me to get here!

From the river, it’s a short hop on up to the little mom-n-pop cafe for breakfast. Short stack with two eggs up right atop the pancakes. A perfect energy boost to get me going this morning. Oh, and great coffee, lots of great coffee!

Out of Nauvoo, I’m finally away from the heavy traffic. Neat county roads, the old Mormon Trail tracking close by. Shortly before three, eighteen easy miles down, I reach the Des Moines River, where the trail and the road I’m trekking turn to follow the river on up to Farmington.

Lucky day for me, as to meals. The Bridge Restaurant is open and today is the day for their AYCE buffet. I stuff myself, then waddle out.

Dark, I find a manicured spot right on the river and pitch for the night. Just a mighty fine day. Oh, I’m going to suffer the usual (but minor) shin splints. A couple extra enteric coated aspirin from time-to-time, and I’ll keep right on trucking.

“One by one they [the Mormons] crossed the Mississippi River and with wagon and oxen trekked through southern Iowa. Their growing numbers and their intense suffering has captured the fancy of proud descendants…Their example in Iowa of fortitude, perseverance and endurance is still told…[and] the retelling of their hurculean courage amid great obstacles has led many…to claim the Mormon pioneers in Iowa as heroes and heroines.”
[Susan Easton Black, Brigham Young University]

Sunday—September 13, 2015
Trail Day—03
Trail Mile—16.6/062.2

The evening was cooling down even before sunset. My camp was a neatly mowed lawn, an old (vacant) hunt/fish camp, right on the Des Moines River. I was sleeping fine till the cold night woke me at three-thirty, to force me into my sleeping bag.

Cold, likely the high 40s this morning, with very dense fog that’s condensing and raining down from the overhead canopy. Tent’s wet, I’m wet; here we go!

I’m finally out and stumbling down the gravel road at seven, hood up, hands in my pockets. By eight, the sun has broken through the lingering shroud and I’m able to take my jacket off, harness up my sticks and get moving. A short haul and I’m in Bonaparte, the cafe/jiffy here. Another short stack and eggs, and large quantities of coffee. Good for go this day, a short one comparatively, less than 17 over to Keosaqua, the Manning Hotel. Folks tell me it’s still operating, but not serving meals any longer, and a bit pricey. We’ll see.

Before leaving the jiffy, an old local gent suggests I stop by the Bonaparte Cemetery, says there’s a monument recently placed there by the Mormons, and it’s on my way out.

The cemetery has a sign by the entrance, “no perpetual care,” but you’d never know. The place is freshly mowed, not a single weed by any headstone. Just a lovely old graveyard dating back to 1838. And the Mormon monument? I find it, a large stone placed in memory of the emigrants who perished at or near the Des Moines River crossing while on their way to Zion, the Great Salt Lake Valley. Sure glad I ran into the old fellow. I’d have walked right by otherwise.

A bit before noon I’m in the little village of Bentonsport. Many shops in the Historic District. The Indian Artifact Museum catches my eye, but it’s closed. Lady at the fudge shop says the owner’s gone to church, won’t be back until around one-thirty. I think about waiting, but decide to hike on to Keosaqua, check into the hotel and get a bath. Out of Bentonsport, I cross the Des Moines River for the third time, on the old box-iron bridge built in 1882, now a pedestrian bridge.

By two-thirty I’m making my descent to the Keosaqua Bridge when this car stops. The fellow offers any help I might need—and I meet Chad. Hey, why not ask, “If you’ve got time, could you run me to Bentonsport?” I tell him about the museum, that it was closed when I hiked through there this morning, and I’d sure like to see it. Turns out Chad’s got a birthday to go to but he puts me in touch with his uncle Richard. Ah, and Richard’s available, and he drives me back to Bentonsport!

The museum is now open and I get to meet Tony, the owner. My hunch was right about wanting to see this place. Just incredible. Thousands of artifacts, all stone pieces. All found by Tony over the past sixty-five or so years. And the wood art on which the arrow points, spear points, fulcrum points, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Lots of pictures. You won’t believe Tony’s Indian Artifact Museum either!

Back to Keosaqua, Richard drops me off right at the hotel. Evening now, a good hot meal at the downtown bar and grill, and I’m in for the night. What an amazing day!

“We must be sure that the legacy of faith received from the pioneers who came before us is never lost. Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers.”
[M. Russell Ballard]

Monday—September 14, 2015
Trail Day—04
Trail Mile—26.1/088.3

The klatch is sitting all the booths at the downtown Jiffy this morning, and as I pour my coffee and sit, all are interested in what this old codger is up to. Just great energy!

A short visit to the Van Buren County Courthouse on the hill, the oldest continuously occupied courthouse in the state of Iowa. The Mormon Band performed here in 1846. By eight I’m on my way out of Keosaqua on a 26, my longest itinerary day for this odyssey—head down and haul.

Another perfect hiking day. My shin splints begin raising a fuss again; more coated aspirin.

At Pittsburg, I cross the Des Moines River for the fifth and final time. Lots more ups and downs again today. I’ll be dealing with these undulating cornfields pretty much all the way across Iowa. Bart told me about this roller coaster ride. These county secondary roads are extremely dangerous, blind curves and top-outs, and no shoulders. A really dangerous place to be walking day after day.

I certainly need to make good time, so I’ve got to keep moving. And I do. By three I’ve got twenty knocked down—stopped a few times, but haven’t taken my pack off.

Late afternoon now, I’m thirsty, very thirsty; emptied my 20-ounce bottle of water way back. As luck would have it, a house near the highway, fellow out mowing. I hold my water bottle up and motion to him. He waves me over, stops, and greets me—and I meet John. Two ice cold bottles of water from John; sure a blessing! I chug one and refill my Gatorade bottle from the other.

A mile before Bloomfield this car pulls off ahead and stops. I meet Karen from the Bloomfield Democrat, their weekly paper. John called her and she’s come out to see if I’d do an interview. I hike on into Bloomfield, the newspaper office on the square. A fun time.

I’m hungry after finishing such a long day. Coffee with the klatch, and two pears picked up from John’s yard (and forty ounces of water), all I’ve had. Neat mom-n-pop on the square. I head right over—and commence to wiping out their salad bar.

Handsome old courthouse building, Davis County, here in Bloomfield. It’s a magnificent structure, standing art! Fills the whole square, the entire block. The evening sun sets it to absolute radiance; striking. Catch the shots I’ll post!

Out of town, I pitch in the woods along SR-2/US-63 southwest of Bloomfield. Another very tiring day, but compared to what the pioneers daily endured, I had it easy—Thank you, Lord!

“…the majority of the early pioneers didn’t dwell on the hard times; they indeed related every aspect of their lives to their relationship with God, specifically in regards to this disastrous journey. They thanked Him for their lives and the fact that they made it through.”
[Mike Ericksen, Upon Destiny’s Song]

Tuesday—September 15, 2015
Trail Day—05
Trail Mile—17.5/105.8

Busy, busy highway, SR-2/US-63. Semi truck racket all night. Dreams about loud noises—woke me to the real thing!

The 26.1 (point 1; eh, Gordon) yesterday can be felt this morning. The downhills (plenty of them) were/are painful, due to lingering shin splints. They’re still dogging me this morning. Hope they’ll back off soon.

I’ve been hiking through Mennonite country the past few days. Yesterday was laundry day. No power to their homes, so the generators were running at every farm along—to power their electric-motor washing machines. Seems it’s okay to get power from a generator but not from the power company. Can’t quite figure that one out! They’re sure happy folks, though. They must go to bed at dark, same as I do.

The wind has been out here with me, especially the past two days, 20 to 30 per, mostly quartering me from the southwest. Not really a problem, just gets to wearing after awhile. Patience, tolerance, never seem to have enough of either. Again, no way like what the emigrants daily endured—and with joyful hearts. Dang, old man, you gotta quit whining!

As the trail cuts southwest, then northwest, then back southwest again, to remain nearby requires hiking the grid, the roads all running north/south, east/west—half-mile and mile squares. So today it’s zig, then zag, as the old trail cuts across time and again. At one crossing, near an intersection just northwest of Moulton, I think I can see swales/traces of the old Mormon Trail. Not much left of the Mormon Trail through southern Iowa, the original and “official” trail endured by Brigham Young and the Saints of 1846. After 1846, it was little used, and what might have survived today has long since been plowed under.

I reach Moulton, today’s destination, before four. The Garrett Memorial Library is open till five, yippee! So, there’s time to work email and journal entries—before hitting the local Jiffy for supper.

Camp is by the road, by the old trail, on my way to Cincinnati.

Tomorrow, in Cincinnati, I should arrive there early enough to write my dear new Mormon friends in Nauvoo; I promised them I would…

“My good friends are Mormon, some of the best people I know.”
[Katherine Heigl]

Wednesday—September 16, 2015
Trail Day—06
Trail Mile—17.0/122.8
Location—Cincinnati, then on to near Tharp Cemetery and Mormon Trail General Store

I pitched last by an old barn, an abandoned farmstead, just west of the trail crossing at Moulton Cemetery. A very quiet, peaceful night. Just an occasional creaking, caused by the wind working an old piece of loose tin on the barn roof.

Another delightful day is in the making. Very cool; jacket on again to start.

Following the trail has pretty much been taking me down gravel roads. Lucking out so far, as none have been recently graded, that is until today. The ungraded roads tend to have nice smooth gravel-free lanes, usually three, which makes for very pleasant going. However, just-graded roads, like the one I’m on this morning, they have loose, bladed-up gravel shoulder to shoulder, and that makes for constant churning and slow going.

Just settling into my zone, legs loosened up, the old sticks clicking away, when a Chukar flushes from the ditch right ahead. The sudden sound is explosive. Taken my mind off the shin splints—which have definitely backed off. No more pain—yippee!

I soon reach the Chariton River. For the Mormons, this crossing proved very difficult, steep banks either side, and much mud. Ropes and extra teams of oxen were needed to get the wagons across. The channel has since been moved and straightened, so where I cross, here at the bridge, is no where near the old crossing—and I don’t try finding it.

Exline, time for breakfast. I have a short stack and eggs (again) and meet Steve, owner of the Jiffy/Cafe.

Mid afternoon, more gravel churning, zig-zagging the county secondary road grid, I reach Cincinnati. Another neat mom-n-pop—time for supper!

Back out, the afternoon (and the road) have turned frying-pan hot. I’m soon out of water. Along, I meet Ernie out on his quad. On up the road, at his house, Ernie’s had his wife fix me a sandwich, and a pitcher of ice cold water. I sit with them awhile. As I prepare to go, picture time!

By sunset I make it to near the Mormon Trail General Store. A hot, windy day; I’m totally pooped.

“The river crossing at the Chariton…took the entire day of March 22…William Clayton recorded in his journal that he spent the whole time helping the teams and at the end of the day was so sore and tired that he could hardly walk.”
[Matthew Chatterley, Wend Your Way]

Thursday—September 17, 2015
Trail Day—07
Trail Mile—22.2/145.0
Location—Harvard (not Harold), then on to Allerton

Another totally quiet, peaceful night, in the pasture, under the oaks. A short, gentle rain comes sometime during the night. The cool drops on my face wake me—just long enough to reach up and pull my pre-rigged fly down over the tent peak above me.

A couple of miles, a 90-degree road turn and I reach the old Tharp Cemetery, a site of significant Mormon Trail history. Here, near this site, at Locust Creek Camp #2, on April 14, 1846, William Clayton composed the hymn “All is Well.” Later renamed “Come, Come Ye Saints,” the hymn became the anthem of the pioneers, not only for those of 1846, but for all to come, especially for the emigrants who pushed and pulled their handcarts.

NOTE: The hymn, in MIDI form, is the background music for these Mormon Trail pages. The words to the hymn can be read by clicking at the bottom here.

Late morning I reach my destination for this day, Harvard, to continue on to the village of Allerton. The Mormon Trail passed right through present-day Allerton. I pause to snap a picture of the road crossing sign and the site, a ball field.

A fine meal at the local mom-n-pop, a couple hours at the library, and it’s ever onward, west.

“Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy, wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell
All is well! All is well!”

(Click here for full lyrics)
[William Clayton]

Friday—September-18, 2015
Trail Day— 08
Trail Mile—26.5/171.5
Location—Garden Grove, then on toward Osceola

The continuing hard rain, the thunder and lightning, all made for a restless, on again/off again night.

Damage control this morning, good news; I’ve managed to keep reasonably dry. When the rain really pelts, comes a fine mist through my fly. During the numerous storms in the Nevada desert, along the California Trail earlier this year, the frequent pea-sized hail did a job on my fly. Never punctured it, but weakened the fly as to it no longer being totally waterproof. So, with the mist swirling about last night, I feared the worst. For sure, everything I’ve got is damp, but thankfully, not soaked. Certainly, and again, nothing remotely comparable to what the Mormon emigrants were dealt, their poor excuse for waterproof canvass, all they had to protect them from the harsh elements.

I managed to make it four or five miles out of Allerton last evening—toward Garden Grove. So, on in, I’ve probably a fifteen or so to knock down. To remain near the old trail, and again, I must negotiate the modern-day road grid. Here we go: a mile west on Kirkwood (trail crossing), then a zig north a half-mile on 70th (trail crossing), then a zag west two miles on Linden, then a zig a mile north on 50th (trail crossing), then a zag a mile west on Liberty (trail crossing)—to US-65. North two miles on US-65 to Ohio, then a zag a mile west on Ohio (trail crossing), a zig two miles north on 25th (trail crossing), a mile zag west on Quail to 10th (trail crossing), then west two miles to the village of Garden Grove (trail crossing).

Hard rain comes again during this grid run, totally soaking me. I’m much relieved to reach the little bar and grill “downtown” Garden Grove, Shakers. Here, Jeff lets me scatter my wet gear around, take my wet shoes and socks off—and enjoy a fine dinner of noodles, chicken, and mashed potatoes. Fourth cup of coffee and my core temperature starts coming back up. 77, no, not my temperature, my age, not the easiest number to deal with in an old man’s life!

Garden Grove, another significant Mormon Trail stopover, called “Magic City of the Woods” by Hosea Stout, Mormon emigrant.

“We came to a place we named Garden Grove. At this point we determined to form a small settlement and open farms for the benefit of the poor, and such as are unable to pursue their journey further, and also for the benefit of the poor who were yet behind.”
[Orson Pratt, April 24, 1846]

Saturday—September 19, 2015
Trail Day—09
Trail Mile—22.2/193.7
Location—Osceola, then on toward Mt. Pisgah

I no sooner got back out yesterday afternoon than the rain came again. By the time I found a place to get out of it (a farm machinery pole building) I was totally soaked one more time. I no sooner got in than the storm intensified. A large enough spot behind the tractor/bush hog. That was home for last night. Hard rain in waves until around two. Never heard such racket. Steel sides, steel roof, no insulation. I feared the storm was actually going to take the building—scary!

This morning, cold and clear. No wind, not a cloud in the sky. I hike it on into Osceola, zig-zagging the road grid. More trail crossings, same deal as yesterday, so I won’t bore you with that again. Suffice to say that this roller coaster trek through the Iowa countryside tends to become the least tiring. I am thankful for the strength and resolve to continue.

Glad to reach Osceola. I’d planned on getting a room here, but the rates are just too high. I make a pass by McDonald’s, then Wal-Mart, and head on west, tracking the Mormon Trail.

“Endurance is the crowning quality, and patience all the passion of great hearts.”
[James Russell Lowell]

Sunday—September 20, 2015
Trail Day—10
Trail Mile—21.1/214.8
Location—Mt. Pisgah

A cold, restless night, temps in the high 40s. Goose down works the best of any sleeping bag filler because of its amazing insulating ability and lightness of weight. Problem is, when even the least damp, down fails miserably. My bag was very damp from the recent bad weather. I might have been able to dry it out the least yesterday, but I just didn’t take time to stop. So, my bag failed miserably, and in turn, I was miserable. Dumb, just plain dumb!

Out and moving, I finally begin warming up. Ah, but a stop at Casey’s in Murray, a hot cup of coffee—that brings the day around nicely. I linger for breakfast and chat with Glenda, the cashier. Before departing Casey’s I’ve warmed up enough to try Glenda’s soft ice cream. Umm, umm, great stuff, Glenda!

Today I’m looking forward to reaching Mt. Pisgah, a significant, historic place along the Mormon Trail. After more than three months, the emigrants led by Brigham Young had traveled no further than Garden Grove. Comparatively, on day eight, this odyssey, I had already arrived Garden Grove. Because of the hardship and delay suffered by the emigrants, Parley Pratt was sent ahead to search out a site for a second settlement. And on May 18, 1846 he arrived the beautiful setting that is the valley of the Grand River. Gazing upon it, and being reminded, Parley considered it no less than the Mormons promised land—and named it Mt. Pisgah.

Early afternoon, and with less than a mile to go to reach Mt. Pisgah, comes this farm tractor up the road. It slows, then stops. Before I’m able to greet the gentleman he asks, “Where you headed? When I tell him I’m looking for Bob Brown (the man who oversees Mt. Pisgah) he turns the tractor off and tells me that’s who I’m talking to!

Back up a bit: A few weeks ago, my friend Bart Smith hiked this eastern segment of the Mormon Trail—and here at Mt. Pisgah, Bart had the good fortune of meeting Bob Brown. In an email wishing me good luck with my adventure, following along behind him, Bart urged me to be sure and track down Bob Brown, as he is the authority on the Mormons and Mt. Pisgah. “His knowledge of Mt Pisgah and the archeological work he has put into the area were one of the highlights of my Iowa Mormon Trail trek.”

Ah, and so, it’s also my good fortune in meeting Bob Brown! “Go on down, I’ve got to bring in two more bales then I’ll be over.

And as to Bob Brown and Mt. Pisgah? Well folks, when the photos and videos are posted, hopefully the first of next month, be sure and take a look. A magic time; a storybook setting, an amazing man.

Late evening I reach the little village of Afton, the Casey’s here. I water-up, then pitch behind the vacated bait shop for the night.

“Being pleased and excited at the varied beauty before me, I cried out,
‘This is Mt. Pisgah.’”
[Parley Pratt, May 18, 1846]

Monday—September 21, 2015
Trail Day—11
Trail Mile—16.4/231.2

Trains one side, semi trucks the other last night, but I slept soundly. Chilly but not cold as was last.

Back over to Casey’s for my coffee fix and just at sunrise I’m on my way to Creston.

Through the rolling countryside that is southern Iowa, the ridges here, the many and varied streams forking and cutting across every which way, such circumstance made the going long and difficult for the Mormon emigrants. I’ve spoken of the angular path the old trail continually had to weave as it sought the most passable and shortest route. Some areas, and from time-to-time, there existed usable trails, and those they tended to follow, trails cut by buffalo. And so for the weary emigrants, their constant weaving northwest, southwest, only to turn northwest once more—and for me the roller coaster gridded roads, up and down, up and down.

I was hoping to find a reasonable-rate room in Creston. I’ve not had a bath nor washed my clothes since Keosauqua, way too long. But alas, no luck. The mom-n-pop clear on the other side of town is full. The chains, seventy-eight bucks (cheapest), no way. So I hit Wal-Mart for their deli plate meal, then stop by McDonald’s to check my email, and by three-thirty I’m putting Creston in my rearview.

By the golf course north of town the highway passes a lake. I head right over, find a spot that’s hidden and in I go! No soap, no rinse or spin, but I manage to get shed of the first few layers of crud from myself and my clothes. Pack shouldered again, a few miles on and I’m dry.

Evening now I find a little shed on wheels by a grain storage bin. Not locked. The interior is neat and clean. I’m home for this day.

“I believe it consistent with right reason to say that some of the lowliest walks in life, the paths which lead into the deepest valleys of sorrow and up to the most rugged steeps of adversity, are the ones which, if a man travel in, will best accomplish the object of his existence in this world.”
[B. H. Roberts, Mormon Author]

Tuesday—September 22, 2015
Trail Day—12
Trail Mile—12.3/243.5
Interesting night, last, in the little shed-on-wheels. A skunk had apparently set up house under the trailer. No bad odor, nothing like that. The critter just kept rustling around, making racket directly under me. Perhaps I was the one causing the stink!

Failed to mention that I finally saw some significant trail ruts the other day, from a platform at the Jackson farm, then from an old wooden railroad overpass, both locations just west of Murray. Bob Brown also showed me ruts, emigrant grave sites, and the location of old cabin foundations at Mt. Pisgah. He also taught me the art of dowsing, its practical and effective use in divination. Made a believer out of me!

Today I continue my hike on up SR-25. The trail is nearby, as it passed directly through the little village of Orient, my destination.

I’ve made tracks to get here as I want to catch the post office—open. I’m in good shape; it’s ten-thirty. Ah, but WRONG—the post office is closed. Hours are 1:00-5:00! Okay, so I’ll kill some time at the library till the post office opens. WRONG—the library doesn’t open till two.

Neat Jiffy though, yup, named the Orient Express, and they’re open! Time for lunch, the microwave variety. Hey, but they have a fine fountain. The day had started heating up on the way in, so I’ve built up a respectable thirst. I hit their fountain, hard. Oh yes!

A couple sandwiches for tonight, some snacks, and another pass by the fountain and it’s back to SR-25. Early afternoon, I move to secondary gravel again, to continue where the road grid keeps cutting across the trail. Not the least sign of swales though, not at a single one of the crossings, and there’s been somewhere between eight and ten. The countryside hasn’t completely quit rolling, so the old trail is still winding its way—and I’m still riding the bucking bronco.

Late afternoon, appear dark skies to the northwest, really dark, plus the faint sound of thunder. Gotta start looking for a place to hide, or I’ll soon be in for another good soaking. As the thunder nears and the wind starts picking up, I reach this old farmstead. An old, old house, and even older outbuildings. I get past the dog and knock on the back door. No one home, just lots of dogs. I’m in luck, an outside spigot. Hey, and it works! I top off my water bottles and head for the nearest barn—just as the sky opens. Hope you don’t mind, mister farmer, I gotta get in and out of this storm.

The old barn, never the least repair, seems, certainly not the roof. Raining hard now, and the rain starts coming through—right where the evening light is coming through. Luck would have it (again), a place in the corner, clear of the piles of old farm tools and assorted junk (wait’ll you see these pics). It’s dry and the spot’s big enough to hold my tent. Here’s home. Not much, but a much better deal than the Mormons might have had. They weren’t whiners—just folks on an arduous journey—daily thankful!

“We have only to keep our hearts and eyes open, and we will be overwhelmed with the multitude of a God’s blessings.”
[Penelope Stokes]

Wednesday—September 23, 2015
Trail Day—13
Trail Mile—22.8/266.3

Eerie place after dark, this damp, junk-cluttered old barn. Soon as dark descended, descended the varmints and critters, banging around, climbing around. Continued most the whole night; made sure my tent door was zipped shut—completely.

To get out of here this morning, and back on the road west, I’ve got to get past the farmer’s dogs. I figure the earlier the better. Five, pitch dark, the rain still coming down—time to break camp and get moving. Creeping as quietly as possible, and guessing my way in the dark, I make it to the side-yard before the dogs pick me up. A mad dash and I reach the road, dogs in hot pursuit. At the road, they stop. I keep going. Thank you, Lord!

What an ordeal. Probably a bad decision on my part, going behind the farmer’s house and into his barn without permission. Second thought: No “probably” about it. Just a bad decision. I’m fortunate (and thankful) it played out like it did.

As the road passes more marked trail crossings, the rain continuing in waves, I decide to break off and head for Bridgewater, a small village (with a cafe).

It’s eight, I’m in, but the cafe’s closed. Right by, Bridgewater Oil Company. Their door is open, and a fellow sitting right inside sees me and motions me over. “You’re really moving along.” he says. I comment something to the effect as to how becoming rain-soaked tends to do that. I’m invited in, to meet Steve and his brother, Stan, owners of Bridgewater Oil. “Health problems, folks at the cafe. Otherwise, they’d be open.” says Stan. I drop my wet gear, take a chair, and we chat. They’re both well up to speed on the Mormon Trail. I tell them the story about the multitude of unmarked graves, and how that daily tends to add a degree of melancholy to this journey. Steve then invites me to take a ride with him. “I can show you some old wagon ruts, at least we think they’re old ruts—want to go?” We load and Steve drives me right back to where I’d just recently passed, one of the marked crossings where I’d stopped to get a picture of the crossing sign. Many crossings, where I’d taken time to stop and look—no evidence of anything even remotely swales, but this crossing? Here they are, and I hadn’t even noticed. Sure enough, gotta pay closer attention from now on! Thanks, Steve, for bringing me back out here, to see this bit of old trail!

Oh, and believe it or not, the Bridgewater post office is open. Don’t know, you just never know!

I linger with the fellows, Steve and Stan, in hopes the rain will stop. But it continues, wave after wave, so I shoulder my pack, bid farewell, and return to the road.

Two more waves and I’ve waded the six more miles to Massena, my destination for today. There’s a bar and grill here, and an old hotel where I might get a room. The Main Street Bar and Grill is open. Also, the word Steve’s put out about me needing a room has gotten around.

In the bar, and at a table now, comes a local chap to ask what I’m doing, where I’m going. Kind old fellow, Delmer. The bar and grill, classic mom-n-pop. Classic, too, the great meat, potatoes and gravy they’re all famous for. I’m no more finished cleaning my plate (while talking with Delmer), than he invites me to his place, there to shower, wash my clothes, and stay the night. Ha, and that very moment, through the door comes Jesse, owner of the old hotel. “I’ve a room for you upstairs; come with me and I’ll show you.”

Well friends, a quandary for sure. But not a predicament! I thank Delmer and walk across the street with Jesse, to his hotel (and my room, compliments of Jesse and his wife, Lissa).

Evening, after taking a long-overdue shower, washing my double-dirty clothes, I’m finally warmed up from the total soaking. So, it’s back over to Main Street Bar and Grill for supper and a cold one with Delmer, Jesse, and Lissa.

More thunder, more lightening, more rain. But—Ah, I’m warm and snug (and clean) in my room here at Jesse and Lissa’s Morgan Manor Hotel.

And this old hotel, folks? Well, I don’t know how old it is, when it was built. But I do know, from sketches through time, which I’ve gleaned from the book The Birthing Kitchen – Memories of Mrs. Bristow’s Hotel, written by Rose Ellen Holste and Norma Elizabeth Schaaf, that within these old walls a fascinating and remarkable story is firmly held. For here, on August 7, 1944, the entire lower floor was converted into a maternity home, and for six years to follow, and according to birth records kept by Mrs. Bristow, 219 children were born here—amazingly—without the loss of a single child, not one mother!

“In the midst of [the] twentieth century there was a simpler time in a beautiful country. In that beautiful country there was a small town that was far from Camelot. It was a time filled with lovely young women…and dashing young men…There were no knights in shining armor, just two young doctors wearing starched white shirts…

“Time has passed, and the beautiful young women have grown gracefully older. The two young doctors are gone now, and the chubby cheeked babies have grown…

“Memories…carry the essence of a time and place. They are meant to be cherished and held close to the heart…”
[Rose Ellen Holste, 1999]

Thursday—September 24, 2015
Trail Day—14
Trail Mile—19.6/285.9

A restful night at the old hotel with Jesse and Lissa—great hosts! The rain continued off and on, but not the least of my worry.

I’m awake at seven-thirty, just perfect. Time to pack my meager gear, straighten the room, and get back over to Main Street for breakfast with Delmer. While there, Jesse stops by, also Les. They both work on the big wind turbines for Siemens. Les was the vital link in getting me lined up for a room with Jesse. Kind men; thank you both.

After breakfast, Delmer wants to show me where he lives, a short distance from downtown. Pretty remarkable place. Delmer’s managed to collect (or just save) quite a few things over the years. Like a one-room schoolhouse he paid seventy-eight bucks for, and had moved to his side yard. He’s got a 1930 Model-A Ford, an Iowa license plate collection, one for every year starting in 1911. He’s also got the finest miniature fire engine collection I’ve ever seen, a whole room full, plus a full sized one outside. Delmer was Massena Fire Chief for twenty-five years, then volunteered another twenty-five!

The rain finally lets up, so a little before twelve, Delmer drives me back downtown. And that time comes again; time to say farewell. Goodbye Delmer. I ring the doorbell by Jesse and Lissa’s door. I almost wish no one answers. But Lissa is home. Goodby Lissa. She gives me a hug. Tears in my eyes now.

The noon siren sounded yesterday as I turned down from the highway onto Main Street, Massena. And today, as I turn from Main, back to the highway, it sounds again. Twenty-four hours spent in the delightful village of Massena. Certainly not long, but long enough to make lasting friendships.

Although the old trail makes a sweeping curve south, then north, I just head west from Massena, SR-92. It leads me in the direction of my destination today, the little town of Lewis. No trail crossings, just head-down-and-haul. Got a long ways to go and a short time to get there!

Making my final turn to enter Lewis, comes the rain again. Only a short distance now, to reach the little bar, Lewis Place. But time enough to get wet and chilled all over, one more time.

Kind, friendly folks at the bar. They all greet me—bartender, Coleen, her husband, Greg, Mike, Chick, and Rick. A call to the mayor and I’ve permission to stay at the pavilion by the fire station. But then Mike takes pity on me, I guess, as he invites me to stay the night at his place, in his “man cave” garage. A fine pizza, plenty of warm-me-up coffee, Mike loads me and we’re off to his place. Thanks, dear new friends, the Lewis Place.

“Now hollow fires burn out to black,
And lights are guttering low:
Square your shoulders, lift your pack,
And leave your friends and go.”
[A. E. Housman]

Friday—September 25, 2015
Trail Day—15
Trail Mile—24.8/310.7

Mike checked the weather for me last night just before we called it a day—and brought me a dish of chocolate ice cream. The weather report, and the ice cream, both good! I slept like a baby on his plush and very comfortable couch.

And this morning first thing, comes Mike with coffee! Sure gonna be a great day—starting out that way anyhow!

And just after six-thirty, and just as promised, comes Jeff to show me around. First, the old ferry tender’s house, which he painstaking helped restore. Then the old Hitchkock house. The Nishnabotna River ferry crossing is Mormon related. The Hitchkock house, more Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and John Brown. We also visit the Indiantown site where the Potawatomi Indians lived during the Mormon emigration. A fine tour, Jeff, thanks!

Back downtown Lewis, I say goodbye to Jeff, and I’m on my way to Macedonia a little after eight.

Today is a highway walk. Plenty of traffic to keep me alert. The shoulder is wide enough and okay, but it’s gravel. So, I’m back and forth, from pavement to gravel, dodging oncoming traffic.

A trail crossing just east of Carson. And how about this—I believe there’s an actual swale by this sign!

The wind came up late morning, believe it or not, out of the east. Hastened me along all day, most unusual.

By five I’ve reached Carson, the downtown bar and grill. A dandy burger and fries, plus half a gallon of sprite from their mixer gun, and my tank is replenished.

Sunset finds me at the old quarry site just north of Macedonia. I pitch for the night under a huge cottonwood. A long, hard day.

“In addition to the legacy of faith bequeathed by those who crossed the plains, they also left a great heritage of love—love of God and love of mankind.”
[James E. Faust]

Saturday—September 26. 2015
Trail Day—16
Trail Mile—22.1/332.8.
Location—Council Bluffs

The main gates by the road leading into the quarry were heavily posted, “No Trespassing,” and other warnings plainly displayed in large bold letters. The gates to the left of the quarry entrance, leading to a field, not posted. Over those gates I went, to find my home for the night. A quiet night, save for the deer. Lots of deer, their snorting continuing till daybreak.

And at daybreak I strike camp, shoulder my pack, climb back over the (unposted) gates, and head for the little village of Macedonia. By the water tower now, I’m greeted by a lady walking her dogs. Turns out she’s the mayor of Macedonia. Eileen, a friendly lady. She turns and walks with me downtown to show me the Back 40, where I get breakfast (and lots of coffee).

Out of Macedonia, a blue-perfect day; I’m energized for another long roadwalk, this one to the historic Grand Encampment location on the grounds of the Iowa School for the Deaf, Council Bluffs. By four-thirty I’ve got the gravel grinder, and the final fifteen miles of the Iowa roller coaster, behind me.

I’ve dear friends in Omaha, Charlie and Linda. They took me in during my L&CNHT return trek in 2006. I’ve exchanged emails with them over the past few days. More good fortune, they’re going to be home this weekend and I’ve been invited to stay (again) while passing through Omaha. Reaching the Grand Encampment site, I give Charlie a call—and he’s on his way!

Grand Encampment, near the east bank of the Missouri River is where Brigham Young stopped to camp the winter of 1846. After taking four months to cross Iowa, there was just not enough time before winter to continue on to the Great Salt Lake Valley, so here at Council Bluffs, that was it for the emigrants of 1846. During the remainder of that year, upwards of 100 villages were established near Council Bluffs, stretching as far as nine miles east from here at Grand Encampment. At this site more than 500 volunteers of the Mormon Battalion were officially mustered into the U.S. Army for service in the war with Mexico.

“The first wagons arriving at the Missouri River (June 14) camped at the area near present day School of the Deaf just southeast of Council Bluffs. While a new ferry was being constructed, the Mormons remained on the Iowa side. The area was known as the Grand Encampment…As more wagons arrived, they camped in the first area available to the east. By the first of July, the ferry was ready for crossing, however there was a backlog of wagons waiting. By late July, the camped wagons stretched nine miles to the east and as much as three miles wide along the way.”

Sunday—September 27, 2015
Trail Day—17
Trail Mile—13.6/346.4
Location—Omaha, Nebraska

What a joy seeing Charlie and Linda again; it’s been nine years. Charlie has since retired, after 38 years with Union Pacific Railroad.

You may recall my childhood story about my love affair with the Bagnell Branch Railroad, a spur off the main Missouri Pacific line that ran through my little village of Russellville. If not, take a moment and in the Site Menu, click on MOPAC 2005.

Well, I grew out of that childhood infatuation with trains, which both Charlie and I had—but Charlie never did! In his basement, here at their lovely home in Omaha (and taking up the better part of their entire basement), Charlie has created one of the most remarkable model train layouts you’ll find anywhere—the old Bagnell Branch Railroad (captured in time) that ran through Russellville!.

That old line started in Jefferson City and ran some 50 miles to Bagnell. Along the way it passed through a number of small villages. Charlie has them all sitting proudly on display. The old grain elevators, businesses, even people, animals, all to exact scale. Looking at his layout of Russellville, the old downtown, the depot, such fond memories! It’s just as I remember. So very much has changed since I was that carefree “Huck Finn” barefoot tyke. I was saddened when the depot was tore down to make room for the new bank. Time, indeed, marches on. Ah, but the clock has stopped for awhile—In Charlie and Linda’s basement.

My hike today will be relatively short, from Grand Encampment on the Council Bluffs side of the Missouri River, to Winter Quarters, on the Omaha side.

After a fine breakfast prepared for me by both Linda and Charlie, Linda loads me and drives me back to Council Bluffs.

Highlights today are the walk across the fabulous Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri, and of course, the visitor center and temple at Winter Quarters. After a couple route adjustments, the hike turns to being seven hours, getting me to the Mormon Winter Quarters center atop the hill by Cutler’s Park at three-thirty.

At the center I’m greeted by Elder Hanson, who takes time to show me a short movie then to guide me around the center. These Mormon historic centers are all breathtakingly remarkable, the one here at Winter Quarters, truly exceptional. A walk through the Mormon Cemetery, a visit to the temple, and Linda comes for me a little after five. Yes, I’ve been invited to stay another night with Charlie and Linda!

Once back, Linda prepares supper. Freshly baked apple pie and ice cream to start, then beef stroganoff, cauliflower casserole, and corn on the cob.

Evening, we watch a full eclipse of the moon, the first in thirty-three years.

“Winter Quarters was an encampment formed by approximately 2,500 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they waited during the winter of 1846–47 for better conditions for their trek westward…The Mormons built more than 800 cabins at the Winter Quarters settlement. Located in present-day North Omaha overlooking the Missouri River, the settlement remained populated until 1848.”
[1911 Encyclopedia Nebraska]

Monday—September 28, 2015
Trail Day—18
Trail Mile—15.5/361.9
Location—Military Road/SR-31, then on to the Elkhorn River

Another restful night at the home of dear friends, Charlie and Linda. A full spread breakfast for the old hiker, prepared by Linda, and of course, lots of coffee, even to go, as we all head out the door, Charlie to a doctor’s appointment, and Linda to return me to Winter Quarters Temple, before heading off to her dental appointment. Very busy folks, but they’ve worked me into their schedule for two days now.

This morning, arrives that unavoidable and inevitable moment—sad goodbyes. First, with Charlie, at their front door, and now with Linda here across from the Winter Quarters Temple. Dear friends, your kindness, your friendship, true blessings—Thank you!

I’ve another perfectly clear, beautiful day for hiking this Mormon Trail. And today I actually get to hike the trail, as it has simply been paved over and is now called Military Road. I pick it up right away and hike it clear to the western outskirts of Omaha.

Late afternoon I’m at my destination for this day. With plenty of daylight remaining, I hike on to the Elkhorn River. This evening as I write this entry, I can hear the train whistles and the rumbling of the coal haulers running the rails up and down the Great Platte River (Rail) Road. I’ll see (and begin my hike along) the Platte tomorrow.

To pass Winter Quarters, to regroup and continue wending west, it took Brigham Young and the advanced party of emigrants the entire winter/spring of 1846-’47, over a year. It’s taken me less than three weeks to cover the same distance. Yet, to all account, the Mormons endured better—than has this old complainer!

“The Mormons struggled and suffered through extreme deprivation and hardship because they believed God was with them and their purpose was just…The travelers of the original Mormon Trail left an inspiring example for all of us who travel on our own trails through the mortal experience.”
[Matthew Chatterley Wend Your Way (through Iowa)]

Tuesday—September 29, 2015
Trail Day—19
Trail Mile—19.6/381.5
Location— Fremont, then on past Ames to within five miles of North Bend

Glad I had my fly rigged and ready last night. Wasn’t expecting rain, but it showed up around two. Probably three-quarters of an inch before it moved on. I was able to quickly reach up and pull my fly down over the front of my tent, then just as quickly, let the rain quiet me back to sleep.

Bart commented to me in an email recently about how happy he was to put the rolling hills of Iowa behind him. I’ll second that! After descending to Elkhorn River and Rawhide Creek, the place totally flattened out—as I entered the Platte River Valley. Nice wide, paved shoulders; oh yes, blessings for a tired and weary old hiker—Fort Kearny/Kearney (city) here I come!

I’m in Fremont by eleven, to a fine mom-n-pop for breakfast—compliments of the waitress and staff. Next stop, the library, to get caught up on correspondence and journal entries.

The sky is totally clear by ten, bringing another cool, perfect-for-hiking day. And today, as I put Fremont in my rearview, and for the first time, I notice the maple trees showing subtle shades of orange.

US-30 out of Fremont is treacherous, heavy commercial traffic and little shoulder. I’m constantly back and forth, from the narrow strip of paved shoulder to the muddy road slope. Across the railroad tracks there’s the old Lincoln Highway. It’s gravel, but a most welcome alternative. I move to the gravel.

I’ve been closely tracking the Mormon Trail again today. Here on the old Lincoln Highway, it’s right under the old road, right under my feet.

Camp for the night is in a fine grove of trees where the old Lincoln (gravel) Highway ends. I’ll be back on US-30 again in the morning. Cheryl, a nice lady at one of the farms along, who filled my water bottles for the night, said the highway widens before North Bend—sure hope so. My old nerves are no longer up to such straight out assault.

“The Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Rocky Mountains passed here [Fremont, Nebraska] April 17, 1847. In this vicinity a military-type organization was formed with Brigham Young, Lieutenant General; Stephen Markham, Colonel; John Pack and Shadrach Roundy, Majors, and Captains of Hundreds, Fifties and Tens. In the Company were 143 men, 3 women, and 2 boys.”
[Washington County Historical Society – 1950]

Wednesday—September 30, 2015
Trail Day—20
Trail Mile—16.6+15.7 (32.3)/413.7
Location—North Bend, then on to Schuyler

A rumble-tumble night last. The grove of trees at the end of the (gravel) Old Lincoln Highway wasn’t more than 75-yards from the UPAC double-track main line, where the road turned and crossed the tracks. Trains ran all night, both directions—and whistled the crossing all night. Across the tracks, US-30 went into a tight turn. So the semis, also running all night, jake-braked into it—all night, usually hitting the center-line rumble strip in the process. I’ve had to deal with some very noisy nights during my “hiking career” but this one last night takes it, hands down. Oh, forgot to mention the ground near-continually shaking under me. Loaded coal cars are heavy.

The cold night carries into this cold forty-degree morning. Jacket on, hood up, hands in pockets, just at sunrise I hit the road, US-30. Hey, and now I’ve a fully paved emergency lane, just like Cheryl said, and the sun warms me very nicely as I hasten the five miles on to North Bend.

And right at the main intersection, the Corner Cafe. All appearance it’s THE mom-n-pop. But nope. Not even so-so on all counts. And my fail-safe test to see how a town measures up: Will the principal bank transact a debit card cash advance? And the North Bend bank? Another nope. I hit North Bend at nine, and have the place well in my rearview by ten.

Decision is to hike it on to Schuyler today, another 15.7, and that’ll mean another itinerary click, making for two. For you readers of late, here’s how the mileage thing works: If you’ll open the itinerary page here, you’ll see for each day I’ve a tentative destination and associated mileage. Those are fixed and will be followed and used, regardless. What is subject to change is the day/date. Sometime during the trek it’s likely I’ll get either behind or ahead. The key is (purely for ease and simplicity), I must reach and pass each itinerary click before that mileage is recorded. So, as for today, I completed the final five miles of the day-20 click, plus the day-21 click, making for around a 21-mile day—not a 32+ day as recorded.

Out of North Bend, and even though I’ve a wide shoulder, the heavy commercial traffic is just crushing. The diesel fumes are stiflingly, causing my lungs to burn. Time to get off this grinder. Ah, and the old (gravel) Lincoln Highway is back. It’s across the tracks, so over I go. This road takes me only a short distance before it turns private. But as luck would have it I meet Linda, a local out for her morning walk. She directs me to the service road beside the tracks, which takes me (safely, without the exhaust fumes) into the little village of Rogers—directly on/along the old trail. From Rogers, I continue on to Schuyler along another gravel road, the Mormon Trail again directly under my feet.

Schuyler? Cash advance using my debit card—yup. A fine conversation with Javier, owner of Schuyler Inn, definitely a new friend who puts me up (hiker trash rate) in one of his very fine rooms (yup). Supper is a foot-long from Subway, and a 90-cent 1.5-liter bottle of Pepsi from the grocery right next door. Yup, Schuyler is a fine town!

And Javier? The true American success story. He and his family emigrated from Mexico 17 years ago. They’ve assimilated, totally, and are proud Americans (not hyphenated). He has two sons. One with a university degree in computer design/programming. The other, a stellar high school student. Javier, let me tell you what a blessing it is to be the recipient of your genuine kindness and generosity—and especially—that you’ve chosen me to be your friend!

“For hundreds of miles, all emigrants who left the Missouri traveled along the Platte River. The Latter-day Saints generally traveled along the north side of the river, where they faced fewer chances for unpleasant encounters with westbound emigrants from the states of Missouri or Illinois, all potentially former enemies…All emigrants, Latter-day Saint and non–Latter-day Saint alike, traveled where feed for stock could be obtained. If it was found in short supply on the side they were traveling, they often would switch to the opposite side…Coupled with the constant threat of cholera, the overland trip along the Platte was at best a deadly gamble.”
[Family and Church History Department Library,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]

Thursday—October 1. 2015
Trail Day—21
Trail Mile—17.0/430.8
Location—Columbus, then on to near Monroe

A fine stay at Javier’s Inn. Me, my clothes, clean again. And a good, nourishing breakfast at the next door supermarket deli. Right up there with any five star mom-n-pop, save for the customary deli Styrofoam and plastic.

Another cool morning, perfect for hiking, fully paved shoulder, moderate traffic, bit of a breeze to my back. Just doesn’t get any better for a drifting old nomad!

My destination today is Columbus, about 16 miles by US-30. And the Mormon Trail? It turns southwest, then back northwest as it meanders with the Platte, then to angle back up to present day Columbus. US-30 tracks straight across; I track straight across. In Columbus I’m shooting for Wendy’s right on the main drag; I’m in by three.

With a good many hiking hours remaining, I head on toward Genoa, my next itinerary click.

Out of Columbus, the old trail turn northwest to follow Loup (Fork) River, as the Mormon emigrants, led by Brigham Young, searched for a suitable place to ford. To stay with them, I turn north on US-81, then west on SR-22. This highway route keeps me close to the trail—but does not cross it.

Late afternoon I stop at a farmhouse for water. I startle the kind lady, yet she greets me kindly—and I meet Jennifer. “I saw you walking today,” kind smile. As I fill my water bottles from her outdoor faucet, I answer her questions about my hike along the Mormon Trail. She then tells me her husband owns land south of Genoa where the trail passed. She also tells me about the ruts and swales that have been identified on his land, and directions to get there. Another mile, the sun setting, I enter a field path, cross the tracks and find a spot to pitch under the trees. Another safe journey down the road/trail. Thank you, Lord!

“Traveled six miles and crossed the Loupe Fork of the Platte at a new ford discovered by Capt. Richards’ company a day or two previous, opposite to an old Pawnee village, Capt. Richards’ company having passed over the day before we arrived and was encamped on the opposite side of the river. Both Elder Benson’s and George A. Smith’s companies were all safely got over…”
[William I. Appleby, 28 July 1849]

Friday—October 2, 2015
Trail Day—22
Trail Mile—22.0+15.9 (37.9)/468.7
Location—Genoa, then on to Fullerton, another 2-click day.

Another cold night. The cold woke me, then caused me to put my jacket on. Snuggled back in then, to remain comfy and warm till morning.

I’m out right at sunrise. So is the locomotive in the UPAC switching yard. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out all the early morning (before first light) banging around. Now I know, another 150-car train getting coupled together. And it certainly turns problematic for me. To get to my camp last, I didn’t actually cross the tracks, I went down the tracks, across a creek—on a trestle. Retracking (NPI) this morning, I’m unable to get back over the trestle till the engineer backs off, to slam-couple another car. I wait, then literally run when the trestle is finally clear. Sure enough, enough excitement already for this day!

I’ve a short hike into Monroe, to the downtown tavern for breakfast. Great food; two eggs (with perfect laces), four extra-thick slices of bacon, half a large oval serving dish full of hash browns—and three pancakes w/syrup; yup, I thank the cook and waddle out!

As I trek on toward Genoa the trail and highway track close to Loup River, to within a few-hundred yards in places where the river oxbows. The town’s noon whistle sounds as I enter Genoa. Here, I hit the Great Plains Cafe for lunch. Genoa has a library, and it’s open Fridays from 10-12 and 2-5. It’s now 12:30. Oh yes, the library is CLOSED. And not unexpectedly, same goes for the post office.

Rather than waiting, time better spent to head on toward Fullerton. Along, I try finding where the Mormon emigrants forded Loup River. Stumbled over a mile down the railroad tracks looking. No luck. This puts me late into Fullerton. I arrive just at sunset.

I’d been looking forward to a room and a hot bath, but the motel wants 90 bucks for a single, one night. The hot bath will have to wait. I find a better deal 200 yards on past the motel, a fine meadow with trees—stay is for free! Ah, and I’m no more than a tenth-mile from Casey’s. They open at six. Be right there for my coffee fix first thing!

Even though I’ve had to deal with shoulderless highway all day, the cattle pots, grain bottoms, and petro tankers running hot and heavy—it’s been a mighty fine day, close to a 25—one more in my exciting nomadic life on the road…

“A life akin to the mist on the wind,
This, the wanderlust’s way.
He’ll roam about to his heart’s delight,
A calling he must obey.”
[N. Nomad – Mist on the Wind, 5/’98]

Saturday–October 3, 2015
Trail Day–23
Trail Mile–18.4/487.2
Location–Central City, then on toward Grand Island

Started right out with my jacket on last night, fly down and tight all around. Another cold night, but I slept comfy cozy. Ninety bucks for a room, couldn’t have been even the least at ease with that.

I’m up and out just at first light, and right back over to Casey’s. Most Casey’s just want you to buy stuff, then leave. No place to sit and take it easy. This Casey’s has a couple of small booths along the front wall however, and at six-thirty I get my first cup of steaming hot coffee and move in. Time to work journal entries and recharge my iPod. Then it’s over to the deli. The egg-cheese-bacon croissant looks too good to pass up. So too for the rectangle of hash browns. I spring for both–plus more coffee.

I’ve an 18 to Central City, so need to get moving. I’m out to a cold, overcast, and blustery morning. Jacket on, hood up, hands in pockets–for this whole day. Tracking pretty much south, the highway finally crosses Loup River. A marker here notes the Pawnee Indian settlement that existed near here at the time the emigrants came through. It also describes the extreme difficulty and hardship faced by the Mormons in making the crossing. Indeed, it is a wide, deep, and fast-moving river. Continuing on, I reach Central City by three-thirty.

Dairy Queen. Five-dollar lunch special–double cheeseburger, large box of fries, drink, and choice of sundae for dessert! They’ve no-hassle WiFi, and outlets right by the booths. Second home today!

Been concerned about the weather. It tried raining on me this afternoon, with no luck. And my good luck–warmer, mostly sunny days ahead, next three or four days. Just enough to get me through to complete this odyssey, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail–at the US-30 main intersection, from where I crossed the Platte River to enter Kearney during my Oregon Nation Historic Trail trek last year.

Out of Central City on US-30, I head on west along with the empties (coal cars) coming back. The farmers are harvesting corn now, and next one of the fields just being stripped, and in a fine grove of trees I find a clear spot and pitch for the night.

“We had came up the Platte and Loupe fork about 130 miles through as fine a country as I ever saw. Almost entirely level, the finest country for farming that can be with the exception of timber. Cottonwood skirting the river is all the timber to be found and very scarce at that”
[Levi Jackman – April 23, 1847]
Sunday—October 4, 2015
Trail Day—24
Trail Mile—22.7/509.9
Location—Grand Island, then on to Alda

A quiet night. I had turned down a side road last, away from the tracks, probably a quarter-mile, and there were no nearby crossings. So, no rumbling, no whistles.

Sunrise isn’t till after seven now, so it’s easy enough to be on my way at sunrise. And this morning, just a blaze of brilliant red as the sun makes its show. Great photo op first thing. Came a light rain just before first light this morning and with the scatter of clouds remaining it’s now making another try. A few drops, that’s it, but they produce an amazing rainbow, rising from the pot of gold right where US-30 disappears to a pinpoint on the western horizon—and I get that shot, too!

The morning looks to be shaping near the same as yesterday, overcast, on the cool side, but fortunately, no wind. It’s the whole jacket deal, like the past few days.

Today will be a straight-arrow roadwalk, cornfields both sides and (even though it’s Sunday) the 18-wheelers aren’t allowing the least bit of quiet.

I’d managed a respectable bit of the hike to Grand Island yesterday evening, so what’s remaining I get knocked down by two. And oh my, how about this—the library is open Sunday, two to five, and it’s right on the main drag; in I go!

By four-thirty I’ve made it in and out of McDonald’s, right down from the library, and I’m once again trekking the Old Lincoln Highway (under US-30) toward Wood River. I make it as far as the sleepy village of Alda. A little gravel-lot grocery, and by golly it’s open! A Pepsi, bag of Fritos, my water bottles topped off for the night, and just at dark I find an open spot under a huge cottonwood (hidden behind an abandoned shed) across the tracks, and that’s it—just a hammer-down day on the road; little to do with the Mormon Trail, which tracked along just south of me all day.

As I trek up the Great Platte River Road, with me: the old Lincoln Highway, US-30, I-80, The Oregon, California, and Mormon Trail(s), plus the Pony Express, Overland Stage, the Transcontinental Telegraph, and the UPAC main line. Since man and animal set foot here, the Great Platte River Road has been, and remains, a busy place.

“The gold fever prompted many to go to California that summer, by way of the north side of the Platte, so that the feed for animals was all used up. For that reason President [Orson] Hyde advised us to go along the south side. Some of the gold seekers did take the same route. The cholera broke out among them; they were all around us—before us and behind us, although we tried to keep away from them, and many of them died; but our company escaped”
[Diary of Thomas Steed, 1826–1910]

Monday—September 5, 2015
Trail Day—25
Trail Mile—15.1+14.1(29.2)/539.1 – remainder of first click and all of second
Location—Wood River, then on past Gibbon

I spent the evening/night hiding out in Alda. Trains and highway close, but not a disturbance. All along US-30 folks live right next the highway and the tracks, and I’ve wondered the longest how in Sam they possibly live with the near-constant commotion and racket, especially the ear-piercing whistle and earthshaking rumble of the freight trains. But guess I’m acclimating, as I actually slept through it quite well last night. But wouldn’t you think the rushing onslaught would at least slow down during early morning? NOT! Caroline at Sportsman Bar in Gibbon told me the trains (100-150 cars each coming and going) run every six minutes on average—and that the rail yard in Gibbon is the busiest railroad switching yard in the world. Anyway, it was a cold night but I managed to keep warm and I slept well.

The little mom-n-pop grocery/gas here in Alda opens at six. So, with the aid of my little Micro Light I break camp and head over. Still pitch black as I enter. Coffee is ready and I take mine in a real mug. Ah, and breakfast is served here on China, mine on a big serving platter. Crisp bacon, a pile of hash browns, two large eggs and toast. Second morning for a super-fine breakfast. My, my!

Another overcast morning. Cold but only a slight breeze. It’ll be head-down-n-haul toward a 26+ today, through Wood River, Sheldon, then on past Gibbon.

Traffic on US-30 starts out tolerable, but becomes bothersome, picking up big time mid-morning, then bearing down and crushing toward noon—and doesn’t slack off, but rather continues, 30-50 vehicles a minute the remainder of the day. Thankfully, I’ve a fully-paved emergency lane, and the breeze is in my favor, south to north, carrying the exhaust fumes across the highway away from me. Just have to deal with the diesel fumes from the locomotives that near-constantly pass to the south of me.

Road kill, unusual numbers, mostly deer and raccoon, plenty of both. Guess the corn fields both sides lure them in—for the kill.

The early stoking-good breakfast has me really crankin’ and I’m rapidly burning those calories. So, a quick stop in Wood River for a bowl of stew, then on to Gibbon, the Sportsman Bar, for a burger and fries. Kind owner, Caroline, and sweet barkeep, Shanna, greet me, and make me feel to home. Before dark descends I manage another five. Oh yes, I’ll be in Kearney late morning tomorrow. It’s all over but the shoutin’ folks!

Camp for the night is in a sheltered concealment beneath a farmer’s tree-lined windbreak—right next the tracks and highway, of course.

The Great Platte River Road—for sure, alluring and beckoning. Thousands upon thousands braved it, walked it—a very long time ago. Those strong, tireless souls are all gone now. And that grand and gloriously trail of long ago? Gone, too…

“The trails of the world be countless,
And most of the trails are tried;
You tread on the heels of the many,
Till you come where the ways divide…”
[Robert W. Service]

Tuesday—October 6, 2015
Trail Day—26
Trail Mile—20.5/559.5
Location—Kearney, Nebraska

Out here on the Great Plains of Central Nebraska, the Platte River “Valley,” taking a sweeping look, you’ll see virtually uninterrupted, wide-open space, 360 to the horizon. Corn fields, soy beans, both sides of the highway, far as the eye can see. The land here is sliced into 1/2-mile squares. Trees, what there are, always conceal a farm house, usually on one of the grid corners. The winters up here on the prairie are harsh, the relentless winds, brutal. So, for the welcome protection offered by the trees. It is in the shelter of these wind breaks that I’ve sought evening solace so often during this trek—just as chosen for the night, last.

This morning, and in the dark, I strike my final camp for this Mormon Trail odyssey, shoulder my pack and head on west, toward Kearney.

Each year, at the conclusion of another successful hiking season, I pause to give thanks to the outpouring of human kindness extended me. This year I’m particularly thankful, first for the wonderful sharing of time—with Bart Smith; just priceless, quality time spent on the trail. Second, and though I often brag about what I can yet do (I’ll turn 77 in a little over three weeks), without fail I make known those blessings—from whence they come.

And finally, and now just before noon this date, at the intersection of US-30 and SR-44 in Kearney, Nebraska, I complete the remainder of this trek o’er the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, the eastern segment—26 days, 560 miles.

It proved to be both rewarding and joy-filled. That so many of you chose to follow along day-to-day, rewarding and humbling. Unbeknownst to you, I received great energy from each of you, real and palpable energy in every respect. Thank you, and thank You, Lord, for the fortitude, the energy, and the resolve to successfully complete another remarkable odyssey! To journey the path less traveled, to find peace and joy—true blessings.

“True happiness is seldom found
Among the polished stone.
For on the path where most have trod,
Scant faith has ever grown.

But should we journey o’er the way
Where less the path is worn,
Tis there the most pure brilliant light
Brings forth that glorious morn.

Whereon we rise to greet the day,
To find our prayers fulfilled,
Here peace and joy fill full our cup,
Just like our Father willed.

But oh the faith to pass this way,
The path few e’er have known,
For till we see God’s face, have we
Gone long and far—alone.”
[N. Nomad]
Central Segment
Hiked During Odyssey 2014 – Oregon National Historic Trail
May 17 to June 30, 2014
Click Here To View Journals
Western Segment
Fort Bridger, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah
July 6 to July 11, 2015

Monday—July 6, 2015
Trail Day—1
Trail Mile—21/21
Location—Muddy Creek, Hastings Cutoff California/Mormon Trail

While out west, what better time (and both Bart and I have time) to hike the western-most extent of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, from Fort Bridger, Wyoming, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Neither of us had hiked it, so, we were off to get my truck in Idaho.

First, Amtrak from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, then Greyhound from there to Burley, Idaho, where Mark, from Heglar Creek Farms came to pick us up. Thanks Mark, Josh, all dear friends, for keeping my truck, for all your help!

My faithful old Jimmy cranked right up and we took off for Wyoming. An overnight at the Ogden Wal-Mart, then on to Fort Bridger State Park, where park superintendent, Linda, let me park my truck next the maintenance shop.

At one, Bart’s got his “handcart” loaded, I’ve my pack shouldered—and we’re off to a glorious afternoon, headed for Salt Lake City, on the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.

We begin on pavement, which soon gives way to gravel, as we track southwest. Staying as close to the old trail as possible, we’re following neatly detailed maps prepared by my dear “hiker trash” buddy, Gordon Smith.

Late afternoon, we find ourselves once again plying the high-plains desert, the tablelands, our road straight and flat to the far-reaching horizon. Bart has moved well out ahead and as I squint to see him, appears a long row of little blue dots—portable toilets. Passes now a vehicle, the only one seen all afternoon. It slows, then stops by the toilets, just as Bart reaches there. Two men emerge from the vehicle and Bart goes to greet them. Finally arriving, I meet Larry and John. Come to find, they’re two of more than 80 adults supporting a group of 300 Mormon youth pushing/pulling handcarts along the Mormon Trail.

The toilets were for the youth, the entire caravan having passed earlier today, and we’re told they’ve already reached their destination for this day, the historic Mormon encampment, Muddy Creek. Larry and John help us backtrack to where the old trail crosses, from there to direct us along the trail. Then before departing, they invite us into their camp for supper and to stay the night.

After following the old ruts for some six miles, evening now, we arrive Muddy Creek Camp, where we’re again greeted by Larry and John, then to meet Grant, James and Mark, who are busy preparing the evening meal for the young “emigrants.”

What great energy and excitement, the Mormon youth. They come to me, to greet and welcome me. And such a nourishing stick-to-your-ribs supper, a huge baked potato, meatballs and gravy, plus corn on the cob.

A cold, windy night, camped with 300 young “Mormon Handcart Pioneers” and 80 adults.

“How can we pay our debt of gratitude for the heritage of faith demonstrated by pioneers…who struggled and sacrificed so that the gospel might take root? How is thankfulness expressed for the intrepid handcart pioneers who, by their own brute strength, pulled their meager belongings in handcarts across the scorching plains and through the snows of the high mountain passes to escape persecution and find peaceful worship in these valleys? How can the debt of gratitude possibly be paid by the descendants of the Martin and the Willie and the other handcart companies for the faith of their forebears?…The descendants of these pioneers can partially settle the account by being true to the cause for which their ancestors suffered…”
[James E. Faust]

Tuesday—July 7, 2015
Trail Day—2
Trail Mile—06/27
Location—Ridge above Muddy Creek

We spent the evening last with the Mormon youth and their families. We joined them as their guests for supper, then camped the night with them. Just a most enjoyable and memorable time.

This morning, as taps are played and all rise to a splendid, cool morning, Bart and I are invited to join them for breakfast. After, we move among the youth, taking pictures and videos as they break camp, load their handcarts and prepare for another day on the Mormon Trail.

As Bart and I depart Muddy Creek camp, and in a short distance, we arrive at the Muddy Creek Pony Express Station site, and more graves of Mormon emigrants who perished over 150 years ago—so close to Zion. Here we witness the most moving ceremony as the handcart youth honor and pay tribute to the emigrants buried at Muddy Creek.

Rather than leading out to continue our journey, decision now is to accompany the youth, to hike with them the four miles or so to their next camp. For sure, the right decision! Bart gets a bit ahead, sets his tripod for pictures, only to repeat the whole procedure over and over—while I meet more family members, to spend time with them as we trek along. Ah, and what a pleasure meeting the group leader, Blair Kent, his wife Terri, and their daughter, Abee.

Mid afternoon now, and as the youth “roll in” to begin preparing camp, it’s time for us to go. Thanks dear new friends, for your kindness, your hospitality, your generosity, your friendship!

A good ascent parting camp, followed by a steep descent, then another climb to gain the ridge above Muddy Creek, as we pass more emigrant graves. Ah, another emotional journey in the dim shadows of those who suffered this long, difficult trail of pain.

On the exposed ridge now and just as forecast, comes the afternoon storm, the hard rain and pelting hail, which drives us into our tents—for the remainder of this day.

“The passage of time dims our memories and diminishes our appreciation for those who walked the path of pain, leaving behind a tear-marked trail of nameless graves. But what of today’s challenge? Are there no rocky roads to travel, no rugged mountains to climb, no chasms to cross, no trails to blaze, no rivers to ford? Or is there a very present need for that pioneer spirit…”
[Thomas S. Monson]

Wednesday—July 8, 2015
Trail Day—3
Trail Mile—26/53
Location—Ranch Road above Altamont Tunnel, then on to Evanston, Wyoming

A restless night. After all these years of trying to convince myself that cold and wet are the same as warm and dry—I still have trouble sleeping while cold and wet. And this morning, more of the same, as we’re out to cold and wet, plus the gloom of dense fog.

We’re still tracking the trail, now muddy ruts, as we search for the Philo Dibble cliff-wall engraving. Up a short side canyon we find it, his name chiseled deep, clear and legible, plain as can be—dated Nov. 24, 1857. And as further proof, testimony to the pioneer’s passing—old wheel cuts in the solid rock. Reaching CR-180 (Old Lincoln Highway), then to a ranch road, we climb again to the ridge.

Not likely we’ll get many miles in today. Same forecast, afternoon thunderstorms. They hit us yesterday before two, really slammed us, hard rain, hail mixed in, and very cold. Seeing the Elephant, as the emigrants would say. Oh yes, big elephant here—lightening cracking directly overhead, and striking the ground all about.

And today? More of the same. The storm comes in fast, hitting hard at one-thirty. We’re in a very bad place—the open ridge. We hurry, find a couple stunted juniper and pitch. Bart stays busy capturing lightning strikes out his tent door.

Surprisingly, the storm is short-lived, quickly clearing to the west. We break camp and return to the old road, directly above the Altamont and Aspen train tunnels. I get a shot of a freight train entering the tunnel below me, then coming out the other side, below me.

We hike the old Lincoln Highway a fair distance today, up and over another ridge, as we pass sheep herders moving hundreds of sheep to upper ridges for the summer. And what good fortune to find water from a solar powered livestock tank. Sweet and cold!

By late afternoon we’re back on the highway, looking for the Mormon Trail where it intersects the road, heading ever west. Finally, a trail marker on the highway fence, but there’s no trail, no gate, just “Keep Out” signs. This means, and we’re saddened to realize that we’ll miss two well-known Mormon Trail landmarks, Cache Cave and The Needles. They’re on private land. Evening now, with sad reluctance, we hike the six miles on into Evanston.

First stop, McDonald’s. Then a short distance on, a great hiker trash deal at EconoLodge.

“It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.”
[Elizabeth Blackwell]

Thursday—July 9, 2015
Trail Day—4
Trail Mile—24/77
Location—Echo Canyon, Utah, Old Lincoln Highway, eight miles north of Echo

One of our best hiker trash deals yet, EconoLodge, Evanston. A fine host, plus a fill-me-up continental breakfast.

The morning begins cool and clear, as we trek west right next I-80. We’ve a fair distance before picking up the old trail again. Typical frontage road, pavement with ample shoulder to begin with, which rapidly deteriorates to a gravel farm road.

Next exit, it’s back on the interstate again, trekking with our old friend I-80. Forecast once more is for afternoon thunderbusters. They’re right on time. Just after one, here it comes, low-hanging dark clouds, wind, and nearby thunder. Before we can reach the next exit, the storm is upon us. Cold wind, cold rain. We hasten to the shelter of the overpass where we rest, take lunch, and wait it out.

Then we’re back out, trekking west once more in the eastbound emergency lane, I-80. Heavy, heavy commercial traffic. Makes for more wind, in addition to that generated by the returning storm. We trudge on, to Exit 178. Bart gets my picture standing the overpass as we exit to the Old Lincoln Highway.

Late evening we find a ready-made camping area between the old highway and the railroad. Going to be a very noisy night, what with the interstate traffic, and five engines pulling, two pushing the railroad cars up Echo Canyon.

A good mix today. A few historic sites, plus interesting rock formations in upper Echo Canyon.

Less than 50 miles to “This is the Place,” Salt Lake City.

“We are all required to make journeys of faith. That is the gospel plan. Our path may not be crossing an ocean or walking alone…But whatever it is, it will demand faith in every footstep.”
[Bonnie D. Parkin]

Friday—July 10, 2015
Trail Day—5
Trail Mile—27/104
Location—Under the ancient pine, two miles below Big Mountain Pass

Semis all night, jake-braking. Trains all night, rumbling and grinding. Echo Canyon, rightly named. The Mormon pioneers listened with amusement to the resounding echo of their rattling wagons. Bart and I heard none of that. Rather, we listened to the racket from the highway and tracks ricocheting the canyon walls. Slept okay, but crazy dreams for some reason, about trucks and trains.

I’m up at sunrise, manage to get back on the old Lincoln Highway, and by six-thirty I’m headed on down Emigrant Canyon. Clear morning, but cold. Jacket on, hood up, hands in my pockets. Strange July weather, but little change in the forecast—more thunderstorms starting early afternoon.

We’ve lots of great picture ops. Interesting rock formations with just as interesting names—Jack in the Pulpit, Egyptian Tombs, Death Rock, Temple Rock.

Early morning we’re out of Echo Canyon and into the (near deserted) village of Echo, once a prosperous and bustling village. Cafe’s now closed, gas station’s closed, motel’s closed. Echo, another hapless victim of the interstate. Beautiful old well-maintained church though, built in the late1800s. Also historic markers, about the Mormon Battalion, Brigham Young, graves at Weber River Crossing.

A short hike to Henefer and Grump’s General Store. Good pizza and a fine fountain—and just plain good folks at Grump’s.

Out of Henefer, we’re into our climb up and over the Wasatch Mountains. A stop at East Canyon Resort for supper, then comes the final climb, up toward Big Mountain Pass. We’re in the tall timber now, magnificent spruce, fir, and pine.

Just before dark, both of us wore out, we pull off to pitch against the mountainside just below big Mountain Pass.

We stayed with it today, a very long one, close to a thirty (no afternoon storm). We’ve less than 12 miles now to Salt Lake City and “This is the Place,” the end of the Mormon Trail.

“Here…if one looks and listens and ponders, he can hear the creak of harness, the crack of bullwhips, the bellowing of oxen, the shouts of drivers, the rustling of wagon covers in the wind.”
[Merrill J. Mattes]

Saturday—July 11, 2015
Trail Day—6
Trail Mile—12/116
Location—This is the Place Heritage Park, Salt Lake City

A quiet, restful night under the canopy of century-old majestic pine.

Just after sunrise I’m out to the final day trekking the western-most extent of the Mormon Trail. A short climb and I’m standing at Big Mountain Summit, the first vantage Mormon emigrants had—from here to gaze down and into the basin of the Great Salt Lake, their new Zion, the exact spot where Brigham Young uttered those now famous words, “This is the place, drive on” 168 years (less 12 days) ago.

Really great photo ops up here, especially for Bart. Tripod time again. It is an amazing high place, views in nearly every direction, even snowpack in some remote high-held mountain crags.

From here down, for the first couple of miles, we’re able to hike the old trail as it bails off the mountain, one of the most harrowing downhills the pioneers encountered anywhere along the entire 1300 miles of their pilgrimage, as they made their descent to the valley.

A short roadwalk up and over Little Mountain, a few faintly visible ruts leading up, and we’re into our final descent down and through Emigration Canyon, past Last Camp, and Donner Hill.

“This is the Place” Memorial is remarkable. Though I tried preparing Bart, there were just no words to adequately describe it. Tripod time again; lots of great photos. We linger long, to share our joy in completing this journey together.

Evening, and after hiking on into Salt Lake City, there to find a room for the night—my good fortune in having the Kent family come to fetch me, then drive me the two-hour trip back to Fort Bridger, where they put me up for the night at the Wagon Wheel Motel. Thanks once again, Blair, Terri, and Abee—for your generosity and kindness!

And so, ends another successful odyssey. This one shared with my dear friend, Bart Smith. Thanks Bart, it was a memorable summer sharing the many good times with you!

Ah, and to you, dear friends all, thanks for coming along—once again!

“I ascended and crossed over the Big Mountain, when on its summit I directed Elder Woodruff, who had kindly tendered me the use of his carriage, to turn the same half way round so that I could have a view of a portion of Salt Lake Valley. The spirit of light rested upon me and hovered over the valley, and I felt that there the Saints would find protection and safety.”
[Brigham Young, July 23, 1847]

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