***Updated with Pictures***
This week, my wife and I took a short road trip while my youngest son was at Boy Scout Camp. We went into Wyoming and South Dakota, visiting the Mormon Handcart Visitor’s Center, Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Each place was impressive and awe-inspiring.
Mormon Handcart Visitor’s Center
This Center is not on the beaten track, so to speak. You really have to want to visit there. It is about 50 miles north of Rawlins, Wyoming, out on the Mormon Trail. In 1997, the Church was able to purchase the property in front of Martin’s Cove and lease the Cove area from the US Bureau of Land Management. They have incorporated the purchased area with the lease area to create an impressive exhibit.
The majority of visitors are Church youth who “do the trek” each year. This is an experience where they pull handcarts around the property while learning about what the Handcart Pioneers particularly the fifth and sixth companies, The Martin and Willie, endured during their journeys. As you may know, the Martin and Willie Companies left the Midwest late and were caught in severe weather and had to be rescued. But not before number of them died from the ordeal. The Center expects about 50,000 Trekkers this year and already have 27,000 signed up for next year.
After visiting the Visitor’s Center to hear the story, we set out on the trail to Martin’s Cove. Because of my knee problem, I got a ride part of the way there and back, but still walked about 2 miles total. It is a beautiful walk but made easier in summer because it wasn’t in a foot and half of snow and 10 degrees with a wind chill like the Martin Company experienced.
Entering the Cove area is somewhat a reverent experience. When you realize what those people suffered, it makes it a very humbling experience as well. Granted, it wasn’t the same as the experience I had in the Sacred Grove, but still very special. I really could not imagine how much the people suffered there, but I also understand that many lessons were learned as a result. And as far as I know, not a single person who suffered there ever regretted their experience. Some of the dead are also buried there in unmarked, unidentified graves.
The Other Places
We were also thrilled to be able to visit the other sites, Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore and The Crazy Horse Memorial. Each is special in its own way and made a great impression upon me. For very different reasons than the Martin’s Cove visit, but still a great impression. A creation of nature, a creation of man and a memorial to a people who were in this part of the world long before the rest of us are important to recognize. Particularly at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, there is recognition that a sacrifice was made. Not only by those depicted, but by those who built it and are in the process of building it.