Sixth Crossing , 33.8 Miles!
That’s right, 33.8 miles in one day pulling 217# with a wind that was up to 30 mph at times, my longest day yet. The reason is that I wasn’t welcome in Jeffrey City WY. You say that you’ve never heard of Jeffrey City WY? Me neither until I tried to put a sleeping bag down in this abandoned little town. It is a ghost town that was thriving in the 50s from the uranium mines and then it went bust in the 80s and the town went from 5000 to 100, so you can get the idea that there is nothing here but abandoned buildings and only one business that still exists, the Split Rock bar and café. So we found a city park and proceeded to put up a tent and a rotund sheriff drove up next to us and instead of getting out of his pickup he decided that he would turn on his siren to get our attention. “So… what’er you doin”, he asks. Now you have to understand that this is the same sheriff that met us outside of town about two hours ago and asked “so…what’er you doin”? With his vocabulary being limited, I tried to speak in clear concise language. “Puttin’ up a tent”, he says “ya can’t… this here’s private property”. I replied, “ya don’t say… sure looks like a city park with the monkey bars and bunch o’ swings”. “Nope” he says, it’s private property”. I said, “well I don’t see a no trespassin’ sign anywhere”. Well, you get the idea, he wasn’t about to let me stay in this deserted little town and so I had to pack up my handcart and head on down the road after walking almost 16 miles already. His parting words about me not getting to stay there were, “whatever”. So between Victor IA, the only other little town that wouldn’t let me stay there and Jeffrey City, I have an idea, why don’t you become sister cities and you could go together and make up a sign that says; “We don’t like strangers in our deserted little town… so you should just keep movin’ on”.
So that is how I walked 16 hours and 33.8 miles yesterday because I was hacked. I arrived at my next destination at 11:15 PM and walked two long days into one, so I am now three days ahead of schedule again and so I have the ability to prepare in walking a very difficult stretch coming up. So it is my recommendation that if you are in the vicinity of Jeffrey City WY, stop in the Split Rock Bar and Café and have a $4.50 cheese sandwich and tell the large rotund sheriff at the end of the counter, “hi” for me. He’ll remember me for sure.
Rocky Ridge, Approx. 16 Miles
Doc and Beverly on Rocky Ridge->
Chock up another first for this trek because in walking from the visitors center where I was staying at Sixth Crossing at Sweetwater Station, I walked the same route as all of the handcarts, including the Willie and Martin companies instead of taking a detour around some private property. I know, I know, I should have gotten permission first but I had to take a chance on walking the river bottoms instead of making this huge detour, well it paid off and I suppose that I have been one of the first or the only one that has ever pulled a cart along this section of the trail. I found two square oxen nails, a broken oxen shoe and misc pieces of metal along the trail. It’s fun to find these items and it makes you feel like you are back in that time.
I had a cousin, Beverly Williams and her husband help me pull today and it was rough for them. Even though Beverly runs 10 miles a day, she ended up with two huge blisters by the end of the day, and her husband Ray was dealing with leg cramps all day. It was rough for them even though I pulled about 90% of the time, but they are in their 70’s and it’s tough when you first jump into this. We’ll see what happens tomorrow because I am doing the climb going over Rocky Ridge which is about a 700 foot climb in less than two miles, but it is the rocky trail that makes it tough. We’ll see. Beverly and I are distant cousins from Sarah Goode and it was a great experience to meet her. She also gave me some cherished tokens of different handcart memorabilia. Thanks for the gifts…
Oh…. Also this morning when I was leaving the visitors center, I got two most unexpected and welcomed surprises! A wonderful freshly baked cherry pie was laying on the trail with a story about a member of the 1856 Martin handcart company and her struggles on trying to make the daily journey and had given up and…. well, I want you to read the entire story for yourself and I am about to run out of battery on my computer, so look up Louisa Mellor from 1856 Martin Handcart company and read the pie story. By the way, the cherry pie was amazing! Thanks to whoever made it. Then I walked a little further and found a blanket. Thank you again! I can’t except charity at this point of the trail but if I find it on the trail, I am going to pick it up. Wouldn’t you? Also… last night someone put a peach and a small airline blanket and half of a wonderful BLT in my cart. Holy Cow! If I stayed there any longer, I was going to start gaining weight, but my heartfelt thanks to everyone at Sixth Crossing. Please stay in touch with me. You will be in my heart and thoughts forever.
<-Rocky Ridge oxen nail
Rock Creek Hollow, 15 Miles
This section of the trail of the ground that is hallowed because of the tremendous loss of life to those who were in the Willie handcart company, just in the last two places that I have camped, there have been 28 who were frozen to death. My grandmothers handcart company had just passed this exact spot about six or so weeks before this tragedy took place and it is a humbling experience to walk in the same footsteps and trail of those that would have eventually passed away where I am tonight.
I crossed the famous “Rocky Ridge” section of the trail today, which is considered to be the most difficult section of the entire route because of the struggle to climb this two mile section that has about a 700 foot rise in elevation and is strewn with boulders and rock ledges. A number of pioneers who were caught in that early October snow storm in 1856 died trying to cross this ridge. What took me about nine hours to do, took them 27 hours because they were starving and didn’t have sufficient clothing. It is on this hallowed ground that I walked today that is the scene of the largest loss of life in the entire westward migration. Between the Willie and Martin handcart companies, there were 197 people died in about a weeks period of time. For me, who has walked each mile of this trail and felt the closeness of those pioneers and that time, I am humbled by those who literally had “Faith Greater Than Pain” to give their lives for what they believed in.
I have also told you in the past that I have found miscellaneous items on the trail life wagon bolts etc., well I made a special find today by finding three oxen nails on the trail on Rocky Ridge. You have to understand that those oxen nails have been there around 150 years, through rain, snow, erosion, thousands upon thousands of youth pull handcarts over that spot every year and I was rewarded by reaching down and putting them in my pocket.
Tomorrow I am going to try and cross South Pass, which is the continental divide at 8200 feet. It is difficult walking this original two rut dirt trail but it is the only way that you can get that closeness to those pioneers. I see what my grandmother saw and from the same perspective. Most of the ground has never been plowed and appeared at it was in 1856. That’s my reward, to be in those same footsteps and feel what they felt as they saw the Wind River Mountains or Chimney Rock for the first time. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Below Pacific Springs, Miles Unknown
Because of the elevation, the weather is getting much colder at night. Last night got down to 30 again and it is a struggle all night long to try and stay warm, especially in the nylon tent that Shirley and Gaylyn was using, now that I have lost my canvas tent.
I tried to blaze new ground by being the first with a handcart to travel from Rock Creek Hollow to Pacific Springs but I only got to walk about half of the trail. I got stopped by the swampy conditions at Willow Creek and couldn’t find a crossing that I could do by myself, so I had to portage my cart around to just east of South Pass and then walk about another 6 miles down the valley, but I have now crossed the Continental Divide and feel that I am getting close to home now that I am on the west slope. As I crossed Pacific Springs, which is an old stopping place for the pioneers along the route, I found the remnants of an old shoe that belonged to a child. I also found a piece of porcelyn.
As for my health, the leg and the feet are doing well but for some reason I have a new stabbing pain in a muscle in my shoulder and hip. I have no idea what that is all about but it is painful when it decides to flare up. Hernias are the same and I have learned how to deal with those most of the time. All in all, I can’t expect to feel any better than I do for the circumstances that I am in. Mentally, well I have always been a little on the edge, but as for the trek, I feel positive about my circumstances of how close I am to home. Eighteen more days!
Parting of the Ways, 15 Miles
It was a tough day with hernias stopping me multiple times and with a strong headwind all day, I wanted to quit. It was more than my body was able to take and I had to be pulled the last mile into camp because the pain was more than I could take.
The Parting of the ways is a significant mark on the trail because this is where you could turn and go NW to Oregon or SW to Utah and California. I carried a stone with me since Porters Rock and laid it on the pile of stones at the Parting. It is meant to give you good luck if you add a stone to the pile.
The weather has been down into the twenties at night and I started walking this morning when it was 36 degrees. Pretty chilly when all you have is your shirt for warmth. I can only expect that it will continue to get colder as I continue west. You get no sleep when your freezing all night long and that makes it a long and arduous hike the next day.
Parting of the ways->
Farson WY Wednesday, 16 Miles
I only have a minute before my battery runs out on my computer but it was cold again last night. I only have 16 more days before I enter the valley. My body is worn out and could use a rest. Nothing significant happened today other than I didn’t even walk 2 mph today because my back was cramping all day long. It’s always something.
I crossed the Little Sandy River today and this is where Brigham Young first met Jim Bridger and was advised by Jim not to settle the Great Salt Lake and that he would give $1000 for the first bushel of corn that would ever be grown in the valley. Well ol’ Jim never paid up on his deal.
Walking original two rut dirt trail is wearing me out.
Big Sandy River (middle of nowhere), 16 Miles
I was frozen last night! Man is it getting cold during the night now that I am getting into the mountains, so I got absolutely no sleep last night.
I have a liver and gall bladder issue that has become a real concern. My liver is making an excessive amount of bile and dumping it into my intestinal system. At this point I’m not exactly sure what is wrong or how to correct it, only that I have a serious issue and will continue to monitor it until I get an answer. If I were a pioneer in 1856 I wouldn’t have any options, no one to confer with and no options except to keep on walking or lay there and die. We’ll keep you informed. Update: I just got a phone call from Joe Jeter, the Physician’s Assistant who cared for me in Scottsbluff, NE. I told him of my condition and long story short; he said that I needed to start eating protein. My liver was having problems from not having any protein to speak of in a long time, so I will buy some peanut butter and start adding about 20 grams of protein to my diet each day. I hate to do this because of my commitment to the pioneer diet, but I have to make sure that my body stays intact and out of the hospital.
I had a great visit by some people who stopped me on the road about 5 miles from Farson. Sisters Donna and Lois get together each year and go on a historical journey together and when they saw me pulling the handcart they were very excited to be able to meet someone that is living history. I had a special moment with Lois’s husband Mike in the car that I will have to tell you about when I write the book.
I then got a visit from Andre’ who was from Canada and had been riding for about 4000 miles so far, he drove by and then came back to introduce himself and take photos. He pulled the handcart and I was on his new BMW motorcycle. It was very comfortable and I told him that I may not get off and just keep on driving… so he took the key.
Visited Simpsons Hollow which was the site where the Mormon Militia bushwhacked the U.S. Cavalry to keep them from invading the Salt Lake Valley and replacing Brigham Young as the Governor. It’s interesting reading if you do a Google search for Simpsons Hollow.
Blue Point (middle of nowhere), 16 Miles
The bile dumping into my stomach is just killing me today. Hopefully this protein will starting easing the pain and start normalizing things and pulling in the sage and the sand doesn’t help things but I have no choice. I pulled 10 miles on secondary road and then 6 miles of sage and sand. I didn’t get into camp until about 7:30 when the sun was going down.
Granger, 14 Miles
Two weeks from today and I will be in the valley!
Today I had to follow the dirt trail by myself for about 3 miles but ran into a problem when the trail entered the private property of a mine and so I had to go cross country through the sage and brush and then ran into a 25 foot gulley that was a real pain to figure out on how to get into and then back out of by myself. Thirty minutes later and I was going cross country again. All in all, it took me about an extra two hours to circumvent this mine before I could get back on the trail.
Now you have to visualize where I am walking, absolutely in the middle of nowhere WY and was walking a dirt road next to the trail and this car pulls up next to me and one of the two women in the car asks me if I am that guy who is walking across America and pulling this cart for his sister or something, and I responded, for my grandmother. She says ya, your that guy I saw on television. Long story short, somehow she had seen me on television and was just thrilled to be able to meet me and get a photo with me. Come to find out that these two women are part of a team that goes out into these mining sump ponds and rescues wild birds, takes them back to Rock Springs, cleans them up and sends them back on their migratory way and they had some beautiful birds. One was an Egret, I think, and it’s eyes were red and so I got a photo with this great bird. Isn’t it interesting the people that I meet out in the middle of nowhere WY… great ladies though.
Miller’s Crossing, 14.5 Miles
Millers Crossing David Miller->
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I feel like I have accomplished a lot these last few months and then to do it at the age of 60 makes me feel good. I have carrying a cranberry muffin mix with me since Iowa so I could eat it on my birthday, well today was that day. Shirley whipped up the Dutch oven and baked me a little cranberry loaf. It got a little dark on the bottom but I still enjoyed each bite. She also made one of my soups, the one that is a potato, a can of corn that I have been saving since Iowa, a little onion and water and presto… you have a great pioneer soup. So I ate very well today.
By the way, I believe that the added peanut butter protein is correcting my liver and bile problems, thank you dear Lord. I sure don’t want to be hospitalized at this point of the trek.
I walked with a friend of mine all day today. David Miller drove out from Salt Lake to be part of the trek and he was great company. He pulled about seventy five percent of the time and I allowed him to have all of the experience that he wanted. It was a great birthday present. As a side note, his cousin rode the trail from Nauvoo to SLC on a motorcycle a few years back and she published a book about the journey.
I am only one days walk, about twenty miles, from Fort Bridger tomorrow and that is my last trade/barter or work place for me. It is also my last mental line in the sand that I have that tells me how close to home that I am. The closer that I get to the valley, the more emotional I become, because of all that I have gone through, I can’t wait to join family and friends for a wonderful reunion on the 26th!