On July 8th we participated in a pioneer reenactment celebrating 150 years since the Grand Encampment in Council Bluffs, Iowa where 500 men were mustered by the U.S. army to join the Mormon Battalion. After learning about the event online, I figured this was a great opportunity for our kids to better appreciate their pioneer heritage before our own migration West from Winter Quarters. A day (or two or three) traveling in a mini-van may not be fun, but it's sure a lot easier than a pulling a handcart!
Here's our team fully assembled and ready to begin the trek. Many thanks to NomiAnn for making all of the sun bonnets (and taking the picture.)
Before our trek began, the kids received a special toy to keep them occupied during the journey. The girls received rag dolls that each told the story of a different pioneer mother or daughter who crossed the plains. As for our Eli, he received a fun button spinner.
Getting everyone assembled took some time. I imagine the real pioneers also had to be patient as they waited for everyone in their company to get ready.
Beginning the trek down the dusty trail. We didn't actually forget Eila--I'm just wearing her in the Ergo.
We passed this tiny Zion Cemetery, most likely filled with souls laid down to rest at Winter Quarters. It made me glad to know they are not forgotten.
The subtitle for the event was "Forging Onward...
We periodically stopped along the trail to sing a few hymns and recount short vignettes that told different stories about the handcart companies.
Annika, I have a feeling that the actual pioneers didn't travel nearly as comfy!
Eila napped for a while on my back.
Before we knew it, Annika was out cold too. She slept all through lunch!
Here are Talia and Eila atop the porta-potty truck that met us periodically along the trail. I'll bet the pioneers would have appreciated one of those! As for the trail itself, Talia was very familiar, as we trekked along the Wasatch Trace where she ran her half-marathon last fall. Oh, and one last tidbit. The women in the background are some of Marjorie Pay Hinckley's sisters.
We tried to snug Eila into the handcart for a real nap.
Um, that didn't last long.
Before we knew it, she was practicing all of her adorable acrobatics. It's amazing that any children made it across the Plains alive.
Talia with her beautiful smile.
Here are the kids pulling the weight, including little Mr. Eli who walked the entire way. After lagging behind and whining for a bit, I suddenly discovered Eli right up front helping. When I asked what happened, he explained: "I just decided to be strong." Great wisdom in the mouth of babes.
I can hardly stand the cuteness.
After nearly seven miles of walking, we finally collapsed on the grounds of the Iowa School for the Deaf, which is believed to be the location of the Grand Encampment 150 years earlier.
All in all, it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect, the trail was beautiful, the kids were amazing, and it was great trekking with my parents. Even so, I was amazed by how exhausted I felt. And we had it so easy--a well-kept limestone trail, plenty of food and clean water catered along the way, and comfy shoes. We trekked for seven miles instead of twenty, with empty carts instead of heavy loads, leaving in good health instead of following a brutal winter at Winter Quarters. It just doesn't compare.