Sweetwater Junction, Handcarts and Little Friends

It is a long, desolate stretch of highway, this ribbon of asphalt called 287 which goes from south of Lander to Rawlins, WY. As I trot along I often think about what I can write about at night. Often there is to much. Sweetwater Junction is one of those stops in the middle of these high plains with views of the Wind River Range. It is the home of the Mormon Handcarts in this area. I thought pushing a stroller loaded with 50lbs. of gear was a chore. It pales in comparison to what Mormon Settlers did 150 years ago. They actually pulled handcarts that weighed 60 lbs. from Iowa to Salt Lake City loaded with provisions and clothing. I was told it was cheaper than rail travel to get them to their final destination. They had basically 12 oz. of flour a day. The equivalent of 2 to 4 slices of bread in addition to whatever else they could muster up. When these supplies ran low the men would give their portions to the women and children. I was astounded by their efforts. A few miles up from this camp the settlers would dig down about 2 feet in the sloughs to find ice even in June and this would help preserve their meat. The California Trail, Orgeon Trail, Mormon Trail and the Pony Express Trail all traveled this route I was on today. In an area I had secret reservations about crossing, I saw tremendous beauty and solitude. I discovered when I stopped in Jeffery City that it at one time had 5000 residents and a uranium mine which, when it closed in the early 80s took most of the residents with it. Now, vacant gas stations are next to the highway along with long ago, boarded up buildings. The wind creaks the sign from an old Sinclair Station, sage blows across the asphalt, the sun beats down, the sky is blue. In such space, freedom is magnified. Further up the road I spot a young ranch mother and her two children. They had raced their four-wheeler through the field to get ahead of me. I stop and meet the little ones. They are pure, Wyoming. Dressed in jeans, long sleeve shirts, cowboy hats and each with huge belt buckles. The little girl wears her grandmothers Miss Wyoming buckle. Mom is as pleasant as her children and just as beautiful in her own quiet way. It is obvious she has done great things with them and felt it was important for them to meet me. I was flattered by their sudden appearance and so thankful for it. Thats what Wyoming has been like. Intense, open space with chance encounters that brighten my day.

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3 Responses to “Sweetwater Junction, Handcarts and Little Friends”

  1. bob baid Says:

    Your doing awesome Mike keep up the spirit.

  2. adele Says:

    Hi Mike, Joy gave me your “HI” last night at a gallery opening.

    I want you to know that i look forward to each entry on your blog. I check your progress daily. You are so lucky to meet the real salt of the earth people along your route. These are the people that keep our country strong. Looking forward to seeing you in July.

  3. Judith d'Albert Says:

    Mike, you may not read this until many more weeks have passed and you are back home with your feet up, contemplating the extraordinary endeavor that you have undertaken and how it has touched thousands along your route. Here is just one community, Irvine, California, where your lonely run on June 19th, had a synchronicity with one of our own – Lt. Mark Daily – one of America’s finest – who died of wounds January 15, 2007, Mosul, Iraq – son, husband, father, brother and friend.

    Much has been written about Mark and by him before he left for Iraq. A truly remarkable soldier and patriot.The link below is far more eloquent, and I urge all to take time to read and reflect even though it is long.
    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/mjdaily.htm

    A few days ago at the nightly, evening candle lighting ceremony at our simple Irvine community park Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, http://www.northwoodmemorial.com/ I read this blog entry aloud to a handful of faithful supporters to whom I had given details about Project America Run a couple of weeks ago.

    Quite by chance, later that evening, when checking where our local fallen warriors’ flags would be placed did I realize that you had run Lt. Mark Daily’s mile on lonely route 287 and literally placed his flag right there at the junction of the OREGON TRAIL!

    Mark’s memorial service at Mariner’s Church, Irvine, was attended by hundreds of relatives, friends and strangers, but this California son’s wishes were that his ashes be scattered on a lovely and remote stretch of NESKOWIN BEACH, OREGON where he had stacked up so many memories on family vacations. A life that came full circle. Thank you, Mike!
    June 26, 2010

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