There is never a dull moment on the Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission. When we are not serving at the Visitor’s Center, leading tours of the historic Sun Ranch buildings, trekking with groups through Martin’s Cove or re-enacting stories from the lives of the pioneers, we get to do other interesting assignments.
As you approach the homestead, you see the welcome post greeters, a day long assignment to get visitors and hundreds of trekkers where they need to go. Trek groups come from states such as California, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
Chinese tour buses traveling around the United States purposefully stop at our site on the way to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota because we have super clean restrooms. They walk through the visitor’s center and snap a ton of pictures, especially if a missionary is wrangling a snake off the lawn.
Welcome Post can be relaxing, with enough time to read a book, or it can be very busy. On the last day of trekking in September, we counted 450 visitors in 120 vehicles. During the height of the summer trek season, the numbers soar.
We really do park handcarts as the trekkers come from the homestead part way along their journey into Martin’s Cove. There were about 600 trekkers pulling 45 carts in 3 groups while we were hosting one day. Parking can get tight!
Using colored flags to distinguish between the treks, Base (which acts like an air traffic controller) knows where each group is at all times as we take our trek groups from place to place. Constant radio communication with base keeps each trek group from running into each other so that each can have a great experience.
The trekkers are then ready to quietly walk up into Martin’s Cove for more spiritual experiences.
Cherry Creek Campground Hosting
When trekkers get off the buses, they load handcarts with 5 gallon buckets containing their personal belongings and walk 3 miles from the homestead to Cherry Creek Campground, where a missionary couple greets them, directs traffic and gets all the different groups and their myriad of support vehicles situated for the night.
After dinner, the groups learn square dancing (with missionary assistance) and have fireside talks as the sun sets. After doing ‘Oh Johhny Oh’ square dancing, the tune sticks in your head all night long as you try to sleep.
It’s a long, hot, windy time during that week of campground hosting, but it’s also fun mingling with sweet and enthusiastic young trekkers.
Medical Advisor/Emergency Preparedness Advisor
Everyone has skills and talents they use to the fullest on this mission. Ours happen to be medical doctor for the mission and emergency plan creator.
Since we are 50-70 miles from the nearest medical facilities, being able to triage a problem before it gets worse is a great way to serve. I diagnosed everything from infected Russian Olive tree thorns, severe positional vertigo, TMJ, chest pain requiring 3 cardiac stents, torn knee ligaments, corneal flash burns from welding, to a bad case of shingles.
Independence Rock Volunteers for Wyoming State Parks
Six miles from the homestead, heading east on the highway to Casper, is Independence Rock, the pioneer register of the trail, where travelers carved their names on the granite monolith.
We serve as volunteers for the State and tell people about the rock and encourage them to check out Martin’s Cove as well. We also get to climb the rock!
Independence Rock partly got its name because if your pioneer group got there by Independence Day, July 4th, you were almost guaranteed to get across the Rocky Mountains before the snows came.
The Martin Handcart Company arrived at Independence Rock around November 2, 1856 and had to trudge through deep snow and a fierce cold wind.
Wyoming State Highway Volunteers
As part of our volunteer hours, we pick up trash along the highway several times a year. There’s some interesting stuff out there, folks.
Cleaning up the highway in front of Rattlesnake Pass- where all 500,000 pioneers traveling on the 4 historic trails came through on their way out west between 1843 and 1969.
The missionary sisters dress in full pioneer outfits, complete with bonnets, aprons and bloomers, and take the Wyoming 4th grade school children on tours of the homestead ranch, visitor’s center and let them pull handcarts.
It is a favorite field trip for the kids and we enjoy it too, as they are encouraged to call us ‘Grandma’. Many kids have gone home and insisted their entire families come back to see this place, sometimes that same afternoon.
Stay tuned at this same bat time, same bat channel for more to come in Part Three!