Weekend in Seattle

We were planning on spending the weekend in Seattle anyway, so when the furnace blew up (Don’t worry, I like to say systems “blow up” when they stop functioning and have to be replaced.  If something really does blow up, I’ll let you know.) we figured, we can either hang around the AquaHot service center in Centralia, WA and fret about the thousands of dollars it will cost us to replace our hydronic heating system, or we can go to the Seattle Boat Show and pretend we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a boat.

So we left our coach in the capable hands of the Brazel’s RV Performance Center and got a great deal on a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) apartment in Seattle for the weekend.

Seattle is such a cool place.  A city surrounded by water with snow-capped mountains in the background.  And it’s a city famous for airplanes, with the historic Boeing factory.

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A Connie welcomes us to the museum.

So our first stop on Friday morning was to once again visit the Boeing Museum of Flight.  This may be one of the three best flight museums in the world.

Our tour guide, Bart, began our day with the fascinating story of the Wright Flyer.

Our tour guide, Bart, began our day with the fascinating story of the Wright Flyer.

A cornucopia of historic airplanes.

A cornucopia of historic airplanes.

The SR-71 surrounded by a gaggle.

The SR-71 surrounded by a gaggle.

The pointy end of the Concorde.

The pointy end of the Concorde.

They have airplanes and excellent displays for WWI on one floor, WWII on another, and an outdoor pavilion with a Concorde, a vintage Air Force One, a 747 and the new Dreamliner, each of which you can stroll through.  I had my pedometer going and we logged 3 miles Friday morning.

But if you really want to log some miles, go to a boat show.  After lunch, we headed to Century Link Field Event Center for the Seattle Boat Show.

Boats, boats everywhere!

Boats, boats everywhere!

What’s up with our interest in boats?  Well, Wendy and I love to explore.  And we love to experience things from a new perspective (i.e., airplanes, motorhomes, and …. boats).  There are three areas of the country that interest us that can only be truly appreciated from a boat.  So let me tell you about them.

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There are thousands of amazing scenes along the inner passageway of Western Canada.

Juan De Fuca Straits to Alaska via the Inner Passage.  This area is vast, with lots of islands and is relatively protected from the wide open sea.  Wendy and I have seen some of the wonders of these waters from the cockpit of my airplane and from an Alaska cruise liner.  But we have only touched the surface.  Since we’ve been in Sequim, WA we have become friends with many people who cruise their boats up into these amazing waters during six months between April and October and we think it would be way cool to do the same.

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The Great Loop.

The Great Loop.  Each year, hundreds of boaters travel the great loop, which circles from the Florida keys up through the intercostal waterway along the east coast, stopping at all the major cities and seeing things like the Statue of Liberty from the water, then inland through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi and down the western coast of Florida.  So we’re thinking this would be a fascinating challenge and would give us a whole new perspective. 5500 miles of perspective.

A beautiful playground.

A beautiful playground.

Caribbean.  For our 25th anniversary (11 years ago) I took Wendy on our first cruise in the Caribbean.  Boy was that habit forming!  We’ve been anywhere a cruise ship would take us in that area, including the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and all the islands in between.  If we were to buy a boat to do the Great Loop, we would most likely want to motor on over to the Bahamas, since they are nearby.  Of all the places around the world we have snorkeled, the Exuma Cays were the best.

The only questions are: can our energy level and our pocketbook keep up with our ambition?  Hmmmm, we shall see.

Anyway, we had a great time at the boat show.  You can’t imagine how much research Wendy does before going to something like a boat show.  We have read at least a dozen books and mined Internet websites on boats and boating with the idea in mind that we might buy one to fulfill one of the above mentioned objectives.  So when we got to the show, we had a good idea of what we were looking for.

Aspen Power Catamaran.  We’re done with hoisting sail, so we were looking for a power boat.  After a lengthy conversation with Nick Graf at Aspen discussing his fathers’s boat design, we spent the rest of the day  looking at displays and boats (7 miles on the pedometer).

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40-foot Aspen C120 (Catamaran)

The next morning was Saturday and at the invitation of Larry Graf (designer and builder of the Aspen), we met him and his son at the boat dock and took a two hour cruise in Larry’s 40-foot powered cat design.  What a great opportunity for Wendy and me to spend time on the designer’s boat with him.  His enthusiasm was infectious, and with good reason. We love great designs and this one, with it’s asymmetrical proa hull design, silky smooth handling and awesome fuel ecomony was a complete winner.

Beautiful cockpit displays.

Beautiful cockpit displays.

Wendy and I had lots of fun putting this amazing boat through her paces.

And the scenery was awesome as we boated past quaint and colorful floating homes and watched lenticular clouds form over Mt. Rainier.

After visiting the Museum of History and Industry (these Seattlites are an innovative bunch: Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Nordstrum, Cinnabon, Eddie Bauer, Red Robin and Starbucks all started here), we capped the day off by walking the piers and having fish and chips at Ivar’s Acres of Clams.  Our top floor apartment on the hill looks out over bustling beautiful sparkling city as day turns to night.

We love Seattle.

Tomorrow, we plan to go through the Boeing airplane factory tour in Everett, north of Seattle and then take two ferries back to the Olympic Peninsula by way of Whidbey Island.  When you live by a HUGE ocean sound, there are two choices to get places: drive umpteen hours out of your way around the shoreline or suck it up and pay for ferries to hop through islands. Ferries are more fun.

The next couple of weeks should be interesting.  Our motor coach will be in the shop for 7 to 10 days while the AquaHot factory custom builds a new unit and ships it to Centralia, WA (2.5 hrs from Sequim) where it will be installed into our coach.  So we will be staying at a VRBO house in Port Angeles where Wendy will do a short stent of work (5 days over a 2 week period) to fill in for a vacationing ENT doctor.

And… we will continue taking our US Power Squadron Marine Electronics and Marine Weather courses with some great instructors.

We try to stay flexible and wing it as necessary.  Life is good.

  • Clay

What a Year it Was! (2016)

Life on the road means moving from place to place when the mood suits, the weather changes or job opportunities arise.

Auburn/Lewiston Maine (Jan-April)

We started out 2016 by flying from Tucson, Arizona to live in Auburn, Maine for 4 months and work in Lewiston, right across the river.  The weather in January through April was just as you would expect; cold, icy, snowy and wintery. Twenty-foot piles of snow in every parking lot.  But you can stand on your head for 18 weeks. It was a fun adventure.IMG_3988

Valentine’s Day was memorable, as we drove to our favorite seaside town (Camden, Maine) for a weekend trip.  It just so happened that a storm dumped 14 inches of snow centered just on Camden that weekend.  Snow piled up on the dormer window sills of our lovely boutique hotel. We ate a magnificent lobster tasting menu with a decadent dessert and sat by the fireplace and read books.  Ahhh.

 

I worked at Central Maine Medical Center in the ENT department with some fine people, who made getting to know the system (including multiple electronic medical record programs) much more enjoyable. 1ym8h0zetbemtapfcohasipgzkjwkphnknjgjw01brkpx92ib They were gracious enough to want me to stay. How nice is that?

Clay worked on investments and did day trips with the young full-time missionaries.

And he was my driver in the bitter weather for midnight on-calls to the emergency room. That meant the world to me.

Tucson, Arizona to Provo, Utah (April)

Clay left Maine 3 weeks ahead of me to pick up Zane (the motorhome) from her indoor RV daycare center. (The report is she got along well with others and learned to color inside the lines.)  He checked out her systems (after a 4 month rest, sometimes RVs get persnickety) as he drove through Arizona and Utah, meandering around Sedona, Zion’s and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Wendy finally arrived in Utah the last Saturday in April. We had lovely visits with our nieces Morgan Webb (with Dennis and little sweet Parker Eliza) and Kirsten Walton.  opflrt-z-hhy9xx2gnpw-8abkf2pljiga-rgib-7fp0px92ib

After one day’s rest for Wendy, it was time to get busy again.

Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah (May)

We entered the peaceful, busy, happy place called the MTC  (Missionary Training Center) on Monday, May 2– ready to start our mission.

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Here we are all polished up for the MTC.

After 10 days of training, and some fine visits by church authorities from Salt Lake City, we headed back on the road to our mission.

Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission, Devil’s Gate, Wyoming (May-October)

Knowing that your mission is in the middle of nowhere and actually experiencing it are two different things.  h_1cd9mfeuoylldatlxfsejdriiczx5kgza4wg8-yfmpx92ib

Even Verizon cell phones and data don’t work on the high desert surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Trying to convince Verizon of such a fact is another story.  So, we got a local cell phone with data and went with that.

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Our spot at Missionary Village

You know you are on a Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission when….

  1. Morning report includes, “We found the mama cow and calf up by Devil’s Gate, but we also saw mountain lion sign. So, if you are sending visitors up into the canyon, just tell them to …. be careful.”
  2. There are TWO dead rattlesnakes in the mission kitchen refrigerator.
  3. Your husband tells you he is going out for fast food drive through (Yay!!), and comes home with roadkill (Ewww).
  4. A gallon of milk costs $13.50 because the nearest grocery store is 60 miles away in Casper and it takes 5 gallons of gas to get there and back.
  5. A hot date is a trip to the Muddy Gap gas station 4 miles away for a fountain drink, bag of chips and a hot dog off the roller grill.
  6. You are not able to donate blood, because it contains 25% DEET.
  7. The mission ‘car ‘ is a 4×4 half ton pickup truck, or a dozer, backhoe, asphalt roller, rover or honey wagon (to pump out the pit toilets at the end of trekking season).
  8. Duties as assigned on the mission include driving up into the Green Mountains (elevation 8800 feet) to cut 90 pine trees to make fence poles.  Or asphalting the roads. Or bottle-feeding orphan calves.
  9. You feel the spirits of those pioneers who died there and more often than not tears choke your throat as you share their journal entries. And it is almost impossible to sing “Hallowed Ground” or “The Fire of the Covenant” all the way through for the same reasons.
  10. When being nearly the youngest in the group of 120 missionaries means nothing, as these Canadian, Utah, Arizona and Idaho farmers in their late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s run circles around you each and every day.  And then it’s time to square dance.
  11. When high school age kids come in 1856 pioneer dress to trek over hot, dusty trails to re-enact pioneer experiences.  And they enjoy it as their hearts and lives are changed.
  12. Your nearest non-missionary neighbors are the herd of pronghorn antelope with their new babies that graze on your little patch of green lawn. The jackrabbit that greets you from under your RV. The lonely call of the coyotes in the pre-dawn                           hours. The tiny red foxes that skitter across the road. The mule deer herds. We won’t say any more about the gopher snakes or rattlesnakes. Or the mice invasions.

We lived in a lovely bubble of service, taking care of 17,500 trekkers and 26,000 others in the visitor’s centers, museums and 1872 era buildings and served with some of the finest missionaries on the planet.  If you want an amazing working mission for 6 months in your RV, this is for you!

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On the historic Mormon Trail with our teenaged trekkers.

Sequim, Washington (Nov – Dec)

From Wyoming we headed northwest, hoping to get through the mountain passes before it snowed.  Why would we go to the top left corner of the U.S. of A. for the winter?  What are we thinking?

When you spend your summer and fall in the hot, bone dry, constantly windy (I did say WINDY didn’t I?), always sunny high elevations of central Wyoming, the cool, wet, cloudy days of the Northwest are welcome relief.  Ahhhh.

We spend our days biking, walking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, beach-combing along the Juan de Fuca Straits, watching container ships come in from Asia, reading in the library, writing and studying all kinds of things.

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Look at the root system of this giant that washed up on the beach!

Wendy attends plays, musicals and ballet while Clay doesn’t have to.  Happy me, happy him.

Taking the ferry over to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada is a treat, as is exploring Seattle (2 hrs away) and Vancouver, BC (the major Canadian city on the mainland).

The US Power Squadron has also become a focus, as we made friends with people with boats (this place is an amazing boating area) and we will explore the world of trawlers and other types of power boats as we take courses in Marine Electronics and Marine Weather as members of the Power Squadron this winter.

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Uh oh.  They’re looking at boats.  That could be expensive.

The large boat shows in Seattle and Tacoma are on the calendar.  Don’t know if we will ever get a boat to use up here or around the Great Loop back East, but knowledge is never wasted and we are always up for new adventures.

Still need to catch some Dungeness crab.

After Sequim

Around April 2017 we will probably start moseying down the coasts of Washington and Oregon on our way to Eureka, California, where Wendy has her next ENT surgeon’s assignment from June-December.

Life is never dull, as we look out our motorhome window at the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and majestic fir trees.  It is wonderful.

2016 was a year full of adventure.

  • Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

To the Blue Hole!

We last left you in Hell’s Canyon (border of Washington and Idaho), where we took a serious jet boat ride through the level 4 rapids of the Snake River.

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Miss the rocks, please.

There were times when the nose of the boat was completely submerged, and I wish that I had a picture of that for you, ’cause it was cool!  But at those moments I was hanging on for dear life.  So this picture will have to do — just imagine the bow submerged and water pouring in through the top of the windows.

Richland, Washington

Our next stop was at a Walmart parking lot in Richland, Washington.  Waaa?  Walmart?   It’s one of our favorite places to “camp” when we’re on the road between major stops.  We had no major plans for Richland, so we used one of our travel apps, http://www.allstays.com, to find a place to stay.  Here’s what we get:

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Click on the icon for all the details.

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Next we use the satellite view to pick our parking spot.

As we looked at the satellite view, we noticed a movie theater across the street, several nice restaurants, and …(drum roll) …… a Krispy Kreme donut shop!!!  So we called Walmart, got permission to stay the night, and celebrated halloween in style with dinner, a movie and DONUTS.

Were we concerned about security — especially on halloween night?  Well, we’re always cautious.  But ………. Walmart has these.

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There’s not a square inch at Walmart parking lots that’s not monitored.  We sleep snug as bugs at Walmarts.  And we thank them by giving them our business. Aaannnnddd it was free. RV parks have been costing around $35 per night. More money for donuts.

Next morning we fired up the big diesel and rolled just a couple of miles to the Richland Temple and spent several hours enjoying the peace and serenity you can only find in a Mormon temple.  For us, these temples are a haven where we can escape the cares of the world.

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Richland Temple

In the afternoon we travelled on toward our destination — the Blue Hole (a.k.a., Sequim, Washington).

There were beautiful crops in the fields- trees bursting with red apples and grape vineyards in their fall foliage between Richland and Yakima.

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Our overnight rest stop was in the parking lot of the Muckleshoot Casino– free parking and a nice dinner.

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Casino parking in Auburn– also very safe- lots of security men and cameras

 

It was raining, as per usual, on the Olympic Peninsula as we approached Sequim.

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Hmm.  This would be a good test to see if the Blue Hole was real.  Would it be raining in Sequim?

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And then, as we got on the Northern Olympic peninsula, magic happened. Just like in the story books (or satellite weather books). The rain just stopped and the sun came out.

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Even a rainbow. Welcome to the Peninsula.

We arrived in Sequim, in awe at the Blue Hole that was directly over the city. Yep, it is real. An area of good weather surrounded by clouds and rain.

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Our Blue Hole

We set up our motorhome at Gilgal Oasis RV Park in downtown Sequim. It is a clean, well-kept teensy place with beautiful landscaping. Absolutely fine for our needs- with a view of the fog-shrouded snow-capped Olympic mountain range from our windows.

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Of course, the first thing we did was go exploring to find the Straits leading to the ocean.

It’s the start of a new adventure. Stay tuned!

-Clay

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Sequim Bay- clear blue skies

Americana Emersion

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Jackson, Wyoming

Ahh, we are drinking deeply in Americana this week as we meander along the Oregon Trail on our way to the Northwest.

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Can’t seem to get enough of the famous pioneer trails! Oregon Trail, Baker City, Oregon.

We are camped at Mountain View RV in Baker City, OR.  This town is ready for Halloween!  The city streets are decorated with hay bundles and scarecrows.  The gold and orange leaves are falling in the neatly manicured old neighborhoods where, in just 24 hours, children will giggle with the thrill of knocking on doors and asking for treats.  What fun!

As I sit here writing, I can hear the distant train whistle.  The other day, we had lunch at a prototypical diner, Inland Cafe.  Wow!  Step back in time!  We had the sweetest waitress, a magnificent turkey dinner and a take-home cinnamon roll that melted all the way down. All for $22.  Don’t you love a diner where the town folks come in to talk about whatever comes to mind?

We just returned from attending the local LDS church, which you can see from our motorhome window.  One couple knew us because they had just been through the Martin’s Cove trek leader training program we helped lead in Wyoming.  We love to attend church each Sunday everywhere we go.  The Baker City 1st ward congregation is chuck full of children. These parents are doing an excellent job of raising their young ones.  It gives us hope for the future.  We enjoyed the Sunday School interactions.  Where else can you get this kind of wisdom and good feelings even though we have never met these people before? The church, it’s teachings and programs are the same all over the world.

Before we were full-time travelers, it was hard to tell the difference in our lives from one week to the next.  But now —- stuff is happening!

We started the week Monday morning by reeling in the electrical cord and leaving our 6-month home at Missionary Village near Devil’s Gate, Wyoming.  Our mission responsibilities there had ended.  But we couldn’t get out of the campground because some rogue missionaries (Elder Crist — repent!) had blocked the gate with detour signs.

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Road crew was busy preventing our departure

 

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Even the wood-working team got in on the shenanigans!

It was bittersweet to leave that place that stores so many memories for us now.

The weather was favorable, so we chose to head west via Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We followed the Wind River Mountains northwest.  There was some snow at Togwotee Pass, but the roads were dry.  Pine trees!  Tetons!  Snake River!  After 6 months in the dry, sage-covered sand, we were ready to drink in the cool mountain scenery.

After window shopping and dinner in Jackson, we found a wide spot in the road and slept soundly that night.

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I don’t know many places that sell genuine triceratops fossils other than Jackson. At $300,000 it was a bargain! But, since it wouldn’t fit in the motorhome…

Although we considered a jaunt up to Yellowstone, all the animals Wendy wanted to see (moose and bear) are in winter disappearance mode and it was a rainy,cloudy day so we decided to continue on west instead.

Next stop: Uncle Earl and Aunt Sandy White’s place.

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You should see their garden in the summer- I’m coming back for the strawberries and raspberries.

Wendy has some amazing relatives. They live on the Snake River in a little Idaho town called Heyburn.  Here they have a small farm (White Cloud Ranch) where they raise a bobcat, cheetohs (exotic house cats), dogs, fancy chickens (Silkies, Frizzles), quail and peacocks.

 

We gathered multiple kinds of delicious fresh apples off the trees and took home a carton of multi-colored exotic chicken eggs.

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White Cloud Ranch is a treasure trove of fascinating hobbies and we’re always welcomed with great food (including purple fried breakfast potatoes, Sandy’s eggs, home canned pears and grape juice) and loving kindness.  We so loved the peaceful, fall scene looking out over the Snake River as the roosters crowed, chickens clucked and the peacocks strutted.

If you ever need any down-home therapy, head for the White Cloud Ranch!  Having family is a wonderful thing.

The next morning we rolled on to Boise, Idaho.  This was my first time visiting the city and I must say, I was surprised and impressed.  The economy is healthy and it’s a beautiful place with nice weather. They call it the Banana Belt as it remains relatively temperate in the winter.  So for those of you who would like to live out west, Boise should be on your possible’s list.

We arrived Wednesday afternoon and tracked down our friends, Chuck and Tonya King from our college days at Brigham Young University 33 years ago.

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We raised our first babies together at the Provo laundromat and thrift stores. They’ve been hard to catch up with over the years as they were living Hong Kong and Mexico City. We had a delightful dinner with them and reminisced and caught up on children’s lives and future plans.

Next day we visited Great-Uncle Cecil and Aunt Elsie Grow (Wendy’s relatives on her mother’s side).  It just happened to be Uncle Cecil’s 89th birthday.

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These people are endless!  They’re fit!  And they were so kind to us. We also spent time with Orri Grow (Grant’s son) and his daughter Natalie, who were visiting their grandparents. Wendy had fun quizzing Cecil and Elsie about their genealogy.

Wendy has fond memories of spending time in their home as a child and hanging out with their sons Craig and Grant.

Cecil and Elsie have served five missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hope to have that much energy to continue serving over the coming decades.

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Missionary plaques for Riverton California, Mongolia, Kenya, Nauvoo Illinois, Monterey Mexico

Friday was another 130 mile drive to Baker City, Oregon.  (You will notice we don’t go far each day.  What’s the rush?  The joy is in the journey.)  Saturday we were able to grab the last jet boat of the season with 15 delightful German high schoolers to go down the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon.

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Hell’s Canyon, Oregon- deepest canyon in North America at 7900 feet.

The canyon is formed by the meeting of two techtonic plates and not from the river carving its way into the earth.

We boated through level 4 rapids down the Snake and had lunch on the grounds of a remote, off the grid cabin at Sheep Creek. A bald eagle soared past us as we returned upriver. It was a wild ride intermixed with peaceful scenery.

And here we sit comfortably in our home on a Sunday afternoon.  One of the best things about this lifestyle is we can travel without pushing hard to get somewhere.  Plus, we’re never exhausted and rarely uncomfortable — because we bring our home with us including our couch, recliner and the most comfortable bed we’ve ever owned. (We also like the dishwasher, washer and dryer.)

Anyway, that’s what we did at our house this week.  It was a great time full of new insights, scenery and ideas.  How much fun!

-Clay

The Blue Hole

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Look up!  That’s what we pilots call a sucker hole.  Hope this one turns out OK.

We’re headed for the Blue Hole!  (Yes, I’ve been known to fly my airplane up through holes in the clouds to get on top and fly in the clear air above.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.)

The Blue Hole I’m referring to is a rain shadow on the Olympic Peninsula.  The Olympic Mountains block all the heavy rain that soaks the Seattle area and keeps a little town by the name of Sequim (pronounced Skwim) dry and basking in blue skies during the winter.  (So we’re hoping this Blue Hole isn’t a sucker hole.)

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Here’s the science

Sequim, Washington is also strategically placed for ferry rides across Puget Sound and the Strait of San Juan de Fuca to such fun destinations as Vancouver Island in Canada, Seattle, and any number of unique islands in the strait.  Plus there are all kinds of hiking and biking trails on the Olympic Peninsula, walks on the beach, and the opportunity to watch the huge container ships coming in from Asia.

 

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Rainfall: Sequim-15 inches, Seattle- 38 inches, Olympic National Park- 200 inches.

Who would have thought we would be headed for the northwest corner of the United States for the winter?  But after six months spent outdoors every day in the sun of Wyoming, we’re ready for pine trees and a cold weather port.

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Our next great adventure!  We get a happy little tickle in our tummies when we plot out a course like this.

We expect to leave Wyoming on October 24th and head northwest 1,242 miles.  stats-to-sequimWe calculate this will take at least 21 driving hours and around $500 in diesel fuel.  How many days will we be on the road?  Who knows.  If it were earlier in the season we would go by way of Jackson, WY and climb up into the mountains through Idaho.  But this late in the season we’ll probably stick to the interstates and hope to avoid winter weather.  Plus there are people on our route that we would like to visit.  So this journey could take us a while.

The way we travel, we typically start to roll at 9am and come to a stop no later than 3pm.  We like the no stress approach.  So this trip could take a week or two — or three.  Suffice it to say, we should arrive in Sequim, Washington before Thanksgiving.

Do you have any suggestions for places we might explore on our route?

-Clay

Oh the Adventures! Part One

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Entrance to the Homestead

As our Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission winds down, we wanted to share with you some of the things we have packed into this 6 month experience.  This is a very short mission compared to other senior missions that last 12, 18 or 23 months.  But a lot happens in that short time.

Missionary Work

First and foremost, we have been called, set apart and ordained as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

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The Prophet Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ

We carry out our missionary responsibilities by serving at various assignments such as:

Visitor’s Center

Martin’s Cove Mormon Handcart Historic Site encompasses the national historic landmark Tom Sun Ranch established in 1872, one of only a few western ranches to achieve this honor; Devil’s Gate, a natural cleft in the Rattlesnake Mountains where the Sweetwater River flows through; and the four pioneer trails – Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express that passed through this property. You can still see the original wagon tracks and depressions in the ground where the weight of the people, gear and animals crushed the earth.

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We give tours of the reconstructed Fort Seminoe, which was an abandoned trading post where the freight from the Hodgetts Wagon Company was stored over the winter of 1856 so the weak and sick Martin Company pioneers could use the wagons to ride to Salt Lake. Twenty men had to stay behind to guard the freight. They were on near starvation rations and ate animal hides to stay alive until they and the freight could be taken to Utah 7 months later.  None of them got sick or died during that time.

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Fort Seminoe

We also honor and protect Martin’s Cove, a ravine behind a large sand hill up against the bare granite mountains. The pioneers spent 5 nights in the Cove and as their people froze to death, the bodies were placed in snow banks because the earth was too hard to dig graves. Wild animals soon scattered the remains. We do not know where the bones are, so the entire area is hallowed ground. After having a brief spiritual talk by their leaders, trek groups walk reverently and quietly up into the Cove to contemplate the real meaning of sacrificing everything for what you believe in.

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The Visitor’s Center is located in the original family house of the Sun Ranch.

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We maintain some of the ranch buildings from the 1880’s.

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We show people the historic displays, telling them the stories of the Mormon pioneer handcart companies (meaning: people organized in a group to safely travel across country, not a company that builds handcarts).

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Loaded handcart, ready for the 1300 mile journey from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City, Utah

And most importantly, we offer our visitors a copy of the Book of Mormon and bear testimony of Jesus Christ.

 

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Trek Hosting

One of the best mission assignments is trek hosting– where we get to guide the groups of people that come to trek up into Martin’s Cove (5-8 miles) to re-connect with their spiritual roots. Church groups (youth 12-18, young adults, church congregations and families) dress in 1850’s pioneer style clothing, load up their hand carts and trek to the Cove and then on to their primitive campground.

We help them feel the special spirit of the Cove and teach them pioneer stories of faith, obedience, sacrifice and charity.

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Clay teaching a trek group about the need to rescue others in our day, like the Valley Boys from Utah did when they carried the 550 members of the Martin Handcart Company over the Sweetwater River in November, 1856

These young trekkers don’t have their cell phones or internet access, so they learn to talk, laugh and work together, square dance, play pioneer games, rough camp and bear testimony.

There were 45,000 trekkers this year over the three historic mission sites. We have 60 missionary couples to do all the work and service necessary to give our visitors a great experience.

Story Telling/Mission Play

To bring the lives of the Mormon pioneers to life, we tell stories from their journal entries. They are now our friends and we care deeply about them.  We all participated in the Martin Handcart Story- a play with original music. I’m really glad I didn’t know until afterwards that Marie Osmond was on the front row (her sister-in-law is one of our missionaries).

Rock Creek Hollow

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For one week, we had the privilege of serving at Rock Creek Hollow (100 miles from our main camp), where the Willie Handcart Company suffered tragedy during the 27 hours it took them to cross Rocky Ridge in October, 1856.  That night, 13 people died and were buried in a common grave. An additional two men who buried those dead also died from exertion the next day.

The common grave site is marked and there is a very special spirit there. One of my favorite times was sitting in front of the grave marker, researching the stories behind the names.

James Kirkwood, age 11, was assigned to help his 4 year old brother Joseph over Rocky Ridge. His mother and older brother struggled with their handcart loaded down with their possessions and another crippled brother. James ended up carrying Joseph when his little feet were too frozen to walk. After he got to the camp at Rock Creek Hollow, James put his brother down and then died by the fire.  Joseph lived and his descendants always honor the ultimate sacrifice of their Uncle James.

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Rock Creek Hollow mass grave site

It is a quiet, cold, isolated and windy place.

We greeted any visitors who made their way to this remote site and served as campground hosts for numerous trek groups.

To get to the Hollow, the first trekkers of the season spent 12 hours pulling handcarts  15 miles over Rocky Ridge (the highest point on the historic pioneer trail).  They had been heavily rained and hailed on. At 7 pm that night, coming over the last hill into Rock Creek Hollow, they were covered with dried dirt from fording multiple streams, mud holes and a broken bridge, with sweat streaking through the grime on their smiling faces as they waved white handkerchiefs and sang in loud voices, the trek anthem, “The Fire of the Covenant”.

 

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I will always cherish our week at Rock Creek Hollow.

 

And that is only some of the adventures.  Stay tuned for Part Two!

-Wendy

 

On The Trail

Devil's Gate at sunset

Devil’s Gate at sunset

Between 1843 and 1869 (when the railroad finally joined the west coast to the rest of the nation), 500,000 people rode horses, walked beside their wagon or pulled a handcart  by Devil’s Gate (in Wyoming) on their way to what is now Oregon, California and Utah.

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This summer we are camped right on this famous trail which we read about in our American Heritage classes as teenagers.

Our mission this summer is to tell thousands of visitors the stories of these pioneers.

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The Martin Handcart company, made up of over 600 European immigrants bound for the Salt Lake Valley, got a late start on the trail in 1856.  They were seeking refuge from religious persecution in their homelands. Because of their late start, and early snows in the high plains of Wyoming, over 150 of their group perished as they struggled to pull their carts through the snow and sub-zero temperatures.  During the worst of these storms they took shelter for five days in a cove just west of Devil’s Gate, now known as Martin’s Cove.

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On the trail from Martin’s Cove

These are touching stories of sacrifice which families made in order that their children and future generations could be raised in a place that would nurture and promote their religious freedom.

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Many of our visitors come in groups of 30-700 teenagers.  They set up in primitive camp sites, dress in 1850-era pioneer garb, pull handcarts and cross rivers: re-enacting to the best of their ability a small part of the journey their forebears made so that they can appreciate the heritage they enjoy as free people, and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

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During their experience with us, these youth cover mile upon mile pulling their handcarts, fording rivers and thinking about their relationship with God, about what they truly believe, and how they will, in their own way, be pioneers of the next generation.

2016-06-14 09.06.45These are amazing youth!  They get it.  Wendy and I have been in awe of their dedication, their desire to learn and their pure goodness.  They give us hope for the next generation.  We feel so fortunate to be their mentors and guides.

  • Clay