For years I have wanted to travel one of the National Historic Trails traveled by Western settlers in the 1800’s. More recently I have narrowed my choice down to the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois (where the Mormons were forced to leave following the death of founder Joseph Smith) to Salt Lake City. As a last excursion before Tom started back to school, we planned a one-week jaunt over the portion of the trail from Nauvoo on the Mississippi River to Council Bluffs, Iowa on the Missouri River – a 320 mile portion of the complete Mormon Trail.
Although we have visited Nauvoo previously, our trip started there for a review of the Mormon history as the Mormons settled Nauvoo (“The Beautiful Place”) in 1839 where they prospered until 1846. The Nauvoo State Park is high on a hill overlooking Old Nauvoo and is covered with tall pine trees through which shafts of sunlight filter through to the pine-needle strewn campsites. Welcoming us was a doe and three little spotted fawns.
A critical part of my this bucket-list aspiration revolved around my interest in the Mormon handcart pioneers. Brigham Young somehow convinced thousands of emigrants (especially European recruits) that traveling on foot, pulling a hand cart (rather than dealing with oxen and wagon) was a cheaper and easier passage to Zion. Most hand cart companies quickly and easily made the trip, but two companies (the Willie and Martin Companies of 1856) started too late and did not reach Salt Lake City before winter set in. Their tragic tales have created my interest in their unbelievable sufferings. Here are two books that sparked my interest and that I highly recommend on the subject:
Although the handcart companies did not actually cross the Iowa portion of the Mormon Trail (they began their trek in Council Bluffs, Iowa) Nauvoo offered a wonderful opportunity to experience travel by handcart for those wanting to more fully understand the undertaking. Thus Tom and I made arrangements for a scant 1-hour handcart excursion!
Our Mormon guide met us at the trail head and introduced us to a brief history of the Mormon handcarters, and familiarized us to a cart and a map for our 1-mile outing. Then we set off on the trail by ourselves!
The cart was was not bad at all with two of us pulling and with only Charlie Button as "baggage" while the trail was smooth and level.
The problem was that the reenactment engineers, when creating the little mock-up trail, decided to give us a good dose of the realities of travel by handcart. The path wound around the meadow and then into the woods, traversing under dead-falls and over ruts and up and down steep dried out creek-beds.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown