Friday, April 18, 2008

Our pioneer trek

About ten years ago we, the Larry Vance family, went on a pioneer trek. The preparations for the trek started before we left Littleton, Colorado. I purchased a coupled used bicycles and some steel tubing to make a cart. I opted for a design a little different than the type that was used by the handcart companies that traveled the Mormon Trail. Our cart was a four wheel cart. I engineered the cart. We all pitched in to construct it.

We loaded up our provisions and our cart, along with our 9 family members into the old Ford Clubwagon and headed to Manassa, Colorado. It was time for the Mormon Pioneer Days in Manassa. We laid out our trek to go ten miles to the Rio Grande where the old bridge crossed the river. We had Kent, my brother, drive us to the point where we started our venture into the (not so) wilderness.

The first task was to extricate ourselves and our provisions, along with the cart, from our van. We then began to assemble the provisions into the cart and secure everything.

The cart was heavy with the provisions.

Loaded and secured, we are now getting ready for our ten mile trek to the river.

Only Eric gets to get a ride. The provisions are weighty. The wagon is highly stressed under the weight.

As we started off along the road (we did not go cross-country) we all took turns pushing and pulling. Looking off in the distance behind us, we started back beyond those trees on the horizon near the hill.

Looking ahead we cannot see our destination yet. At this point we had already stopped for lunch and we were having some problems with our cart. As we rolled along, the spokes in the wheels loosened. The looser the spokes became, the more skewed the wheels were with the direction of travel. If you download the image below and note the rear wheels on the cart you can see that the wheels do not point in the direction of travel. This was a problem that we thought was going to stop us from going on to our destination. We stopped and made some adjustments using wire and a loose fence post as a lever. On we went.

We saw little evidence of wildlife out here. The most noticeable animal we observed was the buzzard that was circling in the sky. Further along the road we saw a carcass of a cow.

Debra was making her contribution.

Our destination is finally in sight. There is a dark spot that the road crosses in the distance. That is the Rio Grande. It is now downhill the rest of the way. The cart is doing much better with its wheels pointing in the right direction.

After we arrived we unloaded our wares.

Then we pitched camp under the old bridge. I had been here before, as a boy scout. When I was 12 I camped under this old bridge.

The river was refreshing.

Jeanette prepared the provisions and many of the activities for our trek. We made butter.

And we had our trek booklets that Jeanette constructed for each of us. Here Brian and Anita are using their books as we read a story or sang a song around the fire.

The cart did not fare so well. As we came down the road to the river banks we could hear an audible hiss. Two of the 4 bicycle tires went flat. The cart was under-engineered. It would have been nice to have a better cart.

Our original plan was to have somebody rendezvous with us after our trek back at the point of departure. Since our cart was ailing and some of us did not tolerate the ardors of the trek well, we decided to terminate our trek after only one leg of the trip.

I think it was a learning experience, and we had the opportunity to commune with nature. I sure do appreciate my waterbed and my little pickup.


  1. Jeanette was the crankiest. Her expectations were high. She was tired, and hot, and crumbled under the pressure. She would have made a terrible "real" pioneer.
    All of the girls had new dress, bonnets, and aprons. The girls picked their own fabrics. We bought the boys new long sleeve shirts and they each had a new hat. Larry made Eric's hat. It was a good experience.

  2. I was thinking as I looked at your photos that it would have been very different for the first pioneers. They would not have had a graded road to follow.

    I don't think I would even endure a trek of this size today.

    I am sure you built memories on this treck that will be with your family for the rest of your lives.

  3. Larry and Jeanette, when you went on that trek, I was so pleased that you were doing such an adventurous trip. We went to the river and had dinner with you and were impressed with all of the effort you had put into it. It may have been a hard time but I believe that it made memories that will be told to your grand children and great grand children. I believe you have made many memories for your children. I have always been pleased with you and your children.

  4. It seems that we are drifting apart as a family. As time rolls on they become more independent and do not spend much effort in letting us know what is happening in their lives or query what is happening in ours.


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