Archive for July, 2008


Monday, July 21st, 2008

If you want to follow our progress via GPS on the Internet, go to:

A few comments:

1 – The site updates about every 10 minutes while we’re hiking and RESETS every 24 hours – meaning that if we aren’t hiking (Iike on Sunday’s) the trail will start falling off.

2 – We’ve found the satellite hookups are not very reliable. Sometimes we update every 10 minutes the way the company says it will; sometimes it goes for an hour or more without making a contact – so be patient.

3 – The program “connects the dots” leading one to believe I cross fields and properties which I don’t without permission. At this time, I mostly following North, South, East and West roads. All the diagonals are mis-perceptions because of how the display works.

Bud / Kevin Henson

Monday, July 21, 2008 – Bartlett, Iowa

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Dear Friends:

Tough start this morning. I got up on the wrong side of the bed and was – I admit – a VERY grumpy gus. To add to my foul mood, I lost the GPS unit. Dang!

Then I got a mood lift. Sherman Fleek, author and military historian calls to congratulate our start and to wish us well. He updated me on his many projects and we chatted for about 30 minutes. It helped pass the time and before we ring off, I’m feeling much better about life.

If you haven’t read Sherman’s book, “History May Be Searched In Vain: A Military History of the Mormon Battalion” – you should. Puts many issues into the light of a military unit and explains why many of the problems occurred. Four star read for Battalion buffs.

The 18 miles pass quickly and I’m in camp at 4 PM.

Did I mention that the water pump in the trailer didn’t work after we left Glenwood? When I arrived at camp Lake Forney, the first thing was to crawl into the bowels of the RV (Really Vexatious) camper to see what’s wrong with the pump. Loose wire. Hooray!

In the evening, we’re joined by Holly and Chris Hansen with her mother, Clara. They’re on a family history tour along the route her ancestors took with the Battalion. She’s related to the Schupe brothers of Company C. They were detached with the family detachment and wintered over in Pueblo, Colorado. Brother Andrew Jackson Schupe’s journal has been transcribed and Holly was kind enough to provide a copy. Hopefully it will shed more light on the Pueblo and Sick Detachment’s movements. The family donated it back in 2000 but it hasn’t been reviewed by many people yet.

Even more fun, Holly is being interviewed and photographed by the Hallmark magazine for a “family heritage” series. Our camp was photographed by Frank and Josh who accompanied the Hansen’s today around the Council Bluffs region. We had “Sufferin’ Succotash”, our camp specialty. Denny and Allyson made rolls in the dutch oven while Jerry contributed some honey butter. Green beans, chicken and potatoes rounded out the menu. Everyone enjoyed the time together and sharing insights and history.

Hopefully the Hallmark article will do it justice. The other parts of the Hallmark series will deal with Japanese interments during the Second World War, the Underground Railroad and Ellis Island. To have the Battalion story included in this series is quite a responsibility to help tell the story correctly and how it fits Holly’s family today.

Well, it’s nearly midnight. I still need a shower and then I’ll crawl into bed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 – Glenwood, Iowa

Monday, July 21st, 2008

It’s a layover day again on Sunday. We can shower (hooray!) now that the flood waters have subsided. We head to church at Glenwood and meet some good folks.

All afternoon is spent catching up on correspondence, writing and phoning family. OK, I slept for a couple hours as well, then slipped over to the Mills County Historical Museum at Glenwood. I was looking for old road maps of the area, but 1875 is the best I can do and I already have that map. Maybe next time.

Did I mention that it seems we all have a weakness for the best selling chocolate sandwich cookie with the white sugar filling? Especially, if we can dunk them in milk. But, I shall not divulge the name who has the sweetest tooth amongst our core group.

A couple other things I’d like to discuss with blog readers:

1 – My writing style is inconsistent and I know it. I slip back and forth from present to past tense without much regard for proper style. I hope it isn’t too disturbing to you, Dear Reader.

2 – Blog posts may come in batches since our connectivity is sporadic. Be patient.

Saturday, July 19, 2008 – Glenwood, Iowa

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Apparently Peter didn’t sleep much last night. Despite the two hours time zone difference between California and Iowa, he was early for our 5 AM start (3 AM his time). We finished breaking the RV down to travel, piled into the truck and headed south to the Missouri riverbanks.

It was foggy this morning – very thick and that helped keep the sun at bay until nearly 11 AM. Though it was still very humid there was a slight breeze that helped us keep cool.

Peter is a retired state firefighter with 30 years experience. He’s skilled with a lot of the skills we need on Trek (safety, emergency) and can tell some pretty good stories about work. He’s also a reenactor with the Sacramento area groups. They do the Gold Rush bash at Coloma and last year conducted more than 50 events to commemorate the Battalion. Hat’s off for keeping the Battalion “in honorable rememberance.”

We complete our 15 mile day shortly after noon at Glenwood City Park. Nice place and the historical society buildings are nearby. We were going to go see the museum, but I got distracted and forgot.
You see, as Peter and I walk into camp, we turn a corner and see our parked RV – except something is somehow very different about it.

All across the back (stern) of the trailer, there was water sheeting off at the floor level. Not dripping quickly mind you. Sheeting. Like Niagara Falls sheeting – only not quite so much water – but a pretty fair approximation of Niagara which I’ve seen a few times in person.

One’s mind does strange things when presented with a sight that is incomprehensible – which this was. Literally, I could not comprehend there was an Iowa flood coming out of my RV. It just wasn’t something I expected to see, so it took about 15 seconds to decide I wasn’t hallucinating.

Back to Council Bluffs for parts and we soon have the pipes replaced, repacked, reconnected and we can shower for Sunday.
Well, the only major system now that hasn’t fritzzed out is the heater. I can hardly wait to try it out.

Friday, July 18, 2008 – Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Our time here is almost over. The tents are struck. We’re packed. The horses are fed (gasoline) and we’re ready for a new phase of the Trek. We’re headed to Fort Leavenworth tomorrow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 – Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Another reason for spending some non-hiking days in the area is to conduct some research with local historians.

Today we’re joined by Peter Guilbert of California. He will be with us until Saturday afternoon. Peter is a descendant and reenactor out near the Coloma gold fields. Nice guy. More about him soon.

We borrowed Gail Holmes for three hours this morning. Gail is turning 85 next week and has spent over 30 years researching various aspects of early LDS history in the greater Omaha/Council Bluffs/Kanesville/Winter Quarters area. The man is a walking fountain of knowledge and it’s an honor to have him spend his time answering basic questions we could probably find on our own, but which he is capable of adding more depth, helping us make connections we couldn’t on our own. For example:

We motored up to the area of “Redemption Hill” also called Pratt-Taylor Hill. This is/was a flat topped hill west of Mosquito Creek where Brigham Young and the church leaders set up their camp in mid-June 1846. The area has changed much due to erosion and construction so it doesn’t look much like it did long ago.

As we’re talking about the area, I ask Gail if we can drive closer and he directs us to the home of a gentleman who’s lived there since 1934. We start discussing “how do we know” this is the right place. Gail casually mentions that a large flag pole was put up in front of Bro. Brigham’s tent so people could tell right off where to go if they needed to see him. That kind of excited me because in the Tom Perry collection at BYU is a sketch by Thomas Kane of “The Enlisting Camp of the Mormons – July 14, 1846.”

Kane’s pencil sketch seems to show a camp with a tall flagpole in front of some tents. So, I casually mention the sketch and Gail gets all excited because he’s NEVER seen this drawing. So, Gail gets an e-mail from me with the sketch as an attachment.

Then it’s both our turn to be astounded. The property owner casually mentions some “old bridge” pilings across Mosquito Creek that he and his siblings discovered when they were kids. Gail and I do a double take suspecting just which bridge this is. We pose a couple more questions to see if this might be the location of the bridge connecting Redemption Hill with the rest of the Grand Encampment. You see, the exact location of this bridge hasn’t been identified yet, so we’re pretty excited that we’ve finally got it pinned down to within a hundred yards or so. A little archeology work is in order at this farm.

We head over to the Iowa School for the Deaf where there’s a nice plaque commemorating the enlistment of the Battalion. Gail admits that the school grounds are the “convenient” place for the public to access the marker and isn’t necessarily the actual location of the enlistment. “In fact”, he says, “they were actually sworn into the Army down at Trader’s Point.”

So, Peter and I decide to start the “official” Trek route at the south bank of the Missouri River closest to the “soldier’s camp” just east of where Peter Sarpy’s trading post stood in 1846.

Finally on Thursday – we take a couple hours to head over to the Winter Quarters Temple. There are really nicely conceived and well executed stained glass pieces around the temple and it’s well worth your time to check them out if you’re at the building.
As we sat in the waiting room before our session, I noted a painting of Winter Quarters portraying the winter of 1847. There are visual representations of many historic sites and events. The warm yellow light depicted as shining out the window or door of nearly every sod dugout home or log cabin seems to pierce the gloom of winter and death prevalent in the painting. I’ve read many accounts of Winter Quarters, but “seeing” it through the artist’s eyes lent a new reality to the story.

Monday thru Wednesday, July 14 – 16, 2008 – Council Bluffs, Iowa

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Don’t hate me because I’m busy.

When I developed the schedule for Trek, I put in a week of non-travel days here at Council Bluffs. Some people asked me what I intended to do – just laze around wasting time?

Far from it.

Having worked with traveling camps before, I knew that the Trek startup would be fraught with problems large and small that would take time to fix. The RV problems are a good example. We spent the entire forepart of this week conducting fault diagnosis of our various problems, then fixing them.

We also needed to coordinate the special events of next week (July 25-27) and wanted to check out the preparations for that. The Western Trails Center is a very nice museum but more about that next week.

The Council Bluffs/Kanesville area is sponsoring a local event called “Come Home to Kanesville” which keys on the early history of the area. Very nice effort by the local folks to emphasize genealogy, history and connections. It’s been estimated that there are over 100,000 Battalion descendants still in the Omaha metro area, so we’re in the right place to start. We had hoped to spend some time visiting with them, but our RV issues kept us from doing so.

Despite being within sight of downtown Omaha Nebraska (yep, we can actually see the skyscrapers from Lake Manawa
State Park where we’re camped), our T-Moobile cell phone and Verizion broadband connections are not very good. Hey guys… can you hear me now?

So, we’re still playing catchup with the blog and daily updates. We’ll keep trying though.

Kevin (Ebenezer Brown) Henson
From the Shores of Lake Manawa

Sunday, July 13, 2008 – Council Bluffs, Iowa

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Today, being a Sunday is a layover day. The others have decided we will attend an 11 AM church service, allowing for a little more sleep in the morning. Breakfast was a quick affair as we all need showers before church.

We attended Kanesville Ward at their new Stake Center – located not far from the location where the Battalion mustered into service back in 1846.

In the meanwhile, I’m writing family letters, trying to catch up the blog, transferring photos and other related items. More later in the week.

Saturday, July 12, 2008 – Manawa SP, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Between the high humidity, strong winds, lightning and BIG raindrops, none of us slept very well last night. In fact, I didn’t sleep much at all. And, I wanted to get up early (before 5 AM) to hike while it’s cool. And, cool it is – in the low 60’s and overcast with a fairly brisk wind from the northwest.

Denny and I backtracked to Macedonia via the support truck. It continued to rain some this morning, so I broke out the oilcloth, cut a piece to length and wore it for about 30 minutes as I hiked (insert “up and down hills” anytime I write “hike”, “hiked”, “hiking” or any derivative thereof).

This morning, I was able to complete 12 miles by lunchtime, which almost gets us back on schedule, leaving only another 11 miles to hike into Council Bluffs during the next week sometime. The others worked on getting the remaining RV’s problems figured out. Final repairs next week?

Late in the day, we drove over to Omaha and stopped by the Winter Quarters’ Visitor Center. Took the tour and met some of the staff. Wonderful folks.

Allyson was on guard looking to spot her brother Bradley, a missionary currently serving in Omaha. Seems everyone knows “Elder Jones” but he isn’t anywhere to be seen today.

A family we know in Michigan stopped by for a quick visit. They were on their way to Salt Lake City, knew we were supposed to be here and managed to find us at the campsite. Turns out that Jim Krueger had lived in Lewis where we were two days earlier. And that older engaged couple I mentioned? They stopped by again - and small world - Jim had known their kids and been Best Man at one sons’ wedding. They all had a good time catching up with each other.

See, there are all kinds of connections.

Friday, July 11, 2008 – Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

It’s another beautiful day. A tad more dry than yesterday morning but only a shade cooler.

We’ve made the executive decision to move camp to Council Bluffs for tonight instead of remaining at Macedonia where there aren’t any services to help with the RV diagnoses and fixes. Denny & I will run ahead in the support truck to try and reserve a campsite.

When we arrived at Manawa SP about 4 PM, there were, predictably for a Friday afternoon in the summer, no electrical sites remaining, but the WONDERFUL staff at Manawa put us up at our Youth Site a couple days early and helped in other non-traditional ways.

This area got hit by 100+ mph winds recently that really tore up the park and surrounding region. Lots of trees down, power out, local flooding, etc. But despite the mayhem and additional pressures on them, the Park staff has been patient, helpful and accommodating. It isn’t quite like Yellowstone in terms of natural beauty, but on a really hot day, Lake Manawa is quite refreshing and the people make it simply wonderful. Kudos to Iowa DNR and State Parks staff. Did I mention that they are wonderful?

As we were discussing options with the staff, a gentleman on his bike stopped to listen and offer some alternative camp possibilities. He’s from the Macedonia area and is engaged to be married this fall. Nice guy. He and his bride to be stopped by later after we were in camp. He asked the usual questions but we were so behind in setup that I committed to a presentation on Saturday evening if they’d like to stop by then. So, we have our first impromptu presentation set.

After placing the RV and putting up the tents, we grabbed some victuals from a national outlet food/everything store. Oh, and Dad treated us to a … well, a “cool treat” of ice cream at his favorite national outlet.

As we prepare for bed, there are two massive thunderstorms off in the distance; one to the north, the other to the southwest. The north one is up near where the tornado killed the four Scouts a few weeks ago. It’s popping off BIG bolts of lightning that play from cloud-to-cloud and back light the storm. It’s quite a show but as pretty as it is and as much as I like to watch thunderstorms, I need the rest more – so it’s off to bed.