Thursday, December 25 – Christmas Camp, Mobile, AZ

Merry Christmas. All of us wish you a wonderful time for family and the opportunity to contemplate the Gift of the Son of God for all mankind. The Savior is truly our advocate with the Father and will heal all our wounds.

Our youngest son, Brian, is currently serving a mission in MONGOLIA. He calls early and we get to talk quite awhile before we begin our day’s activities. He sounds good, seems to be working hard/smart and just might miss his family a tad little bit this Christmas. We look forward to having him home next year.

A few minutes before eight AM, we pull into the designated meeting area for today’s hike. We will be joined for the next few days by the Wilson family from California. There are ten family members, ranging in age from 8 to 80. They are descended from three Battalion ancestors - Levi Savage, Thomas Karren and Elijah (can’t read last name). We “enlist” the Wilson’s, issue their packs, muskets and other gear, have them take the Serviceman’s Oath, then take off for our adventure together.

We begin at the Gila Reservation’s western edge and proceed north to intercept the trail. It’s about three-quarters of a mile from the road. We make good time and can view the trail for a couple miles. The trail is expressed here as a line of trees and shrubs growing in the depression left by all the wagons using the Butterfield Stage Route.

About lunchtime and five miles into our planned ten mile hike, the cold front starts closing in from the southwest. The clouds lower and rain can be seen hiding some of the mountain ranges to our front left. It’s coming for us. When the rain is about ten minutes off, I call a halt and have everyone gear up. I don’t want a repeat of Santa Fe and have people get hypothermia - especially here since we can’t get a vehicle into this area to extract anyone.

A drizzle begins the storm but soon gets worse, raining harder and longer than I’d hoped. Within a few minutes, puddles start forming, then rivulets and nearly the entire ground is covered by a sheet of water after a half-hour of steady rain. You don’t realize how flat this desert is until the water starts sheeting.
Deep spots in the roadway fill with water and we try to dance around them to keep our shoes as dry as possible, but within a very short time all the footwear is thoroughly soaked. My socks start bunching at the toes and I worry that we’re going to have a hard time of it.

My real concern is that we have to make it to Christmas Camp – another four or five miles out. Once there, we have to put up the tents and camp. If the ground is as soaked there as it is here, with standing water, well, it will be a very long night for us.

Fortunately, the rain lets up after a couple hours and we arrive at camp with rainbows over our right shoulder. At camp, Owen Garner has set up a shelter. Owen will participate tonight with some of his Battalion buddies. They have put together a Battalion presentation which is kind of unique in its’ approach.

To tell the story, they have the visiting group get settled around a campfire, then, the reenactors wander into the brightly lit area to tell their stories. Rather than a script, the pass off questions which stimulates responses, so the pace can quickly change, the topics are free-wheeling and never the same. It’s an intriguing way to tell history. Probably wouldn’t work in all situations, but here at Christmas Camp, it’s effective and interesting.

The tents are up, we’ve had a stew dinner and been entertained. Now it’s time for the sack.

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