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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Story of the Last Wagon

Near the Scenic Byway SR 12 
South Central Utah

A scenic byway with spectacular views for 120 miles.

There are many turnoffs and view points.

Roads with many curves, no room for error. 

Awesome scenery and roads without railings.
Civilization is sparse, watch your gas gauge and water supply.

The Story of the Last Wagon

On January 26, 1880, Joseph Stanford Smith worked hard along the precipitous Hole in the Rock trail, guiding wagons to the river. Toward day's end he received word that all 40 wagons from the encampment at the top of the Hole were safely down.  But Smith couldn't find his own wagon among those gathered at the river. He climbed back up to the top, where he found his wagon and family waiting, seemingly overlooked. 

No other men remained on top to help brake the wagon's decent.  Over Smith's objections, his wife, Belle, insisted that she and their horse, Nig, could restrain the wagon.  She settled their three children - including a three-year-old and an infant - on a quilt and told them to stay put until their father returned.

Together the young couple began driving the loaded wagon down the Hole.  In the first steep cut, Nig fell, dragging behind the wagon.  Belle soon fell as well, and was dragged a hundred feet, deeply cutting her leg before the wagon came to a stop. 

After treating Belle's wound, Smith climbed back to the top.  He found the children waiting just where Bell had left them.  "God stayed with us" said Ada, the eldest.  The worst of the trail behind them, the family completed the rough descent together.  They arrived at the river just as a group of men, noting their absence were starting up to help them.  
Utah State Highway Sign  

Guiding the wagons through Hole-in-the-Rock trail.

 Our journey began in Torrey where a good two lane road, in excellent condition, took us through spectacular scenery and tall pine forests.

 After 36 miles we arrived at our home for 2 nights, the Boulder Mountain Lodge. 

Boulder Mountain Lodge has wonderful accommodations (even dogs are welcome).

The excellent Anasazi Museum is only a mile away.  

Unmatched Scenery on the way to Escalante, a sleepy and spread out town just 20 miles further along Highway 12. 

When you're in the area don't miss Calf Creek Falls Trailhead, an easy 4 hour round trip hike. 

If you have just a little more time take a picnic and enjoy the most fantastic scenery along the famous Burr Trail. 

Happy Trails to you my dear 
Blogging Friends.  



  1. Bonsoir,

    Une très jolie publication avec de merveilleuses photos... SUBLIME !

    Gros bisous

    1. Bonsoir Martinealison, I am so happy that you like my photographs. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  2. Dear Gina,
    these are just the kind of photos I have been waiting for and they show a magnificent landscape that seems well worth seeing. The incredible
    blue sky with the rock formations, the empty space with a perfect Highway snaking through it, a comfortable Mountain Lodge awaiting one's
    arrival is all so very inviting. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photos of an incredible landscape.
    Warmest greetings, Sieglinde

    1. Dear Sieglinde, The State of Utah is blessed with 5 National Parks, one more beautiful than the next. Boulder Mountain is only 3 hours south from our house. This is the perfect time to visit. You have the scenery all to yourself and lots of opportunities to take pictures. Only about 2 hours from our house is Capital Reef National Park, another wondrous destination. Maybe you will come for a visit one day. ox, Gina

  3. Beautiful, rugged country... it's amazing that the pioneer made their way across the country, meeting challenges daily to settle the west...

  4. Hello Madge, Because I live in the middle of Pioneer Country one only has to visit any of the small cemeteries. Their tombstones tell many stories of hardships and miseries.

  5. What an exciting story! I just hope that Belle Smith got to her destination and lived a full life. I've been to spots that the Conestoga wagons passed, and like you I have to wonder how gutsy the pioneers were to continue and persevere. I suspect that many of those pioneers actually had no idea what they were going be up against.

    1. Dear Mark, I think you're right. If some of the families had known how very difficult it was to tame the West they would never have left their comfortable homes. Hearing and reading the many stories, I realize how very dedicated these people were, especially the women.

  6. You touched a nerve here Gina - one of my most favorite areas of this vast and gorgeous country AND a tale of the wagon trains. We have spent several trips in that area over the years - the stories of those who followed the trail Westward sure make my little flit across the pond sound weak! On my first visit to Scott's Bluff, when following the Oregon Trail, I stood on the top and cried, it was so thought provoking. If you haven't already, do read a book titled Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel - it's amazing!

    These photos are just awesome, you captured the scenic beauty so well - those Americans who have never visited the West need to go see their beautiful country!

    Hugs - Mary

  7. Dear Mary, Like you I stood in this lonely spot reading the tablet and realized that tears were running down my face. What affected me most of all was the courage of Belle and that they had been abandoned by the rest of the party.
    Thank you for making me aware of Lillian Schlissel's book. It will be welcome reading when I will be far away from home in a couple of weeks.

  8. Dear Gina - I have just seen Mark's reference to your post which I missed.
    How amazing were those early pioneers and what trials they had to contend with. Your photos and words really capture the essence of their hard life.

    1. Dear Rosemary, Welcome back from your exciting trip. Compared to the Pioneer Days we have it made. Not only is it much more comfortable but we can go to the far corners of the world with relative ease.

  9. Dear Gina,
    I'm late to the party! I'm sorry to have missed this until now-- what a harrowing story! It's a wonder the population was able to move westward in wagons like that, with children and infants in tow. With weaker ancestors, our country would have been much smaller, don't you think?! I can't imagine the hardships faced by heroic families like the Smiths... I'm so glad to have read this post-- thank you!
    Warm regards,

    1. Dear Erika, Yes, you are right. We must thank our ancestors and in my case, I have always thanked my parents who decided to emigrate to America when I was a very young girl. The West is full of such heroic stories and driving through this amazing country makes one even more aware.