Crossing the Arizona Strip
Saturday, May 6, 1882
Ida Frances Hunt stepped out of her father’s home and tossed her bags into the wagon of her future husband, David King Udall. They would travel from Snowflake, Arizona, to the temple in St. George, Utah, where they would be joined as husband and wife. The one-way trip would take slightly less than three weeks. The route they used between Lees Ferry and St. George was well established and frequently used. It was eventually named the Honeymoon Trail by other writers and carries that historic designation today.
The town of Snowflake was settled in 1876. It was part of Brigham Young’s efforts to expand the Mormon presence throughout the geographical area he called Deseret. (See Temple Trail in the April 2011 issue). In 1875, he sent 15 men to establish the first settlement and followed that the next year with 200 additional church members. The settlements were built in desolate locations where nothing had been built before. Sunset, Joseph City, Show Low, Taylor, and Snowflake were among the first.
The Temple in St. George was completed in 1877. At that time, it was the only temple west of the Mississippi River. According to Mormon belief, any marriage performed in a temple joined the souls for eternity. Settlers in outlying areas traveled long distances for that ceremony. Most of them made the journey in farm wagons and camped outdoors.
Along the way to Lees Ferry, Ida mentions passing through Woodruff, St. Joseph, Sunset, and other settlements. They reached Lees Ferry on Monday, May 16. The wagon was disassembled so it could safely ride the ferry. On the west bank, they met other families going in the same direction, which added three more wagons to the convoy. From that point on they felt safety in numbers. Their biggest concern along the trail was the fear of attacks from outlaws and renegades. Fortunately, they did not endure either.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Lone Writer, Happy Jack, and Muley pulled into the Lees Ferry parking lot. The route between Snowflake and Lees Ferry crosses reservation lands and is best done on paved highways. For that reason, no effort was made to follow it.
Prior to 1872, the only way across the Colorado River in Arizona was to swim. Doing so in those swirling currents often ended in death. In those days, there were no dams to control the flow of the river. The most dangerous time of year was during springtime runoff from mountain ranges in Colorado and Utah.
Brigham Young was determined to settle the area. He realized the problem of crossing the river had to be resolved. He sent John D. Lee to build a ferry in 1870. Two years later, it was fully functional. Even though Lee only remained on site for two more years, it still retains his name. We are not sure which spelling for the ferry is correct. We find it often named Lee’s Ferry and other times as Lees Ferry. Even the historic signs at the site list it both ways. We chose to use the spelling without the apostrophe.
Lees Ferry is at the northern end of the Grand Canyon National Park. A permit is required to enter and another fee is charged to use the campground. A well-worn hiking trail connects the parking lot to the original ferry crossing. Hikers might like to spend several days in the area exploring the river and canyons.
Following the Honeymoon Trail was the result of Happy Jack spending many long hours and days researching the subject. Using various references, he plotted the trail from Snowflake to St. George on his DeLorme TopoUSA software in a laptop. One of those references was the travel log from Ida’s journey to be married. On this trip, we loaded the tracks Happy Jack plotted into our laptops, connected a GPS, and brought the trail to life.