Southern Utah News Articles
Heritage Tour on the Honeymoon Trail
On June 16, 24 people in 10 vehicles met at the Pipe Spring Visitor Center to go on the Honeymoon Trail ride. The activity was a part of the Jacob Hamblin Days.
Bob Johnson coordinated the reservations, and Mel Heaton served as guide, leading the group on the final leg of the trail which early LDS pioneers used to get from settlements in the Arizona Territory to the temple in St. George, Utah.
The trail originated in the settlements along the Upper Little Colorado River converging in Joseph, Arizona, some 400 miles from the temple in St. George.
Heaton is a local expert on the Honeymoon Trail history, and has first hand experience leading annual wagon trains from Pipe Spring to St. George.
He doesn’t do the wagon train anymore, not because of natural difficulties, but because of the growth and development of the St. George area, making it difficult to get horses and wagons to the temple.
Heaton led the group west from Pipe Spring for a short distance. He then turned off the south side of the highway. We passed antelope running through herds of cattle and stopped at Cedar Ridge in an area close to where pioneers liked to camp because of the firewood located there.
The location was also where a school used to be when about 30 families had homesteaded there.
The next intersection was called “mail box corner” because those 30 families would all come to that location to get their mail.
From Cedar Ridge, the Arizona Strip along the trail route is fairly flat and sandy with sage, rabbit brush and four wing salt bush, where it used to have tall grass before grazing of cattle in the area. There are still areas that you can see evidence of the wagon ruts through the sandy soil.
One point of interest was the wagon road as it descends from the Hurricane Rim. It is steep, as it crosses slick rock. Heaton does not take vehicles down that dugway these days. He said that the first time they took a wagon down the dugway, it took six hours to get to the bottom. He said you could not use the wagon brake, because it would slide off the slick rock. You had to put two teams behind the wagon to keep from losing it off the road.
He picked a fruit from a yucca plant to share with some of the group. Some sampled it, but didn’t appreciate the worm that was sharing the fruit.
From the top of the ridge, you could see Fort Pierce in the distance, which, after a detour through Hurricane, was our next stop.
Fort Pierce was the final stopping place before going into St. George, because it had a source of water. It wasn’t like the clear, cool water at Pipe Spring, but water that was army green when we were there. As you can imagine, it was hot and close enough to St. George that you could find that last bit of energy to push through to the end of the trail!
The Honeymoon Trail is not the most scenic trail ride, but one cannot help but appreciate the faith and determination of those who traveled this route in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to be married in God’s temple to an eternal companion.
Thanks Mel Heaton and Bob Johnson, for guiding us safely through this bit of history. If you want to check out the Honeymoon Trail, I suggest having a guide who knows the way and can share the history and challenges of those who traveled this way over a hundred years ago.
A special thank you to Wally and Sue Thompson for providing transportation for my wife and I as we celebrated our 48th anniversary on the Honeymoon Trail.