SALT LAKE CITY — After 97 days of walking, riding, pushing handcarts and pulling wagons over more than 1,100 miles, the survivors came to the end of the trail Tuesday when they arrived at This Is the Place State Park.
When Brigham Young uttered the words that gave the site its name 150 years ago, there was no welcoming party.
But on Tuesday, more than 50,000 well-wishers gathered to welcome those who had spent three months retracing the Mormon Trail, a route that Young and thousands of others took from 1846 to 1869 to flee religious persecution.
The completion of the trek from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to the park in the mountains overlooking the Great Salt Lake was cause for celebration.
All 150 of those who committed to the trek full-time were still there. Along the way, nearly 10,000 others had joined in for anywhere from a day to several weeks.
Sixty-four wagons made it--two were lost on one of the final mountain passes.
Along the way, a child was born and two engagements were announced. More than 30 participants needed medical treatment--most for dehydration. And then there were countless blisters.
"My feet are killing me," said Cindy Wells, 40, of Merino, Colo. "It was definitely worth it."
Brian Hill, 36, of Kearney, Neb., chairman of the Mormon Trail Wagon Train Inc., which organized the event, traveled the distance with his wife and four children.
"It was a glorious, wonderful experience," he said. "The best thing is that there are 10,000 people who have gotten to be a part of the experience. Their lives are richer and better."
As they marched through a cheering gauntlet of people, up to a monument in the park, an international children's choir sang.
There will be parades Wednesday and Thursday, and a celebration Friday night at Cougar Stadium at Brigham Young University.
"The best part is the not quitting, even when you want to just drop down and die," said Carli Wilson, 18, of Huntington Beach. "The feeling when you get into camp and you've made it another day--it's just powerful. It feels so great after not quitting--even though you're busted up. You've lived to fight another day, and I love it."