During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mormon settlers in northeastern Arizona traveled along a dusty 70-mile wagon trail to reach the famed St. George Temple in Utah. The trail eventually became known as the "Honeymoon Trail" because so many newlyweds made the passage. 105 years after its opening, NBC's Bob Dotson explores the Honeymoon Trail, where Mormon couples still re-enact the romantic journey of their forebears.
Mormon Newlyweds Reenact Honeymoon Trail
JANE PAULEY, anchor:
The American Dream was pursued all across this country on the trails of the Old West. Dreams of land, opportunity, freedom, and as Bob Dotson reports in his series on the American Dream, even dreams of love.
BOB DOTSON reporting:
The memories of men are too fragile a thread to hang history from. The West that was, is different than what we see from a movie seat. Out there is great beauty, yes, but how could you show a land sometimes so tough it could make a stone sick? The Old West was America’s forge and the pioneers who passed through it had spirits of hammered steel.
They were common people, made uncommon by hardship. Endlessly thumped by noise, and wind, and dust. They felt a kinship with the dust, it surrounded them. As the lone, the ragged, rusty row, threaded across the plains. Of all the western trails, none was more unusual or more special than this. A hundred and five years after its opening, people still come. It is the ultimate romantic journey. They call it the Honeymoon Trail. Today, a portion of that trip is reenacted. And each year, there are still some young couples willing to test their love.
LISA HAFEN: Think there’s very many snakes around here?
DOTSON: Lisa Hafen and Paul Reber set aside all the modern inconveniences to drop behind the painted mountains of their past.
HAFEN: I just feel sorry for those women, having to wear these long dresses and riding horses. If they only knew of Levi’s then they would have just changed for sure, I know they would have.
DOTSON: Lisa and Paul are Mormons. When the Mormons first settled in Arizona, the closest temple was 400 miles away, in St. George, Utah. So each fall, after the harvest, young couples would get up a wagon train and head off to get married.
Unidentified Man: And I can hear him scratchin’down the side of that…
DOTSON: The past is part of a thousand winds that blow out here. Memories shorten the long hours.
Unidentified Man: I could feel the blood running down over my chest and I knew if he reached any farther he was going to kill me. And I woke up and found I’d been dreaming.
DOTSON: Batteries help, too.
Voice on Radio: Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was so beautiful, that everybody called her Beauty.
DOTSON: Dreams are the tickets that take folks through the night. The challenge of the trail, the hard knocks, seem to seal the marriages stronger than ever. There are few divorces. Lisa and Paul have learned this is not just a trip into the past, it is a trip into themselves.
PAUL REBER: You know, you read about pioneers coming across the plains in covered wagons and handcarts but you don’t really have a feel for it until you ride one of those for four or five straight hours. It gets you worn down, tired, windburned, sunburned, hungry. It gives you a better feeling of what they went through.
DOTSON: Never smile into the dust?
REBER: No, never smile in the dust.
HAFEN: Mm-mm. I’ve got sand in between my teeth bad.
DOTSON: The journey to the temple takes five days, seventy miles. Five days. It is still tough. One morning was spent going fifteen-hundred feet, most of it straight down.
REBER: I’ll build you a nice house someday.
DOTSON: The caravan entered St. George through the modern tunnels of the interstate.
HAFEN: My eyes hurt.
DOTSON: Back under the golden arches of civilization. Dogs ran out to bark, then kept a puzzled pace with wheels not made of rubber. Trail-weary faces were shown ‘round like merit badges and the procession looked for all the world like Cinderella’s coach at a minute past midnight.
Voice on Radio: She and the prince lived happily ever after.
HAFEN: Now I feel like going to sleep.
DOTSON: For TODAY, Bob Dotson, NBC News, St. George, Utah.
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