I think I've stretched out my reporting on our trip long enough, so without further ado, here we go with our last installment!
The last two days of our trip were full of quick visits to old investigators, beautiful and scenic locations, church history sites, and LOTS of driving. James got to know his carseat (and his stroller) quite well.
I've realized there are big holes in the pictures we have, so you'll just have to imagine lovely pictures of us in Buffalo and visiting with families from Paul's parents' missions. (Incidentally, I'd love to have copies of everyone's pictures from the trip. I'll have Paul get on that little thing. ;) )
Sunday morning we drove up to Buffalo to attend church. I'm very sad I didn't take any pictures there because it was a very interesting place. The church building was the most unusual looking LDS church that I've ever seen (on the outside at least...on the inside it was just like any other church). Imagine this: stucco walls painted a burnt red-orange, cream, and turquoise and those funny non-see through glass cubes that you see in people's bathrooms sometimes. Yeah, it was weird.
At church we were reminded just how small our world is by running into a couple from our last BYU married ward. :) It was nice to see them, and to be reminded that the church is the same wherever you go.
Also, we discovered that day that James is a flirt! He already likes pretty girls! He flirted with the girl behind us during the whole sacrament meeting. He smiled and babbled at her...and it was definitely different from his normal cuteness. He was totally showing off. He sure is getting started young. After sacrament meeting, Kristina and Jonathan informed us that he was checking out cute girls at Niagara Falls the day before. Apparently they saw James smile as he was staring at what they thought was a shiny car. Kristina said, "Oh, do you like that shiny car?" But, oh no. He wasn't looking at the car. His eyes followed the girl that was walking by in front of the car. Oh dear.
That afternoon (following a lovely "picnic" in a parking lot at Buffalo University), we drove to Letchworth State Park.
It was so beautiful. It's a gorgeous state park tucked away in the middle of nowhere (we drove through many tiny little towns on our way there). John said it's known as the grand canyon of the east coast, and it's definitely impressive. Unfortunately, we could only spend a couple of hours there. We discovered a very cute little inn though, and we definitely want to go back someday. Future family reunion location, anyone?
Here's James stretching out after the long car ride:
Monday we decided to have a leisurely morning and breakfast at the hotel and then see as many sites in Palmyra as we could before Paul and I had to make it to the airport that evening.
First, we drove to the Smith farm and the Sacred Grove. It is truly beautiful there in the summer. I can only imagine how terribly cold it is in the winter, though. I'm glad we were there at the beginning of August!
They have a lovely visitor's center where the cute senior missionaries take people on tours of the Smith Farm. (I especially liked the man that gave us our tour because he gave us an under the table clue about where we could find my cousin who was serving her mission there...unfortunately we ended up missing her by about an hour.)
Here's the Smith family log cabin. This is the place where the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith to tell him about the Gold Plates. The church has worked hard and done a lot of research to restore the farm to its original state. (The log cabin wasn't even there anymore when the church first acquired the property.)
As you're walking from the log cabin to the frame house, you can see the Palmyra temple through the trees. They aren't allowed to cut down the trees, but they prune them back to allow a view straight from the temple to the Sacred Grove. It's amazing. The Palmyra temple is the only one in the world with a window that you can see out of (and in to) because President Hinckley wanted for people to be able to look out at the grove from inside the temple.
It's a very beautiful temple, and I feel very blessed that we were able to do a session there during our short visit.
Thanks again to Steven and Stephanie for watching James for us so that we could participate in the session! Here's a great picture of the Peterson boys on the temple grounds:
After our tour of the Smith farm, our guide left us to walk through the Sacred Grove on our own.
The grove is so peaceful and beautiful. There's a special spirit there, and you know you are walking on hallowed ground.
It looks just like all the paintings you see at Deseret Book! When it comes down to it, though, it didn't look a thing like this when Joseph went there to pray. It was the beginning of April and the trees had not yet bloomed.
We had a nice family testimony meeting before we left the grove. All the priesthood holders in the family spoke and bore testimony. We all sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" together, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling it brought. It's incredible to have walked in the very forest where our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to the 14 year old boy, Joseph and answered his humble prayer.
After we left the Sacred Grove, we drove to downtown Palmyra. There's a street corner there with four different churches (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist) on the same intersection. Those churches are a reminder of what life was like when Joseph Smith made the decision to ask God which church was true. It's amazing!
Also, across the street is the shop where the Book of Mormon was originally published, the Grandin Building. We had a very rushed tour full of amazing information and saw the room at the top where the printing press was. There are even original ink splatters on the walls.
After that we raced off to the Hill Cumorah and quickly drove to the top.
We were running quite late at this point, and so we jumped back into our cars and drove straight to the Rochester airport. We arrived at the airport 30 minutes before our flight was to take off and barely made it to check in our luggage, get through security, and walk onto the plane. Unfortunately, it was a tiny plane that didn't even have a bathroom, so I made the whole flight to Philadelphia having to go potty pretty bad. ;)
Phew! We made it! As you can tell, it was an amazing trip, and I'm so glad Paul and I made the last-minute (and reckless!) decision to go! Thanks to the Peterson family for planning the whole thing and feeding us along the way (and for paying all the tolls! goodness!), thanks to Uncle Jeff for getting us our own(!) hotel room and tickets to the Angels game, and thanks to Jonathan and Kristina for sharing their ugly rental car with us (and listening to me babble nonstop the whole time...someone's got to keep the driver awake, right?)! Wonderful times and wonderful memories. :)
Links to albums: Letchworth, and Palmyra.