So yeah, I’ve been AWOL for awhile, and it’s because I’ve been getting ready for Trek. So, what is a Trek you ask?

Well, treks are kind of an interesting idea. Every four years, the youth in our church group put on bonnets, cowboy hats, pioneer outfits and hiking shoes to honor the pioneers of Utah and their sacrifices. Now how could hiking around Wyoming in the heat for three days possibly help us understand the sacrifices these pioneers made so we could live the way we do today?

Well, it turns out a lot. I just didn’t know it.

I love a good adventure, but Trek wasn’t just that—it was a chance to understand in some small way what the pioneers did for us. Instead of reading about it in a book or watching a movie with touching music, we got to experience some of the pain and hardship of the pioneers, and empathize in our own small way (very small way–we got blisters; they got their toes cut off). But we also got to better understand the friendships and camaraderie that these people must’ve formed during their treks—with their families, friends, and with God.

We left last Wednesday July 11th at five o’clock in the morning and drove to Wyoming for about five hours—a trip that I didn’t fully appreciate until AFTER the trek. A trip that the pioneers had to walk…and we got to drive it in half a day.

When we got to Martin’s Cove that day, we were assigned to families. A ma, a pa, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles. I got to be an aunt, which is perfect because I’m already an aunt to 40+ kids. It seemed like a fitting job. I know how to spoil kids and give them back to their parents. Some people in our new assigned ‘family’ we knew. Others were just faces…until now. Now we’re teammates, brothers and sisters—and most DEFINITELY friends.

We hiked seven miles that first day. Let’s just say it was the day that I didn’t fully appreciate the pioneers’ struggle like I should have because I was busy running after my young women group, forcing them to fill their water bottles and demanding they put on sunscreen. The biggest challenge that hit us was the famous Wyoming wind that threatened to tear our bonnets in half. We were reminded that this same wind was freezing when the Martin Handcart Company went through and that fifty-six plus people died there. It felt like sacred ground. The pioneers from the Martin Handcart Company stopped at this cove to wait out the terrible Wyoming storm and hoped that their rescuers would come to them in time–though many died while waiting. The pioneers had referred to the place as an overcrowded tomb. We were quiet as we hiked around the area to respect their sacrifice and their sorrows. To the side was the Sweetwater Creek where four eighteen year old boys (who were part of the rescue team) carried the weak pioneers across it and later suffered from overexposure (some death).

It was interesting to hear about the Martin Handcart Company’s trials, but I still couldn’t appreciate it fully until the next day when we walked 14 miles. Oh yeah. The leaders gave our ‘families’ our handcarts filled with supplies, water, food (the works), and we set out. Four of us at the front of the handcart pulling, and two in the back pushing then three in our new ‘family’ group walked behind. At first it was new and exciting, but then the handcart started to get heavy and it wasn’t as exciting anymore. The primary song, “Some must push and some must pull” became very real. My back and shoulders hurt and I realized that I should’ve done some strength training along with my hiking training to get ready for this trek. Too late!

And of course, the first thing that I had to do during the first mile of this trek was step into a gopher hole. I looked back to tease some poor kid and the next thing I knew I stepped down and it felt like quicksand had sucked up my leg. I was afraid I did some terrible damage, but besides a nasty bruise on my shin all was well. To me it was a reminder of how easily a healthy person could turn into a liability with such a simple accident.  We had great shoes, access to all the water we wanted, six people pulling our handcart (in contrast to the pioneers who probably only had two pulling), four doctors on our trek, and a way out if something went terribly wrong—I couldn’t imagine doing this without these backups…and yet these pioneers did.

And now I will leave you in suspense. Tomorrow, I will talk about a man in a bonnet.