Pioneer trek. So many things to share. So many reasons why youth should experience this event. Wednesday morning, June 26, Grayson was on his way at 8:00 am to meet his new ma & pa and trek family he'd be spending the next 4 days with. A little anxious and not that excited...
Ma & Pa Dalley eagerly welcomed their 11 children...
Three companies made up of 23 families boarded 6 buses and headed up toward Evanston to Deseret Land & Livestock Ranch to begin their pioneer trek.
John & I were able to be part of the trek support staff so the next time we saw Grayson he had a smile on his face, loved his ma & pa and was having a great time with his new family.
I was in charge of the trek choir and all the music...
John was in charge of filling the water buffalos daily at the well, making sure he had porta potties and water for the stops on the trail and setting up camp for the support staff each day.
...or is this what he was really doing?!
John & I would see Grayson each day and he was always happy.
He also experienced his first slow dance at the hoe-down!
The toughest activity each family had to experience was the women's pull. The story was told of Jens & Elsie Neilson, members of the Willie handcart company. After their 6-year-old son and a young girl traveling with them perished in the Wyoming blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, Jens' feet were both frozen and he was unable to walk another step and told Elsie to leave him and go ahead and save herself. Elsie told Jens to get in the handcart and she would pull the cart as she would not leave him. The trek families were then told to hike up the hill and leave their ma alone to pull their pa in the handcart with all their gear. It was amazingly touching to see these men with tears running down their faces as their wives tried to pull the cart all by themselves. One pa kept trying to reach down and help turn the wheel. After a bit of a struggle, the daughters were told they could help. Again, tears were shed as these girls ran as fast as they could to their carts to help their ma. Finally, as the mothers and daughters were almost spent, the young men were allowed to go and help finish the last part of the hill with their families. One of the most touching things I've seen and everyone there was moved.
The Pony Express riders (complete with coconut sound effects) arrived on day 3 with welcome letters from home for each of the youth.
The final activity before heading out to trek the last 5 miles back to the busses was being "called home." The trek master gathered everyone together and called out the names of those who had "died" and were being called home. There was one name called from each family as well as a whole family but one that were called. You could hear the gasps as that single girl was left alone and the rest of her family walked away. As the companies were then told to get their handcarts and start on the trail, this young girl was flooded with help from all the other families to help her with her cart and to pull. About a half mile down the trail, those who had been "called home" were standing at various points along the side of the trail in white. The companies were silent as they walked by them and my walking buddy Misty and I were gasping as we held back the sobs. It was probably even harder for her because her son was one of the boys called home and she saw him on the side of us as we walked by. This was the most impactful spiritual experience of the whole trek for me and as I listened to the testimonies and comments from others, I am sure all 250+ people in attendance were touched multiple times by the activities and experiences we shared.
I don't like to camp and I don't like getting dusty and dirty and not being able to shower daily, but the trek experience is a meaningful, everlasting opportunity for anyone willing to go.