Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Adventures in Trekking

The first hard hard thing about Trek was having to put together pioneer clothing for Jon and I to wear. We managed a good balance of bought and sewn items, I think. I made Jon's vest, altered a couple of thrifted shirts, and sewed myself a bonnet and apron. We purchased a pair of linen pants for Jon, got him a clearance hat, and bought my skirt and one of my shirts. While in a lot of ways they really wanted our pioneer experience to be as close to authentic as possible, they also asked that we wear good hiking shoes and apply plenty of sunscreen. And sunglasses. That kind of thing.

The next hard part of trek was meeting up with everyone at 5:30AM. We then proceeded to wait until everyone showed up, then we got together with our wards, and we had a big devotional. We didn't actually leave for our trek site until just after 7AM. Oh the time I could have spent sleeping! Ah well. . .

Here we are ready to ship off.
The boys all fit in one car, and Sandy took half of our girls while Jon and I got the rest. We then left "Liverpool, London" for our "ship voyage" to the east, where we'd get our handcarts. In all actuality, we got in our cars and drove a couple of hours to the Kaibab Plateau.

Sandy couldn't get over us in our pioneer garb and the following was her idea: 

Jon was the lone man in this photo.
When our bishop saw this photo, he asked if we were all getting ready to head out to Wal-mart. (My local friends will appreciate that.)

When we got there, we had to get one shot of all of our ward's youth before we all got split up into families for the next two and a  half days. 

We've arrived!

And then each of us ma and pa couples were given the children that would be our family for the trek. We ended up with six kids, while everyone else had eight or nine. We had two that didn't make it last second that were on our list. Apparently our family assignments were something that the people in charge had prayed over extensively. The family we had was the one we were meant to have, so they left our number smaller than everyone else's.

Check out the handcarts all lined up. These things carried all of our possessions for the length of our trek.

Here we are lined up and waiting to take off. Well, you can only see me clearly, because Jon cut out most people's faces in this shot, but you get the idea.

Kourtnee and Mackenzie are in the top right of the frame.

Jon and I went from being newly weds to being the parents of two girls and four boys that day. It was quite the ride, and more than we planned on in a lot of ways, but it was a good experience. Our kids were: Parker, Sam, Zak, Tristen, Mackenzie, and Kourtnee. Besides having our six children we were also given a baby. Well, a baby doll-- symbolic of the babies born on or carried across the plains. We had to watch over the physical welfare of the baby, and not allow her to ride on or touch the cart.

This was Tristen's way of following those rules--
Baby Phoebe wrapped onto his arm.

Something else about Trek was that we all got to walk for another person. We were each given a pioneer name to walk in memory of-- and if we had a personal name, we could add that to the list. So I walked for Mary Haydock as well as my grandma Janina Miecznikowska Rospierska. She was a pioneer in a lot of ways-- she left behind her family and the life she knew in the country to start a new life for herself in the city, where she met and married my grandpa and eventually had a daughter who would grow up and move to America (my mom!). It was neat to walk for an actual pioneer and to have their story given to us, but it still felt more real for me thinking of my grandma as I trekked.

Me wearing my name tag. Mackenzie is in the purple.
The first day was the longest length and time wise. We got up so very early and then had to wait first to get to our trek site, then to get our families, then to get our handcarts and our gear. . . and then we had to pull our handcart eight miles. We started off on a dirt road but eventually we had to take a detour down a steep hill on account of Indians or something. We got each of the handcarts down one by one, each family helping another until all of the handcarts and families were accounted for.

See Jon helping, and me trying to while hitching up my skirts?
At the bottom of that hill we had to pull our carts through thick trees and tall grass. It was my favorite part because it seemed the most authentic to me. Those poor pioneers didn't have roads cut for them. The other reason I loved that section was because the grass dampened the sound of the handcart wheels. When traveling on the dirt roads across rocks and gravel those handcarts got loud. Which meant I had to talk loud, and I'm not a loud-talker, so that was hard for me.

A little while after the hill we came across a small "settlement" where we were given a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and honey to make sandwiches, and apples for everyone in our family. I'd just sat down and started working on making lunch when all of a sudden a mob appeared. Like the Mormon pioneers, we were run out of town. Tristen had just finished putting together his honey sandwich and was putting it to his lips when a mobster snatched it right out of his hands. It was funny only because we still had enough bread to make more sandwiches. We were tired and so very hungry by then. Besides the food we'd brought to snack on in the car, we hadn't eaten since 5:30AM and it was after 2PM by then. And sandwiches and apples were all we were given. Oh, that and a quart of cream in a mason jar that we had to shake for the next few hours so that we'd have butter for dinner.

Post-mob quick break/babysitting.
About a mile from where we were supposed to camp the first night, we had a couple of leaders say that they found a short cut and they decided we should take it. So we walked half a mile only to discover that the supposed short cut didn't actually lead to camp. They had made a mistake. Only it was on purpose, because they had a lesson prepared to share with us about Levi Savage and how he had wanted to winter in one place, but his leaders wanted to continue to journey across the plains, so he made the decision to go with his group, no matter the consequences. The lesson was something about how sometimes men can lead us astray, even when they have the best of intentions, but if we follow Heavenly Father we'll never be lead down a wrong path. And so from there we had to go back the half mile that we'd traveled incorrectly to then walk another mile to our camp.

Brother Traveller was the guy who had been in charge of organizing the Ma's and Pa's for months before trek and he said that he'd tried to talk them out of actually taking us down the wrong rode. He thought that just hearing the story would have been enough. I have to say that at the end of a day of hiking, I have to agree with Brother Traveller's assessment. A few girls had breakdowns when they heard that they'd have further to go than they were expecting. Not any of the girls in our family, though.

Brother Traveller felt so bad for us that he helped us pull our cart for a while near the end of the day:
He was super excited to pull the cart.
That night we pulled into camp and had to quickly set up our camping area and then grab dinner, family by family. We were given beef stew in sourdough bread bowls. I usually love bread bowls, but this was really sour sourdough and the beef in the stew was super chewy. I ate it all anyway. I just pretended to be a pioneer and was grateful to get more than gruel. What's more, we had pound cake smothered in strawberries for dessert. It made up for a chewy sour dinner. Mostly. 

We had another devotional and then we got to go to bed. We had a small tent we put up for the sole purpose of changing in, and we all quickly got into our jammies and brushed our teeth. My face wipes were really popular with all of our kids. Then we said a family prayer and all snuggled down into our sleeping bags under the stars. I put in my earplugs and was drifting off to sleep when I could feel Jon giggling next to me. I took an ear plug out and asked him what was going on. 

Jon: You didn't hear that?
Me: No, what?
Jon: That bugling? 
Me: What?
Jon: Someone was playing a bugle, you didn't hear that?
Me: No. Was it funny?
Jon: Well, no, but then someone yelled out, "That's not a very pioneer thing to do!" 

But finally everyone had their sillies work out of their systems and we got to sleep. I woke up a few times in the middle of the night, once with my head freezing, and once when I was sure someone was standing over me with a flashlight. Even when I was totally awake and I turned my head to better see, I could have sworn that's what it was. Turns out the moon was just really bright. And in the morning? We all woke up dew-covered and cold. It was hard to motivate ourselves to leave the relative comfort of our sleeping bags, but managed to get back into pioneer garb and then it was time to face another pioneer day. 

Part two of Trek  2011 to come next. 


  1. sounds like a cool experience! not sure if i'd be up for it, but still neat. how did you end up going, do they just select random people in wards to go?

  2. It was quite the eventful experience. I think it would have been harder making the decision to go if we'd known everything we were facing ahead of time, but I think that's how it is with a lot of hard things in life. We got picked as a couple from our ward. They wanted representatives from each ward, and couples were picked as Ma's and Pa's, and Bishops could go as extra help, as could youth leaders. So it was a short-term calling, I guess you could say.