Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trek 2011, Part 3

Part one of our trek can be found HERE.
Part two is HERE.

After making it to our last campsite, we quickly got to work finding a spot to camp at and got all of our stuff more or less situated so that we could get out and have some fun. They had all kinds of activities slated for us, and everyone was ready for a change from pushing and pushing and pushing a handcart.

We had to opportunity to make more butter, but this time in real churns. We also got to do some leather-tooling, archery, hatchet-tossing, and gun-firing. I tried my hand at archery and the leather-tooling. (As soon as we got home, Luna found our leather bracelets and chewed them to shreds.) There was also this ropes course that they'd titled "Pioneer Warrior Ninja" and whoever could get across it without touching the ground was awarded with a few buttons and the title of being a Pioneer Warrior Ninja.
Brother Traveller completing the course
Buttons had been given to all of the kids here and there on the trail. They were our way of getting things at the trade stations. We had one on the first day to get all of our necessities and not much else. I think we had enough extra to buy some hard tack candy to share with our group and that was it. Well, on our last night everything was discounted and buttons were flowing freely at the Trading Post, and all the kids ended up getting filled and fueled by sugar. Neither Jon nor I thought that was a good idea. Why didn't we have them all hopped up on sugar during the physically grueling portions of trek? Instead all the kids were drugged up on sugar the last night when there wasn't really much to wear them down on. It was quite the sight to see.

Where you can get all of your sugar needs met.
They did have a big square dance, and that helped a little. I think almost everyone danced a little, including Jon and I. I wish we'd taken more pictures that last night, but we were all so exhausted. . . so you'll just have to imagine us all in our pioneer garb dancing around. It was fun. Then it was time for dinner. Not so surprisingly, the food didn't go terribly fast. Jon got to grab us a plate full of seconds. Thank you very much, kids who ate too many Twizzlers, popsicles, lolipops, taffy, and peppermints. Dinner on our last night was actually really good. I was so grateful. They even gave us each a scone for dessert and they were delicious.

It being our last night together, we decided it was a great evening for a family meeting. We shared a little about our favorite/hardest moments on trek. I also had everyone pass around their notebooks to everyone else and each person wrote at least one nice thing about every one else in our family. I could tell it was a tough thing for some of the kids, but I was so happy to see how much everyone looked forward to seeing what was written about them. Jon and I got some very sweet notes thanking us for our hard work, our happy attitudes, and a bunch of other sweet stuff. And then we each shared our testimonies. I prefaced this with telling them that no matter where we stand at that day, Heavenly Father is happy with each of us for being there and for wanting to come closer to Him. I was amazed at how much everyone opened up.

Before that meeting, I was already feeling like as spastic and crazy as our little pioneer family was, we were meant to be together. After that meeting, I knew that we were meant for one another. I learned a lot from all of a sudden having to share the responsibility of watching over six teenagers with Jon. As I heard them share their thoughts and their testimonies, I was in awe of each of these children. They came from such different places, they each had different reasons for being there, and they each were coming away with something personal and precious from Trek. I was proud of each them by that point, but after hearing more details of their lives, I was that much more impressed with them as people.

Once we wrapped things up, we realized just how spent we were. It had been a full, emotional, physical, spiritual day and we were done. Everyone in our family fell fast asleep, even though some people around us chose to try to stay up as long as possible. With my earplugs in, I was out as soon as I got warmed up in my sleeping bag.

The next morning we quickly packed our things up, ate a quick breakfast/snack, and put all of our things in piles with our home wards. Tristen found a pile of ladybugs.

This is what happens when Tristen finds ladybugs:

You might have to click on the above photo to fully see what's going on, seeing as the ladybugs blend into his shirt, but he was crawling with those little spotted insects.

We then hiked the last part of our trek without our handcarts, but still as families. We were walking to our last devotional spot. On our hike out, each of our babies were taken away from us, symbolic of the babies and children that didn't make it across the plains, some from exposure, some from illness...

And then we made it --

We held our last devotional at the edge of the Grand Canyon. What an amazing view. It was a wonderful backdrop to look out on as we contemplated the lives of the early saints and heard a few concluding messages. Near the end of the devotional, Brother Traveller wrapped a white shawl around himself--it was a signal to those of us that he'd asked earlier to do the same. So I got up and quietly wrapped a white piece of cloth around my shoulders and followed Brother Traveller and others in white as we silently walked off. We went off to a small clearing where we were told that we represented the percentage of pioneers that would never make it to their destination. Then we were each given back our babies and were told that when we saw our families, we'd get to be reunited with them, as one day we all will get to in heaven. We waited for the others to finish their devotional and then waited as little by little, each of us in white shawls got to go back to our families. We then told them what each of us in white represented. Two of our little family of eight had walked off in white. Parker kept disappearing on us throughout the trek, so no one really missed him, they said. They did notice my absence, however, and said that they were glad that I came back to them with our baby in tow. Chrissy, when you read this, I think you might get a kick out this-- we named our baby Phoebe. :)

Then it was time for goodbyes. Tristen's family was waiting for him with the family dog at the bottom of the hill. He yelled hi to his folks but hugged the dog first. We all said hello to them and told them how we enjoyed having Tristen on trek. And then we each quickly hugged and said goodbye to the rest of our family members-- most had to find their wards, Kourtnee had to find her dad and help him out, and then that was that. We were back to just being Jon and Janel, part of the CC2 ward. We met up with our ward members and then met back up at the mouth of the Grand Canyon.

And blessed Shauna Vanderheyden brought pie! Coconut and chocolate. I had the chocolate, of course. While there was a lot of sugar flowing the night before, I hadn't had any chocolate in days!

And that was the end of Trek 2011. When people ask if it was fun, I usually answer that it was quite the experience. Fun doesn't cover the range of things that we experienced on trek. Fun doesn't do it justice. Trek was work--it was exhausting, it was challenging, it was different from everyday life. Trek was spiritually uplifting and inspirational. Trek taught us things about ourselves and others. It was like nothing I had ever done before. And yes, even though I can say that it was hard, harder than I had fully anticipated, I would do it again.

I am so glad that I had the trek experience. It was so humbling to do such a small portion of the original pioneers' trek and yet feel so tired every night we went to bed. I loved feeling connected to those early pioneers by physically emulating what they did, how they slept, and what they ate. I am also really grateful that we didn't have to experience those things along with huge snow drifts, actual deaths, or real mobs. So while I realize that ours was just a weak imitation of what really happened for the handcart pioneers, it still taught me so much and made me that much more appreciative for those that have gone on before us.

*I thought that I'd also add that the weekend after we got back, a few of the kids from our ward and Sandy spoke about their trek experience. The following week, there was more talks about pioneers. And then the last weekend of July, Jon and I got to speak about trek with a few more youth from our ward. Our assignment was to speak about the pioneer/s that we walked for. I spoke not only about Mary Hadley, but also my grandmother. I hope that both of them are happy with my effort. There are so many wonderful pioneer stories out there. I realized that my grandmother was a true pioneer in her family, even if she wasn't of the handcart variety. I think anyone could easily find inspiring stories from their family heritage if they only look.

I'm a huge family of family history and genealogy, can you tell?

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