Thursday, June 5, 2014

Our favorite pioneer trek resources

Are you going on a church pioneer trek this year?  Or do you want to arrange one for your family?  Here are a few resources to make your experience even better. 

Feel free to leave a comment at the end to share resources you like. 

1. Watch some movies to get to know the stories and people

These three movies are about the most famous pioneers -- the Martin and Willey handcart companies. Both of these groups left too late in the season, got caught in an early winter blizzard, and didn't have enough clothes or food. These movies show the amazing miracles, great faith, sacrifice, and character of these wonderful people. 

2. Read some books about pioneers

I highly recommend you choose a pioneer in whose honor you can trek. If you have an ancestor in either the Martin or Willey handcart companies, or the wagon companies that accompanied them, or the rescuers, you will love this book!  Jolene has gathered hundreds of short biographies of these wonderful people into one amazing volume. She did a fireside for one of our stake treks, and I love hearing her speak. 

book by Lee Groberg and Heidi SwintonThis book tells the story of the two handcart companies who got caught in early snow and ran out of food in 1856. The beautiful paintings that accompany the sweet stories make this book a treasure. I love it, and I usually cry every time I read a story in it.

3. Listen to some fun and inspiring music about the pioneers

Trek: A Nashville Tribute to the Pioneers CD. Just try to listen to the first song on this CD without tapping your foot and getting excited to go on your own trek. 

Trail of Dreams CD. This is the soundtrack to my favorite musical of all time, even compared with seeing Les Mis live. Marvin Payne and others wrote and performed this starting in 1997 in honor of the 150th anniversary of pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. We saw the musical quite a few times, even though we were poor college students and young parents, bringing different people with us to share this special message. I was deeply touched by the spirit of it each time. My favorite songs include Ordinary People, A Box for Her Dreams, Rocky Ridge, and I'll Love Whatever's Left of You, which is sung by Jens and Else Nelson. When you listen to that song you'll likely fall in love with that adorable and amazing couple, just as Mike and I did. This album won a Pearl Award for "Best Soundtrack of the Year."  

4. Don't stress or spend too much on pioneer clothes

Before you spend a lot of money purchasing, or time sewing, new pioneer clothes, here are the steps I would recommend first: 

  • First, put the word out to family and friends that you're doing a trek and see if anyone is willing to loan you their pioneer clothes. I save mine in one of our trek buckets, and I'd be happy to loan them to others who can use them. You easily put the word out by Facebook or email.
  • Second, browse a few thrift stores. Both of my pioneer shirts and skirts came from the Deseret Industries years ago. They work great. For women's bloomers, DI cotton pajama pants cut off at the knee are my favorite option.
  • One family on our recent family trek found yards of fabric at the DI for a great deal and made simple dresses from those. 
  • Third, if you don't have time sew and can't find pioneer clothes elsewhere, Deseret Book sells aprons, bonnets, skirts, shirts, bloomers, and so on. They also ship to anywhere in the country.

These are some of my favorite pioneer paintings, just a taste of what you find in the Sweetwater Rescue book above. 

This painting depicts a young man rescuing a girl by carrying her over the Sweetwater River. Several of these young rescuers from the Salt Lake Valley sacrificed their lives that day, as they died from carrying so many across the icy water. They are my heroes. They are like the Savior, giving their lives for others. 

  When rescuers finally reached the Willey handcart company in a blizzard, the rescuers needed to get them over the highest peak of the entire trek - Rocky Ridge, because the wagons of food were waiting for them at Rock Creek Hollow. This touching depicts a mother's strength in getting her family over Rocky Ridge to save their lives.

My 12-year-old son trekked in honor of this heroic boy, 11-year-old James Kirkwood, who was given the assignment to make sure his 4-year-old brother, Joseph, made it over Rocky Ridge.  James carried Joseph much of the night through a blizzard in starving conditions. When he reached the camp, James collapsed from the labor--and died. James is another hero -- giving his life for his brother.

One last thought

Pioneer treks are supposed to give you a taste of what the pioneers went through. I believe it's part of God's plan when something gets forgotten and you must improvise or borrow. When you struggle with hot or cold or wet weather or blisters. When a child gets lost for a moment. When you feel like whining and complaining but you hold it in. All these experiences soften our hearts and help us connect with God, our families, and the youth we're serving. They help us count our many blessings, often the ones we miss the most like flushing toilets and hot showers. They help us bond with and appreciate the pioneers who were much tougher for months that we have to be for a few days. They help us see we can indeed do hard things, and that angels will help us. They help us realize that so many of the challenges we complain about aren't really that big of a deal after all. They help to change our hearts. 

The first rescue happened when Brigham Young sent rescuers with food and clothing to save the lives of the Martin and Willey handcart companies, who were stranded in the snow in starving and freezing conditions. 

The second rescue happened about 12 years ago when the stake in Wyoming close to Rock Creek Hollow realized there were many pioneers who had died along the trail without their temple work being done. They felt an urgency to do the genealogy and temple work for them, which was an amazing experienced, for which their stake was richly blessed in virtually every way. Here is a short article about it.

The third rescue is happening today when young people go on pioneer treks, have their hearts softened, feel the Spirit, bond with the pioneers and their experiences, and have a conversion experience. 

I just love trek. Don't you? 


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Becky Edwards said...

Thank you for your kind comment!