Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our multi-family pioneer trek...what a spiritual treat

 Our family just did a multi-family trek. We loved it.

Because I'm including pictures of other trek families too, this post is long. I'll share my biggest take-aways at the end. 

The Edwards family trekking in the wind. We were south of Utah Lake where it was really flat and at times very windy. For those who have done treks in Wyoming, it's a pretty good landscape replica, right?  

Your water bottle becomes a best friend on a trek. 

Here is our trek "family," which included two families and an adopted young man.  We combined our names in a family cheer "Edcansons!"  (Edwards, Duncans, Jensens.) Adopting a young person for the trek was what many real pioneer families did, like Bodil Mortensen being adopted by Jens and Else Nelsen of the Willie Handcart Company. 

Me and Mike in our nice clean "before" outfits. 

Little children made this trek unique and special. 

Even though this was my sixth trek, it was my first one with entire families. I loved it. Look at these adorable little ones in their pioneer clothes. They melted my heart. Grace is holding the youngest member of our trek, whose name Joy matched our theme of "Joy in the Journey."

My two men enjoying cute little Joy. 

Three handsome pioneer boys. Mine is on the left. 

One thing that was challenging about bringing whole families on a trek was figuring out what to do with the little ones for the long walks. Sometimes they could walk for a while but they petered out pretty soon. So many families cleared a place on their wagon for little ones to ride. This is another thing that made me connect with the pioneers in an authentic experience of bringing young ones across the plains. 

I loved watching little children having real fun with games and sticks, rather than needing video games and iPods to have virtual fun. So sweet.

And of course their were lots of awesome youth there too! 

Grace with her goofy friends. These boys were great at offering to help others all along the trail. 

A highlight was our square dance.

This is my boy (in the middle, dancing) doing the Virginia Reel. He's quite the dancer, and he misses dancing in his Showstoppers performance group. He loved learning how to square dance!  

Here's what Mike said when I persuaded him to come to a pre-trek square dance practice: "They don't do this kind of thing on the planet I came from."  Because he loves me so much he finally tried it, and after a while started smiling and saying, "Yes, I did it." By the end, he was laughing and saying, "This is actually fun!"  Score! 

Tova played her violin for one of our square dances while the Sister missionary called out the dance steps. 

Colt and Priscilla are gifted dancers. Now that trek is over, they are hosting a large weekly ballroom dance instruction. Fun! 

Me and my new friend Sariah ready to square dance with the men across the isle. 

Life on the trail and in camp

The LDS trek missionaries met us several times on the trail to share pioneer stories and help us get the spirit of the trek. This trail was arranged in a cool way, by naming some of our stops the same names as sites along the real pioneer trail like Bessemer Bend, Chimney Rock, and Echo Canyon. 

When you're out in the wilderness, you get almost giddy to see these blue port-a-potty units. I wish I could go back in time and give some of these to the pioneers! 

Each family created a trek flag ahead of time. This one belonged to the Wolf family. 

My three boys. I wish my fourth boy could have come, but Adam was at Elevation a leadership camp through Williamsburg Academy. I also wish my fifth boy could have come, but Austin and Malia are busy being parent to little Zia and he's working hard to push her through her last year of college at UVU. 

My big man carrying my little man. How I love them both. 

Our handsome little man.

Our other handsome little man. Wow, look at that massive tumble weed!

Isn't this sweet? We loved camping and trekking next to the Wolsey family. 

This little scene touched my heart. Seeing three mothers visiting at the campground was a scene repeated many times at the real pioneer camps along the trail. When you trek with people you grow a special bond. 

This was our lunch stop on the middle day (day two of three). My heel was experiencing some plantar fascitis, so our doTerra Deep Blue rub was a prized possession. 

We enjoyed gatherings with singing, prayers, spiritual thoughts, skits,  testimonies, and gratitude cards.

Spirit of Service and Consecration
This picture embodies the spirit of our trek. This is my dear friend Stacy who nurtured her little friend who wasn't her own daughter, but who kept coming to find her when we had breaks. I love this sweet little girl. This is what happened all through the trek. People helped and nurtured everyone, in or out of their family. 

This picture also embodies the spirit of our trek. One girl was cold so the other warmed her up. Sweet. 

Our son has a gift with little children. This cute little girl loved having Gabe throw M&Ms from the trail mix into her mouth. 

This picture personifies a mother's life on the trail. My sweet friend Tammy missed the square dance because her little toddler fell asleep on her lap. She has a huge heart ready to serve others. Tammy blogged about all the essential oils she had brought on trek and all the different people she was able to help with them. 

Why does food always taste so yummy when you're camping? Here's a touching little story about our camping stove. We accidentally left ours home. So after square dancing, Mike asked the missionaries if they'd drive him to our van and he could go buy a stove at Walmart in Saratoga Springs. He planned on just walking back from the van and arriving at midnight or so. But the missionary waited up for him, watching out the window. As soon as Mike pulled up in the parking lot, the missionary pulled up in his truck to give Mike a ride back. This spirit of service touched my heart. Opportunities for service often don't happen at convenient times. But we do it anyway. 

We played some fun pioneer games.
My two men figuring out the stilts.

The teenagers couldn't get enough of the tug of wars. I stopped after my first time because my hands started getting blisters. I couldn't believe how long these youth lasted. 

Proud boys after winning a round of tug of war.

Tug of war "after" photo. These kids have diligence! 

Some of the fun families on our trek. I wish I had pictures of all the families. 

Angie and Jeff are the awesome couple who volunteered to put on a trek, even though they'd never experienced one before. I was super impressed with that! They did an amazing job!  They even went the extra mile and put on a couple pre-trek square dance practices. We had about 140 people on the trek and it went amazingly well. Thanks Angie and Jeff! 

We love the Biesinger family! This family reenacted what it would be like to have a parent be injured and need to ride in the cart. Their dad took the first turn and the mom took the next. I loved seeing three little ones all snuggled up around their parent. 

Genevieve and I shared a spiritual moment the first day reading the story of her ancestor together. Two hero pioneer young women who lost both parents and still trekked across the plains. I shared my story in a devotional, that our grandma Mary Ann Mellor was the "pie miracle" in the movie 17 Miracles. 

We love the Williams family. I want to share a miracle story. One of their boys was sitting by some coals during our testimony meeting. Suddenly my friend Stacy, sitting on one side of me, noticed the back of his pant leg had glowing spots on it. She darted up faster than any sprinter I've ever seen to get his leg into the dirt. A man on the other side of me, Michael, darted up and threw dirt on his leg. The poor boy looked at them and said, "What?" He couldn't figure out why they were treating him so roughly. It wasn't until afterward that someone told him his pants were on fire!  The miracle was that he had thick, long socks pulled up to his knees. The fire went through his pants and a little into the socks, but no fire got to his skin. Wow. 

We loved trekking next to the Youngberg family. Their spur-of-the-moment family skit about conserving water by spitting their tooth-brushing water into their neighbor's ear and then the neighbor reusing it was the best! 

Each family shared their unique family cheer. 









Edwards (Actually "Ed-cun-sons")





 Youngbergs (sorry this one is blurry)


Three of our young men work at scout camps and have some pretty cool Indian costumes. 

They came in disguise to barter with the pioneer children. Some got a cool animal fur or moccasins from them.

River crossing

This was the most spiritual river crossing I've ever experienced. I've never been on a trek where the missionaries encouraged the women and girls to allow themselves to be rescued by the men and boys. Very touching. 

My three men pulling and pushing our handcart across the river. You can barely see my little man's head on the back right. Some nice boy is helping in the back middle. This kind of thing happened a lot on the trek. People helping others, even if they didn't know each other very well. Cool.  Grace is being rescued by a Kel, who walked across over and over rescuing countless women, girls, and children. His parents are next to him. We love that wonderful family. 

As soon as Mike started carrying me over the water I started to weep. It was a very spiritual moment for me. I love and honor the young men who rescued the Martin handcart pioneers on their last river crossing across water that had large chunks of ice in it. Several of them gave their lives as they died from the exposure of that day. But they walked across over and over so those dear pioneers wouldn't have to after all they had suffered, being stuck in a blizzard with little clothing or food. I love those rescuers. And I loved being rescued by my husband, the love of my life. I know he would have been a rescuer too. He's just that kind of man. 

 My boy is on the right. I love the concentration on these boys' faces. It touches my heart. 

 Mike carrying two adorable boys across. 

Mike carrying Grace across. She got carried by another young man, but Mike asked her to go back so he could have the experience of rescuing his own daughter. Because he's that kind of awesome dad. 

The women's pull 

(I don't have any pictures of the women's pull as my camera battery died the second night of trek. If anyone has some, please email them to me!) 

This is one of my favorite pioneer paintings. It's called Early Snow by Glen Hawkins.  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.

The women's pull is meant to simulate what it would be like for women and girls to have to do such these hard things without their beloved men in their lives. There were several reasons that women and girls sometimes had to trek without a husband or father. Sometimes when food became scarce, like in the Willey and Martin companies' dire situation, fathers would give their rations to their families. Sometimes they wore themselves out serving others like digging graves or carrying others across an icy river. Some men got called on missions. Some got called to fight in the Mexican war.

The women's pull was a spiritual experience. Usually the women's pull is placed at a really steep hill. Because we didn't have any, the trek missionaries created a second-best scenario. They found a slight hill and tilled the ground, bringing in extra sand to make it tough to pull the carts through. Then they made it a half mile long. Again I loved the spirit of service we saw and felt here. I had a girl who spontaneously came back to help push my cart whom I had never met before this trek. Loved it. Before the women's pull one woman shared the story of the her ancestor, the author of "As Sisters in Zion" and then we sang it together. I was a bunch of tears before we even started the women's pull! 

My two take-aways from the women's pull

1) Mike wasn't going to be able to come to the trek because a jury trial got scheduled for those days. I felt devastated. I still wanted to go, but I love being with my husband and I love feeling his strength and confidence in all things outdoors, mechanical, medical, etc. Then the trial got canceled and Mike could come after all!  This was on my mind throughout the trek, how grateful I was to have Mike there with me. As I came to the end of the women's pull, I had been thinking (while grunting, sweating, and panting) about how grateful I am that God invented families, and that Mike is mine forever. I never want to trek through life without him. When I finally spotted him, I lost it. I just wept. I was overcome with gratitude for my man, for my family, and that God helped us be a family together forever. I love Mike's strength and steadiness. I gained a deeper testimony and love that it's God's plan for us to trek through life as families.

2) Angels are real. President Kimball said that God often answers our prayers by sending help through other people. On a pioneer trek experience, sometimes you can feel angels on both sides of the veil helping push your cart. It's pretty special. Mortal and immortal angels are real. I think we all had some of both kinds of angels helping us push our carts that day. I told the youth afterward to remember that feeling of "I don't know if I can do this." And then how awesome they felt after they received God's help to do something they didn't think they could do. That scenario will likely play out many times in their lives, and they'll need to remember that with God's help, we can do hard things. 

" I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Pilippians 4:13).

My son took this picture on our trek. Beautiful. 

My biggest take-away from this trek

I wrote this in a thank-you email after the trek: 

One thing that touched my heart was the spirit of consecration our group has. We haven't been commanded to fully live the law of consecration yet, but after living three days with all of you, and seeing how everyone lived with a spirit of consecration, so eager and happy to help each other, I would be honored to trek across the plains to Missouri with you!  This experience gave me more confidence that when things get harder in the last days, if we need to trek somewhere, it will be okay because of people like you. What a great blessing to know such wonderful souls. 

In case you're wondering who we are...

The Vanguard homeschool group is so amazing that it's been duplicated a handful of times, and I'm sure it will be more in the years to come. Our trek was a combination of all five Vanguard groups - three in Davis County, one in Provo, and one in Box Elder County. Mary Beisinger is the original founder of Vanguard, and we all love her and her vision of creating an LDS-based, principle-based way of learning so many wonderful things to prepare our youth for their unique life missions. Thank you Mary! 

Go here to read poems that two of our young women wrote about their trek experience. 

Go here to see our family's favorite movies, music, books, paintings to help you love pioneers and treks. 


Marni Hall said...

Thank you for sharing that! Touched my heart in many ways.

Mike Balderree said...

Wow, it looks like you had an amazing trek. Thank you for sharing!

Stevie said...

Very touching! Thank you for sharing :)