Monday, June 27, 2011

Pioneer Trek


The pioneer youth trek of 2011 is now officially behind us! It was a great experience, and I am so glad I got the chance to go chaperon. We trekked about 20 miles, suffered only a few small injuries, saw a lot of blisters, and had no handcarts break down on us. Overall, I'd call that a great success.
Being a leader is always an interesting experience. We know the little things that went wrong behind the scenes. But it is always great and reassuring to poll the kids later to find out that none of them had a clue.
We thing that "went wrong" was that we walked faster than anticipated, and got into camp a few hours early one night. (This can barely be called a real problem.) So I got called into action to come up with a few ways to occupy and entertain the youth with no supplies, preparation, etc. (I secretly love operating on the fly.) I discovered I can still pull off completely off the cuff event planning. I really had fun pulling a joke on all the kids at one point. I share this so that other leaders who might be reading this can rip off my little idea.
After walking and pulling/pushing handcarts roughly 10 miles our legs, feet, and bodies in general were sore and achy. But alas, we have no chairs, just the sometimes wet, always buggy, nothing but dirt, grass, and rocks laden ground to sit on. So I gathered all the youth into a big circle around me, and told them how "back when the pioneers walked across the plains," that they didn't have chairs either. So when they got tired they would all stand in a circle, then sit in each other's laps, and this was called the "Pioneer Chair."
(I've intentionally made the below picture blurry so that you can't easily identify other people's children. But I think you can get the point.)

If you've ever been to a cheesy teamwork seminar, you've probably seen this before as the "trust chair" or "teamwork circle," etc. Words cannot express how greatly amused I was when a few kids later on asked me if the pioneers really did this!


The trail was muddy at times, dry at times, very uphill at times, and sometimes a little downhill. We were "attacked" by Indians along the way. And on the hardest hill (a 3/4ths mile uphill pull) "angels" (volunteers dressed in white) suddenly appeared in the woods and came down to help push/pull each cart up the hill. As soon as the carts were up the hill, the "angels" disappeared back into the woods.
One of the angels helping push
We also had a "women's pull" to "re-enact" (we actually really worked to not call our trek a re-enactment. We hesitated to call it that. But the English language fails me right now in finding the right word.) The men were called off to serve in the Mormon Battalion. (Which for you non-Mormons out there was when the US Government, that had just barely kicked the Mormons out of Missouri and Illionois, came asking for help. Over 500 men crossing the plains with their families, left the trek to go fight in the Mexican American War. The women and children were left behind to pull themselves across the plains.) The girls pulled their own carts without the boys for about an hour. My favorite quote was upon the boys' return, hearing one of the girls say, "I've never been so happy to see a boy in my life." The boys were greeted with the girls loudly singing, "I love my Mormon Boy!"

The women's pull
All in all, a great experience. I am very glad I didn't find out about the huge bear near our camp until after we had left. I am also very glad that the only snake we encountered was a tiny garter snake some of the kids played with. I'm a little sore (oh my gracious my calf muscles hurt), but incredibly grateful for not getting any blisters. (Thank you $90 Merrill hiking shoes!)

You can check out our great kids on the local Roanoke news- (the embedded video is spotty, so here's the link if you can't see the video - http://www.wdbj7.com/videobeta/7143a87d-9cae-4c4c-9303-f0ba32369e92/News/Several-dozen-children-from-local-Mormon-churches-take-a-spiritual-journey)

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