2012 Logandale Stake Youth Conference | Pioneer Trek


While the blisters have healed and the toenails have started regrowing the change in my heart is something I hope that never goes away. I knew going into this that it would be hard....really hard, but what I didn't expect was that it would change how I look at life.

So for those of you who are like what the heck is she talking about. Each year the youth of our church 14 and older in our area participate in a conference over the weekend, usually there is some service project and a dance as well as special speakers but this year we had the opportunity to participate in a mock pioneer trek. The Moapa Valley was originally settled by LDS saints and the original settlement was covered with water when Hoover Dam was built but with the water being so low at the lake the town of St. Thomas is now out of water. There was set to be a big day celebrating this pioneer heritage with melodramas and activities and descendants of the original settlers telling the stories of their ancestors. Our youth leaders thought that this would be a great opportunity to hold this mock trek to simulate what some of the pioneers in the early church went through. My dear father in law suggested my and my husbands names to be a "ma and pa" of one of the handcart companies. The trek would consist of 20 miles pulling a handcart (in full pioneer garb) down into St. Thomas and then back a little ways. Not to mention sleeping outside in the really cold weather.


I knew it would be hard, given 1. the fact that I am so unbelievably out of shape and 2. there is this extra 30 lbs I am carrying around. So as ill prepared physically as one could be I showed up on friday with butterflies in my stomach worried about how this was going to work. We were assigned a company. There were 3 companies and we were the 3rd. My wonderful husband was asked to be a captain of our company which meant the he was in charge of 10 handcart families, roughly 100-125 people. Each handcart was assigned a Family name that was an original pioneer of that time. We were the Chadburn family and we had 10 great kids assigned to be in our family.

"Our Family"
I am not kidding when I say great, they were so wonderful. We also had 2 "aunts" and 2 "uncles" that joined our family so we had lots of support to help pull our handcart. Brett who is now 14 and old enough got to come on the trek but refused to be separated from us so he was in our family. I did manage to get a few shots of us all dressed up before we left. Terry was really going for the rough back woods county boy, but he's not foolin anybody.
We left the chapel with our handcart in tow at around 4:00pm on Friday. We pulled the carts about 11 miles the first day. We stopped along the way and watched different scenes from pioneer stories. Just as the sun was setting we reached the place where we had a Women's Pull. The men left us girls and hiked to the top of the hill where the watched us pull our carts up the steepest hill in all of the Moapa Valley!

This photo does not really show how steep the hill was but let me tell you it was sooooo steep!


When some of the pioneers crossed the plains there was times when the men had to go off to war or other things so there was just the women so we simulated that by finding the steepest hill in this gosh dern valley and women only pulled that dang cart up ip while the men stood by and watched. Before we began the stake young womens president talked to us a little about how there may be times in our lives when we wont have a man there help us do hard things but we are capable of doing hard things. This hard thing in particular was the single most physically challenging thing I have ever done and that's including giving birth. I literally thought I would die, right there in the middle of the pull. It was so hard and so heavy but just the the moment when I thought I just can't do this any more there was one last little burst of strength from the girls in the back that helped me (who was pulling in the front) make it up the last little bit of the hill. It was as that moment I realized that there is nothing I can't do. As long as I am trying my hardest the Lord will step in and pick up my slack. I would have never thought pulling a handcart up a giant hill would have been a spiritual experience but man was it ever.

After the womens pull we trekked another hour or so where we stopped for dinner. The pioneers on the trail in some of the companies at nothing but water and flour but we ate dang good on out trek. My father in law was one of the cooks and his food was by far the best food! We had beef stew and rolls (which was amazing and fyi I will be adding bell peppers and corn to my beef stew from now on!) We trekked until about 10:00 that night where we set up camp for the evening. I was sad that that I didn't get to sleep next to my honey because they separated the boys and girls but I was happy he had his dad bring us a mattress to sleep on. He is so thoughtful! That night the temps dropped down to about 37 degrees with a little breeze that made it REALLY cold. I hunkered down in my bag with all my clothes plus 2 coats and thigh high sock on and luckily I kept warm, I didn't sleep but I kept warm!! So many...most in fact froze but we were up and at em at 6:00 am the next morning. We had a delicious breakfast followed by a devotional speaker. I had not at the time seen 17 Miracles a movie based on the Willie handcart company that traveled across the country to settle in the Salt Lake valley.

Jasen Wade (Levi Savage)
If you haven't seen it yet, go watch it as soon as you are done reading my really long post!! (or now if you are board at my lame writing skills, run on sentences and rambling) The man who starred in the movie as Levi Savage came to speak to us about the making of the movie as well as some of his own life experiences. It was wonderful and the spirit was so strong during his talk!

After the talk we took a minute to bandage up our blisters and put on clean socks before we headed on our way. The night before we had walked in sand a lot of the way which my shoes filled with and because of the nature of the trek I was not able to stop and empty them out. Well when sand fills your shoes what basically happens is your size 7's then become 6's. I knew I would lose my toenails but I was determined to complete the trek. So with sore feet and broken blisters I put on my shoes and went on the way. We made it to St. Thomas about 3:00 in the afternoon where we watched different melodramas based on stories from the time of the early settlers. When it was time to head back to where we had camped for the night it became apparently that we would not be able to take the carts back because the way we came had been flooded. This is what it looked like when we came through on the way down. On the way back it was 12-24 inches deep.


It was decided that we would take the carts up to a parking lot and then carry on back to where we camped. A lot of the kids when we got up to the parking lot jumped in cars and didn't finish the trek. I am so glad even though I was given the opportunity to catch a ride I finished the last 4 miles of the trek. It was a VERY VERY long walk and with feet that felt like they were on fire but that feeling of completion was something that makes me so proud and lets me know that

**A big thanks to Brian Sheldon who was the photographer for the trek and was kind enough to fill my memory card with all these wonderful images to remember this wonderful experience by!**


Anonymous said...

Hard things are always life changing. Really. I'm very proud of you for pushing through. I can't imagine how hard that trek was... especially in costume. :)

Jill said...

I have always wanted to go on one. Our Stake did a family trek--but my husband was in school and we couldn't go. I'm jealous. And those pictures are awesome. I'm sad for the kids who didn't finish--that is probably something they will regret. Hoorah for you!

Heather said...

This made me sob. Brought back lots of great memories from a trek when I was a youth. Would love to have another opportunity as an adult. I particularly loved the part you wrote about the women's pull. Pertains spiritually to much of my life right now. We CAN do hard things and never alone:)
Thanks, I needed this today.

Melanie said...

What an amazing experience! I loved 17 Miracles although it made me bawl my head off. Will you email me your phone number?