Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Friday, July 25, 2014


My big boys went away on Trek this weekend.
No, not the outer space one.

Trek is a wilderness adventure for youth sponsored by our church, where the kids are divided up into "families", given a handcart to pull, and then sent out on a 20 mile journey to be covered in three days, with only the clothes on their backs and the supplies that they can fit into a five gallon bucket.  

Why would a kid even want to do it?  Well, Ethan asked himself that question the first day, as blisters formed and dust flew, but by day two he was singing a new tune.  Well, he wants me to make it clear he wasn't actually singing, but everyone else was.  The kids on the trail sang to pass the time as they traveled, hymns and pioneer songs, and eventually some Disney  (apparently the blisters weren't painful enough, they had to listen to Frozen sung off key for hours).  Still, despite the song selections, my boys still report having had a great time.

Along the way there were occasional challenges placed in the kids' way; a pioneer approached them with an orphaned baby (a weighted doll) that their family was asked to adopt.  They took turns carrying the bundle when they weren't at the yoke pulling or pushing the handcart.  On another occasion, they were approached by pioneers that asked for any food they could spare.  This was the food they had been hauling themselves for the day, and of course, they shared.  Though they never went hungry and the baby never ate or cried, the scenarios presented to them caused them to reflect on the plight of the pioneers who struggled just to feed the mouths in their own companies, let alone share.  At one point along the way, an old prospector, who they learned was not even part of the Trek, but a local fellow who enjoys participating in his own way, offered a taffy to anyone who could hit a log with a thrown hatchet.  Adam tried.  No taffy, but he didn't care.  Apparently I'm the mean mom that doesn't allow hatchet throwing in the house.  Go figure.

As was the case for the Mormon pioneers of olden times, the second day the young men answered the call of the President of the United States to join a battalion and march off to fight for their country, leaving the young women to fend for themselves with the heavy handcarts.  The boys marched in tight rows carrying their buckets, every step the buckets seeming to grow heavier.  Meanwhile, the girls struggled in long skirts and blowing dirt as they made their way up the hill.  It was not uncommon on pioneer trails of old for women to struggle alone with their loads.  Soon the boys were asked to stand by the side of the trail and watch as the girls battled a steep hill with their carts alone.  It was so hard for the boys to keep themselves from offering their help, and when the carts finally reached the top of that particular hill, the boys could not be restrained from running to take over the loads.

It became the boys' turn, then, as they reached a massively steep incline.  The handcarts were rigged with multiple yokes and the boys battled the incredible powdery dust, hauling the ridiculously heavy carts up the hill.  It took 7-9 boys to haul--some pulling in front with a few pushing from the back--each cart to the top, and when they got there, many ran back down the hill to help with the next cart.  Adam helped with five carts.  One boy there, who was well admired for it, helped with eight out of the ten handcarts.

In the evenings they set up camp, then listened to music and dramatic actors recounting true pioneer tales in character.  They loved it, but Adam was so tired that he fell asleep sitting upright on his five gallon bucket.  They later laid out their sleeping bags on tarps right on the ground and slept out under the amazing stars.  When morning came, after they cooked their meal and ate, they would set out again.

They traveled 8 miles each of the first two days, and then 4 on the last, a distance that their pioneer forefathers would have traveled in a single day.  Just before reaching the end of the trail, they stopped in a clearing and gathered for a testimony meeting to share the spiritual experiences they had had individually.  This meeting could be considered the pinnacle of the Trek.  It is not often that young people today are asked to give up comforts or think of anyone other than themselves.  Here, they were compelled to think about each other and the lives of people that came before them that sacrificed much in the name of religious freedom and the pursuit of their dreams.

Ethan and best bud, Tyler.

Heads up!!!

Better than the movies

The roof over their heads 

Marching off in the Battalion

The dust made it impossible to breathe and made them so dirty they were unrecognizable. 

Adam was behind a bar in every picture I saw of him.  
I am so proud to see my boys working so hard.

Live music in the evenings sure beats the britches off MP3s and TVs.

Gathering for the evening devotional.

Adam and his "family".

Ethan and his "family".

I can't say what went on in the hearts of my big boys as they trudged along in the hot sun.  I can only tell you the spirit they had when they came home.  They were excited and open, happy to tell us all about their trip.  Talkative.  Yes, talkative boys.  They showed off their terrible blisters with utter pride.  Ethan had 8 on his feet and ankles, several an inch in diameter, but what he didn't have was a single complaint.  Neither of them did.  They loved their adopted parents, were grateful for the experience and said it was, in a word, "awesome".

Before they left for Trek, Guy read each of the boys stories from the journals of their 3rd Great Grandmother, Sarah Loader, and others who crossed the plains to escape religious persecution.  As a girl of just 11 years, Sarah pulled a handcart with her three sisters while their father and brother-in-law pulled a second cart containing possessions, their sick mother, and pregnant married daughter who was due any time.  After the baby was born, the married daughter and her husband parted from the company.  Soon, Sarah's father became sick and died.  They buried him on the lone prairie in a shallow grave and moved on.  The girls and their sick mother managed to pull their cart through a now frozen countryside.  Waves of rescuers trickled in from Salt Lake and picked up only the sickest of the travelers, one being Sarah's mother.  Now the girls struggled on alone. They ran out of food and drank a broth of boiled rawhide to stay alive.  Too weak to continue another step, they had laid down in the snow to die, when the final rescue party from Salt Lake City came and saved them.  Sarah and her sisters abandoned the cart they had pulled over a thousand miles there on the frozen prairie and climbed into the rescue wagon.

I don't know if my boys thought of Sarah as they journeyed in comparative comfort on their Trek.  But whether they thought of her or not, they have her to thank for their very existences, and I have her as an inspiration.  I doubt I'll ever be called upon to do the things Sarah did, but I hope I will do everything I do with the dedication she had.

I want to give my great thanks to Ron Aguilar for permission to use his amazing photographs.  I wasn't there to see my boys toil on this journey, but through Ron's gorgeous photos, I can almost taste the dust in my mouth, and hear the hymns on the air.

If you'd like to see more of his awesome work, go to:

or contact him at

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