Even though today is going to be packed from start to finish, I felt like I needed to take a few minutes and write about some of the things we experienced on the recent pioneer trek we went on.
|Our family handcart. Dennis engineered this awesome|
covered handcart thingamajigger with a fitted sheet, grommets,
and bungee chords.
I'll try to recap some of my favorite experiences without being too long-winded. After we assembled our group of almost 100 people into "families" with their respective "ma's and pa's," we started down the pre-determined course through the Owyhees. Our family pulled the lead handcart as Dennis was the most familiar with the route. The 9 other handcarts pulling behind us in single-file along the tops of the mountains was an awe-inspiring sight.
|One of the boys in our family resting at|
the top of the first mother of all hills... or
at least the first of several to come.
That evening the men split off and went to a separate campsite as the women geared up for what would prove to be for the women, the biggest challenge of the event- the "Women's Pull." While historically there was never an actual handcart pull exclusively comprised of women, this is to commemorate the thousands of women who crossed the plains without their husbands, often with little children in tow. One of the highest mortality rates of those who crossed the plains was that of the men who braved the elements, often without relief, as they pulled the handcarts for their families day in and day out. They often sacrificed their unthinkably small rations of food to their starving wives and children, leaving them especially vulnerable in their already weakened conditions. Other men were called to serve in the Mormon Battalion or to serve missions or in leadership positions for the thousands who were crossing the plains. This pull was not to show the men that we didn't need them or to put on a display of "girl power," but to pay tribute to the sacrifices that both men and women gave selflessly in honor of their religious faith.
I had traveled the route we would be taking a month before on a four-wheeler as we established the course we would be taking. I knew it was going to be tough, but that's what made us want to use this portion of the mountain for the Women's Pull. We knew the degree of difficulty would require us to draw on something other than our own strength to finish it.
The final portion of the 3 1/2 mile pull was 1 1/2 mile stretch of steep, rocky, up-hill grade. Holy moly.
|The Women's Pull. Why is it that things never look as|
hard in pictures as they really were in real life?
I later heard a tearful recount from one of the adult women in our group. She said that one of the tiniest girls in our group- only 12 years old and not even 90 pounds- at seeing her struggle, said quietly to her, "You can stop pushing if you'd like. I'll push for you." Such was the attitude throughout the entire ascent. There were times during the Women's Pull when all I could do was put my head down and focus only on putting one foot in front of the other as we inched our way up the mountain, with our bodies feeling like they were on fire from the inside out. There was vomiting, a few collapses, and a level of sheer exhaustion reached that had never been known to most of us before.
When we reached the top of the mountain, the girls in my group took a quick drink, and within just a few minutes, stood at the top of the trail, saying they were ready to go down and help the other groups of women coming behind us finish their pull. I wanted to take each of them in my arms and hug them. They seemed to have morphed from young girls, into women of strength, faith, and kindness and I had a front-row seat witness to the wonder of it all.
The rest of the trek was wonderful and everything I hoped it would be. Despite the fatigue at the end of each day, I felt oddly rejuvinated and strong. The entire 4 day experience was over far too soon for me.
|This picture does poor justice to the blisters.|
There's something about exerting oneself to the point of near collapse that leaves one's heart humbled and open. A few people quietly remarked that they knew that those who had gone before, whether it be deceased siblings or ancestors from several generations back, were pushing right along side them, helping them along.
There's something about going down to the very basic of necessities that helps you clear all the clutter from your mind, and see with an unobstructed view the beauties of human nature. People are better and kinder and stronger than we think.
It helps us see that God is good. He did not forget our ancestors then and He certainly has not forgotten us now.
|Our handcart family.|
After doing some processing, I realized that this is my trek- the 21st century rat-race. Just as they made the most of their trek across the plains then, I am expected to make the most of my trek now. And now, just as they did so many decades ago, we struggle but we also rejoice. And there are countless reasons to rejoice and give thanks.