Rusty here (with a few interjections from Tara):
Tuesday July 5th was up and off to Trek. We dressed in our trek clothes. Cowboy hats and dresses. We packed our buckets and packed the car for Utah.. We dropped Dash off at Sarah’s and then were off to the church. It was fun to see everyone dressed in their pioneer gear. We took a few pictures then headed inside to kick things off. Then we loaded the buses and we were off. I picked to go on the bus because I wanted the full bus experience. Tara wanted to drive and listen to her book. I ended up with the back of the bus crew soooo a little annoying but I ended up getting a lot of rest which was nice in helping my Covid recovery. We drove to a rest stop in Wyoming and ate our lunch in the wind. Then off the Rawlins exit and up north of Rawlins to the middle of nowhere. We took a left and headed to 6th crossing. There were large, flat, wide open campgrounds. But the mosquitos were enough to drive you crazy.
Tara and I were on the food committee and we got busy serving popsicles and making our first trek dinner. I had made the mistake of ordering a tent on Amazon that was tiny and was junky, but Tara and I crowded in and I even got the cot in (the cot was poking and stretching the tent at the front and back), which was actually kind of nice because it created a little bit of room where we could slide things underneath the cot. The first night was what you would expect… rough. But happy to be out of the mosquitos!
Up at 445 AM! Well, I was up anyway so it wasn’t that bad. We fixed our first breakfast of pancakes and sausage. It took all of us working all 6 grills to make a ton of pancakes. Everybody seemed to enjoy them. Tara was in charge of the gluten/dairy free kids. She had this little group of kids that would come find her table each meal time and she would give them their allergy food. After breakfast it was time to Trek! Right there in camp / 6th crossing. It was a pretty easy trek, 6 miles over flatland. The missionaries told the stories about the crossing. We had to skip “the willows” because the mosquitos were so bad. Tara and I ate lunch with Josh’s family the Wilkeys. They were so cute and fun. Both Josh and Halle had great families. the Whetstones were perfect for Halle. Their family name was the Rolling Whetsones. I’m so glad Halle went. She seemed to have a great time and appreciated the meaning behind things and the theater of dressing up etc. It was the best to be up there with both Halle and Josh. I’m so glad we got to come. It was a beautiful overcast day. We even got a little rain as we walked back towards the river. Fording the river was the best part on our hot and tired feet. It was just a nice day.
The afternoon was probably the worst part. There was nothing to do. Kids were wilting in the heat. There just wasn’t enough shelters for everybody. Halle and Ruby came and hid under the food canopys to escape from the heat. Mosquitos were a little better this day, but not much. We made dinner of pulled pork sandwiches. Then every day after dinner we had to spend an hour packing 19 coolers full of sandwiches chips and veggies and snacks for lunch the next day. Then Tara had to fill each cooler with a gluten / dairy free bread and snacks for the next day. So much work and effort. The food logistics are insane. 6 solid months of planning to pull it off.
Each evening they would do games or a program which seemed to take peoples minds off the heat for awhile, and finally things would cool down at like 9PM as the sun would go down! But then the mosquitos would come out… they were better because of the wind the 2nd day.
We woke up EARLY again. We fed the kids breakfast burritos on the way to the bus heading to Rocky Ridge. Tara and I should have ridden the buses but we didn’t because we had to help clean up breakfast and the missionaries got mad at us. We had to hide our car in between the busses in case anyone from the BLM camp out. But anyway. We drive out into the MIDDLE of nowhere and pick up our handcarts and start the 10 mile trek up rocky ridge. I liked this trek the best. I could see where the pioneers had camped and we were on the trail that they were on. This was probably my favorite trail. The trail was challenging and rocky and fun. We could even see pioneer wagon ruts in some of the rocks. Before trek, Tara, Halle and I had read the book Fire of the Covenant. Then Halle and I both did some family history and learned that we had relatives in the Martin company, the wagon company, and many other pioneer companies. Lots of pioneer blood on both sides of the family. But this was just great to push up these rocky hillsides. We had a little program right at the top of rocky ridge. These pioneers went through so much–when they went over this ridge they were starving, sick, cold and tired. They had to have such faith to continue on, even in such dire circumstances. They knew they had no choice but to move forward.
Halle’s knees did remarkably well! We were all worried about what might happen hiking so many miles on uneven, rocky, and sometimes steep terrain. They were sore, but she used her KT tape and they recovered enough that she could continue each day. About mile 8 of Rocky Ridge they were hurting pretty badly. So, she took a ride in the handcart for about a mile. That certainly wasn’t a relaxing ride. She was so afraid they were going to dump her right out of the cart!
We pushed a little further to lunch. Before Trek all the parents wrote letters to their kids. We got to tell them anything we wanted. The kids got their letters from their parents at lunch and took a quiet moment to read the letters by themselves. Josh gave me a big long hug, so sweet. Then the long trek back. This was definitely the hardest part of the trek. It was hot and dusty and long. But there were some clouds. We survived. Lots of cows that sometimes blocked our trail. It was beautiful in a desolate way.
Halle, Josh, Claire and Grace made a Trek band called, “The 18th Miracle.” Hilarious. Josh practiced his harmonica for weeks, and Claire had this awesome kazoo shaped like a trumpet. They never did get to perform. I feel like maybe we need them to play at the post trek devotional 🙂 We drove all the way to Martins Cove. Martins Cove was much better. Way LESS bugs. Way better scenery. Another HOT afternoon in the sun. Afternoons were the hardest. Tonight was the BUG dinner. Hot dogs and to get a soda you had to eat a freeze dried bug. Russ Thomas was having a great time with this. It was his idea and it was a total hit. Most kids did it. Some said no way. Some came back and said they had friends who didn’t want to eat bug and could they eat bugs on their behalf? That was really sweet. Of course we said yes. Then some LOVED it and kept coming back and asking for more and more and more. Eventually they would kneel at the feet of the bug lord and he would ladle in an entire ladle full of bugs into their mouth. Gross. They were into IT. Some sprinkled it on their salad or their hot dog. Yuck.
The most fun part of Trek happened this evening. Square dancing! Even after hiking 10 long, hard miles, these kids still had energy to square dance for 2 hours. It was so much fun to watch them. Then, Joanna and Dave, Sam and Gina, me and Tara, and Kyle and Shrene joined in the fun. We were laughing so hard. Heather Tracy and Mindi Carwin were the masterminds behind this activity. I think this will definitely make the list of top trek moments. I wish there were more pictures!!
Tara and I took a “trail shower”. Basically we got a bucket of water and tried to find some privacy behind the car and swabbed us down with these cool non rinse soap towels that tara had gotten. That night was rough. The night before we had driven to walmart to get a bigger and better tent. So we had tons of room. But the wind was SO bad that night and ALL NIGHT LONG. So we barely slept at all.
The next morning we were up to make breakfast of muffins and oatmeal and leftover burritos and sausage. Then on to the busses. Derek was nice enough to finish taking down our tent for us. It was a short drive to Martins Cove. We caught up with the first group and trekked with them. A short walk up into a peaceful little amphitheater near the entrance of the cove, shielded by the large granite rocks. There we heard the stories of people who had stayed here and were invited to have a silent walk around the cove. We walked into the peaceful cove and up to the top of the cove near the giant sandhill. We looked out along the land where 30+ tents must have stood full of starving emigrants. It was so peaceful. Hard to imagine how awful it must have been in the 40 MPH winds and 2 feet of snow.
Tara said I should have been a cowboy as I chewed my grass. We held hands. It was a nice moment. Josh said it was his favorite moment of the trip. We finished the loop. I thought of my 4x great grandmother Allison Harrison who was a 10 year old girl in this cove, surely suffering greatly as her older brother had been left with the Native Americans just a few days early.
We continued our walk and had lunch under the big steel pavilion. It was nice in the shade. I was very happy for that metal pavilion. It felt great after being in the sun so long. Lunch was great. We attached to Josh’s family. And Grace and Griffin were slapping each other in the face with tortillas. Apparently it’s a huge Tik Tok trend right now. Grace eventually made a rap about slapping Griffin with tortillas. It was super funny. We walked to the monument of the river crossing. There were big statues of men and boys carrying the rescued pioneers across the river. Michelle Chudleigh told the story of the “valley boys” who came and helped the willie and martin companies across the rivers and back to the valley. Literally hundreds of wagons and hundreds of rescuers involved to get them to safety. That’s pretty cool. The first day of Trek all the kids were asked to pick up a rock and carry it with them all through trek. Then we were asked to lay our rock down in the river. We were told that it was a burden that we were laying down in the water. Just like these rescuers carried the pioneers, Jesus can carry us through our trials and burdens.
Once again we were very hot and thrilled to see the cool river. Josh and I volunteered to help wagons across in case people sliped so I took my shoes off and ran in the water barefoot because we couldn’t find my keens. Turns out Caleb had taken them thinking they were his and we ended up swappin in the water. I forgot that we were supposed to be solemn and was splashing some people like Halle.
It really was a lovely moment with Dallin Kuzmitch playing the fiddle as we crossed. After the handcarts crossed then everybody came back in the water and chatted and cooled off for a bit. I bent down and got my head in the water which was so so nice. We finished the trek. A nice walk along the water. Everyone was in much better spirits now that they were cooler. As we got to the end The trek Dr asked if I wanted to go check out Devils Gate. I had thought the same thing so we walked the half mile to check out the gate. I was picturing the narrows where we’d be able to walk among the cliffs in the water but no such luck. It was all swampy at the entrance to the gate. But still cool.
We got to the end and Brian had told the story about the pies. Hard to say whether this is folklore or real, but the story goes that there was a woman who had given up and would not continue on. Her daughter prayed for a way to help her mom. Soon after, she discovered a pie sitting on the side of the trail. It was just the miracle they needed to keep going. So Brian passed out little fruit pies to everyone who wanted one. People were just resting on the grass waiting for the other group to finish. Dreading the testimony meeting in the sun. The trek doctor saying he wouldn’t allow the kids to just hang out under the sun. So now begins the miracle of the Testimony meeting. I found out all about this later because I fell asleep on the hillside and when I woke up everybody was gone but this is how it was told to me.
In the weeks leading up to Trek we had asked if there was anywhere at Martin’s Cove that we could have testimony meeting. We were told no. Multiple times. That morning Pres Remund had asked one set of missionaries if we might have our meeting in the shade of some big trees near the visitors center instead of the blazing sun in our campground. They told him no. Tara asked one more time a different missionary couple and they said – of course we have this big room with swamp coolers made just for that. She said, “Can we use it?” They said, ” Of course you can, for an hour.” WHATT??? She had asked like 20 people and they said there was nothing like this. Tara hustled everyone inside and the meeting began. It was the perfect room with sound system, coolers, and padded chairs set up just for this purpose.
It was a great meeting. When I finally woke up and got to the building, the meeting had already started. These kids are incredible. They said so many beautiful and insightful things. I was so touched. Tara got up and told them two things:
- This feeling, the camaraderie you feel, the happiness, the contentment, this is the spirit. Recognize it now so when it comes again you’ll know it.
- Teenagers get a bad rap and they don’t deserve it, they are awesome. Their generation has unique challenges, but they are well equipped to take them on. They can thrive and be successful.
Then president Remund said to remember four things from the rules of the trail that are a lot like life:
- Stay on the path
- Stick together
- Help each other
- Keep moving forward
That was it! We loaded the buses. Headed back to Rawlins while watching to Strawberry Shortcake because Max Owen likes to torture us and got it out of his parents car. We slept most of the way – well Tara talked to Pres Remund a big chunk of the way as well. We made it to Rawlins, at Pizza, picked up the Rowberry’s, and had a VERY tired drive to Utah with lots of switching off to stay awake. And then we dropped off the Rowberry’s and made it to American fork about midnight for much deserved showers. Phew. I feel like an inch of grime came off me.
Tara here: I was a Trek skeptic. I didn’t know if it would feel too contrived, or if it was really relevant to modern day teens. But now I’m a believer. There is something so special about connecting with ancestors. Something great about pulling together for a common cause. Something wonderful about leaving phones and distractions behind for a few days and focusing on relationships with God and with others. I’m sooooo glad I got to do this with Rusty, Halle and Josh. It will be a treasured memory for sure.
THE CULT KID STORY:
Oh. The first evening all the kids were playing a game and there was a kid with his head in his hands sitting alone in camp. I figured I better go talk to him. I asked if he was okay, he said “yeah I just don’t want to be here”. I said that sucks. He said “Yeah but my parents made me come so now I’m going to make it everyone’s problem”. Oh I said wow. Okay that sucks. Then he said.
“Look at it. First they take us to the middle of nowhere with no phones so we are completely isolated. Then we have to wear funny clothes. This sounds exactly like how you join a cult to me”. I thought that was pretty funny.