Nearly two years ago, planning began for the 2011 Morgan Utah Stake Trek. This past week 427 youth ages 12 to 18 participated in a four day, three night event. The adventure was held at Deseret Land and Livestock, a cattle ranch in south-western Wyoming.
Youth were asked to drop off their personal supplies on Tuesday, June 14. Each youth was asked to limit their personal effects to 17 pounds. Youth were allowed one full outfit of pioneer attire to set out in Wednesday morning and one extra change of clothing to be used on Friday for church services. Each individual was limited to one five gallon bucket and garbage bag to enclose their sleeping bag and coat. Just three days before trek youth were asked to add Under Armour clothing, sleeping bags rated to to 10 degrees, a heavier winter coat, a pair of warm gloves, and a hat. Attempting to stuff it all into the bucket provided an interesting task.
At 6:30 Wednesday Morning, the Stake Center parking lot appeared as busy as a bees’ nest as kids checked in and were given their assigned families. Each youth joined a “family” consisting of 3-6 young women and 4-7 young men. Each family was led by a Ma and Pa. In total there were 49 families which were broken into three companies. Although youth very rarely were combined with other youth they knew well, by the end of trek, kids were sad to be parting with the siblings they grew to love. This new family became the people the trekkers pushed, pulled, laughed, ate, slept, snored, prayed, and bandaged feet with for the entire experience. Nearly 100 other adult leaders traveled with the group as trail bosses, aunts, uncles, medical support, as well as a food committee and toiletry crew.
At 7:58 am the first bus pulled away from Morgan and headed up the road for a 45 minute drive. While the air nipped the skin at 6:30, by the time trekkers arrived on the ranch the air had warmed to T-shirt weather. Company A quickly loaded their handcarts and set out up the trail.
The first days trail consisted of nearly 9 miles of rocks, dirt, and hills as well as 3 water crossings. By the end of the day nearly 550 trekkers pulled into camp with wet blistered feet and smiling faces. The first night proved a warm opportunity to conquer tents, play games, and cook their first camping meal.
On the morning of day two, rain clouds threatened as youth were told they would again be trekking nearly 9 miles over terrain and hills that would prove more difficult than the previous day. The weather cleared and all three companies made good time as they crested a rise and dropped into another canyon. They soon crossed a lengthy water bog with bare feet and prepared lunch on the trail. By 2:00 p.m. as the companies stopped to prepare for the women’s pull many were already exhausted and nursing sore toes and muscles. As the men marched away up the mountain, the women of the group prepared to pull their wagons up a steep grade nearly a quarter mile in length. By many accounts the women’s pull allowed both boys and girls to witness the strength of women as well as the blessing of working together as men and women and allowing the young men the opportunity to aide and rescue their sisters and mothers in times of trial. After the women’s pull, families were happy to be reunited to finish the days trek together. Dark, cold storm clouds rolled in as the companies pulled into camp that night. Temperatures plummeted, wind howled, and a few flurries of snowflakes were seen as families fought the elements and attempted to set up camp and prepare the evening meal. Nearly as quickly as the storm rolled in it blew past, and the sun broke through the clouds leaving nearly all trekkers feeling they had witnessed a miracle. While temperatures remained cold, the evenings’ hoedown was enjoyed by many.
The morning of day three brought a 5 mile trek to a new campsite during the morning hours. Trekkers seemed in a jovial mood and worked together to cover the 5 miles much quicker than anticipated. Temperatures rose and the sun came out. By afternoon all three companies were setting up camp and preparing the noon meal before joining together in worship services. The day proved restful as participants enjoyed each others company in church services, solo time, and an evening fireside. Families then enjoyed quiet time together and bedded down for a cold night. Several water bottles were found frozen Saturday morning and frost blanketed the tent city that had sprung up the afternoon before.
Saturday morning families prepared for the final stretch of trail which consisted of another 5 miles. This brought the overall total to about 27 miles. Once again trekkers faced hills, water crossing and lots of dirt and wind. Each participant had been assigned a name of a pioneer ancestor who they were trekking for. Nearly a mile into the days trail, those who were trekking for ancestors who did not finish the trek to Utah were asked to step away from their families and were no longer allowed to speak and aide in pulling the handcart. As the handcarts neared the final stop and youth crested the rise where the buses could be seen, cheers could be heard. By 1:00 p.m., most youth were reunited with their biological families in Morgan and eagerly awaiting a nice warm shower and an afternoon nap.