Every four years our stake (group of ward congregations) goes on a “trek.”

I wrote all about what in the world that is back HERE when I got to go last time, but just real quick (and this is gonna sound weird to those who have never heard of it before), all the youth  (and leaders) dress up as pioneers and head out to the wilderness to pull handcarts across the plains to reenact what the pioneers did.

And I love it!

They sleep in tents at night:

…have kind of cool activities at night when they get to camp (square dancing, testimony meetings, devotionals, etc.)

…and carry all their supplies around in their handcarts during the day… just like the pioneers did all those years ago.

Why in the world would they do that?  you might ask.

Well, to gain an appreciation for what the pioneers did.

To pause in this crazy technology-filled world to remember our roots.

To “turn the hearts.”

To do something hard and grow and learn from it all.

And also, to live up to our reputation that Mormons are “peculiar.”  Ha!

I got to go along this year in a very different capacity than I did last time.  Last time I was one of the photographers (which explains why there are a gazillion pictures in the post from last time).

This time Dave and I went as a “Ma” and “Pa;” leaders who are assigned a group of youth from the ward to essentially be the “mom” and “dad” for while they are out trekking and camping and learning and growing.  (Which explains why I don’t have a ton of pictures this time around…we couldn’t take many things including cameras.  But we did have our phones to keep in contact with our younger kids back home…and to snap a few pictures here and there.)

Everyone brings only a bucket with a few supplies they will need for the few days they’ll be gone and a sleeping bag:

…and the Ma’s and Pa’s take care of the extra things like the tent, camping gear, etc.

Last time I went on trek I got to be with these two kids of mine:

(Look how teeny they were!  Miss you Max & Elle!)

And this time around I got to go with these two:

Yowzas I am lucky!

We drove up to the trek location on some buses bright and early to get going on our adventure.

As soon as we got to the site, we headed to our handcarts which had a list of the kids we’d be in charge of for the few days we were there (sometimes trek parents find out before they go, this time around they waited until the last minute…for lots of reasons…worked out great!)
Dave and I lucked out with the best “family” ever.  
It’s amazing how you can fall in love with kids so dang quick, especially in this capacity.
I don’t have a great picture of all of us together, (I’m sure the photographer this time around will send it at some point and I’ll come back and add it here), but here are our darling girls:
…and our awesome boys:

Oh man, even looking at these pictures makes me so grateful all over again for them.

They all wanted to help with everything they could.  They all switched around pushing and pulling and were so sweet to jump at the chance to help.  What amazing “real” parents they have to teach them to be that wonderful!  It was so fun to get to know them in this capacity.

The first thing we did as a “family” was come up with our own “motto” on our flag.

Our ward (congregation) color was yellow (other wards had different colors).

And our theme was “Joy is the purpose of life and a choice we make,” instigated by Dave’s idea to use one of “grandfather’s secrets” that he loves.

The kids designed our flag and signed it.  And my friend with a real camera caught me holding it at the end.

 I only have snippets of things to tell the story but here we go…

One of the things that is so incredible to me is how much time adults take out of their schedules to make this work.

One exceptionally talented guy made that temple (above) to be at the main campsite.

Aside from all the pre-trek stuff that had already blown me away (the bonfire kick-off, the prep to make clothes, work out the route we’d go on, figure out how everything would be run), others worked their tails off with food prep (they did it on a stake level this time around instead of having the Ma’s and Pa’s cook for their own “families”), evening firesides, you name it, everything had been thought of and prepared, time taken off work, so many personal resources donated all to make for a great experience for the youth.

And really, I was thankful over and over again.

SO grateful.

One thing I loved the most were our family devotionals:

We only got to have a couple, but I loved talking through spiritual things with those kids and hearing their insight as well.  Man alive we are surrounded by some amazing youth!  (Thanks for that pic, Ashley!)

I thought this was a pretty ingenious way to use some time before one of the night activities:)

Everyone was pretty filthy from all the pushing and pulling:

(The wheels on the hand carts had apparently just been oiled so everyone was covered in grease by the end…along with dirt and grime too.)

See that thing around my waist above?

Kind of hard to see, especially since you can only see the first few letters, but it says “believer.”

Right before the “Women’s pull” one of the days (where the men all get “called away”…either hypothetically by death or separate missions…and the women are left to pull the hand carts alone), we had a little devotional given by the stake women leaders.  They gave each of us two or three strips of fabric and had us write things that kept us going in life.  Things that define who we are as daughters of God.  People came up with all kinds of words…everything from “nurturer” to “grateful” to “friend”…and tied them around their arms, their waist, etc.

Armed with those things that make us uniquely who we are, we set off on the women’s pull and I loved working together to get up that hill.

Above is Grace’s “family” on the women’s pull.  (They assigned all the kids of the ma’s and pa’s who were on trek to different families to switch things up a bit.)

The women’s pull was one of the highlights for me (it was my favorite part last time too.)

The last night for our ward gathering we had a testimony meeting.  There were five ma’s and pa’s from our ward and we had our own little meeting with our bishop while the kids were doing an activity.  Oh man do I love these people we got to be with up there.

We made ready our little bonfire area by moving this huge tree….you had to be there but it was kind of funny.

Our bishop took a few pictures.

 Dave had the grand idea to kiss for the pic…

 …and everyone else thought that was a good idea too:


I know we have a picture with our Bishop too but I can’t find it right now…

What a great few days we had learning so very much in such a unique way.

Well-worn hands (pic. courtesy of our photographer, Jenn Bluth…these good pics are from her…thanks Jenn!)

On the last day everyone was so tired (after walking and pushing and pulling up and down miles of hills and valleys), but as we got close to the end base camp (where there was such beautiful music beckoning us in), families started to run.

So glad someone sent me this picture of Grace’s family all caught up in the joy of a job well done:

I cried last trek as everyone ran into camp, and I cried again this time.

There’s not much to compare to the feeling of doing something pretty tough and reaching the end.

We had a final meal all together and a closing devotional, and it was hard to say goodbye to these sweeties we got to hang with for the last few days:

Some last pictures of our girl with her friends;

…and this hunky guy I got to hang with…

Loved getting some serious time with him away from so many other distractions.  He is one in a million I tell you.

How did we get so lucky to get to be there, the three of us together?

Something now woven into the fabric of who we are…and who’s blood runs through our veins.

So grateful for all those ancestors who went before, whether they crossed the plains or not.  They made such huge sacrifices to give us the life that we cherish.  We talked through so many stories of those who have gone before, and the magnitude of what they did and the ripple effects it made.

Here’s to making our own ripples with what we do each day as we “turn our own hearts” to our children and their children.

And theirs too.

Let’s make some good ones.

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  1. It brought tears to my eyes just reading about the families running at the end. I have such a deep love and appreciation for the pioneers. I never did have the opportunity to experience "Trek" but my daughter gets to go next week. I hope she will have a good experience. It was fun reading about your experience and seeing all the pictures. I sure hope someone takes a lot of pictures for our youth. Thanks for sharing. Lisa

  2. Beautiful! So glad I read this today- my husband and I are going to be Ma and Pa for our stake's trek next week. Everyone is feeling anxious about it because of the heat (in VA we get all the humidity along with the 90+ temps which makes it more dangerous- they had to call off our neighboring stake's trek last weekend because the kids were all passing out).

    We are looking forward to it and reading about your positive experiences is making me even more excited. 🙂

    1. Is this really something ancestors of LDS in VA did?

      Thankfully they ended the practice of immigrating after conversion as so many died en route.

      Given the missionary push since this period of history aren't most LDS descendants of converts after this period of time. Half of members are not even in the US.

    2. Actually kms the death rate in the LDS pioneers wasn't much higher than the general population at the time. There were two handcart companies who had many die but other than that it's remarkable how few did considering.

      When we did trek we focused on who the kids "pioneer" was in their own family. Pioneer means one who came before. I talked about my grandmother who was the first to join the church on my dads side. Some of the kids in my trek family were the first so they were the pioneer in their family. It is a good thing to understand our heritage and even if they didn't have a relative who crossed the plains it is a good thing to hear about those who were willing to sacrifice so much for what they believed.

  3. Oh man, this made me cry too! What a thrill to see these kids who normally have everything life has to offer without too much drama working their tails off to accomplish a goal…one of the main ones being "turning their hears" to those amazing ancestors on both sides of our family who did this for real….and lost babies and children and husbands and fathers and mothers on the journey! I'm a fan of this amazing program. I think this trek is much harder than a lot of them in Utah. Well done Arizona! Congrats Ma and Pa and especially Grace!

  4. I love trek! I've been on 4, three times as a Ma. My bonnet may be retired now though as I barely got through this last one…it was hard on this 45 year old body but it was the best to experience it with two of my kids!

  5. Trek is the BEST! I am getting ready to go in a few weeks as a photographer. I went 4 years ago with my husband, we were a Ma and Pa. It was amazing. My husband passed away 2 years ago, and so I am super grateful that I am able to go again, and enjoy the sweet experience with 2 of my children.

    I want to give a shout out to you… I became interested in photography from looking at the beautiful pictures on your blog over the years. I got a decent camera, and now I am in charge of the Photography Committee for Trek! You just never know the good you are doing, and the lives you are touching with your blog.

    I just want to say THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! 🙂

    -Mari @ http://www.clingtocourage.com

    1. I love this story Mari! Thank you for sharing. I hope your trek went well! I'm so sorry for the loss of your husband, my heart is reaching out to you.

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