Des Moines Youth Trek
Mormon teens from the Des Moines metro area plus surrounding towns like Osceola, Lennox, Creston, Indianola, and Knoxville, met up in Murray, IA on June 27th for a three-day handcart trek along portions of the Mormon Trail. The goal was to celebrate their shared religious heritage by walking a few miles in the shoes of those who blazed a trail to the West.
All of the participants were divided into groups of 8-10 youth with two adult supervisors to serve as "ma and pa" in the "family." Each participant loaded belongings into a handcart to simulate the limited supplies the early Mormon pioneers could carry across the US when walking with a handcart. These modern handcart trekkers followed as closely as possible to the original Mormon Trail without going on to private land. On the first day, they walked from Murray to Mt. Pisgah, a historic way station for the Mormons in the 1850s. Organizers and youth set up tents and began cooking in dutch ovens. A dance and group discussion followed dinner.
Despite some overnight rain, the youth moved on the next day. After lunch, the girls and boys divided up for a "women's pull" to honor the sacrifices families made when men were mustered into the US military as the Mormon Battalion in 1846 after the first wave of Mormons left Nauvoo, IL, and headed West. That was not a handcart company, but the women of that wagon train had to "pull" the weight of their husbands' duties when the Mormon Batallion went away to fight in the Mexican-American War. When the group arrived at Three-Mile Park near Afton, tornado warnings prompted an evacuation from camp to nearby Three-Mile Lodge. Storms and even tornadoes raged around the area but did not impact the group. They returned to their campsite after another evening dance.
The final day included a shorter section of walking, capped off by a group meeting to share feelings about the experience and what the youth had learned about their ancestors and about themselves. The faith-building commentaries centered on how God answers prayers (such as the storm passing around them), how it's possible to do hard things like pull a handcart in difficult conditions, how important families are, and how faith in Jesus Christ strengthens youth in a troubled world.