Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pioneer Trek: Day One

We began trekking that first day sometime in the afternoon. Without a watch or phone, I can’t really be more specific than that. We all ate our sack lunches on the busses. One of our daughters (who’d had older siblings go on trek) brought a lunch that included 2 footlong hoagies and enough munchies to feed a small village. Clearly she knew something. But lest we think leftovers could be taken to-go, that idea was quashed by our company captain who said we had to eat it or throw it away. Binge or bust.

So off the bus and onto the trail. When you first push a handcart, you think, “hmm, not so bad....almost fun really....” and if the ground were well-packed and entirely flat, you would probably continue to roll merrily along for a good while. Instead, on our journey, the wheels frequently sink into deep stretches of sand causing us to fish-tail and sometimes stop altogether. To get going again, it requires everyone (except Ma and Pa of course) to lower their heads, dig in, and give a mighty heave. There are enough hills to make your legs and arms burn, and almost worst of all, surprisingly soon after your first push (like 5 minutes maybe?) you come to the realization that this isn't terribly diverting.


Oldies but goodies from the all-American family road trip don’t serve you well on the trail. No road signs, no license plates (“I just got Delaware!”), no significant change in the scenery, no animal-spotting, no radio, no books, “I-Spy” would prove rather lame.......“Let's see, I spy with my little eye something......brown.....”, and you can’t even fall asleep and let the siblings on either side of you play ping pong with your head. But I did try a variation on the theme of “I’m going to Grandma’s house and I’m going to bring.....” So our “I’m going on pioneer trek” game lasted a few minutes, but it’s challenging for the people on the rear to be heard by the backs of the heads up front and sometimes we’d have to pause for geographic conditions that required a little more concentration, and it’s never been that great of a game anyway.

To keep their kids talking, the parents in one handcart in our company kept up a steady stream of this or that questions......“Books or movies?" "Cold weather or hot weather?" "Band or choir?" "Superman or Batman?” There were a few singing handcarts behind us, some who sang with great gusto, and occasionally we’d half-heartedly join in, but that wasn’t our strong suit (along with family cheers). We found our talents lie in the pushing department. From the handcart in front of us, we heard frequent encouragement from the Pa: “Push, guys! You gotta’ PUSH!” I don’t think we ever, not once during the whole trek, told our kids to push. If anything, we held them back. “Slow down a bit....give the other cart room.....let’s wait and let them get ahead...” This stop-and-go was irritating, especially for our power forwards who knew, "we could have been in Zion, like, yesterday.” As a non-pushing Ma, I often had to lift up my skirt and jog just to stay with our cart, that’s how fast they wanted to move-along.

I’ve never been much of a group joiner, but I do like one-on-one conversations, so I slowly got to know each of our kids. While they pushed, I jogged along next to them and asked annoying questions. And really, when you’re sweating and tired, isn’t it great to have someone who’s putting forth maybe a tenth of your effort ask about your future aspirations? I’m sure they loved it. Some of our kids knew each other from school or ward, but none of them were bosom buddies, so everyone had to stick their neck out at least a little bit.

We did find that one of our daughters, who was on the back, had a good friend pushing on the front of the cart behind us. At water breaks they’d talk. Then suddenly the friend was gone and that handcart was down a person. Our company captain told us there’d been an accident and they were taking her to a hospital for X-rays. Our mouths all dropped open and he explained that she’d had her foot run-over by a wheel and her trekking was done. I wondered if this was one of the “vignettes” I knew the trek director had planned for out on the trail, but no, this was a jolt of reality that we hadn’t expected. Trekking was not without its dangers, something our ancestors could have, and actually DID, tell us in their journals.

As night fell, the conversation in our family and from the sound of it, in the other families, turned to food. The this-or-that cart was asking, “Lasagna or Enchilada?" "McDonalds or Burger King?” Everything sounded good. Once the cart behind us hit on the food conversation, they never, through the whole rest of the trek, departed from it.

Trekking at night is not as hot as trekking in the day. That’s all I can come up with in the “advantages-of-night-trekking department”. It was so dark we weren’t always sure we were exactly on the trail. Rocks tripped us up. The wind whipped sand in our faces. I overheard a girl on another cart say loudly, “O.K.! I get it! Trekking is hard! Let’s get some food and go to sleep!” No one disagreed with her. But we kept trekking, hours after the sun went down.

When we finally stopped for the night, a light rain began to fall. We all retrieved our tin pie plates and spoons from our buckets and joined the dinner line. Salty broth and a roll. That was it. But it did taste good. We said a family prayer, laid out a tarp on the ground, and made camp for the night. Pa Beck pulled another tarp over us, securing it to our handcart with ropes, and turned out the lantern. The turning off of the lantern struck me as so old-fashioned and wholesome I wanted to say, "good night, John Boy," but knew our kids wouldn't understand a Waltons reference. Instead, I fell asleep to the enthusiastic voice of Ma This-or-That asking, "sleeping bag or hammock?" Day one was mercifully over

No comments: