Monday, July 7, 2014

Doing the Ancestors Proud

An LDS church youth group from Walla Walla pulled and pushed handcarts through Bing Canyon in Eastern Washington. They wore some semblance of pioneer clothing--long skirts, bonnets, suspenders, straw hats, but there were also a few baseball caps, t-shirts, modern-looking sunglasses. They ate pulled pork sandwiches, snacked on trail mix full of M&Ms and gummy bears, pitched their REI tents in the early evening, laid their sleeping bags on memory foam pads, and fluffed their pillows. They probably even wore deodorant. We are so not from Walla Walla.

Silverdale Stake Pioneer Trek 2014 was all about authenticity. The girls wore not only dresses, bonnets, and aprons, but pantaloons and even petticoats that no one else would ever see. The boys were in buttoned suspenders, old-fashioned hats and collar-less shirts. Pioneers in the 1800’s wore no deodorant, so 160-ish years later, we’d stink together in solidarity with our ancestors. Colgate wasn’t a huge presence on the plains, but you could sprinkle some baking soda on your toothbrush. Make up? Nope. Snacks for the long journey? Not part of the program. Each trekker had only the essentials--sleeping bag (no pad, no pillow, certainly no tent), extra socks, tarp, and the all-important cup that most people hung from their waist. Thankfully we did include some maybe not-so-authentic items--Chapstick, bug spray, sunscreen--but for the most-part, we were trekking it Brigham Young style.

Most Americans think of Washington as a green, misty wilderness from one end of the state to the other. While green and misty is true in the west, when I unhappily find myself in the east, I always feel I’ve been transported to the Star Wars land of Tatooine. I expect to be ambushed by sand people. This is the wasteland where our busses dropped us, our handcarts standing together in an ominous group on the hill. At the Ma/Pa training we’d attended, we were told that our primary job as parents was to love and encourage. We were NOT to pack the handcart, as a matter of fact, we couldn’t even help MOVE the handcart. This was a bit of a trial for hiking, camping guru Pa Beck, but I shrugged my shoulders, said, “rules are rules” and offered my daughters some lip balm. The aunts and uncles could help, which was fine by me too.

At our overnight training session, we had gotten a taste of what the kids would be experiencing. The handcarts, very close to what our ancestors used, were surprisingly ergonomic and efficient in moving gear from one place to another. The large wheels could go over rocks and even small logs without too much trouble. Four people was the ideal number on the front, with 2 between the shafts (yes, I looked that up), and 2 outside of the shafts, all pushing on the handle. Three would have been perfect on the back, but because each handcart had a required water jug strapped onto a little shelf on the end, 2 people pushed the cart and 1 person pushed the water jug (as it turned out, ours wasn’t initially secured as well as could be hoped and our daughter on the jug got a good dousing). That left an aunt or an uncle to avoid the wheels and help wherever they could.

Our teenagers loaded our gear into our cart, covered it with tarps, and strapped it all down with ropes. We named our handcart Bob. Bob was to later sustain our family’s only serious injury and would not make it to Zion, but he did serve us well while he was able. Heave-ho, we were off.

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