Local teenagers gave up modern vehicles and luxuries to experience life as a pioneer this week. From June 5-9, roughly 80 local youth have been pulling handcarts, participating in the 2012 Youth Handcart Trek.
The Payson Arizona Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sponsoring the event.
Ivan McLaws, chair of this year’s trek, and numerous volunteers have been working on the event for more than eight months.
Trail boss Colt White is guiding the group, offering encouragement along the way. Preparations for the trek included creating 18 miles of trail near Heber and maps to guide the youth through the wilderness.
The Youth Handcart Trek experience will give participating youth just a taste of what the actual Mormon pioneers experienced, said Judie Lyon.
“They will pull handcarts, walk, camp overnight, prepare meals and gain an appreciation for the effort that it took the original pioneers,” she said. “Those treks, which first began in 1847, are described by historians as one of the great epics in United States history.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described, the route taken by the original handcart companies.
“In the spring of 1847, the wagons of the first company pulled out of Winter Quarters, Neb. and headed west. Generally, they followed a route along the north side of the Platte River. Those going to California and Oregon followed a route on the south side. The road of the Mormons later became the right-of-way of the Union Pacific Railroad and the transcontinental highway.”
The youth participating in the Payson area 2012 Trek are organized into seven “families.”
The families are working as teams to pull the handcarts up hills and down washes.
They will walk for two days and then spend a few days in camp.
Each day will conclude with an evening discussion after which the youth will record their experiences in a journal prepared by some of the planning committee members, Lyon said.
The journals replicate in appearance the leather bound, laced and branded journals of the pioneers. During their days in camp, Jamie Escondido will visit with them, explaining and demonstrating the role and contributions of blacksmiths. Gordon Gartner will document the journey in photographs and, as a follow-up, prepares a CD for each participant.
Along with the physical challenges of the trek, there will be some enjoyable experiences such as dancing in the evenings at camp, Lyon said.