TREK THE FINAL CHAPTER--Day Four
The final day of Trek began like the others—making breakfast, packing carts, reading scriptures, and saying prayers. But these weren’t exactly the same kids who had left Gooseberry Flats three days before. It was evident in the way they interacted, the way they took charge of the tasks necessary to get ready to go, and in the way they packed the carts. (Tight like a dish.)
Their conversations were about getting home, showering, being able to use a cell phone, or even a flush toilet again. Even with everything they were looking forward too, I could see that they were sad to be leaving Trek behind. (Maybe not willing to stay another couple of days, but still sad.)
On the last day, the youth led out. When they
encountered a fence, their first obstacle, they figured out the best way around it, made it through and then left someone at that point to direct the
carts coming behind them.
Along the way they stopped for a funeral (one of the "babies" they received on the first day had been declared dead). This was the third funeral of the Trek and the most solemn. By this point I think the youth felt the funeral more deeply because after three hard days it was easier to relate to the hardships the pioneers faced. Leaving behind the baby doll reminded the youth that not all of the pioneers made it to the end of their journey in the real pioneer trek.
Four years ago when I went on Trek, the road home was a lot rougher than it was on this last day. In fact, the original Lacey Stake Trek twelve years ago had to re-build the road before they could travel it. Thanks (or no thanks), to the Forest Service the road was much smoother, (do you get the idea that Mormons like to make thin
gs hard on their youth in the name of a learning experience?) I was worried that an easier road would make the last day of Trek less memorable, but I don’t think it was a problem. Instead of having to overcome obstacle after obstacle, the Trekkers had the chance to hold a “debriefing” with their families. They took the time to leave the trail, find a spot in the shade and talk about their Trek experience. They discussed what they had found out they could live without like cell phones, internet, make-up, and indoor plumbing. What they had learned about themselves and what they could accomplish. What they had learned about each other. What they had learned about their ancestors and about their faith.
I had the chance to reflect too. I thought about four days without my e-mail, cell phone, and other technology constantly calling for my attention. I thought about quiet moments of reflection in the mountains. I thought about the amazing strength of 150 youth, what they had accomplished by working together. I thought about what strength and commitment they would be taking with them into high school and beyond.
When left the roughest part of the road, the Trekkers were reunited with two girls that couldn’t make that part of the trip because they had to ride in the cart. The reunion was sweet and from that point, the girls would travel with the rest of the group to the end of the trail.
Cart by cart the youth finished their Trek at Taneum Campground. They were met by cheering family members and leaders, a modern barbecue (no fry bread, woo hoo!), and the real world. Coming into the campground we saw normal people in normal clothing--people who had actually been able to shower within the last twenty-four (or even 48hours. It’s funny how you don’t realize how dirty, smelly, and well, weird you look on Trek because everyone looks exactly the same. Then you meet someone who is clean and...oh, heck at that
point you still don't care, because you have made it to the end and all of your best friends look as wonderfully dirty and weird and smell as bad as you do!
Pulling the carts into the unloading area was a bittersweet moment. No more trekking--walking in the heat and the dust, eating fry bread (okay I will let that one go now), pulling and pushing heavy up the side of a steep mountain carts. But at the same time time no more Trek--working with your friends, laughing on the trail, making up crazy songs, showing how tough you can be. No more of the spirit that accompanies every moment of Trek.
We were nearly home (the wonders of modern transportation!) before I realized nobody had turned on the radio and I hadn’t even checked my voicemail. It was like we needed those few hours and a quiet ride home to adjust to the real world.
I will file this Trek experience with my other Trek experiences--among my fondest memories. I left Trek with a renewed hope for the youth of the world, a stronger commitment to I can do hard things, a deeper gratitude for the pioneers who went before me, and a deeper faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Going back to Day One and the complete craziness of what we asked 150 teenagers to do, and what they did do (for the most part) willingly.
For four days and about twenty-six miles they trekked together. They got hot and dusty, and hungry and tired. There were moments when I'm sure they wanted to give up (I know I did,) but they kept going. They left with sore muscles, blistered feet, and little bits of the mountain (in the form of dust) clinging to their bodies. After the showers were taken and their stomach full of something besides fry bread (I know I said I would let it go), after the sore muscles and blisters have healed, I hope the things that will still cling to them are a stronger belief in themselves, a commitment to serve and help each other, and an increased faith in the Lord.