Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Since January, we have attended meetings, gone to training, and participated in lots of various activities all in preparation of this summer's Pioneer Trek. It always seemed SO far away. And now it's over. I still can't believe it.

I've struggled to know how to blog this experience. I just don't feel like I can do it justice. It is something that you simply must experience for yourself. I, fortunately, did have the opportunity to go on a trek as a youth. I was twelve, maybe thirteen. Shane went on the same trek. He remembers much more than I do. See...we had to kill chickens and then eat them for dinner. That single event is really the only thing I remember. Guess it was that...traumatic! Thankfully, the "trek experience" has changed quite a bit since then. It is now much more organized with very specific experiences and events that are re-created. Amazing experiences. And the killing of chickens is no longer happening. Good thing...otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to go!
Meet our children: Jeremy, Chris, Gideon, Megan, Becca, Madeline, Garren, and Kolbie. Aren't they a good-looking bunch? Each family had 8 to 10 kids. We were organized into families back in March and from that time on, met with them about once a month. I made them a delicious breakfast (that all agreed was better than their real mothers'. Winning them over with FOOD!). We made a family banner for the back of our handcart, hiked Table Rock, participated in a service project, decorated our buckets, square danced, had a game night, and an ice cream social. It was great. The stake made sure to really mix people up so this gave us the chance to get to know each other, well before the actual trek. Our kids were awesome. We lucked out.

1st things 1st. Set up camp. Look at that handsome Pa!

BEHOLD THE BANNER! The kids decided on the "Tucker Titans" as our family name and our company color was orange. Not bad eh?
The whole fam just before hitting the trail on the first day. Eager, anxious, & excited to get moving. Everyone had a skip in their step.

The boys. The 3 older boys were AmAZinG! We just called them our oxen. They were such beasts! So strong. They took their spots up front and never gave them up. That's where they wanted to be...100%. We didn't hear one complaint out of any of them. Once we got going on the first day Shane asked them how long they could keep up their quick pace. Chris answered immediately, "All day." And he wasn't kidding. Talk about endurance. Shane and I had to give each other a little high-five to celebrate our strong sons.

The girls were just as impressive. They all got along well and were total troopers. Pulled their weight and sang their way on the trail. Notice Megan holding our baby. The family gave her the name of Lucy Bucket Tucker...kids called her BLT for short. Inside story.
See...our oxen team! The weather on the first day was awesome. Couldn't have been better. It was overcast and breezy. We all enjoyed it while it lasted.
The first day was also the day of our river crossing. It was waist deep, had a swift current, and ice cold. It was much more difficult than I had expected. It chilled you right to the bone. After we crossed we had someone tell us the details of the Sweetwater river crossing that the saints experience in the dead of winter. We were reminded of the men who carried women and children across and ultimately gave up their lives. As we turned around to cross it again, we did so in silence. Men and boys were asked to carry women and girls across if they were able and while we crossed, two young women played "Be Still My Soul" on their violins. It was a tender experience. I can't imagine doing what they did. It was hard in the heat of the summer.
There were 32 families total. Quite the group! It was pretty awesome to see the mile-long train of handcarts.
The first day ended with some square dancing. I forget how fun square dancing is. Anyone can do it and you can't help but to yelp and "yee-haw" while dancing. Even Shane enjoyed it and he hates to dance!
After a long sleep-less night...I mean a blissful & rest-full night.
Right off the bat on our second day, we had a minor mis-hap. There were some ginormous pot holes in the trail and while the cart bounced into one, all the weight of the cart landed on Megan's knee. She was pushing in the back and it got her pretty good. She was our oldest and strongest daughter so to have this happen in the first 10 minutes of our 12 mile day was not good. She reluctantly rode in the cart a good portion of the morning and fortunately, she was able to push through the rest of the day okay.
On the 2nd day we also said good-bye to our lovely overcast weather and said hello to the blistering sun. They made us double the amount of water that we carried in our cart for that day. We had 100 pounds of just water. And we carried Megan for a bit.
Our oxen were not phased.
Like I said, blistering sun! Oh man, I have never sweat like this in my whole entire life!!! We would stand there, doing nothing and just DRIPPED with sweat. Our bonnets and hats were great at protecting us from getting burned but they also completely trapped in the heat. We all resorted to dumping water over our heads every couple of miles...welcomed relief!
On top of it being over 100 degrees, 80% of our trail was uphill.
Our little Garren-Man. Garren is barely 12 and weighs 60 pounds. This trek was tough on him. I think he was the most proud when it was all said and done.

After 6 miles of straight uphill, all of the men were called on missions and had to leave their families. All of the women sat and listened to a woman talk about her experience with the priesthood in her life and learned at the end of her remarks that she had lost her husband in a plane crash just 3 years ago. She never thought she'd be left alone and she is still trying to just put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. There was also a beautiful musical number that I sat and bawled my eyes out through the whole thing.
We then experienced the "women's pull." The women were asked to climb the steepest hill of the entire trail alone, without their men. It was a little terrifying. I just pictured our cart tumbling backwards back to the bottom. We were one of the first 3 carts to start walking. As we got near the top, the men lined each side of the trail and with their hats off, quietly sang "Come, Come Ye Saints." They watched their families struggle and were unable to help. I was shocked to look up and see most of them in tears.
It was so amazing to watch as girls that had just reached the top with their sisters, completely out of breathe, run back down to help those still moving up the hill. One was a Ma in my company who was 14 weeks pregnant. I just cried as I watched her power through that experience and help others who were struggling in the process. No one knew that she was pregnant. Just having her in my company as fellow Ma was, for me, a tender mercy.
As the final handcart topped the hill, the women spontaneously started to sing "As Sisters in Zion." It was amazing.
Later that day, everyone received letters from home and we honored those who died at Rocky Ridge. As we covered those who had passed away with a white cloth we talked about the Atonement as our own personal cover and protection. And more beautiful music was shared.
That long, long, hot day ended with a testimony meeting. Everyone was beaten down, exhausted, and nursing blisters. Despite what everyone was feeling physically, sweet testimonies were shared.
And I'm happy to report that the 2nd night really was a blissful and rest-full night (thanks to ear plugs).
DAY 3: Trail of Trials. Every 10 minutes we experienced a different trial. The effects of the trial lasted for the rest of the days hike, about 5 miles. We started the day by being robbed. Indians and hunters stole food, water, and even babies. We lost some personals but kept our baby (thanks to Madeline who hid BLT quite well.)
We then read about the woman who became snow-blind because of the fierce winds and snow. The person with the word "faith" on their wrist band then became snow blind. For us, it was Becca. She remained blindfolded without her site for the rest of the day.

Next was the story about the boy who got caught under the handcart and had his back broken from the wheel. Kolbie was the one who was then unable to walk and had to ride in the handcart the remainder of the time.
So many lost their shoes on the trail and in the snow and had to continue on barefoot in 19 inch snow. Madeline and Garren lost their shoes and socks.
Madeline rode in the cart for awhile and we made Garren some duct tape shoes. He reluctantly walked in duct tape! Kolbie then let Madeline wear her shoes for the last 2 miles.
We then read about the mother who buried her baby in a shoe box and left it on the trail. It was hard to even read out loud. Lucy died. We made a little "grave" out of rocks and gave her a little memorial service. The kids didn't want to just walk away from her. Sad.
Then the "death pull." Every family had members die. We walked the remainder of the time without them (they left with a different group) and we were reunited with them at camp. Megan died. It's amazing that after only 3 days how tight you can get. It was sad for these kids to lose Megan...even for that short time. We made up a song for her and sang it too her when we saw her again. So on the walk back to camp we had one who was blind and needed guidance, 2 riding in the cart, one walking in duct tape and one who left us completely. It was a tough couple of miles.
But we made it!!!!!!
We kept talking about how we can do hard things! These 3 days were stinkin' HARD. So much more difficult than I had anticipated. Shane and I thought we were ready. We weren't and we paid for it. One gal in our ward who runs marathons and is super active and fit said that it was the hardest thing she's ever had to do, physically. That helped me feel validated a little! And man, we all smelled so, so, SO bad! That bus ride home was long and smelly.
I still can't stop thinking about this whole thing. It sounds all cheesy but it really was life changing. Amazing. Everyone needs to do this at some point. And how awesome and memorable for the youth. Such a wonderful thing for them to experience. My appreciation for and perspective of those early saints has completely changed. I am in awe at their faith and testimonies. All they cared about was following the prophet and doing what the Lord asked of them, no matter the cost. They knew that the Lord was aware of them and moved forward, without fear. They knew that the gospel was worth the sacrifice, even their lives.
I am not convinced that I would have been one of those faithful women. I'm pretty sure I would have sat on my rear and waved them good-bye. But I do know that I can have faith as I live each day of my luxury-filled life, and try today to be the woman the Lord would have me be. I also know that today's trial can be tomorrow's testimony. Keeping that in mind makes it all a little easier.
I am so glad that Shane put his foot down and said, "We are doing this!" when we were first given the call. I feel so blessed.


Kristen. Jason. Sofie said...

that is so awesome! and you are the cutest ma and pa i ever have seen! i hope we get to go on a trek sometime!

JoLyn Stevens said...

Wow. I doubt I'll ever be asked to me a Ma because I put off an extreme "wussy" vibe--but I'm excited for my kids to experience this someday. I hope they get a Ma & Pa as great as you and Shane. Your Mom told my mom that you were so prepared and took such good care of your Trek kids. No blisters, sunburns... that alone is amazing! Way to go, Ma!

Marie Photographie said...

Wow, Amy. I got the chills reading this. It sounds like an amazing experience... thanks so much for sharing it! I should do something like this someday. Sounds so, so hard, but so spiritual and rewarding.

*LaUrA* said...

Awesome! I just know your kids will always remember you and this time. What special experiences you got to have!!

I remember our trek as a youth and how hard it was and when it came time to go home I just did not want to leave. All the spiritual experiences that I had and being removed from the world really was amazing. (but even knowing that I would not readily volunteer to go on another one...interesting how that works)

Thanks for sharing! I loved reading about it!!

The Wilker Family said...

What an amazing experience! I never got to do a trek but it really sounds like a life changing experience. I also got chills while reading this. Way to go! Oh, and you should totally rock the bonnet in everyday life!

Sarah and Trent said...

How incredible that must have been! We did a trek when I was in high school at Martin's Cove. It was so powerful and an experience I will never forget. Thanks for sharing - helped me relive some of my special memories :)

Janelle Dobson said...

What a great experience. Have you seen 17 Miracles? We dont' have it out here, but my parents loved it. It was especially moving for my mom knowing our ancestor, Mary Hadock Luke, was apart of it. I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but those boys that carried everyone across the river? They did not die from it. Many think they did because Brigham Young made a comment about how that single act would guarantee them to the celestial kingdom (or something to that effect)- but all three boys lived a long time after that event. Thought you might like to know.

Steph said...

Amy, You ARE AMAZING!! I sat at testimony meeting the Sunday after listening to all the trek testimonies, and felt the spirit all around...this looks like a wonderful experience! (I think we're up next time...better start preparing NOW...) Great Job, both of you!!!

des said...

wow. what an experience. it really makes me wish I was apart of it or get to do it one day too. I totally got chills and teary-eyed a couple of times. :) and laughed.
So many things I want to say!! but I'll just say.... I really glad you got some sleep. ;)

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing! I loved reading about all of it. What an amazing activity. I felt the spirit just reading about it, what a powerful experience for you guys and I am sure it had a great impact on the youth. What a well planned activity. Very cool of you guys to go!

Huke, Lollie, and Gracie! said...

All I can say is Wow Amy. You are a great couple. Maybe someday we will get to have the awesome experience you had. But just the fact that it was awesome and not horrible means that you are an incredible woman of God and you could have made it and you are faithful. Thanks for sharing. And again. So glad we have a blog to keep in touch. PS Your cousin Kristen is one of our best friends in our neighborhood. I just noticed her comment. :)

Claire said...

Wow! I bet you guys were awesome parents!! It sounds like it was an amazing experience!! I remember doing that as a youth, but yours sounded pretty cool. We went to 17 Miracles this past weekend. Have you seen it yet? It's a movie about the Willey Handcart Company. It was awesome, and really helped me realize the impact the pioneers have had on us today and that we can never forget them and the sacrifices they made. Ya, pretty sure I wouldn't have made it too far as a pionner. Thanks for sharing your experience. Glad you survived!!