I can do hard things. I have done hard things. For instance, once I hiked up a steep and rocky mountain with 40 pounds piled onto my back. That is a hard thing, and painful, but it was the best night's sleep I ever got in the dirt.
This was much different. Wyoming is a peculiar place. It is extremely hot during the summer days and super cold at night. The wind howls almost all of the time. I have written about "sizzling heat" before, but boy was I ever wrong to call that sizzling. I didn't know sizzling heat until I met Wyoming.
Yet for some reason, I thought it would be cool to be dropped off in the middle of the desert to go traipsing around for four days. It might have even crossed my mind that it would be fun. I was both right and wrong.
One Monday in July found me dressed in pioneer clothing consisting of a long skirt, bonnet, long-sleeved shirt, bloomers, long socks and tennis shoes. I was about to embark on a journey in memory of my ancestors who crossed the plains for religious reasons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, organizes this particular activity with each of its stakes. A stake is a bunch of wards, or neighborhood congregations, that meet together in the same building.
The event is called "trek" because that is exactly what it is. On July 15 at precisely 5:20 a.m., my siblings/cousins and I were pulling out of the driveway to go meet with our stake. Of course, no journey is complete without roadblocks, thus, we had a flat tire. Quickly, we shoved all of our gear into our other vehicle and sped to the meeting place.
Becoming a family
We were able to travel to our location in tour buses. As luck would have it, some of those lovely air-conditioned, bathroom-foot rests-and-TV-on-board buses broke down. Yes, I was on one of the broken ones, so after transferring our bodies and baggage onto another bus we headed to Martin's Cove in Alcova, Wyo.
A simple five-mile hike to the actual cove without handcarts is recommended to anyone. There was such a peace felt there. One could tell that the pioneers who had come through this place were watching over it.
On a trek, each person is put into a family with a couple as the Ma and Pa. An average family consists of four boys and four girls varying in age. My family had only three girls with four boys. The only things we were allowed to bring with us were a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a five- or six-gallon bucket filled with one change of clothes, pajamas and other assorted camping supplies.
After visiting the cove, we got back on the buses and drove for an hour to our campsite near the Sixth Crossing of the Sweetwater River, directly west of Sweetwater Station, Wyo. The next day bright and early at 5:30 a.m. we broke camp with our families, filled our handcarts and started on the trail by 7 a.m.
We walked 14 miles with each handcart weighing approximately 150 pounds. That may not seem like a lot to cover in a day, but pulling/pushing a handcart at a slow speed wears on you. Still, one of my favorite parts was running around my family squirting them in the face with our family squirt bottle to keep them cool, which started squirt-bottle wars with a couple of other families.
This same day we had a women's pull, in which the women pulled the handcarts and the men watched and were not allowed to help at all whatsoever. This is to signify the men in bygone times going off to war, dying, or being pulled in the handcart by their wives because of sickness/injury.
The small mountain we were asked to climb with full handcarts, and no men, was full of sand and rocks, and right before we pulled up the hill the cloud that was shading us moved and the light rain we had been experiencing stopped. This pull was a hard thing to do, painful and emotional. The boys probably wouldn't want me to divulge this information, but they cried. They are not to be called "sissies" for doing so either! Heaven forbid men show they care for their fellow women in times of hardship!
The next day we walked the same amount of miles, if not more. It was just as hot as the day before, and definitely worse because of the terrain. Some complained about the clothes we wore, but I didn't mind. My bonnet kept the sun off my face, and my long shirt/skirt kept me insulated, therefore cooler, because my sweat wasn't being evaporated.
During our walk we would sing, laugh and talk about anything and everything. At other times the mood was somber as the heat of the day got to us and the hills got higher, but we tried to keep our spirits up.
This day was one of my favorites because the three girls in our family decided to pull up Rocky Ridge, aptly named for the enormous rock formations that looked like stairs for people twice our size. After we had made the climb, our brothers told us to take it easy and not work so hard the rest of the day. But we pulled the rest of the day with no trading out; they were definitely surprised that we did it.
'One with the dirt'
The last day, luckily, we were not asked to walk much because we all sat together at Rock Creek Hollow and shared our experiences, and then we left.
For those who have not been on a trek, I highly recommend it. I would do it all over again even though it wasn't always ideal or hardly easy. So far it has been the best growing and most fun experience I have ever had. I became one with the dirt, learned a whole lot more about myself in the mornings, and learned that I can do really hard things.
When I got home I greatly welcomed the shower. My legs, hidden under bloomers, a long skirt and long socks the whole time, were a lovely tan color. Once in the shower, I watched that beautiful color swirl down the drain. With a sigh, I accepted once more my porcelain limbs.
Taylor Deem will be a junior this fall at Fremont High School. Email her at email@example.com.