Youth trek tests strength and courage
Jericho Trail home of three day conference
Youth from Lowcountry congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) began a three-day Pioneer Youth Conference Trek on the Jericho Trail in the Francis Marion Forest on April 4 at 7:15 a.m, at the Eccles Church.
They pulled handcarts and faced numerous reenactments of hardships faced by pioneers during their historic trek from Illinois to the great Salt Lake Valley, beginning in 1846.
They were driven from their homes by mobs and an extermination order issued by the governor of Missouri.
The trek emulated the 10 companies of handcart pioneers who walked the 1,300 miles from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, pulling and pushing all that they owned.
Of the total of 2,962 handcart immigrants, about 250 died along the way.
Pennye Hallam of Mount Pleasant, trek chair, has organized the treks each four years since 1997.
She says “The vision from the beginning was to help kids think beyond themselves and gain a greater appreciation of their heritage, family and church.
They need to understand what hardships their ancestors endured, being driven from their homes, from abundance and security, and struggling to find a new life.
On trek, they withdraw from the physical comforts of home - there’s no phone service on the trail - and face physical and personal challenges that build character and testimony.”
Carl Smith served with his wife Tess as “Ma” and “Pa” to about a dozen youth.
He described additional goals of the experience as developing greater self-knowledge and self-esteem, deeper friendships and understanding of the importance of the family unit.
Pulling handcarts, a human-powered wagon, is one of the most important parts of the trek, according to Hallam.
The original fully-loaded handcart could hold around 500 pounds of provisions and supplies, 17 pounds for adult and 10 pounds for each child. Frequently even this amount became onerous, and belongings were abandoned all along the trial.
“Pulling over the 19 mile trail gives them the opportunity to experience physical hardship firsthand, thereby coming to appreciate the struggles of their pioneer ancestors. The handcart helps them recognize their limitations and at the same time what they can accomplish as an individual and as a team.
They form bonds with others that last for many years after trek is over”.