Friday, September 11, 2009


This is the first of many catch-up posts from our summer of '09. We had a busy and unbelievable summer and it all started out with pioneer trek. I need to give a slight warning that you will see a lot of haggard, unshowered, frumpy hideousness in this post (from me anyway), so just beware.

I'll never be able to fully express how incredible it is to experience Trek. Those of you who have gone hopefully already know and those who haven't (yet), then jump on the first chance you get to do it. I was a little reluctant to accept the call at first because Jayne was only a month old when they asked us. I didn't know if I would be able to leave her, but it worked out that I was only able to nurse her for 6 months which was just before Trek. I am so grateful we could go. It was truly life-changing and I will remember it vividly for the rest of my life.

I took my camera, but it had been wigging out on us. I hoped that I could at least get a few good shots, but alas, they all turned out like this:

Purple goo. I was devastated. Thank goodness we had a top notch Trek committee who had enough foresight to call a photographer to document the whole thing. Now we actually have pictures to go with our memories.

"The Herriman Family" at the starting line, where we are all bright-eyed and fresh-faced. We had such amazing kids in our family. I think one of the greatest things I took away from Trek is how impressive the youth are. I haven't worked with the youth on such a close level before and it was such a blast. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember President Hinckley saying something about how good the youth are and that the future (of the Church) is in good hands. I witnessed how true that is. I love these kids!
Janelle, Peter, Cami

Blake, Amanda & Skylee, Adam (Unfortunately, we didn't get individual pictures of Rees and Dallan because of the camera issue)

We had the privilege to pull on trails that were right alongside some of the original pioneer trails. We got to see markers they left to guide future companies and graves where they buried those that didn't make it. There really was a special spirit that accompanied that place.
These are some of the fantastic trail sides we had. People from our stake dressed up as figures from the Book of Mormon or some of the early pioneers. It was always the boost we needed to keep going. Clockwise from top: Some old coal kilns they used for the early railway-we all went inside to listen to another trail side. The acoustics inside were amazing, so we all decided to sing "We thank thee O God for a Prophet". The Spirit was strong and we later found out that one of the boys in our family, while singing this song, gained his own testimony that Joseph Smith is indeed a true prophet and did all that he said he did. There were so many stories similar to this which is the beauty of Trek. The next picture is someone dressed as John Taylor. He talked about Carthage Jail and then sang the original version of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief"-the tune is slightly different than the one in the hymn book. It was crazy how real it felt and how he actually seemed like he was John Taylor. The last two pictures are of King Lamoni. He recounted the story of the Lamanites burying their weapons and making a covenant to not fight anymore. We were asked to think of something in our life that we need to let go. We then wrote it on a piece of paper, threw it in a big hole and buried them all. We were asked to make a promise with the Lord that we would give up whatever it was and leave it there on the trail. It was a great reminder of all the junk we let into our lives that we don't need and that keep us from being close to our Heavenly Father. It was definitely one of the most powerful trail sides we had.

This is Missfortune. As you can see, she was quite a daunting presence. We all know that the pioneers faced so much adversity on the trail. Missfortune was there to let us in on a small part of that. Most of the time it was things such as a toothache and you couldn't talk for 30 minutes, or getting sprayed by a skunk and had stay at least 50 feet from everyone or you hit a ditch and all of your belongings came out of your cart (in which case we had to unload our cart, walk forward 20 yards, then go back and get our stuff and reload). But then there was the misfortune we were all dreading...the death of our babies. Every family was given a rag baby at the beginning of Trek. They were cloth dolls stuffed with cotton and beans and were given a name and story that belonged to a real pioneer baby. Many babies died as the Saints crossed the plains and our little Trek company was no exception. As we walked, I imagined having to care for my little children in such extreme circumstances as the pioneers did. I can only imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it was for them to see their children suffer. But when we had to bury these little rag babies, I completely lost it. Again, I couldn't believe how real it was. At first, the kids were a little apathetic towards these "dolls", but as we went along, we all became quite attached and to lose them was very hard. All I could think about as they buried these babies was sweet, little 6 month-old Jayne at home and what it would be like to leave her little body there on the plains. Oh man, I dreaded those burials, but I am so grateful I had the experience to feel the tiniest portion of grief that the pioneers felt.

This was the woman's pull. As we pulled our cart to the bottom of a huge hill, a woman was there to greet us. She told us that all the men in our company had become ill and died and the women were left to pull on their own. All the men then walked up the hill to wait for us. This woman told us a story of a woman whose husband had died and she was left to cross the plains alone. She said that her feet got so numb and frostbitten in the snow, that she eventually had to crawl. When her knees and hands became too numb, she dragged herself on her elbows until she could go no further. It blows me away how they never just rolled over and gave up when it would have been so easy to do so. We all said a prayer together before we ascended. It was definitely not easy as the hill was steep and the cart heavy. The men had a difficult time as well as they helplessly watched us struggle up the hill, but almost everyone (including the men) said that it was one of the highlights of Trek. The Spirit was SO strong and many felt the pioneers giving them strength to keep going.

Well, it wasn't all work and no play thankfully. We had a lot of playful times too. This was the same day we had the women's pull and the first of the burials (also, our baby got kidnapped by Indians because we left it napping under our cart too long-long story in which ended up in me bawling again. We got him back though). Needless to say, it was a long, emotional, exhausting day and these games were welcomed by all. Clockwise from top: Shooting rifles; Next, a game where you hold hands around a garbage can and try to get your opponents out by making them touch the garbage can-it was so much fun and I admit I played a little dirty (but legal) to got Shane out a few times; The next was a game in which one person stood on this frame and the others grabbed a rope and had to tip the frame on one leg and see how many times they could spin it around without falling; and, of course, the stick pull.

That night it poured on us and even hailed a little. Many of us woke up soaked, including our boys who were stuffed in their tent 5 deep. They were pretty discouraged until Peter, who is autistic and doesn't say very much, yelled out "Stinkbomb!" This was his infamous phrase whenever he farted. Obviously, we didn't enjoy the stench, but it always cracked us all up. Because everything was all wet, we stayed in camp that day instead of walking. It was much needed by everyone. We had Sunday services which consisted of some excellent talks and then testimonies. As we were bearing testimonies, there was a shepherd leading his sheep down a hill behind us. How appropriate. I watched as he would nudge them along and then hang back and watch them for a while. He was always close by as they would go explore on their own for a while. He would then come behind them and nudge them along once again. I couldn't help but think of the Savior who is our Shepherd. He too nudges us along so lovingly. Sometimes we try to go off on our own and rely on our own strength, but thankfully he is always watching and close by to pick us up and nudge us along again. He was most definitely close by to pick up the pioneers when they felt they couldn't go another step.

The highlight of our Sunday services was to witness the baptism of this little boy. He was baptized right there in the creek that flowed through our camp. One of the girls in our family has not been baptized, so it was really special that she could witness this ordinance in such a unique way. The water was cold and he let out an audible gasp as he came out of the water. At a reunion fireside we just had, his dad told us that after he pulled his son out of the water, he asked him how he felt and he just replied, "warm." It was really beautiful and I am so glad we could be a part of it.

This is my good friend Emily, poor girl. She signed on to be one of the nurses and as you can imagine, this is how she spent the majority of her time. Blisters, blisters and more blisters and, as you can also imagine, Trek feet=nasty feet. She commented that she doesn't get why someone would be drawn to podiatry. I couldn't agree more, but am thankful there are those that are. Bless your heart Emily, you did an amazing job and now I know we are friends for life since you have seen my toe jam :)

The finish line

Our company captains, the Johnsons

We made it! Top, left to right: Rees, Dallan, me, Shane, Blake, Adam & little Tommy (Adam, by far, became the most attached to Tommy, so we let him take him home). Bottom, l to r: Cami, Skyelee, Janelle, Peter

I really could go on and on about Trek (and I have :). We each got to walk for an ancestor or pioneer that crossed the plains. I love that we could honor them. I have no doubt that they were there with us. I am eternally grateful for what they sacrificed and endured for their faith and I love them for it. I know we only got the smallest taste of what they went through, but I will never think about them in the same way. I only hope I can have a smidgen of their conviction and courage. That Wyoming wilderness will always be a sacred place to us and not just because it is where the pioneers walked. It is where testimonies were gained, tears were shed, and promises were made to our Heavenly Father. It was difficult to leave that place, where everything was pure and simple, and come back to our noisy lives. The contrast really struck me as we were at the parking lot of the stake center. I was talking to a mom who was there to pick up her son. She asked me about Trek and as I answered, she was texting and looking at her cell phone. I'm not trying to sound uppity and judgmental, I wasn't thinking bad of her. I was just more aware of it than ever because we had just spent the last four days without stuff like that. We really do get so caught up in all the distractions life has to offer these days. They are not necessarily bad things, but distractions nevertheless. I noticed that as I got away from all of it, the Spirit could speak to me so much more, and He did. We definitely can't fully get away from all distractions, but I realized that I need to seek out more opportunities to get away, even for 10 minutes, and just be with my Heavenly Father.

We loved being Ma and Pa's hoping that four years from now, we get called again!


Spenny and Nellie Morris said...

Wow-what an amazing experience! I was getting all teary eyed just reading it. I did this trek too with a lot of the same activities. Amazing experience! I had an ancestor in the Martin handcart company, so that made it extra special for me. Thanks for sharing your experience! Those were lucky kids to have you as their Ma and Pa!

PML said...

Our camera is doing the same purple goo thing! It is kind of freaky when you take pictures of your kids and they turn out like they are from a horror film.

That Trek sounds exciting. I know everyone in our ward talks about what a great experience it was. I'm glad you guys were able to go!

Karrissa Winward said...

What an excellent opportunity!! I am glad you guys had such a great time! The youth are amazing huh?!?

TeamTyson said...

Wow Elise I have never wanted to go on trek before, and now after reading your post and hearing your testimony and feeling the Spirit, I want to go! I am glad you had this oppertunity, and I am glad you shared it.

Jen said...

Oh I never did trek...looks hard but fun!