I am unsure as to why I felt to transcribe this journal and my final thoughts on trek in this fashion. For me it was a surprisingly spiritual experience, one that I hope was the same for those we shared it with. I admit to feeling a tiny bit jealous of my daughter as she described how she loved her trek family 'the best' but also see her reaction out of the corner of my eye as I pontificate on how great our trek family was, many of whom are her current classmates and friends. I feel the same feelings for both our trek family and their family(s) as I do for my own flesh and blood. I watch over and for them whenever they are near. My definition of 'family' has been expanded by this experience and hope to continue expanding it in all my callings. Do you love your neighbor? Do you know their names and worry over and for them? Do you watch and wait for them to turn the corner and wave hello just one more time? We do now ..
Magrath Alberta Stake 2014 Camp of Israel – Come Unto Christ
1 Sunday July 6, 2014 Pa Davies Journal and Notes. Woke up this morning with more brilliant insights, but can only remember just a few. The sunrise this morning was soooo beautiful! Chief Mountain (SW) is behind us and and was large and beautiful last night, but the sun this direction (E) was glorious. I seemed to be the only one awake in our entire camp, a malady of old age, I suppose. [Note: This journal starts on Sunday morning because that is about when we received our camp journals and pencils. Ma gave up her journal to Faith so she would be the same as her co-treklings for the day. We catch up on prior trek events later in this journal].
2 While taking care of morning chores, I met two of our horsemen scouts, Bro Dallen Smith and another, making their rounds. I thought and mentioned to them, how sad it was that so many were still sleeping when that one time glorious event was occurring. It is hard to capture and pass on the 'sunrise experience'.
3 Last night, we held our family council around the firepit .. but this time with no actual fire .. [since the next day would be Fast Sunday and] all our benches had been hauled over to the Saturday night feast so we had nothing to sit on. Our 'extra' cooler keeps getting taken and eventually returned, so we had no toothpaste for the night time rituals [as we forgot and stored it in there] .. we had to beg some toothpaste from our kin family the Cooks [Ron and Leesha].
4 So, this morning I have set up a spot for our family [meetings] with a tarp from the handcart and my extra sleeping blanket in the middle. Found a large rock to set in the middle as a centerpiece – the rock of our salvation – a symbol of Christ (he should be our center).
6 Hope to discuss with our family how we should remember to obey – even if 'just this once' won't matter. (more on this later re question from Grace p9). Flower is – a symbol of God's love for us – of the beauty in the world – all this was create for us to bring us joy – a reminder of 'all he has' for us.
7 On Saturday morning we had a surprise announcement at 6:30am that we all had to pack up 'everything' – take down the tents and load up the handcarts and move out – all within [the next] 30 minutes. Our family was amazing [our youth captain] Hope received the news at an 'emergency' captains meeting, called to order with a volley of live gun shots! (Ma and I were up walking near camp but most everyone else was fast asleep). Everyone sleepily rolled out of bed and disassembled our humble campsite and [cheerfully] prepared for another uncomfortable creek crossing [I later referred to this location as the 'twice crossed creek' as we headed back the same way we had come for the first part of our Saturday morning trek].
8 I was so busy [helping with the] loading and packing that I decided to just cross the creek in my PJs (fleece sleep pants) and water shoes. It turned out that I ended up trekking all that day in those same pants and shoes. I eventually rolled them up mid calf and tucked them into my trek socks – a dashing look if I say so myself! - ended up with a good size blister started on my left heel from those shoes. [Got a nice 'Oh, Roger!' from Sis Dudley later that day as we entered 'the valley' ..]
9 Later that night [at our Saturday evening family council], Grace raised the question of whether I was a 'rule-breaker' for wearing those PJ pants all day (until about 6pm). They had all wanted to wear their PJs to the Friday evening fireside [program the night before] and I hadn't offered an opinion but they were later told [by other camp leaders] that they were to stay 'in [trek] costume'. My intention was and is to obey the 'rules' with exactness. e.g. if trail boss says to stop the wagon, we stop it now, not down the trail a bit .. (for more on this p75-76).
10 re: rule breaking - For family discussion: would like to discuss 'rules' – discuss rules vs commandments – why are rules needed? camp boundaries, handcart safety, camp boss directives – obeying with exactness – what rules do we need to be following better? [ideas: ] a) stay with assigned [trek] families b) wearing the family bandannas [dark pink] properly and with pride c) being kind, and d) looking for what you can do – not being commanded in all things D&C 58:26-28
11 Other ideas for discussion: [symbolism of] our Camp of Israel water bottles (or even the big blue water containers) = oil in our lamps. - lots of water out there but not safely drinkable – when 'empty' not much use (although much easier to carry). - how can we recharge/refill our own canteen/lamp – you [treklings] are all like (really) older brothers/sisters [as we truly are from a purely pre-existant spiritual perspective].
13 Update: Just returned from 'rescuing' lost family members on the trail. [Our trek family was] assigned [or more correctly 'called to accept' see p101 a new trek daughter whom we called] Faith. [Earlier that morning] we had held a nice Sunday School lesson with our kin family the Cooks and at 9am had started our Priesthood meeting with Pres Dudley conducting until Pres McMahon arrived.
14a [FYI my page numbering system inadvertently duplicated pages 14-17 in my trek journal. These pages contained notes from Sunday afternoon Sacrament meeting] Opening Song: Put you Shoulder to the Wheel [surprisingly appropriate] – 'those that were lost' was phrase used in opening prayer – sacrament procedure changed: sisters all served first and then the brethren. [Our trek son] Nephi was asked to serve as one of the three priests blessing – sacrament sounds: birds chirping, wind in the trees, distant generator humming, buzzing insects. - sacrament sights: Pres McMahon presiding and Pres Dudley on the stand, blue sky, scattered small white clouds, wind moving through the forest.
15a Musical: by nephew Austin and friends 'Come Unto Christ' on violins and guitar. Testimonies: - youth are pioneers of today – downward trail easier but not always the best choice – we are blessed despite 'making sense' – daughter Adrien loves her trek family 'the most' (say what!).
16a Things I am grateful for: - chairs with 4 legs – planes, trains, and automobiles – cold water to drink – warm/hot water to wash/bathe in – band aids and moleskin – our trek family – the Lord's support.
17a “This generation of youth has a greater capacity for obedience than any other” - Maxwell  - “how do you act, respond? Can't hide from the Lord (ie via our tech, jobs, other priorities) – The Lord IS calling out to you right now. Come unto me via my son.” “Let this weekend be the Start not an End.” “This is where you were meant to be”.
14b “Heavenly Father has a great love for you” as does Pres McMahon.
15b Thursday 10 July 2014: It is now a few days after trek. I had lost this journal for a short time with the rain on Sunday evening and the packing up and out .. Here are some updates (as far as I remember correctly). As soon as I got back from Trek and after an appropriately long nap first, I sat down and composed a trek family letter  The overpowering feelings of family love and concern rested on me and I just wanted to reach out somehow and retain that memory 'in our remembrance'.
16b Ma felt it important to send that first letter by 'real mail' since we cannot have it sent pony express like back at camp [in the 'valley']. After she returned from the Temple on Tuesday we mailed them all out to you. She later confided that she had placed your names on the temple prayer list – each and every one of your names. This action of love and concern reminded me of our trek fast day – where the entire stake back home were praying and fasting on your/our behalf.
17b Perhaps that explains in part the strong emotions we as your trek parents have experienced. Our Heavenly Father loves you so much, but knows so much better than we can fathom that it can only be by our choice that we can return to him. I wrote a talk earlier this year entitled 'Many are Called but Few are Chosen' . It points to Elder Bednar's statement (which I happened upon in preparation for that talk) that: “To be or to become 'chosen' is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen” [by what we chose to do].
18 In other words, He calls us all to repent, to respond, to come unto Him, but we choose by our actions and faith whether we are to be chosen. “for many and called, but few are chosen ..” why? because we do the choosing ..
19 On Wednesday [9 July 2014] I woke up early (as I sometimes do :) and reviewed the pictures we saved from our trek. You will recall that my camera was lost along the trail Friday afternoon and Ma's camera stopped working Saturday evening .. so her camera contained some pictures, mostly of me and of you trek kids but none of our dear Faith on Sunday and on. I uploaded the best pictures I could find on facebook.com/magrathtrek in the Davies Family album – some 60 images. They brought back some great memories of how hard you worked along the trail.
20 I was impressed by how happy (despite being hot and tired and hot and exhausted and hot ..) you always appeared to be in these images. The words of Helaman  come to mind as he described 'his sons' the stripling warriors. You are 'our sons and daughters' now in much the same way they were considered by him: paraphrasing .. “And you are all young men and women, and you are exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold this is not all,
21 You are men and women who are true at all times in whatsoever thing you are entrusted. Yea, you are men and women of truth and soberness for you have been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.” You are amazing trek sons and daughters!
22 Spoke to the Sister Missionaries, to Faith's Bishop and to President Dudley .. asking to be invited along to visit Faith and her family with them. I volunteered to do stake business in her ward that week so Ma and I might have a good excuse to go see some of our trek kids again there: Mercy, Felicity, and perhaps Faith. Scheduling [family time and visits] would be a little difficult as I work days from 9am-6pm and Ma is currently many nights 4pm-11pm .. [we were able to have Faith's family over for FHE/Dinner once before she moved back to BC to live with her mother again, a few months after trek].
23 In the beginning: [memories from Friday morning at start of trek] I recall waking up before trek, before even knowing who would be in our trek family with a sense of excitement and wonder and a strong feeling of love for whomever we would be assigned to. A few days prior to our departure, Sister Zobell called to let us know that our trek family captain would be Hope.
25 Wednesday and Thursday prior we packed up all our gear – a new dutch oven, the briquette chimney, odds and sods, and our new trek clothing. Packed up the first aid kit with anything I thought we might need. Early Friday morning we headed out. Left Magrath at '5:30am-ish' .. had to drop Adrien and her friend and all their stuff off at the church first, and then drive out to Hope's home to collect her and her stuff .. plus her hammer and shovel.
26 Then stopped at the post office [on the way out of town] to mail some letters for Ma and set off for the Sabey/Cook cabin somewhere on the other side of Beazer. Because of the early hour and despite leaving a few minutes later than 5:30am [and initially some somewhat sketchy directions – doesn't everyone just know where the 'community pasture' is? I had hoped for an actual map, directions of some kind or at least the GPS coordinates], we ended up turning into the driveway at the designated meeting spot right on time at 6:30am. They had assigned our family a color and each member received a bandanna with that color.
27 We were 'hot pink' .. with 20 different family colors, there were others with shades of red and pink but I liked our color best (it will look nice as a pocket handkerchief with my black suit). We parked our van and unloaded the family gear near our assigned handcart (marked with our family color – a dark pink bandanna on a stake).
28 It was quite organized but also hectic with each of the 20 family groups being directed to go to the cabin and get their box of food, a large blue container of drinking water, and a cooler .. and then to tag and turn in the keys for our vehicles to Bro/Sis Holiday and get ready for the arrival of all the youth at about 7am. We were asked to do a 'shake down' of each of our trek kids belongings [for contraband like electronics, makeup, etc] . Ma did the girls and I did the boys. [I found no makeup,] the only item I found was a small BIC lighter that I stored in our van and returned at the end of trek.
29 Once everything was shaken down and repacked, we loaded everything onto our assigned handcart. It was not packed as best it could have been at that time .. we got better at this later on [down the trail]. We then did our 'get acquainted' game. I had discussed earlier the idea of new trek 'middle' names per Helaman 5:5-6 .. I gave Ma the name 'Patience' and she chose 'Benjamin' [probably after righteous King Benjamin] for me.
30 For our trek family, I had prepared a number of cards with possible names to choose from. As we drove to the starting point, Hope went through them and selected her own trek name. When we did our family name game, Hope, Ma and I took a moment to discuss and assign the names: Charity, Felicity, Grace, Harmony and Mercy for our new trek daughters.
32 8am Friday we held a family devotional on 2 Ne 2:26-29, per our trek manual, on how we are free to choose. We sat on the long grass in front of our handcart in a circle with Ma sitting across from me .. also per manual we had Hope go over the handcart rules – treat it with care, - balance the load, - do not run! - never sit or stand on the yoke, etc
33 about 8:30am the trail boss called us over to welcome us all to the Camp of Israel! He stood in a truck bed and had a microphone (ipod) and speakers set up .. we, unfortunately, stood as a group directly in front of one of those speakers so it was just a little hard on the ears (not quite “WELCOME TO THE VALLEY” loud, but close). After a family photo, our handcart [was prepared to go. We were] near the middle of the pack. On the 'move out' signal, our trek family headed out .. [you can see in this 'heading out' photo just how well we were able to pack up our gear :) and how hard it would be to keep the 'horses' slowed down enough for Ma and Pa to keep up ..]
35 I mentioned the poem from conference about the Old Crow and the Young Crow at that juncture .. from Bro Packer's talk 'Counsel to Youth' Oct 2011 . It is great to go fast but going in the right direction is of greater import .. also we are old and slow and I had wanted us to stay together as a family ..
36 .. and finally [you might note that] our Ammon has short legs [or perhaps it was that our other trek sons have unusually long legs] and we needed [or hoped] to keep him with us. He struggled along bravely [along the trail] and for a while I convinced them to have Ammon lead the handcart, but eventually he kept [having to] lag behind so I dropped back to keep an eye on our straggler. :) We had been apprised of Ammon's needs just prior to trek, and it had been suggested he could ride a bit in the handcart ..
38 [after passing many other trek family handcarts] soon caught up to our trek family and handcart [stopped in a long lineup], waiting for others ahead slowed down by mud and creek obstacles. [and now a quick flashback to the start of our trek ..] The first leg of our trek was quite an upward slope .. about the same 'trail' we had driven [part way up] the week before in our van [for Ma/Pa trek training with some of the youth captains – Hope had not been there yet though]. The tall grass was lush and green [thanks to recent rains] and filled with wildflowers – yellows mostly but also purples, pinks, and other colors as well.
40 Just up the hill from that crossing we were directed to stop for our lunch break. We used our handcart tarp for a picnic blanket and checked out our cooler .. 4 unsliced loaves of whole wheat bread, a block of cheese, and a large summer sausage to eat. We had some trouble finding a serrated knife that would slice the bread properly without squashing it.
41 I eventually found a small steak knife in my mess kit that worked ok, but by then the loaves had been mostly divided by hand and the ragged bread/cheese/meat sandwiches tasted great [despite this minor obstacle]. We also found a bag of carrots which were divided up and quickly devoured as well. I noted that we often had bags of carrots like these sitting in our fridge at home, uneaten for weeks, but out here they were all gone in a matter of minutes. [You will recall we sent you treklings a 'Trek or Treat' package last October with some of these delicious items as a remembrance of our trek together].
42 We finished our meal there and then sent back to see if we could replenish our water container, but they could not find a full replacement container for us, so we made the best of it and prepared to leave with about 2 gallons (one half of a container) in our cart. The story of the lamp and the oil came to mind ..
43 [this may have occurred before lunch .. or] after leaving our lunch spot, we headed on to steeper ground. We came to a fork in the trail and were presented by a rider there an envelope for our family. It read that we were to carry two trek family members across the next creek. Lehi volunteered to carry Ammon [I rather doubt it would have worked very well the other way around] and one of our other trek daughters were also 'volunteered' to be helped across the next wet spot.
45 and other pioneer experiences. I was proud of our trek children as they willingly sat in the circle with us and discussed these ideas. I found it difficult to express most anything without tearing up – a condition we came to describe as 'more allergies'. Even now, while thinking back on the experience I am often moved. Later I pondered why it seemed so real and touching to me and, I hope, to the rest of our trek family.
46 I believe the spirit was so strong here because of the prayers and fasting from our stake [back home – our friends and our own family back there] and from the other leaders on trek. It was a blessing from our Heavenly Father. We were also blessed with beautiful weather along the way – light fluffy clouds and gentle breezes in the morning and mostly clear skies all day long.
48 It was surprisingly hard to just silently walk along beside the trail and have to watch them strain away and struggle alone. Sister Balderson stepped in and helped push along the last steepest part of the trail, but otherwise they made it up to the top of that hill on their own. In a grove of trees just over the crest of the hill those that had gone before us waited in the shade of some small trees and sang softly as we passed by and parked our handcart. When all had completed this section, President McMahon spoke a few words to the entire group there.
50 One more long hill took us up to the high point of our trek. I know it was the highest point because the cell tower placed up there .. that and the fact that we could look off in most any direction and see we were highest .. It was about this time that noticed that I had lost my trek camera. We had purchased two inexpensive cameras for trek, Ma's camera (and all her lovely pictures of Pa and the family) was the only one to survive the trip [and even her camera stopped working by Saturday evening – and that is why we mostly have third party photos of our family from this point on].
51 Coming down the next section of the trail from that height was even harder on our feet that climbing up, and especially for Ammon who lagged behind even more. I stayed and walked along with him while Ma and the others continued on with our handcart, keeping their place in line. One after another handcart family passed us by on the way down the long hill and finally even the horse-drawn cleanup wagon passed us by.
53 I continued on by myself for awhile, able to make good time walking alone downhill and it was not too long before I caught up to the next handcart family, and then a few more, and eventually caught up to the rest of 'our trek family'. Hooray! They had slowed down due to some unknown problem up ahead. We understood that at least one handcart had tipped completely over or onto it's side after having one wheel drop into one of the many large washed out ruts along the trail.
54a Along this section there were more large soggy spots and even some large sink holes and ponds to traverse. We passed by a 4x4 quad buried up over its seat in the water and mud .. where we took an impromptu detour around him along the edge of the trail.
54b It took a little convincing for me to have our sons wait 'for a spot' to open up at the other end before attempting the traverse. When we did go, two families behind us also decided to follow us .. and as I had foreseen, for the same reason were stuck in the middle of the water over the top of their boots when we were stopped by the trail boss up on the dry ground just on the other side of the water hazard.
55b Here we found we were being stopped to wait to be visited by Pres and Sister Dudley in a clearing just off the trail. He talked to us here briefly on the trials of the pioneers and our need to be thankful for their perseverance. [Looking back on these images now, I wonder if we appreciated then the fragility of our journey here – Sister Dudley passed away not long after our trek experience ..] After that stop we moved on down the trail to the final large river crossing of the day .. [the twice-crossed-creek] - quite deep and fast here, at least up to the knees but I managed to get wet up to my pockets while pushing across.
57 I had only had it [the guitalele] for a month or so, so I really was just a beginner at playing it. At any rate, after this final creek crossing for the evening we found it was just a short distance down a rudimentary road and around the trees before we found we had arrived at our Friday night camp site. [we did not know it then, but this was only a temporary site for the first night on trek].
59 At this spot – a large clearing around a stand of trees off to the right we found our families 'hot pink' color bandanna marked out on a wooden stake and there parked our handcart and started our unloading. [not much there to start with but a large grassy field, the family markers set out in a large circle with a large white tent by each waiting to be set up. We were located on the far east side of the circle]. Our sons got busy collecting firewood and starting the fire while our daughters learned how to set up the large white bell tent (already waiting for us there at the site). As decided previously along the trail, Pa got started on supper while Ma supervised the kids. We 'cheated' just a little in getting the fire started. [looking back, I would rather call it 'pioneer ingenuity' ..].
61 With the fires going and the tent up and dinner started, I had Mercy and Ammon help me with cooking duties. Mercy read the recipe to me from our camp manual and Ammon moved the coals around for us. The other trek children took life and limb into their own hands [and feet] and set out to collect more firewood for us and start work on constructing a family bench for us to sit on. We were to split a log for this, but they made up their own design, forming legs ..
62 with two shorter pieces (sawn with the crosscut saw and held in place with two bare feet) and then shaped with the ax to make 'Lincoln Log' pieces. We never got around to lashing them together or nailing them (as some other families did) but they worked for us.
64 It is funny how starvation helps make my cooking taste so much better. Our sons all wanted second helpings and many of our daughters as well. Even so, we had lots of food left over. We fed one of the outriders later as well (Brother D Tidmarsh). It was almost time for the evening camp fireside, but at that point Bro Wood pulled me aside ..
65 to ride back with him to see if we could find my lost camera before it got dark. He [as one of the background support crew] had a side by side 2 person ATV. We headed back across the creek – had to lift my feet to stay dry – and very soon motored all the way back up the trail that had taken us most of the day to come down [to the high point on the trail]. I didn't really know exactly when or where my camera had fallen out of my pocket ..
67 I was surprised again just how quickly we traversed all the rocky paths, washed out ruts, soggy sections, and back across the creek crossing to our Friday night camp site [on a modern ATV]. The fireside was in progress in the center grassed area of our large tent circle when we returned, so I puttered around our
68 tent area, cleaning pots and the food area, hung items on our nice clothes line [which we had set up earlier in the evening] for the night and in getting ready to retire for the evening. After the fireside, we held a short family testimony meeting and recap of the days events [and family prayer]. The kids all wanted to know what we were scheduled to do the next day, but our manual was somewhat unclear.
69 So we could not tell them much, since we really had no clear idea ourselves. We shared a tent with our kin family [the Cooks]. [All the womenfolk were in their tent and all the menfolk were to be in ours]. We were done our family meeting well before them so our boys got first pick of spots in the big white 10-person tent. Later we did better at splitting the space 50/50 but this evening we took up a little more than our share. When the kinfolk arrived to find their spots, we had to slide some of the sleeping trek sons out of the way to make extra room for them so – problem solved.
70 I slept ok that night – 11pm-5am or so as is my habit. Our treklings were exhausted and did not seem to have any trouble sleeping [and in staying asleep all night]. When I arose and dressed and left the tent I found Ma also up already. She did have trouble sleeping with leg cramps, etc. I escorted her to the ladies room area [aka the pink porta-potties] and back in the dark, stumbling past and startling some grazing horses [just north of the main camp] along the way.
72 The youth captains meeting was convened then and we wandered back to our tent area from our morning walk. Upon return, our captain Hope informed us that we [were leaving this camp area and] had been instructed to immediately pack up everything, [take down the tents and leave them neatly packaged as we found them,] and load up the handcarts again and to be back on the trail in one-half hour. Had to wake up the boys and Pa Cook and passed on the instructions to them.
73 i.e. to pack everything up and prepare to break camp. This was quite unexpected, at least for us, as we had thought that we had already arrived at our final camp site for the trek. Nevertheless, the morning fire was doused and covered up. Fire wood stockpiles returned to the treed areas, clothes line taken down and everything packed up, the tent swept out and taken down and rolled up ..
74 and packed up. Trek bags ready to go, sleeping rolls packed .. Amazing! We were given fresh water and a cooler with food for our 'breakfast along the trail' and the handcart was quickly re-loaded. I was impressed with just how quickly and efficiently all was accomplished with little or no complaint – just a bit of surprise. Even the news that we had to cross the 'twice-crossed-creek' and start the day with wet feet again ..
76 I got some strange looks during the day and even developed a good sized blister by the end of the day – on my left foot heel, but all in all everything seemed to go well. The trail this time, although still challenging did not seem so daunting. We still had to traverse several soggy area's and even one where we had to rely on ropes to pull us up across [this turned out to be the same spot we ended up returning to on Sunday to rescue our new family members].
77 I forgot to mention, Ammon received the offer of and accepted some assistance this time crossing some of the more difficult areas. At the morning creek crossing one of the other Pa's asked if he wanted a piggy-back across the water .. he replied that 'he was trying to cross without getting his feet wet .. so yes, please'. At the start of trek, all he would say was 'that he wanted to walk all the way on his own.'
78 Mercy mentioned something on this at one of our later family testimony meetings. She said she had been told prior to trek that 'none of the sisters would be allowed to even get their feet wet' on trek – that all the 'men' would help them at every difficult point. She said [to herself] that she would show them and pull harder than any 'boy'. In her testimony, she said she now realized that we all need 'help' at some difficult points of our journey and that it is also important to graciously accept assistance from those who would be blessed by serving us and others.
79 If all my 'children' were as tenacious and capable as she, there would be no one left to serve! Aside: I will touch on this later, but when we rescued our Faith on Sunday, she accepted our offer to ride in the handcart at least for the first while. It was gratifying to the rescuers to have her accept their offer to 'be rescued'. Mercy by the way was later called herself to serve as Seminary President in our Stake for following year.
80 Eventually we came to a point where we queued up the handcarts [that means we had to get in a long line] and had a chance to shoot at a large styrofoam mountain and plastic bear target [just off the trail]. Bro Murray provided the bows and arrows and our family was allowed to have four of our sons make the attempt (all but Nephi – perhaps somewhat symbolic :). Lehi managed to hit the target and our family was rewarded with a 'treat'. Lehi selected the big bag of jerky for us.
82 that last gate and around the corner and we were 'in the Valley!' Yay! We had reached the Valley shortly after high noon with President McMahon and his wife waiting beside the trail to greet us as we turned up the valley trail.
83 At the far north end of the valley we found our family marker – the 'hot pink bandanna' attached to the stake laid out with all the other 20 family sites in a large circle. [The camp manual indicated that there was to be Saturday Afternoon classes and activities starting at 2pm and a Welcome to the Valley celebration and dinner starting at 7pm]
84 Meanwhile, I am still in my PJs and our mid day meal is needing to be started, tents to be set up by the kids, a firepit quickly dug – good job family! Our lunch that day was chowder – sweet! It turned out pretty well, but I found I had to pause and regroup a moment or so before my brain cleared [in retrospect, a touch of heat exhaustion for me then]. Ma kept asking me what she could do to help prepare the meal but I couldn't think what to tell her. Despite this, we settled in quickly, ate and prepared for the scheduled afternoon/evening activities.
86 About 7pm we were all treated to a delicious surprise and 'catered' Welcome to the Valley dinner. Roast beef, mini-potatoes, corn, salad, frozen berry dessert and even turnovers and ice-cream for a second dessert. The program [set on the stage that had been constructed at the location of the Pioneer Construction classes] was very entertaining as well. I though Bro Nolan Johnson and crew were the funniest to see, with their version of 'Soggy Bottom Brethren' singing of a poor stake president as 'a man of constant sorrow' ..' seeing trouble in his stake all his days'. [Many will also recall Bro Zobells loud 'WELCOME TO THE VALLEY' introductions as MC for this program].
87 A dance and bonfire followed that evening. Ma and I stayed only for the start of the dancing and then retired to our campsite to prepare for our Saturday Family Evening FHE. As the next day was to be a Fast Sunday, we skipped starting up the campfire again at our campsite. I decided to set up instead a family discussion area with the tarp from the handcart and a extra blanket in the center, a medium sized rock holding it down representing the rock of our salvation, and a flower of obedience and beauty on the rock. We placed all this just outside the circle of tents immediately behind our handcart/kitchen area.
89 This conversation continued on .. and on .. and on. I turned to Charity and asked her what she thought of the background discussion. She just rolled her eyes [Boys! She is the oldest girl in her family back home]. Once the firepit was prepared, and lined with large rocks, we found and stacked extra firewood for it [in preparation for the Sabbath] and left a shovel marking the spot to prevent anyone from accidentally stepping into it.
90 [As we prepared this it put me in mind of a shallow pioneer grave, and of how so many of the pioneers lost young (and older) loved ones in their trek. I thought we should read and discuss D&C 137 around it (which we did later on Sunday evening) as a remembrance of these pioneer sacrifices and of those who had to be buried along the trail. Our Saturday evening family council was short but nice. We reviewed the plans (per our manual [but as we see later, subject to some unexpected revisions]) for the next day – Fast Sunday with Sunday School at 9am and Priesthood/Relief Society at 10am and retired for the evening.
91 Sunday morning was started with a glorious sunrise. For some reason I seemed to be the only one up, except for a few horseman/scouts, one of whom sauntered by on his pony. I mentioned to him how sad it was that everyone couldn't or didn't get to see and enjoy it (much like the gospel and/or the spirit). Set up our family 'tarp' and blanket and enjoyed the early morning reading of scriptures and writing in [this] journal (see p10). Eventually the family started to stir and we started preparations for church.
92 Sunday School was to be with our kin-family. Pa Cook had the lesson but assigned out talks for us to discuss [in smaller separate groups] in the middle [of the lesson] and then to 'return and report'. I played my Guitelele for the opening song – very rough but made it through ok. Our 'group' did a nice job of discussing the assigned topic of 'Always Remembering Christ'. We held our Sunday School class in 'Grove C' (see the valley map at p83).
93 After Sunday School we moved to a larger clearing near 'Grove B' for priesthood and the Sisters gathered at the larger 'Grove S' location [where we later held our Sacrament meeting]. President Dudley started the priesthood meeting, indicating that President McMahon would arrive later. He did a nice lesson, using his burnt up iPhone (which he had accidentally dropped it into a campfire a few weeks earlier) as an object lesson. Aside: later learned that President Bennett had had to leave trek early to unexpectedly attend the funeral of his father-in-law down in Utah.
94 President McMahon soon arrived and announced that we needed to stop our meeting at that point and go meet with the sisters at Relief Society. So we all got up and moved to the next clearing to the north (Grove S) where the Sacrament meeting was to be held. I remember the feeling inside as he announced [to the combined group] that there were lost Saints back on the trail, somewhere back where we had come ourselves yesterday, and that he requested that 10 handcarts and able bodied men and boys volunteer to immediately go back and find them.
96 “One handcart for every two families” were to be sent. Between our family and our kin-family we decided to prepare our handcart to go [as it was the least encumbered at that time]. Ma was also tearing up to think what it meant for them all to be so willing to drop everything and to go back into the unknown – much like our pioneer forebears. It took very little time to load and prepare our handcart with a cooler and some food/water and gear. I kissed Ma goodbye and headed off to the 'muster point'.
97 Ammon and I talked for a moment before leaving. He knew from the days before that it would be difficult for him to keep up – especially at the pace the others were wont to go. He said he thought he should stay back and help out at camp. At the muster point President McMahon addressed us and asked for one of the Pa's and a dozen of the boys to stay back and help prepare the camp [for the return]. Ammon had already indicated to me that that was his desire, but it was nice to have them get that option [directly from President McMahon].
98 Many were already sore and tired, hot and blistered, from the treks before but were eager to get going. Our company had a short prayer and then prepared to head out. President McMahon counseled us to be wise and to break our fast early so we could safely be able to perform the requested tasks. The morning was sunny and clear – we covered the ground quickly retracing our path ..
100 We found them dressed in 'trek' attire – I estimate some 40-50 in total. I had joked along the trail that we seemed to be missing Faith in our family, despite having plenty of Hope and Charity, and many other remarkable virtues among our trek children. It hadn't seemed a problem per se but we were about to find Faith for our family.
101 After helping every one safely across the creek, an informal meeting was convened. Brother Zobell stood with his list and called each family in turn to send forward a representative for the family. “Davies Family, you have been called to accept a new daughter into your family”. Then he asked, “Will you accept this call?”. I felt then as I suspect how our forbears might have felt in similar situation – of course we would!
102 I could not place her name at first, but it sounded a little familiar. I later remembered that the Sister Missionaries (from whom I was receiving weekly reports as the assigned High Council member at that time) had reported working with her and her family (a step-brother and less active father with whom she had recently reconnected with.) I felt impressed to, then and there, take my own 'hot pink' Davies Family bandanna from off my own neck (it was 'trek' clean) and present it to her. She politely tied it onto her apron bib. “This bandanna is your new family color – anyone wearing this same color ..
103 is one of your trek brothers and sisters. She seemed touched by the gesture and started looking for 'family members' among the many handcart companies. Many of the boys seemed eager to assist as well, so I decided to 'tag along' wherever she wanted to go to maintain some level of decorum. We showed her to our handcart parked a short way back along the trail along with another 'rescuee' assigned to our kin-family and with Bishop Maxwell assigned to travel with our handcart. It was suggested they could all ride along in the handcart – just not sure how comfortable or safe that would be.
105 After starting to place her name, I pondered what 'Davies Family Trek Name' she should be given. We had introduced her new trek brothers by both their first and their trek 'middle names' (she seemed to know a few of them already from around town and from school). I told her we would decide a trek name for her as well, but that Ma and Hope would have to be consulted first. It did not seem long before we were turning the last turn into the valley again.
106 Our handcart was somewhere in the middle of the pack, but as we re-entered the valley, the many waiting trek sisters and some Ma's came running across the wide open grassed area to welcome us and to greet the new visitors. I soon found Ma and received her tearful welcome back hug and kiss. With a lump in my throat, I introduced her to our new trek daughter.
108 We asked our family to sit together at the fast and testimony sacrament meeting. We all sat in the shade of a large pine tree at the back of the clearing – a tree I liked to call 'the trek tree of life'. Mosiah found a spot behind us and did his best to distract his sister Grace. Faith sat next to Ma and the others. I was just in front next to Ammon and Mosiah. Nephi had been asked to assist with the blessing of the sacrament as one of the three priests. They announced that for the sacrament portion of the meeting they would first pass the bread/water to all the sisters and then to all the brethren. I had never seen it done this way before [nor since] ..
109 and pondered if there were any historical significance to this method. After the Sacrament portion of the meeting they started the Testimony portion. Many talked of how much they were learning to love their trek families and how the rescue had affected them. I kept turning and counting heads; feeling a powerful need to ensure that all were paying attention and feeling the same spirit I was. 12 trek kids, 5 boys, 7 girls, and 2 parents – anyone missing? - any in trouble?
111 Looking back at the photographs, I recall just how beautiful our surroundings were and how happy and good and beautiful our treklings were!
112 Sunday solo time - We were holding our family Sunday afternoon discussion and testimony meeting around the family tarp and blanket when a horseman appeared with a brown paper wrapped package for us, tied with twine string, containing letters from home! Prior to trek each parent had been asked to write a letter to their child going away for trek. I had written one for Adrien [despite much initial procrastination on my part – not realizing the impact these letters would have to our treklings out on trek]. There was even a letter prepared for Faith from her Dad. The children were encouraged to find a quiet place to contemplate and write in their journals. Ma gave her own trek journal (a small 5x7 paperback notebook with the Magrath Alberta Stake 'Choose, Act, Become' sticker on the front) and her pencil to Faith at this point.
114 Later that Sunday afternoon/early evening we broke our fast with the meal that had been prepared and which had been cooking by/after burying our dutch ovens in the rock lined pits prepared the day before. Ham, potatoes and carrots as I recall. I am told Hope took lead on most of the hard work on this, with all the menfolk off rescuing folk, starting and tending the fire, peeling and preparing the food, burying the dutch ovens and otherwise just working hard to ensure our meal would be ready. She was a great captain and example.
116 Near the end of the fireside or shortly thereafter as it started to get dark, Faith asked what time it was getting to be and announced she had to return home before it got late. She was worried her Dad would be mad if she arrived back home too late. I was somewhat surprised at this, presuming all this had been arranged previously. Bishop and Sister Anderson, who had and were to provide transportation up and now back for her, were found and they agreed to take her back home at that point.
117 After the fireside, it was announced that Brother Wood had a treat for us .. each family was provided with one half of a container of hot chocolate powder and a liter of half and half cream. We retired to our camp area and prepared for our evening devotional and family discussion around the campfire .. and prepared the hot chocolate. Unfortunately it was too dark to read the instructions or we misunderstood the directions for the preparation of same. Our version of hot chocolate ended up being a bit thick and very chocolate-y .. not terrible but somewhat less than optimal. Meanwhile we had a nice discussion around the campfire. I suggested we consider just going around the circle for testimonies, as we had sometimes done on my mission. They instead preferred a volunteer system. We settled on 'passing the hat' .. whomever held my trek hat had the 'floor' and could speak their heart. That worked quite well for some time and broke the ice so that all could eventually get a chance to speak. Grace, I recall, had many good things to say and I was impressed by her leadership and manner as well as our did other trek daughters and sons. It was a lovely evening discussion. And then ..
118 About that time I noticed a 'last day' attitude start to appear that night. It put me in mind of the story of the Israelites just after receiving the 10 commandments. After such a spiritual evening and weekend it was a new challenge to overcome. Some of our (well, mostly just those two) trek boys wanted to be allowed to go off and celebrate with their friends from other families. I thought it would be better to just not. Pa Cook had had to leave trek early that night as well, to return to his work (as a Pharmacist), leaving me in charge of and responsible for both my trek sons and his. We had attempted to pop some popcorn at some point earlier that night, but it had finally started to rain and doused that idea quickly. We hurriedly cleaned up and stored everything we could under the tarps and retired to our tents to stay dry and to prepare for the evening sleep period. Two of my trek sons were still loudly protesting and attempting to change my mind on the matter – wanting to go out and visit 'one last time', but it was time to retire and raining as well and all the other families and kids should already be in their own tents for the evening. I suppose it was that bad batch of hot chocolate that was partly to blame. Not knowing what else to do and no longer wishing to argue, I started reading my scriptures, out loud, and simply positioned my sleeping bag at the entrance of the tent. I am sure the occupants of the neighboring tents just meters away on each side heard (with the desperate fancy strobe effect flash light/rescue signals and calls through the tent windows for help) and saw more than they wished to at this point, but in the end all eventually retired for the night and we survived to greet the new soggy day. With all the rain and being positioned at the entrance to our tent, my sleeping bag and blanket ended up a bit moist that night so it was a cold evening for sleeping. I gave up on sleep sometime before dawn, not too different from my normal routine, and got up to see what could be done to prepare for breakfast. The outbreak, much like the rainstorm, passed over through the night and all was calm by the next morning. Our trek family was back to normal after the night of storms had passed by.
120 We hung some of the soggiest things out on the clothesline to dry out for the morning and had a nice breakfast (see the Pioneer Breakfast recipe – cubed bread, eggs and sausage and as many leftovers as we wanted). After breakfast, we were directed to pack up and clean up our entire camp back to a no-trace condition. Our tent (which by now had dried out in the sun) and was taken down and rolled up. The fires were all extinguished and the firepits were dug back to original condition. The sleeping rolls and all our gear were packed up and loaded up onto the handcart and tied into place – our trek kids were much more efficient at the packing up process by now. I now notice Nephi never seemed to be smiling much in the later pictures – we later found he was suffering with asthma attacks previously unknown to him. Once back home a trip to the doctor and a visit to the Pharmacy (for inhalers) fixed him up quite quickly to his former self. I remember being impressed by him early on during trek for his diligent evening routine, scriptures and prayers, after happening in upon him while he was preparing for sleep despite the confusion of the new tent and sleeping arrangements .. whereafter I repented and did the same.
124 I note that our trek family experience had been referred to in several of my high council talks over the past year:
125 I am unsure as to why I felt to transcribe this journal and my final thoughts on trek in this fashion. For me it was a surprisingly spiritual experience, one that I hope was the same for those we shared it with. I admit to feeling a tiny bit jealous of my daughter as she described how she loved her trek family 'the best' but also see her reaction out of the corner of my eye as I pontificate on how great our trek family was, many of whom are her current classmates and friends. I feel the same feelings for both our trek family and their family as I do for my own flesh and blood. I watch over and for them whenever they are near. My definition of 'family' has been expanded by this experience and hope to continue expanding it in all my callings. Do you love your neighbor? Do you know their names and worry over and for them? Do you watch and wait for them to turn the corner and wave hello just one more time?
We do now ..
Pa Davies Jun 2015
- www2.byui.edu/Presentations/transcripts/devotionals/2004_01_06_bednar.htm I heard and wrote Packer in my journal notes but Elder Bednar in this 2004 talk attributes this quote to Neal A Maxwell Oct 1997 stating that it was based on an earlier principle taught by George Q Cannon May 1866.
- A copy of our trek family letter is also posted at rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/trek-letter-on-return-home Jul 2014.
- rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/talk-many-called-few-chosen-m6-27th-apr-2014 Apr 2014.
- Alma 53:20 valiant for courage and true. Alma 56:10 stripling warriors worthy to be called sons (and daughters).
- lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/counsel-to-youth Oct 2011.
- rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/trek-letter-on-return-home Jul 2014.
- rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/trek-letter-pony-express-fhe Aug-Sep 2014.
- rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/trek-recap-video Oct 2014.
- rogerdavies.net/talk-archive/trek-new-year-letter-january-2015 Jan 2015.
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