Area youths walk in Mormon pioneers' shoes
Deer Park and La Porte-area teens who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Pasadena, joined 60 other youths in a 3-day program at Lake Somerville State Park re-enacting the Mormon pioneers' westward travels to settle in the Salt Lake Valley, which would later become the state of Utah.
During the church-sponsored event, the teens sans cell phones, iPods, MP3 players, watches and other electronics pulled handcarts heavily loaded with water coolers and camping gear.
Traveling approximately 12 miles over rugged terrain in 95 degree heat, the group consumed 450 gallons of water, averaging a little over 4 gallons per person.
The point of this activity was to unify our youth and help them find the strength through this experience to face the trials that they encounter in our day," said James Banks, who presides over Latter Day Saints churches in the area.
More than 40 adult leaders helped create the historical experience for the youths.
During the journey, the teens took part in authentic pioneer activities, such as making pioneer toys, spinning wool into yarn, weaving tapestries and rope-making.
They also took part in dramatic vignettes where various adult leaders told stories from the pioneers' actual journals, and performed a service project for the park.
Deer Park resident Christopher Turner said it was a difficult pull.
It was harder than I thought it would be," Turner said. I went to the first trek in 2007. There were a lot more hills and less shade on this trek."
La Porte resident Dennis Dowdy, 18, said he learned a lot from the experience.
Something that really came from the trek was that I never appreciated what the pioneers did for us," Dowdy said.
All of them made sacrifices. Many of them died. They left family and friends; they just left their houses and worldy stuff behind."
Jacob Haines, who lives in Deer Park, said the experience gave him a new appreciation for what the pioneers endured.
It took a lot of guts (for the pioneers) to leave everything behind," Haines said. I don't know if I could have done that."
Kelsey Seybold physician's assistant Austin Montondon served as the medicine man" on the journey.
You can see a movie or read a book about this kind of a thing, but it doesn't give you an accurate account," said Montondon, who reported only minor injuries among the church group.
When you participate in an activity such as this, you can actually feel a sense of reality of what the pioneers went through."
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