Eighteen youth from the Cowichan Valley were among almost 70 young men and young women along with 20 youth leaders who tackled adversity, trials and physical challenges in a four day handcart trek last week in the Alberni Valley.
Organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Trek spanned 32 kilometres of varied terrain, including some steep hills and creek crossings. It was designed as a way for the youth to honour the efforts of the handcart pioneers who left their homelands in the mid-19th century, suffered persecution and crossed the plains on foot to secure religious freedom for their families.
Dressed in pioneer era clothing, the youth, hailing from communities from Duncan to Campbell River and including Powell River, were divided into “families” with an adult Ma and Pa to support them. They left all their electronics behind and walked in the sun and rain to gain a small glimpse of the trials of these men and women. The teenagers, aged 12-18, also discovered something about their own strength and ability in the face of difficulty.
“I felt like I grew a lot on this journey, not only physically but mentally, because I was able to think about my future after this,” expressed Rob Gauthier, 18. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Aidan Holt discovered that “napping in the rain is surprisingly cool”.
The youth had a break on the third day to rest and have fun. Activities such as a hoedown, sack races, boot tosses, stilt walking and two handed crosscut saw competitions entertained all.
When asked about her favourite part of Trek, Lyndi Hobbs, age 12 and the oldest of five siblings, said, “I liked the solo time because I got to think in silence. I never get to do that. Never. I haven’t done that since I was a baby.”
Willow Cunliffe, age 15, expressed her favourite part as “the camaraderie that comes from pulling carts together and the singing we do along the way, even though we are all horribly out of key!”
The Cowichan Valley youth who participated are: Cody Ames, Benson Ames, Jacob Bragg, Emma Bragg, Samantha Bragg, Wyatt Cunliffe, Willow Cunliffe, Megan Holt, Aiden Holt, Melissa Holt, Elli Laurie, Noelle McCullough, Bergen McCullough, Emma McCullough, Makenzie Smith, Riley Weckesser, Lauren Weckesser, and Maya Weckesser