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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 18, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 16Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Teens re-create Mormon trek
Augusta GA Chronicle 16Jun00 D1
By Matthew Boedy: Staff Writer

ABBEVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA -- More than 300 LDS youths gathered Thursday in the Sumter National Forest in Abbeville County, South Carolina to re-enact the Mormon Pioneer Trek for three days. The group planned to hike about 20 miles through the Forest, dragging handcarts and living just as the pioneers lived.

This was the second re-enactment by LDS youth in the area, following a successful 1997 re-enactment that included some of the same participants. The youth were grouped into more than 40 "families" that would travel the 20-mile route.

Thursday's 8-mile section of the route began with a 5:15 am wake-up call. Along the way the "families" sang songs and hymns to buoy their spirits. Recent Davidson Fine Arts School graduate Amy Griffith said that the group had lots of songs but that the group was also "making them up as we go."

Amy was in a group that included 16-year-old Travis Hoverman from Columbia, South Carolina. The trail was rough enough that the cart handle would sometimes bounce up and smack Amy in the chin. But the songs kept coming, even though Travis realized he didn't always know the words, "I'm going to go home and memorize hymns now," he told Amy.

Behind them, pushing the handcart were 16-year-old Christine Gentry from Lexington and Eve Hosford, 15, from Irmo. Dressed in 1840s era long dresses and bonnets, they tried to keep their balance as they pushed from behind. The boys wore suspenders and shirts without collars. But, beneath the clothes, most of the travelers wore comfortable shoes with brand names like Adidas and Nike.

For meals, the group ate biscuits with syrup and stew. They were also offered grits, but according to the Chronicle, most of the teens didn't eat them. But trail boss (and LDS Bishop) Rick O'Neal told the Chronicle this was a mistake, that the kids should eat anything given to them. "I'm going to promise you you're going to want those grits by tomorrow morning," he warned. "You're going to want them by noon today."

The trek was made more realistic by the lack of amenities, which most of the teens realized quickly. They will only have opportunities for baths during the trek, and the rigors of the much-longer original trek were demonstrated as the group was told about how many lost their lives during the trek. These deaths were then dramatized as "family" members "died," and had to be "buried." By Thursday morning, Travis was a widower with a small baby (actually a 15-pound bag of sand that the "family" had to carry and care for).

Caring for the "baby" was a big part of the trip for some. 16-year-old Jessica Freeman from Lexington, South Carolina realized early-on the difficulty of caring for the child when she nearly put her "baby" on the ground - a no-no on the trip, "If we put our baby down, they'll try us for neglect and abuse," she said. "Then we'll have to bury our baby."

"Sometimes I call it it. Sometimes I call it her. Sometimes I want to drown it," Jessica said, claiming she had no problem with real babies.

The trek is meant to give the youth an unforgettable and spiritual experience, letting them discover the "faith in every footstep," on the trail. Griffith says she got the message, "I love scripture study, but it's ... Yeah, it's applying it all, experiencing the moment. You are more in the mood for spiritual things. You appreciate the faith when you see how others had to use it."


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