News Release

Church Youth Recreate Handcart Trek

Youth trade iPads and iPhones for pioneer handcarts

Almost 100 young members of the Melbourne Maroondah Stake (diocese) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints re-enacted the handcart journey made by Mormon pioneers traveling to Utah 160 years ago.

Using the Creswick railway station near Ballarat as a base, they trekked in the Creswick State Forest four days and three nights pulling two-wheeled wooden carts. Two of the carts were handmade by two youth on the trek, with the help of a local carpenter. Nathan Rancie summed up his experience building a cart by saying, “It was fun, I made some good friends, and it helped me understand just how difficult the journey was 160 years ago.”

Jay Yau, the “trail boss” led the expedition into and out of the forest, helping them overcome their challenges. Each cart was organized as a family with a “ma” and a “pa” who looked after the eight to ten children accompanying them. 

The trek experience was greatly enriched by the help of Don and Judy Henderson from Creswick, the Local Councillor and president of the Railroad Workers Association, with Judy serving as treasurer. They arranged for the trekkers to use the Creswick train station as their headquarters, which was a great asset according to trek activities leader, Emma Bulfin.

The trek began in town with the youth doing odd jobs to earn money to buy the necessary provisions, just as the early pioneers did. They started their trek by walking through the town centre, after learning about Creswick's own heritage of gold mining, Chinese settlement, and forestry.

Other activities included a “women’s pull," where the young women pulled the carts by themselves through a steep and difficult section of the trail, and a “Mormon Battalion march” for the young men.  At one point they also had the choice of negotiating with an “angry farmer” in order to travel through his property or go the long way around it. They chose the latter.

A “visitor” named Lorenzo Snow joined the trekkers for an evening and shared experiences from his mission to Italy, a re-enactment of an actual event.

On the last night the trekkers were invited to camp on private property adjoining the forest, where they had a bush dance on the paddock. They shared their feelings about the trek experience, and many spoke of increased love and appreciation for their parents and for the comfortable lives they have, compared with what the pioneers had to endure. They also talked about their increased understanding and confidence that God loves them and will help them through difficult times.

The youth turned in their leftover provisions at the trading post in exchange for treats. Before they departed for home, they joined local members of the Church in a planting project at the Creswick Neighbourhood Centre to thank the community for their support.

Damon Page, Maroondah Stake President, said he felt the goals for the trek were achieved.  “We wanted them to have experiences which would raise their resilience and self-reliance.  These are modern-day youth who spend a lot of time on their electronic gadgets.  We wanted them to get away from that and into nature, to develop a greater appreciation for their parents and families as well as draw closer to their Heavenly Father.”

Read more here from The Courier, which reported on the trek.

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