80 Mormon Teenagers Re-Create Ancestors’ 1,300-Mile Trek

Mormon trek (Mike Nelson / AFP / Getty)
Mike Nelson / AFP / Getty

Eighty Mormon teenagers are paying tribute to their ancestors, imitating the pioneers’ 1,300-mile trek across the United States by donning pioneer clothes, pulling handcarts, and trudging 16 miles of fire trails from Big Basin Redwoods State Park to Davenport.

Church of Latter Day Saints President Wilson Walch told local NBC affiliate KSBW that his ancestors’ journey in 1856 from Iowa and Nebraska to Salt Lake City deserved to be honored, asserting, “We were forever changed by it. This is our chance to give back a little bit and honor their sacrifice on our behalf.” At least 20 people died on the 1856 trek.

The trail hike, scheduled every four years, will feature the youngsters pulling 12 handcarts and camping for two nights.

Abby Kaupert, 18, from Santa Cruz, explained, “At church, they prepared me better to understand what they really went through, and how much harder it was than what we are doing today.” Kirsten Berhan, who will make the trek with her three daughters, added, “We live in a really busy time. It’s awesome to remember a simpler time, but also a harder time.”

In 2009, 200 Mormon teenagers from Mesa, Arizona also re-enacted a trek in pioneer fashion, traveling 25 miles and climbing to 7,500 feet in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests while pushing 800 pounds of supplies for at least 10 miles.