Last week, our family participated in a pioneer trek with our church group.
I don’t talk much about religion on the blog, because it really doesn’t have anything to do with the topics I write about.
But just for this post, I’ll let you know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (otherwise known as mormons).
The church has a deep love of their pioneer history and the sacrifices their ancestors made to get the church where it is today and to settle the western United States.
So, every 4 years, youth and their leaders in our Four Corners area get together and participate in a pioneer trek reenactment. This involves dressing up in pioneer clothing, pushing your limited belongings in a handcart, sleeping under a tarp on the ground at night, rigorous exercise some of the time, and no internet or phones.
During trek, the kids were separated into groups of 12-15 kids and a Ma & Pa to lead them. My husband was on the medical staff and I was in charge of the photography.
The trek was high up in the mountains of Colorado, around 9000 ft. elevation. Even though we live at 6500 ft, it is still harder to exercise the higher you go up.
I am sharing this experience with you so that I can let you in on what I learned on our 4 day trek and how it applies to our lives and homestead.
10 Life Lessons I Learned Participating in a Pioneer Trek
1. The less stuff you have, the better
When you have to carry everything you own in a handcart, you want to own less. This made sense for the handcart pioneers because most of them left almost all of their possessions behind to travel west.
I have learned that most of us can really live with much less than what we currently own. When we lost almost all of our belongings in our house fire 5 years ago, we quickly realized what our prized possessions were and what we didn’t even miss after it was gone.
For trek, the kids were asked to bring a sleeping bag, coat, tarp, 1 change of pioneer clothing (and shoes) and some other small toiletries. Enough for only 1 5 gallon bucket and a trash bag.
Of course, the trek was only for 4 days, so they could leave the rest of their stuff at home. They had everything they needed and it really wasn’t much. They made due and it made them appreciate all they had when they got home.
But in general, I think we have way more possessions than we need and pairing down would make our lives easier. I discuss cleaning and decluttering our home in this post —> Decluttering Our Home: Some KonMari, Some Homesteaders Anonymous.
2. A good sleeping bag is important
Sleeping on the ground is no joke, but these kids did a great job at it. The difference between those that slept well and those that didn’t came down to one thing: the quality of their sleeping bag.
It was in the 40’s at night in the mountains, but those with warm sleeping bags were snug and comfy (even hot) all night long. So while I like to get great deals on everything (including camping stuff), don’t skimp on sleeping bags.
3. I really like to be clean
I kinda knew this already, but it really hit home to me. We didn’t get a shower until the 4th day, when we got home.
I was feeling so grimy and gross by then, I was about to lose it.
I don’t mind dirt under my nails when I’m gardening or working outside, but I like to get cleaned up at the end of the day. I missed that so much on the trail.
The actually pioneers washed themselves in the streams or other water sources on the way, but I would guess it wasn’t every day. And as they say, cleanliness is next to godliness.
4. Helping your neighbor allows you to forget your own problems
There were several really steep hills the kids pulled their handcarts up and over. It was amazing to watch.
Not only did they help their family climb the hill, but when they were done many of the kids went back to help other families climb the hill as well.
They were able to push past their own fatigue and pain to help others reach the top. And they felt a sense of accomplishment for having gone back and helped others when they were tired themselves.
5. Real relationships are invaluable
Many teenagers “these days” have just as many (or more) online relationships than they do real, in person relationships.
But this week, they saw the value of speaking, working, laughing and crying with people in real life. I know they will cherish the friendships they made for a long time.
You wouldn’t think that you could be so close to people you have only known for 4 days, but when you go thru hard things together it bonds you in a way that nothing else can. I am glad they got to learn the power of real friendships and hope that they will stay in touch with their pioneer families.
6. We can do hard things
The whole motto of the trek and the reason the trek was created is to teach the kids (and adults) that they can do hard things.
We shouldn’t shrink from a task just because we think it might be too hard.
I saw kids and adults accomplish things on trek that they thought were impossible. And now they know that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
7. Weather was life or death with the pioneers
In our modern society, we have lots of protection from the weather. Not so for the pioneers.
Our leaders were constantly watching the weather and planning for what might be in store. For the most part, we had really great weather for this trek. It did hail on us on the last day, but it was only for a few minutes.
The pioneers were stuck out in the weather, with nowhere to go. An early snow storm or rain storms could put them in a precarious spot.
I am thankful for modern weather forecasting and for the leaders that kept us safe during the trek.
8. Little miracles make life sweet
At home, we may go several days or weeks without seeing a miracle in our lives. We have our heads down, getting done what needs to be done. We may even be too distracted with technology to look around and see what’s going on.
On the trek, I saw many small little miracles. Things that I might have missed if I was looking at my phone or watching tv.
By being more intentional in our lives, we can see God’s hand in everything. And those little miracles make life so sweet.
9. I never want to live off grid
I know that many homesteaders live off grid or hope to do so one day. After this trek, I know for sure that is not something I want to do.
I have gained skills (like cooking over a fire, butchering animals, and growing my own food) that would help me in an emergency situation. In fact, emergency preparedness is one of the main reasons I started looking into homesteading in the first place.
But I prefer to be a modern homesteader. This means using modern conveniences such as running water, electricity and the internet to reach my homesteading goals.
If I had to, I could live off grid. But it won’t be by choice.
10. Aprons must have pockets
I only usually wear an apron when cooking, so I have everything I need nearby.
But this week, the apron was part of our pioneer outfit, and I actually found it useful. And having the extra pockets was a great help.
I carried chapstick, sunscreen, snacks and more in my apron pockets everyday. If I ever need an apron again, it will have pockets!
If you would like to make a simple apron, check out these fun tutorials (and add pockets if needed!) —> 13 Cute Free DIY Apron Pattern Tutorials for Beginners.
This Pioneer Trek was really life changing for our whole family.
We learned skills, met great people and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone.
These 10 life lessons are just a few things we learned on trek, and we can’t wait to go again sometime!
Have you participated in a pioneer trek or reenactment? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!
Don't know where to start with homesteading?
Grab our checklist to show you how to make your dreams a reality, step by step.