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Local youth re-enact pioneer trek
As a little girl, 14-year-old Rebecca Skousen often sang the words, "Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked."
This past weekend she lived those words.
Skousen was one of 23 Corning youngsters who participated in a Youth Pioneer Trek in the Modoc National Forest on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, pulling replica pioneer handcarts filled with supplies, 19-miles "all up hill," according to the teens.
The adventure, a re-enactment of the Mormon pioneer trek that took place in the 1840s from Nauvoo, Ill., to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, was organized and sponsored by the Anderson Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Wearing handmade "pioneer" clothing, the Corning youths were joined by 70 others, ages 12 to 18, from Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Anderson, Palo Cedro, Burney and Fall River Mills, who started their journey near Adin.
"We were organized into family groups, each with a ma and pa and about eight 'children,' and each family was assigned to a handcart," said Monique Davis, 17, of Corning.
The handcarts used on the trek were replications of the handcarts used by the pioneers. Each had two large wooden spoke-wheels connected by a single wooden axle. Sitting on top of the axle is a wooden box about 3 feet by 4 feet, and running along each side of the box were 7-foot pull shafts ending with a 3-foot crossbar at the front.
It was at the crossbars pulling, and from behind, pushing the 500 pound loaded handcarts, where the teens spent much of the three-day trek through the mountain terrain.
"We weren't allowed to bring anything electric or modern, not even make-up," said 15-year-old Daisy Alston. "Only a change of clothes, mess kit and chap stick. We even had to brush our teeth with baking soda. They wanted things to be as authentic as possible."
All of the meals were made in Dutch ovens.
"We did most of the cooking with the help of our trek ma's and pa's," said Jessica Drake. "We slept in sleeping bags under the stars."
The teens tell the tale that one night a cow walked through camp, but someone thought it was a bear and got all scared and excited.
"We ended up calling the cow a 'moo-bear,'" said 17-year-old Elle Davis.
Along the way, stories were told of the real pioneers and the trials and tribulations they had to go through.
"We learned so much on this trek," said Chris Hogan, 18, of Corning. "It was a great experience, one big spiritual lift. I really came to respect the real pioneers and what they went through."
About 60 percent of the Corning youths who went on the trek are descendants of Mormon pioneers.
"I came to appreciate what my ancestors went through," said Skousen.
Amber Utterback of Corning said she learned proper respect for her pioneer ancestors. "I won't take for granted all the sacrifices they made ever again."
On Thursday night, the youths enjoyed music performed by a band of fiddlers and learned how to square dance.
The teens also learned how to play some old-fashioned games, such as "stick pulling," a challenge of strength and dexterity that was won by Corning's own Trevor Skousen.
One of the most touching experiences the youths shared was on Friday, as a re-enactment of the Mormon Battalion took place.
"All of the men and boys marched away, just like the pioneer men did for the Mormon Battalion, leaving the women and girls to push and pull the handcarts up a really steep hill," said Alston. "It was so hard doing it by ourselves. I was glad when they came back a short time later."
Corning youth Jeremy Dubois said standing on a hill and watching the girls have to push the handcarts was almost more than he could bear.
"I learned a lot of respect for women through that experience. They worked so hard and didn't complain at all. I was really impressed by them," he said.
Ethan Drake said he learned teamwork makes everything easier and Cody Lequia said it really does help to sing songs as you pushed and pulled the carts.
Skyler James added that when you are hot, tired and hungry, even trail mix and "lousy" beef jerky tastes good.
All of the teens agreed that as they pushed and pulled the handcarts, their trek families became "everything" to them.
"We had to work so hard together and we learned we can do hard things even if we think we can't," said teenager Breann Thomas. "On the first day, I wanted to give up; I didn't think I could do it, but my trek family helped me and I'm glad I stayed."
Monique Davis said Thomas was a perfect example of the trek's theme, "We Can Do Hard Things."
Even P.J. Mackintosh, a local teen who is autistic and is diabetic, made the trek.
"It was hard," he said.
With sore and tired muscles, a lack of sleep and modern conveniences, sunburned and dirty, each one of the 23 Corning teens said, "I would do it all over again."