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Idaho Enterprise

Malad Stake Trek 2022

After months and months of planning, Trek 2022 has finally come and gone.  It came with much excitement, anticipation and even a little anxiety for the participating youth and leaders that enjoyed the three day spiritual adventure at Sellars Creek Ranch, a church welfare ranch that aside from raising cattle, is dedicated to be used as a trek facility.  

 Hundreds of youth, parents and leaders gathered at the Malad Stake Center Thursday, August 4, in the early hours of the day to begin their trek experience.  As the youth entered the parking lot, they were divided into their adopted trek families for the weekend.  Twenty-five couples from around the stake had previously been called and set apart to serve the Ma’s and Pa’s to lead each family over the next few days.  

 After the families had all gathered, their first task was to decorate their flag that would later be hung on their handcarts along the journey.  Each family had chosen a motto, slogan, scripture or quote that was meaningful to them and would hopefully inspire their trek experience. 

Before leaving for the trek site, all of the families gathered together to begin with a few words of direction and instruction from members of the youth council that had been working to plan and prepare the trek for several months.  The youth council, led by co-chairs Raegan Smith and Joe Daniels, included Matti Jacobsen, McCady Howard, Gaiden Combs, Gavin Price, Hunter Wray, Sara Rogers, Kaleigh Worrel, Cortlyn Coleman, Porter Kimberling, Tucker Venable.

 After the two hour bus ride to Bone, Idaho, the excited trek goers were greeted by the service missionaries of Sellars Creek Ranch who said, “We have been waiting for you to come since last year! We are so glad you are here today.  This trek site was created for this day and for this youth.”

 The ranch became an official trek site in 2015 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conjunction with its uses as a welfare ranch raising beef cattle and the home of Camp Cumorah, a campsite dedicated for young women’s camps.  The ranch includes approximately 1600 acres of both beautiful grassy meadows and forested hills of quaking asps, lodgepole pines, and Douglas firs.

 The families were given a quick orientation of using the handcarts and the site before putting their new mode of transportation to work as they unloaded their gear and set up camps.  Once camp was established and lunch had been served, it was finally time for the families to load up their handcarts and hit the trail for the first time.

 President Brandon Ward of the Stake Presidency was asked to be the trail boss of the experience, leading the Malad handcart company as they made their way across the ranch. The twenty-five families with their handcarts in tow, followed closely behind as they covered the two and half miles to an area called “The Coves.” Along the way they enjoyed getting a little wet as they crossed several small streams and had a little rain shower cross their path.

 Once they reached “The Coves,” the families were given time to better get to know each other with questions and games provided by the youth council.  The games there included Hula rock- paper-scissors, nine square in the air, cornhole, volleyball and keep away with an eight foot beach ball.

 As the evening moved on, the group enjoyed dinner and swing dancing before heading back to the camp for the night.  One parent noted, “It was so great to look out across the cove and see all their kids having such a good time.  They were dancing and playing games and gathered around talking.  It was so refreshing to see our youth interacting with each other instead of being consumed by their devices that can be so distracting at home.”

 After returning back to camp, the trekkers enjoyed some hot scones and a devotional featuring Malad Stake President.  President Jensen shared stories and experiences, advice and counsel for the youth as they continue to move forward through their lives and strive to be a part of what President Nelson has called, the Lord’s Battalion.  At the conclusion of his remarks, President Jensen invited everyone there to kneel with him as he offered a beautiful prayer on behalf of the youth of the stake.

 The families were up early the next morning, gathering for the days’ trek ahead of them.  The day began with clouds and a steady rain that never deterred the excited youth.  With their rain ponchos on and their handcarts tarped up, the families were ready to face the day, regardless of what came their way. 

 Before stepping out on the trail, members of the youth council gave a short devotional where they talked of the trials and challenges that we face in this life.  They shared stories of their own personal trials that they had had and encouraged the youth to reach out to friends, parents, loved ones, and ultimately Jesus Christ to help them in those challenging times.

 The trail of day began across the flat meadows but quickly turned into an uphill climb.  The goal of the morning was to climb Prospective Peak, the highest point on the ranch and a near 700 foot climb.  The company paused along the way to rest and refuel, both physically and spiritually.  As the families enjoyed snacks and water, the youth council gave additional messages on the joy of daily repentance and receiving their patriarchal blessings.  

 As they made the last climb to the top of Perspective Peak, everyone was asked to pick up a rock that would represent a burden they felt they were carrying in their lives.  This burden could be any sort of challenge they were facing, a mistake they had made or feelings of doubt or insecurity.  Just short of the top, President Ward stopped and gathered the families together to take in the beautiful scene before them at the top of the mountain.  

 While there, he talked about the rocks that everyone carried up the difficult climb and how everyone had different sized burdens, trials and mistakes that they were hanging on to.  He asked everyone to hold their rocks up close to their face and pointed out how their burdens were obscuring the view before them.  But as they moved their burdens aside, their view became clearer and they could see a way beyond those trials, mistakes and insecurities.   

 President Ward taught that often the rocks, the burdens we carry, are like a pebble in our shoe that in the beginning are only a nuisance but eventually become sore.  After becoming painful enough, we finally stop to take out the pebble.  He said, “We use the same amount of energy to take out the rock whether we do it when we first notice it or after it has begun to hurt.  The only difference we experience is the amount of pain we feel as we put off removing the rock.”

 As President Ward finished speaking to the group, he invited the families to finish their way to the peak of the mountain where stood a growing rockpile made by other trekkers that had left their rocks along their way.  As the families passed the pile, many of them added their stones to the collection of challenges to be left at the top of Perspective Peak.

 After descending Perspective Peak, the handcart company began the next leg of their journey to beautiful and sacred spot called “The Groves.”  Along the way the families stopped for lunch, finding shelter from the rain under the pine trees along the path.  Despite the cloudy, rainy weather, the youth were in good spirits, none of them uttering a word of complaint.  The youth council provided additional rest and refuel moments on the trail as they taught about tender mercies, gratitude and eternal marriage.

 Finally making it to “The Groves”, the families descended into a small clearing, surrounded by trees.  While there, Brother Angell, the Seminary Principal, gave a special devotional on dating, remaining sexually pure and preparing for eternal marriage.  Brother Angell quoted President Gordan B. Hinckley as he said, “The most important decision of your life will be to marry the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”  

 In preparation for such a decision, Brother Angell gave words of advice and council on who and they date.  He also challenged them that as they dated it was essential for them to take control of those good feelings and emotions that God has given as a part of loving relationships.  As a cowboy himself, Brother Angell had in hand a bridle and spoke the scripture to “bridle your passions” as means to wholly enjoy them.  

 As the devotional and discussion in “The Grove” came to a close, the handcart company began making their way back to camp.  Over the miles back to camp, the families enjoyed sharing their favorite highlights of the day, discussed different ancestor and trek stories they knew, listened to music, played games and enjoyed the sunshine that joined them along the latter half of the day.  

 Despite the physical, and even spiritual, challenges everyone faced along the way, there were never any moments of complaining, whining or griping.  One Ma said, “As it kept raining I just kept waiting for the kids to say how they were cold or tired or didn’t want to keep going.  I was trying to think what I would say to encourage them to keep going, but I never had to.  They just kept pulling, kept going with smiles on their faces.”

 Like the pioneers of old, there were times when the tired youth experienced their own little miracles along the way.  Miracles like the young men that had already made it up the steep climb running down to help those that felt like they couldn’t pull their handcart one more step.  Or moments when all of the sudden the handcart became lighter to pull because angels, both living and not, were pushing from behind.  

 Even the weather seemed like its own sort of miracle.  Raegan Smith of the youth council said, “What are the odds it rains the whole time we are up there?! I don’t think we would have made it in 100 degree weather.  I am so so grateful for that rain!  I truly believe that Heavenly Father loves the youth of Malad.”

 Once back at camp, the ma’s, pa’s and youth  enjoyed a little time to gather in their families, to rest their feet, play games and reminisce on the day.  After another wonderful dinner, the group gathered for a special Face-to-Face devotional with some of Malad Stake’s most recent return missionaries.  Joining them trekkers for the evening were Marion Smith, Sierra Hooste, Garren Huckaby and Carson Palmer.

 Each of these missionaries shared powerful stories and experiences from the months they served their various missions.  They answered questions from the youth like “What was the hardest part of your mission?” “What surprised you the most about a mission?” and “What best prepared you on your mission or how could you have been better prepared?”  

 The final morning of Trek highlighted a special guest, Elder L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and his wife Lori.  The weather disrupted the morning plans to begin the day with an early hike to watch the sunrise as the devotional began.  Despite the foiled plans, the words and the spirit that accompanied Elder and Sister Budge were a special treat for all those in attendance as they focused their words on the theme the youth council had chosen for the trek- Seek. Trust. Act.

 Elder and Sister Budge shared stories from the scriptures and examples from their own lives of how their sought for the Lord’s guidance, trusted in His plan and moved forward with faith.  Elder Budge said that while oftentimes it is scary and difficult to do so, turning towards Heavenly Father will always bring greater light into our lives.

 With the last few hours of Trek coming to a close, the families took a final chance to gather together for fun games, last lessons, words advice and sharing testimonies.  They shared what a great experience had been to meet new people, find new friends and build strong relationships in their adopted families.

 As the rains picked up again, the ma’s, pa’s, youth and leaders began taking down camp in preparation for their return home.  Tired, wet, and probably a little smelly, the group loaded the buses to return home for a hot shower and their warm beds.

 The Stake Young Women and Young Men leaders commend the youth on such a great adventure Trek was.  They explained that from the beginning, they put the planning of Trek in the hands of the youth council, a handful of sixteen and seventeen year olds.  One leader shared, “They are leaders in their own right.  The planned and executed a wonderful three days.  I’m excited to see what they and the rest of the youth accomplish in the coming year and throughout their lives.”  This group of youth planned everything from the planned routes to the devotional topics to games and even the food.

 As a final count of the experience, 196 youth, with 50 ma’s and pa’s, trekked 14 miles over two days, with 20 stake leaders and spouses, enjoyed 9 meals and campfire treats along their way, provided by 12 cooks, while three more provided technical support throughout their days as countless prayers were answered by the seen and unseen angels to help create memories and bonds that will last for a lifetime. 

To see more pictures from the Trek, visit the Enterprise online and view the photo gallery at idahoenterprise.com