Walking in the footsteps of giants


The thud of dozens of weary footsteps graced the dusty tracks of Calperum recently – marking a momentous journey made long ago.


The original trek occurred in 1846 when Brigham Young, pioneer leader ofThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – better known as the Mormons – led a party from Illinois west to what is now Salt Lake City, Utah.


Between 1846 and 1868, more than 60,000 Mormons followed Young’s lead and struck out for Utah, a journey of almost 2,000 kilometres. Because of the harsh conditions, many of the trekkers did not survive the journey.


The modern-day Calperum version consisted of 107 people from the Marion “Stake” of the Mormon Church and covered 55 kilometres. A stake is the church’s equivalent of a diocese.


This year’s journey ­ – or Youth Pioneer Re-enactment Trek – is the second for the Marion Stake to occur at Calperum, with another trek taking place in 2015. Other Adelaide Stakes have also had prior Treks there and similar treks have occurred around Australia.


Colleen Hargreaves, Chairman of the Marion Stake Trek organising committee, said this year’s trek included 53 young people aged between 14 and 18, and 39 adult leaders. The balance consisted of support staff, who worked in the background.


“The trekkers were divided into eight ‘families’,” she said. “Each family averaged seven young people, a big brother and a sister [aged between 18 and 30] and a Ma and Pa.”


Like the original trekkers, the Calperum journeymen and women lugged their possessions on hand-drawn wooden carts.


“Our trekkers started their journey at 4pm on Wednesday, 26 April and concluded on Saturday 29 April at noon,” Colleen said.


“Each night they camped as families using their bedrolls and tarps for shelter. And they cooked their food over open fires.” In keeping with the pioneering theme, trekkers were told that all modern technology, including mobile phones, was banned. “We want to teach the young people that they can do hard things, including becoming pioneers in their own lives,” Colleen said. “We also wanted them to appreciate the sacrifices made by the Church pioneers, and the sacrifices made by people in their families and the Australian community – hence the hand-drawn carts and old-style clothing.”

One of the primary goals of the Australian Landscape Trust is to allow people to experience an environment that they would not normally be exposed to. “We want different groups, such as the Mormon Church, to experience it in their own way, and the trek is a good example of that happening,” says Peter Cale, the Trust’s Manager Riverland Operations


Until at least next year, this year’s trekkers have stepped back into modern society, carrying only blisters and weary bones as reminders of their physical toil. The spiritual impact will be more profound – a constant reminder of the determination and courage shown by their forebears.



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