The Promise: Pioneer TREK

Pioneer Trek 2019 Hewlett Family Photo


“Your calling is to walk 32 miles over 4 days acting as Ma & Pa to 9 kids you’ve never met, everyone dressed in vintage 1840’s clothing you’ll make yourself, while pulling a handcart weighing between 800-1,000 lbs, to re-enact the Pioneers crossing the upper plains of Wyoming arriving into Utah.”

I don’t know what kind of crazy stuff your Church asks you to do, but this wasn’t an ask, it was an assignment, and my wife & I readily accepted.

We had been assigned to the same 4 years prior, the last time our community participated in the Pioneer TREK, but the doctor at the E.R. told us we couldn’t attend due to a legitimate last minute illness, so this was our chance at redemption.

Truth is, I’m about as helpless in this type of situation as your stereotypical man is assumed to be.  I mean come on – tying knots, setting up and packing camp, creating shade out of tarps, fixing blisters, kids and wife expecting me to know what I’m doing while acting like I do…

Had they asked me for a performance, to play the piano, to tell a story or joke, even to type 100 words per minute without an error, I’ve got you covered, but this “manly” stuff on the open plains, sorry, I was born in the wrong century and to the wrong family.

However, we promised we’d do our best and by golly, we did it!

We pulled that overloaded handcart, figured out the tarp shade challenge, my wife hit the bullseye on the hatchet throw, we mended sunburns, patched blisters, emcee’d a pickle-eating contest, did impromptu musical hymns for the camp of 300+, learned to square dance, avoided gopher holes on the trail and shoveled manure, cried our eyes out as the women pulled the cart up a mountain, men watching on bended knee, in honor of those female pioneers who had done the job without the husband and father, and we became the better for the struggle.


The Handcart Company


Pickle Eating Contest (with the saving grace of Trek – the Port-O-Potties – in the background)


Tami’s Bullseye on the Hatchet Throw


Shade! We Made Shade!


Family Home Evening on the Plains


Fixin’ them dang Blisters


As a family we came together, a bunch of strangers doing a job, getting it done, having an unforgettable journey that will live on in our memories.

Leadership is just this!

Often, we are simply called to it, assigned and assumed we are capable, whether we feel ready or not.

Shoved into the leadership landscape with people whose talents and strengths we don’t yet know, eventually discovering the Signature Moves that make up their awesomeness, and we find a way to make it work!  Even succeed!

You can prep, plan, listen to audiobooks and take courses in college, you may have been in management and felt the heat before, but there is nothing like being thrown into the fire, pretty much on your own, sun blazing down, nowhere to hide, everyone depending on you, and you have to just figure it out.

That’s the Promise.  To accept what’s thrown at you – and you deliver!

As we utilized the talents and strength of every young person in our little makeshift family we realized working together we could accomplish anything.

The talents I lacked they made up for, and the talents they lacked we did without!  We made up for it in spirit and enthusiasm.  My harmonica blaring its way up the trail, we sang and shouted with joy for 32 dusty miles, in our (mostly) handmade vintage 1840’s clothing, telling stories of brave pioneers who had to actually do these hard things, and how we could do similar challenging things in our modern lives, too.

We started out strangers in search of accomplishing a common goal (My Goal: Survive; The Kid’s Goal: Surviving without their iPhones) and we now have friendships for life, a team that became a real family, with love and appreciation for all involved.

So grateful for this experience.  There’s nothing like it, and it is a microcosm of family, teamwork, engagement, and business for leadership all in one fell swoop.

If you ever have the chance to do the same I implore you to go for it, even our daughter Ella got to attend this year for being old enough.

The next time you’re assigned to do a task you feel is over your head, just imagine me, Mr. Piano Hands, attempting to set up camp in a thistle field with tents I just bought at Walmart while fighting a windstorm in the scorching sun and everyone depending on me.

If I can keep my Promise so can you!


Ma & Pa with Ella Hewlett



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16 thoughts on “The Promise: Pioneer TREK”

  1. What an outstanding job & adventure that can never be taken away from you & your family! A true life event!!!
    Great work!!

    1. Jason Hewlett

      I have a WHOLE other post about how you showed me how to make the shade tarp work 🙂 My friend, you made such a difference. Thank you!

  2. Thomas Cantrell

    Ah, yes; the hat, the beard, the plaid shirt and jeans… I bet it was the fashion police who tossed you out of Nauvoo!


  3. You and your sweet wife were an answer to my prayers! My son was blessed to be part of your family and trek had such an impact on him. I know without a doubt it is because of the people he was with! Thank you to you both from the bottom of my heart for your love & sacrifice to watch over my son and be a big part of his spiritual growth. Much love – Quinn’s mom

    1. Oh my goodness Stacey, your son, Quinn, is a beautiful son of God. We were so grateful to have him with us, he was valiant, helpful, happy, kind, obedient…just everything a wonderful son can be. You have done such a masterful job with him as parents, and know we as his Trek parents, were honored to learn, serve, and grow with him.

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