I have been writing updates on this family since June. They finally made it home. I have learned lot about the family, the trek and the family and friends that support them. I was trying to come up with a lead for this final article, and the one (which I didn't use) which said a lot about this adventure was:
"There is hope in the extraordinary accomplishments of humble people."
My personal hope is that as we examine our own lives that we understand that getting up each morning, pulling your pants up and stepping out is ALWAYS a step forward. Those who come from pioneer ancestry, be grateful for this legacy, because of their faith, we have been able to enjoy the blessings of a restored gospel.
Haydon and Company gathered together at the conclusion of their journey.
Connor Corbin playing Come, Come Ye Saints.
The handcart is empty, but the journey for the Haydon Company is far from over.
For the past 11 weeks, Clive and Shari Haydon, their four sons — Samuel, Josh, Matthew and Mikey — and teenage neighbors Justin Carter and Brett and Connor Corbin have been trekking and pushing a handcart along the historical Mormon Handcart Trail.
For now, the boys consider this handcart trek a grand adventure. The impact on themselves and others may take a few years before realizing this 1,180-mile trek was an incredible journey.
Most individuals who go on three- to four-day handcart treks are able to connect and grasp the spiritual and physical tests that Mormon pioneers faced. The Haydon’s 71-day journey was filled with special spiritual moments, too, but their greatest connection with pioneers was demonstrated by the faith necessary to stick it out and endure to the end.
“It is a daily grind, walking down the highway every day about 16 miles,” Clive Haydon said. “We are weary, tired, it is physical. You just have to do it and go through the mundane process to do the work and every now and then you have something special happen.”
Emotional connections were felt as family and friends gathered at This is the Place Heritage Park east of Salt Lake City to welcome the Haydon group home on Saturday.
Youth leaders and members of Mt. Olympus Stake in Salt Lake City joined the ranks of those who had been strengthened and inspired by the trekkers’ journey. They met the Haydons on the summit of Rocky Ridge, part of the Martin’s Cove pioneer trek in Wyoming.
“We were taking a break, and there was this lone handcart piled three feet high and this little family,” said Charlotte Pratt, a member of the Mt. Olympus Stake. “We could tell that they had been out on the trail longer than us. This was the real deal. When we learned that they had started in Nebraska eight weeks prior to that day, our youth and our leaders wanted to weep for them. We hiked the trail together and became their friends. Everyone was in the spirit of helping this family get to Utah. It was unbelievable.”
Conditioned bodies may be a physical payoff for the Haydon company, but the real payoffs have been people they met along the way and seeing how the Lord protected them.
“I had the opportunity to pull the cart up a steep part of a hill by myself,” Shari Haydon said. “The handcart was packed and I struggled as hard as I could up that hill. I got so far and then was unable to get that cart any further by myself. No matter how hard I pulled, that cart wouldn’t move. I thought of Elsie Nielson [who Shari Haydon walked in memory of] pulling her husband Jens, in the handcart. How did they do it? From my small experience it could only have been with divine help.”
Some family obligations necessitated a replacement for RV support at the beginning of July. Tom Page, a family friend also known as “Grumpy,” joined the company and brought lots of joy to their camp, according to Samuel Haydon.
“When I got there, they were exhausted,” Page said. “They had been gone for a couple of months. It was a drudgery to get up every day, so I tried to share some songs with them and do some things that would make them laugh and get going and I think it helped.”
Many people have been affected by what the Haydons have done, according to Scott Rancie, part of the RV support team. When Rancie saw the Haydon’s plan, he thought it was quite ambitious and was skeptical it was going to happen, especially after the first two days. Even Shari Haydon had her doubts.
“This has been a wonderful experience and I am glad I pushed past my fears, my comfort zone to do this,” she said. “I didn’t really think I would make it to the end, but here we are.”
The trek was part of Clive Haydon’s master’s program and although it is finished, he hopes to remain in Utah for another year. Under the U.S. Immigration’s Optional Practical Training program, he will finish some field studies in recreational management and work on further development of applied ancestry for at-risk youth.