Many wards in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do pioneer treks, but most haven’t done one on the same path that John Rowe Moyle took weekly to work on the Salt Lake Temple.
“I can walk 27 miles, no problem,” I wrongfully thought as I took the first step of our ward trek at 2 a.m. on Friday night.
What I didn’t realize was that the next 12 hours would become the most physically agonizing, mentally exhausting and spiritually rewarding experience of my life.
It all started two months ago when our bishop announced that our singles ward would be walking 27 miles from Alpine to the Salt Lake City temple — the same path that John Rowe Moyle took weekly on his wooden leg. Moyle is the famed pioneer of the “Only a Stonecutter” video produced by the LDS Church. Moyle was not only a founder of Alpine but also a stonemason and carver of the inscription “Holiness to the Lord” on the Salt Lake Temple.
And so it began. Seventy students, 12 leaders, 27 miles and 12 hours. Each participant picked an ancestor to learn about and remember during the trek. Each wrote the name of their ancestor on their leg, like in traditional marathons.
The first eight miles of the trek consisted of hiking through the mountains behind the Point of the Mountain. Organizers of the event arranged for the lights at the Draper temple to be on for participants to see as they came around the mountain. The remaining 19 miles were walked on main roads through Sandy, Midvale and Sugarhouse.
“I literally fell asleep while walking,” said Chloe Ruud, a 21-year-old senior from Woodbury, Minn. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it!”
As the miles wore on and the sun rose, participants began to realize the magnitude of the trek.
“I’ll be honest, I thought this was going to be a breeze. I’m a fit guy, and I play sports all the time, so I thought walking would be easy, no matter the distance,” said Blake McDonald, a 23-year-old senior from Bellevue, Wash., majoring in exercise science. “When it was over, I could barely walk. At one point near the end, an old man with a walker passed me on the sidewalk. He just smiled at me and cruised ahead.”
With each step we took toward the Salt Lake Temple, the realization of the sacrifices the early pioneers made began to sink in.
“It’s one thing to hear the story of John Rowe Moyle and think ‘Wow, that’s amazing!'” the bishop said. “But when you actually walk that far in such a short amount of time, you really begin to appreciate how faithful the early Saints were. You can’t appreciate the sacrifices they went through to build the kingdom unless you do something like this.”
Despite several sprained ankles, a stress fracture and various other minor injuries, all 82 participants made it to the Salt Lake Temple approximately 12 hours after the trek began.
“This trek is something I will treasure forever and never forget,” said Amber Crofts, a 22-year-old senior from Beaverton, Ore. “The take-away message from this all is that people — the living and the dead — are amazing. I was supported and encouraged by everyone I came in contact with, and I know that I had help from beyond the veil too. I still look back and can’t believe how crazy and insane it was but how it was so worth every aching, agonizing, limping step.”