“No, This is Not an Oregon Trail LARP”

From Tuesday through Friday my family and I are participating in “Trek,” which, in the local dialect of Mormon-speak, is interpreted to mean “hiking and camping with handcarts, hymns, and harmonicas.” Just like our pioneer ancestors. I joked that this event was a cross between a Mormon Pioneer cosplay and an Oregon Trail LARP, but I’ve been told that this is not the case, and no, I’m not allowed to pretend to have died of dysentery so I can go home.

If it sounds like I’m making light of it, that’s because I make light of pretty much everything. Especially things of which I’m frightened. Camping in general has lost its appeal for me. Hiking? Sounds suspiciously like work. Doing them together, so that after a long hike you get a crap bed and food you carried and zero long soaks in a hot bath? Let’s just say it’s not Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup math.

I am not, however, a heartless, spineless fool who cannot see the benefit in these things. Sandra and I have been given the opportunity to walk the trail our ancestors walked one-point-six centuries ago, and we get to do so with all four of our children. The window of opportunity for this activity is pretty much this year, or never. Our kids are growing up and growing out. If we want to be miserable, all six of us, together in Wyoming, this is the time to do it.

Am I making light again? Perhaps.

We won’t have “electronic devices” with us, which is Trek-speak for “no phones, no music-players, no movies, no laptops, no getting any work done Howard, and if you want to take pictures the camera must only be a camera, not a smart-something.” If I want to tweet anything I’ll have to write it by hand in my journal, and carefully count the characters on my fingers to make sure I don’t use too many.

I am issuing an electronics exemption for my Fitbit, which I will be wearing for the whole trip. I have it on good authority that the pioneers had 1) odometers, and 2) timepieces. Besides, this is the damaged one (the replacement from the manufacturer is still in the packaging) and the repair scars I’ve inflicted upon it exemplify the old saw about thrift:

Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without.


That particular aphorism probably dates from after the time period in question, but only because during the time period in question you didn’t need to say such a thing, because it was what everybody did without some pithy rhyme as a reminder.

In this spirit, everything I’m wearing, carrying, or packing is newly acquired for this trip EXCEPT for the anachronometer on my wrist. Especially the shoes, which I have already broken in and stress-tested on a 22,000-step day. If my ancestors had crossed the plains in boots like these they really would have sang as they walked.

The point is that I’m going dark for four days. We’ll be back on Saturday, and I’ll be refreshed and ready for my presentation at the Salt Lake Public Library.