OK, let's make this clear -- I've never been on a so-called handcart "trek," but every four years my LDS Stake sponsors one for all its youth, age 14 and older. Several of my children have been on a 'trek.'
Notwithstanding, I have some concerns about what these pseudo activities really teach LDS youth.
First and foremost, a "trek" like this would not be my personal choice for a mega stake event. No, I fail to see much rationale in having one.
If you want to give youth a rugged wilderness experience,
then youth need to backpack somewhere remote and really
see how it is to live for a few days with only what you
have on your back...
--Still, if you have a handcart trek, here are 2 things to
1. You've got to realize that handcart treks were NOT a vastly popular way of LDS pioneer travel. Only 4.23 percent of all Mormon Pioneers traveled by handcart. That is just 1,962 travelers vs. the total of some 70,000 pioneers before the railroad came along.
(-Source: Deseret News, July 24, 2008.)
The problem historically I see is that youth come away from
a handcart trek thinking that was the "normal" mode of
travel for pioneers, when it really wasn't. Trek leaders need
to stress this.
2. Also, the only really way I see that a pioneer trek has much
value is by making it come alive and that is best done
if it is actually done on the trail, or at least near where actual
pioneers would have traveled to Utah.
-Furthermore, the handcart disaster is a good example of
man's mistakes and misjudgment.
"There are several causes for the unhappy disaster which
overtook these two handcart companies," Milton R. Hunter
wrote in his "Utah in Her Western Setting" history book (pages 395-396). The emigrants themselves were somewhat foolhardy in their over-enthusiasm to reach Utah Much of the blame is due those officials who permitted them to start on their journey so late in the year, contrary to the instructions of Governor (Brigham) Young, which were so emphatic on this subject."
Hunter said adjustments were made in the next handcart companies so none ever left so late in the season -- and had better equipment.