Explore the West where legends live on this 7-day journey to the past. Majestic mountain scenery, Old West adventure and historic trails highlight this seven-day program which is sure to be a winner for folks hankering for an Old West experience. Travel through the cowboy state of Wyoming where cattle still roam free and fences are few and far between. Visit the site of “Custer’s Last Stand”, stroll the same storied streets of Deadwood Gulch once inhabited by Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock and Poker Alice, view awe-inspiring mountain carvings, and walk in actual Oregon Trail wagon ruts which have survived more than a century of sun, wind and weather.
The trail leads first to Fort Laramie, the best-known milepost on the Oregon Trail. Wagon wheel ruts are still visible in nearby Guernsey, mute testimony to the thousands of emigrants who carried their hopes and ambitions westward over a hundred years ago. The living history exhibits and interpretive tour of the fort provide a deeper understanding of both the westward expansion movement and the Native Americans who staked their lives on preventing it. Tonight enjoy an authentic Oregon Trail cookout served in the shadow of one of the trail’s most distinguished landmarks, Chimney Rock. Following dinner participants sing songs around the campfire and reflect on the spirit of the pioneers who passed this way on their westward journey.
On the way to the Black Hills, the sacred Paha Sapa of the Sioux, visit Fort Robinson, a strategically located military and Indian agency during the final Indian Wars, where Crazy Horse breathed his last. After lunch in the “commissary” (your first opportunity to savor buffalo burgers), explore the fort’s historic points of interest. Next visit the outstanding Museum of the Fur Trade which explains the importance and influence of this trade on the area. After settling in to your home for the next two nights in Rapid City, attend the awe-inspiring evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the Shrine of Democracy.
On the second day in Rapid City, visit the Stav Kirke, an exact replica of an 800-year-old church in Borgund, Norway, before entering the Black Hills National Forest (which encompasses over 1.2 million acres of western South Dakota). Pay a second visit to Mount Rushmore for daytime photos, and “dine with the Presidents” in the new Buffalo Cafeteria. In the afternoon visit nearby Crazy Horse Monument, the still-unfinished mountain carving dedicated to Native Americans, and Custer State Park, one of the largest state parks in the country, where something special awaits you: an open-air jeep ride through scenic Custer State Park in search of the buffalo and other wildlife that roam free in the Hills. Dinner tonight is at the State Game Lodge, summer White House to two US Presidents – where we’ll dine appropriately on buffalo steak!
Kevin Costner’s Tatanka (“buffalo” in the Lakota language), and historic Deadwood.
The Black Hills were the sacred Paha Sapa of the Sioux, the last Native tribe to submit to the United States government in the late 19th century. The tribes were completely dependent on the buffalo for subsistence, and with it’s demise came their own. Fortunately, the buffalo (scientific name: Bison Bison) survived, and are today no longer endangered. The Sioux have also recovered and attendees will learn about their buffalo culture at Tatanka: Story of the Bison near Deadwood. Centerpiece of the attraction is a larger-than-life bronze sculpture featuring 14 bison being pursued by 3 Native American riders. An Educational Center depicts the story of bison and man through interactive exhibits. Visitors will visit authentic tipis interpreted by a Lakota Native and gain a unique snapshot of Indian life as it was during the height of the Buffalo Culture around the year 1840.
Like all Vanishing Trails Expeditions, the Old West Trail features living history, special speakers and events, authentic meals, interpretive centers, historic sites and other activities specifically related to the theme of the tour. These programs allow participants to experience first-hand the sites where the pivotal events of the history of the West actually took place.
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.