Notes From the Road
A SECOND CHANCE: TO DISCOVER ANOTHER CULTURE.
TO EXPERIENCE HISTORY FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
In June, 2010, a group of Colorado and Kansas seniors traveled to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Our travelers had such a powerful, rewarding experience, we’ve decided to offer this opportunity again in 2012.
The Wind River Reservation is one of the largest reservations in the US and is unique in that it is shared by both the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes. On our tour in June, 2010, we experienced these two cultures and gained insight into the spirit and courage of the immigrants who also shared this land.
We began our journey north into Wyoming, stopping in Laramie, WY to explore the Laramie Plains Museum. Housed in a fully restored 1892 Victorian mansion, the exhibits/artifacts here gave us insight into life in the west in the 19th century. We continued along I-80 to Rawlins and enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch at CoCo's. Our next stop was Sixth Crossing, giving us insight into the Mormon pioneers and their trek west. We arrived in Riverton, home base for our explorations. [In 2012, we’ll be staying at the brand new hotel right on the reservation.]
A Native American guide joined us for a day exploring the Wind River Reservation. He gave us a unique, personal insight into his culture and his world. Stops included St. Stephen's Mission, the Shoshone Cultural Center, St. Michael's Mission and the Arapaho museum. Visits to Sacajawea's grave and the grave of Chief Washakie were both moving reminders of the contributions of these two historical figures: One instrumental in the explorations of Lewis and Clark; the other a visionary leader trying to bridge two worlds to save his people and culture. Driving on to Sinks Canyon State Park, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and saw the "disappearing" Popo Agie River. Critter watching was great as the park is home to elk, bighorn, moose, pronghorn and deer. Returning to the reservation, we enjoyed dinner together followed by a presentation of the Northern Arapaho Experience: Songs, dances and storytelling. We were invited to join in the dance and learned to “move to another beat!”
The next day, we visited South Pass and saw the area from the perspective of the early settlers and immigrants. Between 1840-1860, over 300,00 travelers crossed the Continental Divide at this spot en route to a new life. Standing in those wagon ruts, looking out at the seemingly endless expanse and distance, truly gives you a new perspective on these people and their journey. South Pass City was our next stop. It was like stepping back in time to the old boomtown, gold rush days as we explored this outdoor living history museum. Lunch was delicious at the local Atlantic City Mercantile, where we experienced western hospitality at its finest. Willie’s Handcart Site taught us more about the story of the Mormon settlers and their trek west. It’s hard to imagine all your belongings in one handcart and pulling it across the continent! What desire. What hope. What Courage. We dined together that evening on the reservation and were joined by a tribal elder. He spoke about his life and experiences, the failures of the past and his hopes for the successes of future generations. It was eye-opening, informative, moving and humbling.
On our journey home, we stopped in Casper, known as “the Hub of Trails.” The Oregon, Mormon, California, Pony Express, Bridger and Bozeman trails all met here, before breaking off to other destinations. We explored the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, where the story of these courageous pioneers is told through multi-media exhibits. Experience the excitement and fear of crossing a swollen river in a covered wagon via virtual reality. Step on the tread mill that simulates pulling one of the Mormon handcarts, loaded with your life treasures and necessities. According to the measurements, I wouldn’t have had the strength to finish the crossing! Hear moving stories in the pioneers own words.
Immersed in the Wind river country for 4 days, we returned to “our world” with a new appreciation for the Wind River country and here people-past and present.