As the wind blows over the prairie, sagebrush and wildflowers bend across the ruts of the California, Oregon, and Pony Express trails just west of Casper. Imagine being one of the early settlers traveling through, gazing at the pristine beauty that remains a hallmark of the Adventure Capital! Historic Trails West is one of a handful of companies that offer present-day pioneers a taste of what life was like before the advent of rubber tires and paved roads.
Morris Carter came up with the idea of doing living history wagon train treks, and his mother, father and daughters joined in the venture. "My grandfather was a freighter and drove teams of horses across the country," he says, "and I've always been excited and interested in it. We do living history wagon trains and trail rides on the actual historic Oregon, California, and Pony Express trails, and we talk about all of the mountain men, the settlers, the Indians that were here, and the activity that occurred on the trail up through the days of the army."
Carter and his family built the first three wagons to participate in the 1990 Wyoming Centennial Wagon Train from Casper to Cody. Then, in 1993, with three more wagons built, they "took a wagon train from Independence, Missouri to Astoria, Oregon - 2600 miles, 6 months, 6 days. My daughters were 13, 14, 17 and 19 and drove their wagons across the trail."
Folks visiting Casper can immerse themselves in excursions lasting anywhere from 3-4 hours to 5 days on the famous trails. While traveling, the guides share a commentary about the mountain men that came west in the first wagons. They also tell stories of the interaction between the Indians and settlers, and of the U.S. Army stringing up telegraph lines and establishing their posts. Best of all, modern travelers will experience firsthand what it was like to be on the trail! Bounce across the prairie in a wagon, sit atop a horse, or experience the thrill of both! Morris and company provide everything from magnificent trail meals to the sleeping bags and Indian teepees drowsy venturers will curl up in at night.
Those who are especially adventurous can gear up for a 6-day, historic outlaw trail cattle drive working ranch vacation. Saddle up to trail cattle, and explore much of the area traveled by the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. New-age outlaws will also learn about the history of the Johnson County Cattle War. Carter says that with this tour, "you get to experience what the Wild West was about."
Carter's had visitors from all 50 states, not to mention places like Italy, Germany, New Zealand, France, Ireland and England - and many of those are repeat customers! And just like the brave settlers of old, "We've had people in our wagon trains from babes in arms to 110 years old," he says.
Besides the allure of the open prairie, Casper holds many more great historic adventures. Carter suggests checking out attractions like the National Historic Trails Center, Fort Caspar, the Tate Geological Museum and the Casper Planetarium. He's also quick to point out other local activities like blue ribbon trout fishing, skiing on the mountain and wildlife watching (the largest herd of antelope in the United States resides within a 200 mile radius of Casper!) "Casper's a great place to center up your visit," he advises, "and you can travel from Casper to various areas around Wyoming all in a days travel, and come back to Casper, which has multiple shopping opportunities, and many motels and hotels."