New Yosemite tour keeps history of 'Buffalo Soldiers' alive
The charms of Northern California are legendary, from cosmopolitan San Francisco and the wine country of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, to the scenic coastlines of Carmel and Big Sur. Equally popular are the region's incredible national parks, and each year countless visitors enjoy the towering trees of Sequoia National Park, a fun and memorable Yosemite tour
, or the rugged beauty of Kings Canyon.
While Northern California's parks are highly renowned, less well-known is a fascinating chapter in American history that played out in part there - the story of America's Buffalo Soldiers; African-American troops who served in the U.S. Army in the American West during the late 1800s and early 1900s. A term of respect coined by Native Americans, the "Buffalo Soldier" name has been attributed variously to the soldiers' ferocity, and to the resemblance of soldiers' hair to a tuft of fur between buffalos' horns.
What is more definitively known is that Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry and 24th Infantry were garrisoned in San Francisco's Presidio in 1899, shortly after Yosemite and Sequoia were established as national parks. Seeking to protect the parks' resources in the era before park rangers, the Army deployed the Buffalo Soldiers to Yosemite and Sequoia to prevent illegal grazing and poaching, discourage timber thieves and serve a host of other functions. Performing admirably despite having little official authority, the Buffalo Soldiers endured long hours in the saddle, separation from home and family, and the overt racism common to the era.
Tauck, a Connecticut-based leader in premium quality guided travel, is highlighting the Buffalo Soldiers and other regional cultural narratives in a new, all-inclusive Yosemite tour, "Yosemite And Sequoia: John Muir's California." During the eight-day journey, the tour will tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers in:
* San Francisco. During a visit to the historic Presidio, the tour highlights the Buffalo Soldiers' roots in the post-Civil War era, their service with Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" in Cuba, and their role in the Philippine-American War.
* Sequoia National Park. Tauck guests will learn the story of Buffalo Soldiers commander Charles Young, the third African-American to graduate from West Point and the first to oversee one of America's national parks.
* Yosemite National Park. While in Yosemite, guests will have the opportunity to "meet" a Buffalo Soldier, during a Tauck-exclusive interpretive presentation by author, educator and Buffalo Soldiers expert Shelton Johnson. An African-American Park Ranger, Johnson has been awarded the Park Service's highest honor for ranger interpretation, and he was prominently featured in the acclaimed Ken Burns documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."
* A special "Stories By Ken Burns" vignette. Johnson and Burns also appear in a brief documentary film on the Buffalo Soldiers that Tauck guests will view during their journey. Produced exclusively for Tauck, the film is one of a series of vignettes that Tauck features on its tours as part of its "Ken Burns American Journeys" partnership with the filmmaker. Not only did Burns (and his longtime collaborator Dayton Duncan) work with Tauck on the vignette, they were also instrumental in crafting the entire Yosemite tour.
The story of the Buffalo Soldiers is just one of several narratives explored on "Yosemite And Sequoia: John Muir's California." Other themes weaving through the journey are the story of naturalist and environmental advocate John Muir, and the creation of America's National Parks system.
Tauck's Yosemite tour begins with a two-night stay at The Weston St. Francis in San Francisco, complete with guided sightseeing. The itinerary next includes a pair of two-night stays at "inside-the-park" lodges in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks (with daily sightseeing and other activities), before concluding with a final night in "the city by the bay" at the Fairmont San Francisco. Those interested in more information can visit www.tauck.com.