On the Path of Lewis and Clark

We’ve spent the last few days immersed in Lewis and Clark, Steve’s favorite explorers. He studied them extensively as a kid and has always been fascinated by their journey. Our time in and around Salmon, Idaho allowed us to dive deeper into the explorer’s story and legacy while soaking in some of the most incredible scenery we’ve ever experienced.

Our base for this part of our trek was the Wagonhammer RV Park in North Fork. Situated just 20 miles north of Salmon, the park gave us easy access to a number of cool excursions. The best part was that our campsite backed right up to the Salmon River and Bob loved the view! (photo)

Our first excursion was Shoup Road, or Forest Road 30 which took us back the second deepest canyon in the US. Following the Salmon River we watched as whitewater rafters were challenged by the rapids and fishermen were searching for the big catch.

One of the highlights of the 40 mile drive was reaching the confluence of the Salmon and the Middle Salmon, an incredible sight. 

Along the way we saw deer and herds of big horn sheep. It was an all-day journey, and we loved every minute…especially the milkshakes at the Ram’s Head Cafe at mile 31!

Our second day was spent following the path of Lewis and Clark to Lemhi Pass. Here’s Steve’s account of the day:

“Our first stop was the Sacajewea Memorial in Salmon. We learned about her invaluable contribution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as the culture and habits of her youth before joining the expedition.

We learned a lot and were excited to see the actual terrain that Lewis and Clark, led by Sacajewea, had to get through in order to complete their adventure and mission. Bob even met Seaman, Lewis and Clark’s dog.

“We roughly followed their path, driving up more than 4,000 vertical feet in the 20 or so miles to the highest point and the Continental Divide.

There at Lemhi Pass, having only seen two cars and some cattle on the road, we were surprised to see a group of Native Americans. It turns out that they were descendants of Sacajewea’s tribe, and each year, they hike from the valley to the top of the pass to memorialize the 1905 forced march of their ancestors up the steep hill and over the other side into Montana before boarding a train for their new home on a reservation in Oklahoma.  Their entire community of men, women and children had to hike the same trails as Lewis and Clark’s expedition. This bit of perspective changed our experience from the history book’s version and personalized the impact of America’s expansion west years after the remarkable journey of Lewis and Clark.

“After speaking with the walkers, we descended a short distance down the eastern side of the pass, into Montana and the eastern side of the Continental Divide. We stopped at a pull-out for lunch and a short walk to a spring that is the ultimate headwaters of the Missouri River. I straddled the headwaters just like Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery over 200 years ago. 

“We returned to the road and descended back to the Salmon River Valley, picking up one of the walkers as she hitchhiked back down after her hike up.  The three of us marveled at and discussed the incredible adventure of Lewis and Clark, but she also shared the hardships of her people at the hands of westward expansion. She shared the tears shed and emotions expressed that morning by the walkers, one of whom was 80 and whose parents had been part of the march.

After dropping her at her campsite, Marnie and I marveled at some of the ranches and concluded that those walkers would have been the owners of that beautiful, rich land had they not been displaced by America’s movement west. Instead, since their forced march, they lived in Oklahoma before being relocated once again to a reservation in Southern Idaho.”

On our final day at Wagonhammer we headed north into Montana to the Big Hole National Battlefield.

The site is a memorial to the people who fought and died there on August 9 and 10, 1877. The Nez Perce Indians were fleeing from US Army troops charged with enforcing the US government’s demands that the natives move to a reservation a fraction of the size of their traditional homeland. At the end of the conflict, 29 US troops were dead and 40 more wounded. Over 90 of the Nez Perce mostly women and children were massacred in the ugly attack.

Steve saw it this way: “This again personalized the impact of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. America’s expansion west is littered with cases where the US Government went back on treaties and forced Native Americans to reservations far from their homelands.

Though the Nez Perce in this battle were not ancestors of those we had met the day before, we better appreciated the emotions this battle site brings out. Natives say you can hear wails of tears of those who  perished in the battle, and, as I walked through the area, the wind through the pine trees certainly made a melancholy sound.”

Visiting sites like this makes us realize just how little we know about our nation’s history and how much we can learn from that story. There is so much these conflicts teach us about the plight of those who lived here before us. Unfortunately history seems to repeat itself, even today.

We are down to one phone as Marnie’s died on the battlefield, literally. All photos now are from Steve’s phone until we can get to an area large enough to carry a replacement iPhone. Might be awhile…

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