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RAMBLINGS OF A TRAVELER – FAMILY VACATION: #2 THE OREGON TRAIL

#2 On the Way (A Tiny Bit About Lewis & Clark and The Oregon Trail)

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LEWIS AND CLARK

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Oregon is where Lewis and Clark ended up after crossing the North American Continent in 1803-1804 (doesn’t seem that long ago does it)? Lewis was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to lead a voyage up the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains, over the mountains, and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean and back. They were hoping to find a big river (all-water route) that ran all the way from St. Louis, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean and figure out if the Louisiana Purchase was a good buy, since President Jefferson bought the land site unseen and unmapped for a 15 million dollars according to Stephen Ambrose. As it turned out, it was a really good buy by today’s standards.

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Boy, this must have been a trip to beat all trips. I don’t know how much my readers know about the boys (Lewis and Clark) but this trip must have taken some serious courage to even think about, and the thrilling encounters must have been unimaginable by the modern human race. Actually, the encounters were fairly unreal even to Lewis and Clark. Lewis kept a pretty decent journal/dairy and did a lot of mapping, surveying and studying of plants, birds, fishes, and other big nasty scary animals along the way. He collected samples and drew cool pictures of things he had never seen before.

But even after all the cool things they discovered and did, the entire trip was a great disappointment to Lewis and at least two camps where the boys stopped were named Camp Disappointment (1 in Montana and 1 in Oregon).

Great Lewis Disappointment

First of all, there was no river that ran all the way from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. They hoped and wished the Missouri River, which turned into the Mississippi River as it headed to New Orleans might branch out to the pacific coast, but they didn’t wish or hope hard enough. Also to their disappointment, the Louisiana Purchase almost doubled the size of the United States overnight, but did not include Canada. This massive transfer of land did include all of present-day Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa; most of Colorado, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, as well as significant parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Texas and Louisiana, but it seemed that wasn’t quite enough for Lewis.

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Second of all, no white man had ever crossed the entire North American Continent before Lewis and Clark – at least that we know of. The Lewis and Clark voyage ran across some hostile Native Americans that had never seen a white man. Talk about a real thrill, can you imagine? They went right through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, and I can imagine there was a lot of bushwhacking, cursing, crying, and disappointment because it was not the straight river sailing voyage Lewis and Clark had hoped for. Pretty rough country back then I bet, as it is pretty rough today, bar the paved interstate highway and the mammoth 14 Columbia River dams, 1 of which is pictured in the background of the picture below. That’s not Lewis and Clark’s house in the picture below, only a somewhat despairing picture I took in the Columbia River Gorge area in southwestern Washington, just before crossing into Oregon.

Lewis & Clark and the gang made it to the Pacific coast just in the nick of time as winter was a coming. They put together a really nice camp called Camp Clatsop (below picture is a very close reproduction). The Lewis and Clark party hated every minute of the cold, damp Oregon coast winter.

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As soon as the wonderful Oregon spring came, Lewis and Clark with most of their members got the “H” out of there. Couple reasons they hated it so bad was because they never saw the sun for months and they were so cold and damp – a coldness that penetrated through the bone, and everybody got sick with the flu, a mega cold, bad diarrhea, fleas, injuries and lots of other nasty things. Another smaller thing, they didn’t have a lot of food or drink, especially drink – that fact right there can make a grown man cry. They did make salt, however. I saw the original salt maker with my own eyes. I never did understand why they made salt when the entire Pacific Ocean lay right before their very eyes. Go Figure! Someone, very knowledgeable, told me there were several very good reasons for it, however. Okay, Okay, I’m sure there were great reasons, probably one of them was curing and preserving meat.

If you would like to read a great book about the Lewis and Clark expedition, I highly recommend, “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose first published in 1996. You’ll learn more than you ever thought possible about the voyage and also Lewis’s probable suicidal death a few years after the historic voyage.

THE OREGON TRAIL

The first wagon trains and white people came about 30 years after Lewis and Clark did their thing. The Oregon Trail was a 2,200 mile east-west wheeled wagon route which connected the Missouri River to Oregon. The first wagon train came to Oregon Willamette Valley in about 1836 from Independence Missouri. 400,000 settlers came over the Oregon Trail during the next 10 years (Wikipedia).

Another very cool thing is you can still see the ruts of the wagon trains in some areas. I’ve seen ancient ruts before. I was in Rome and saw chariot ruts. O.K. yeah, the chariot ruts were quite a bit older, but are still there and very impressive, but so are the first wagon train ruts. I guess I am into ruts?

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Today, some modern highways follow parts of the same course Lewis and Clark and the wagon trains took back in the 1830’s. Our family trip took us right smack down the Columbia gorge. We probably even stayed at the same the hotel they all stayed at. Just kidding!

Somewhere while going through the Columbia gorge and before the Oregon coast and right along the side of the road is this really cool waterfalls. Wow! Wow! This sucker is really high. It falls 176 feet says Wikipedia, because of course I didn’t measure it.

Now I have to admit, Horsetail Falls is pretty cool. Literally, after spending a very hot afternoon driving, we got out of the car at Horsetail Falls nestled in the huge, big, tall pine trees with the mist of the enormous falls lightly covering you, and you think you are in heaven or a close second to heaven at least that particular day.

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So what happened next on the family vacation was nothing short of a miracle. Just as the sun was going below the western horizon, we all woke up from a cramped car nap to find the most beautiful scene in the world. Yep! You got it. We had arrived. Our hotel window faced the Pacific Ocean in its entire glorious expanse. Best thing, the end to the long, long, long car trip.

Til Next Time,

PSiddy

P.S. Within the next few days, I will finish the Ramblings of a Traveler – Family Vacation. #3 Flying the Monarch can not be missed. This blog promises to end on a semi to semi happy note, as family vacations go.

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