After nearly eighteen months into their historic journey, which began May 14th 1804 from Wood River near St. Louis, thence to the mouth of the Columbia River, the Corps of Discovery reached the westernmost extent of their travels. On November 16th 1805 Gass wrote in his journal: “We are now at the end of our voyage, which has been completely accomplished according to the expectations of the expedition, the object of which was to discover a passage [the fabled Northwest Passage] by way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific ocean…” On that same day, Whitehouse wrote: “We are in now plain view of the Pacific Ocean. the waves rolling, & the surf roaring very loud…We are now of opinion that we cannot go any further with our Canoes, & think that we are at an end of our Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, and as soon as discoveries necessary are made, that we shall return a short distance up the River & provide ourselves with Winter Quarters.” Lewis traveled on that day, through Baker Bay, to explore Cape Disappointment and the (Long) beaches to the north. He returned the following day to a place called Station Camp, to rejoin the remainder of the Corps encamped there.
The location of Station Camp, where these above journal entries were written, has been established as being across from present-day Astoria, on the Washington side, near the Astoria/Megler Bridge — crossed by the old Nomad the next-to-final day during Odyssey 2004. At Station Camp, the Captains took a vote to decide where best to locate winter quarters. All members of the Corps had a say. Historically, and although not within the then bounds of the United States, this was the first vote cast by either a woman or a black — many years before either would suffer that privilege of citizenship. Of the twenty-eight or so votes cast, the majority chose to cross the Columbia and seek a suitable camp from that upriver side, the belief being that the most elk were to be found there.
On November 26th 1805 the Corps turned and proceeded up the north shore of the Columbia, seeking a point to cross that vast body of water. Later that day, and under the most dreadful conditions they successfully made the crossing. Weather conditions continued to worsen. Of that time and experience, and on November 28th 1805 Clark wrote: “rained all the last night we are all wet our bedding and Stores are also wet, we haveing nothing which is Sufficient to keep ourselves bedding or Stores dry…this is our present Situation; truly disagreeable. about 12 oClock the wind Shifted around to the NW. and blew with Such violence…O! how disagreeable is our Situation dureing this dreadful weather.” The following day Lewis wrote: “the wind being so high the party were unable to proceed with the perogues. I determined therefore to proceed down the river…in surch of an eligible place for our winter residence and accordingly set out early this morning in the small canoe accompanied by 5 men.”
On December 1st 1805 and still searching for a suitable winter campsite, Clark wrote: “The emence Seas and waves which breake on the rocks & Coasts to the SW. & NW roars like an emence fall at a distance, and this roaring has continued ever Since our arrival in the neighborhood of the Sea Coast which has been 24 days Since we arrived in Sight of the Great Western; (for I cannot Say Pacific) Ocian as I have not Seen one pacific day…” On December 5th 1805 Gass wrote: “There is more wet weather on this coast, than I ever knew in any other place; during a month, we have had three fair days; and there is no prospect of a change.”
On December 7th 1805 the Corps arrived at the place they named Fort Clatsop. On that day, Clark wrote: “…we assended a river [Lewis and Clark] which falls in on the South Side of this Bay [Youngs]…on a rise about 30 feet higher than the high tides leavel…this is certainly the most eligible Situation for our purposes…”
From December 7th 1805 to March 22nd 1806 the Corps remained at Fort Clatsop. During that three and one-half months Clark noted that there had been only six days with any sunshine, and only twelve without rain. Once the fort was built, they settled in to occupy their time with routine chores and activities. The better hunters hunted, others made salt, put in needed provisions, made/repaired clothing and gear. All traded with the Indians. Gass noted on March 13th, 1806 that “I this day took an account of the number of pairs of mockasons each man in the party had; and found the whole to be 338 pair.”
During the winter at Fort Clatsop, Clark worked his maps and Lewis expanded the field notes he’d gathered concerning zoological, botanical and anthropological data. The Captains also toiled much over their detailed plans for the Corps’ return. The Captains had intended to break winter camp no earlier than the first of April. However, due to the uncertain weather, they determined to set out for the mountains much earlier, there to wait out the snowmelt.
And so, on March 23rd 1806 the Corps began their return journey. On that day Clark wrote: “This morning proved So raney and uncertain that we were undeturmined for Some time whether we had best Set out…” Later in the morning “…the rain Seased and it became fair about Meridean, at which time we loaded our Canoes & at 1 P.M. left Fort Clatsop on our homeward bound journey.” In that same entry Clark also noted that “…at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day and have lived as well as we had any right to expect…”
In 2004, the Nimblewill Nomad made his way from St. Louis to Cape Disappointment on the Pacific Coast, just as Lewis and Clark had done with the Corps of Discovery in 1804. In 2006 the Nomad has returned to Fort Clatsop , near Astoria, Oregon, to again walk in the 200 year footsteps of Lewis and Clark, as he follows their return trip of 1806, all the way back to St. Louis — where it all began. The Nomad began his journey at 1:00 p.m. on March 23rd, which is the time and date indicated by the original return expedition journals, and ended it in St. Louis, on September 23, also indicated by the original journals.
This odyssey is yet another exciting and wonderful journey, packed full with the spirit of both past and present. So why not come along! Follow the Nomad’s day to day journal entries as he completes this historic journey. After 100 days on the trail, Nomad interrupted his hike to let the Corps “catch up.” He returned to the trail on September 13th. Those final nine days are highlighted below.
Somewhere In The Past