Odyssey 2006 Journals

Thursday–March 23, 2006
Trail Day—001
Trail Mile–5.2/5.2
Location–Astoria, Oregon

It’s a long, long way from Missouri to Oregon, and getting here sure takes awhile, four days by train and not the least bit of hitchhiking to be exact.  I arrive in Astoria just in time to put my pack back on and head for Fort Clatsop on the Lewis and Clark River, some five miles to the southwest.  I make it in time to attend the dedication of the park, the new replica fort, and a trail along the river to the launch site.

The day is pretty much the same as was that day 200 years ago when the Corps began their long journey home — rain and wind.  That’s it, however, for “pretty much the same,” for at the site of the Corps’ quarters during the winter of 1805-06, not much else is the same.  As far as enjoying any peace or solitude, as far as having a moment to quietly reflect on that historic day, I sure picked the wrong one.  People everywhere, with lots of praising — and crowding around.  The new superintendent of the Lewis and Clark Historic Park, Chip Jenkins, spoke.  So did many others, including Fran Mainella, director of the National Park Service, various tribal leaders, and a rag-tag member of the modern-day Corps.  It was an okay event as far as celebrations and dedications go.  Any more though, and for this old man, it’s all way too hectic and confusing.

Instead of hanging around for the departure of today’s Corps, I return to the replica fort, which is in the process of being reconstructed after fire destroyed the one built years ago.  Here at 1:00 PM, and in relative peace and quiet, I unceremoniously begin my own personal long journey home.

Lord, please guide my footsteps; provide a clear path — in Your safe-keeping and loving care.

Friday–March 24, 2006
Trail Day–002
Trail Mile–25.7/31
Location–Westport, Oregon

Another great time in Astoria. After checking into the Riverview Motel again, I stopped once more by the Triangle Bar to see friends Sharon, Danny, Wiz and Reid.  Ahh, just like old times.

On the hike back to Astoria from Fort Clatsop yesterday I was able to watch the modern-day Corps struggle across Youngs Bay.  They still hadn’t made it around the point and into the river by the time I was climbing the hill into town.  A Coast Guard helicopter was hovering around them the last I saw.  Today I picked up a local paper but there was no mention as to their fate.  They were supposed to row upriver to Tongue Point, the Corps’ first campsite during their return in 1806.  I’ll give you whatever odds you want today’s bunch didn’t make it.  The Triangle Bar is right on the river.  Sharon had seen a lone fellow pass in a canoe earlier, but that was it, no modern-day Corps.  I recall seeing a very sleek canoe on a car-top rack by the Fort, so maybe there is someone heading back toward Wood River besides the old Nomad.  Sure would be nice to have some company hiking up and over the Bitterroots.  We’ll see.

I was expecting pretty sloppy weather for the first few days out.  I had been watching the national radar for weeks and the Astoria/Portland area was being consistently hammered, but after a morning shower this morning the sky clears and the day turns very pleasant, and before the end of the day I have to shed my fleece.

An interesting note about history: The Corps tried bartering with the Clatsops to obtain a second much needed canoe for their return up the Columbia, but were unable to cut a deal.  The Clatsops wanted way too much.  Anyway, there was a special ceremony the other day during which the local Indians passed off a canoe to the modern-day Corps.  The Corps then went through an elaborate ceremony of their own to rid the vessel of any spiritual imperfections or impurities.  So that’s the history, apparently, as some would have us believe about how the Corps got their second canoe.  Interesting, isn’t it, how after 200 years we can pretty much make history turn out any way we want!  You see, as to the Corps of 1806, they did get a canoe from the locals of the time — they stole it!

“proceeded to the Cath lah mah Village…at this village we purchased a fiew wappato and Dog for our Sick men…The village of these people is the dirtiest and Stinkingest place I ever Saw…” [William Clark, March 24, 1806]

Saturday–March 25, 2006
Trail Day–003
Trail Mile–22.5/54
Location–Rainier, Oregon

It still gets dark pretty early, so I had to pull off just after six last.  Found a nice soft spot in a spruce grove.  The evening turned cold; the wind came through, but there was no rain.

I’m out today to another fine one.  What a blessing, as I had thoroughly expected endless days of cold rain.  By noon my fleece comes off again.

As I pass small ponds and the low lands along the Columbia, I hear the familiar sound of peepers already.  And Thursday, there was a fellow out mowing grass.  All good signs!  Maybe the old Nomad will luck out and make it to the western high plains without having to fight too much bad weather!

In my first journal entry I lamented as to how that day wasn’t the greatest day to be at Fort Clatsop — too many people.  Well today, guess what!  It’s spring break and everybody’s heading for the coast.  I count, on average, a car every four seconds.   US Highway 30 is a zoo; no other way to describe it.  By the time I reach Rainier, my throat is closing and I’m having difficulty breathing.  Exhaust fumes, I’ll remember this day for the traffic — and the exhaust fumes.

In Rainier now, I check into the Budget Inn.  Victor and Betty are still here.  And at the Evergreen Pub, Scott’s still runnin’ the show.  Very kind people.  A warm welcome back for the old Nomad turns the day!

Oh, neat coincidence: The barkeep at the Evergreen was down by the docks when Norm Miller came through in his kayak late in ’04.  Norm, you’ll recall, is the chap who kayaked up the Missouri from Wood River, hiked the Bitterroots, and then kayaked down the Columbia to Fort Clatsop.  Our paths crossed in the Bitterroots that year.  Norm and I have since become good friends.

On March 26th 1806 the Corps camped across from Rainier, near present day Longview.

“soon after we halted for dinner the two Wackiacums who have been pursuing us since yesterday morning with two dogs for sale, arrived.  they wish tobacco in exchange for their dogs which we are not disposed to give as our stock is now reduced to a very few carrots.” [Meriwether Lewis]

Sunday–March 26, 2006
Trail Day–004
Trail Mile–26.3/80
Location–Scappoose, Oregon

Another enjoyable stay in Rainier.  It is a very friendly place.  I wait till eight to check out in order to bid farewell to Victor and Betty.  Betty is a fine artist and she offers a print of one of her paintings.  She’ll send it to me — a beautiful gray wolf!  It’s a tough time saying good-bye.

The day starts out cold and clear, then turns cloudy.  The wind starts kicking from the east and brings a few sprinkles intermixed with light snow.  My fleece and mittens stay on all day.

The traffic has backed off and I’m able to breathe much easier today.  It’s hammer the miles to Scappoose.  Get in just before dark — to McDonald’s.  I’ll find a place to pitch somewhere near.  Gotta have my coffee in the mornin’!

Though I began this journey the same day, same hour (only 200 years later), I’ll be proceeding back to St. Louis at a much faster pace than did the Corps.  Before me are clearly prepared paths (roads) and I won’t need to go out hunting for my dinner — just two of a number of advantages.

Monday–March 27, 2006
Trail Day–005
Trail Mile–24.2/104
Location–Parkrose, Oregon

Found a very nice spot by the power substation, right next McDonald’s, last night.  I’m up at seven to head right in for a biscuit and some coffee.  The local klatch has already formed up and as I sit, they invite me over.  Happy bunch, one and all.  We talk about old Indians (motorcycles), the local police (why they hassle folks) — and how far it is and how long it takes to walk to St. Louis.  I’m not the oldest in the group for once.  Thanks Bob, Bob, Bill, Jim, Larry and Hazel.

The day is cranking just fine.  Good conversation; fair weather.  Yes, I’m blessed yet again with ideal hiking weather!  By noon the gloves and fleece come off — again.

With such an unusually clear day, I’m offered striking views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.  From the high vantage along the walkway on the beautifully restored St. Johns Bridge, and as I cross the Willamette River, I’m afforded views I didn’t even know existed in 2004.

Hammering through Portland on the US30 By-Pass, and along this pub-crawl, I stop again at the Perch Tavern.  I had been befriended here before by the barkeep, Lori, and locals, Nick and Katy.  Lori is still here and she recognizes me the moment I enter.  “Nomad, you hiking again?”  Big smile!

Looks like I’ve made it through Portland one more time, not the least to be thankful for during this journey.  By five I’m in Parkrose, my final destination for the day.  From Carolina Motel I give Dawn and Paul a ring; dear friends from way back.  We’re able to get together and enjoy a fine evening.

Tuesday–March 28, 2006
Trail Day–006
Trail Mile–21.6/0125
Location–Bridal Veil, Oregon

The weather is holding for me; what a blessing.  A little hazy, but the white tops of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood are all standing bright and tall.  I suppose the locals get used to seeing these most impressive massifs, like anything else I suppose, but if I moved here, lived here — it’d take a very long time for me to quit gawking at them.

I’ve got a fair amount of industrial outskirts to pound today, then it’s onto the grinder, I-84 for most the rest of the afternoon.  Portland actually looks a little cleaner this time around — a little.

Unlike most anywhere else in the country, it’s legal to bike and walk the interstates out here.  Actually, I’m probably safer on divided, limited access highway than any other kind of road.  First, the lanes are separated so I don’t have to constantly keep my guard up for the not-too-infrequent inconsiderate yahoo who has to pass another vehicle coming up right behind me.  I probably do hike too close to the solid white line at times but it seems I almost always get a rearview mirror blowing by within inches of my right shoulder — just a tad unnerving to say the least.  The other great benefit in hiking the interstate is the full emergency lane.  These highways all have full emergency lanes.  So, even though the traffic is flying low, I’ve a full lane separating me from harms way.  Anyway, I take to I-84 today and it works out just fine — until the wind decides it doesn’t want me moving any further east without considerably more effort.  Along with the semi-driven tornados, pushing the wind to boot is, well, a push.

Early afternoon the valley pinches down and I enter the Columbia River Gorge.  By late evening I’m able to move over to Old US30, where I cruise on in to Bridal Veil.  From here I hike a short distance further to Multnomah Falls.

Got some decent shots, I think, at the entrance to Columbia River Gorge, then Rooster Rock, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, and Multnomah Falls.

On March 30, 1806 The Corps camped near Vancouver, across from present day Portland.

“I took a walk of a few miles through the prarie and an open grove of oak timber which borders the prarie on the back part…we had a view of mount St. heliens and Mount Hood.  the 1st is the most noble looking object of it’s kind in nature…this valley would be copetent to the maintenance of 40 or 50 thousand souls if properly cultivated and is indeed the only desireable situation for a settlement which I have seen on the West side of the Rocky mountains.” [Lewis, March 30, 1806]

Wednesday–March 29, 2006
Trail Day–007
Trail Mile–16.7/0142
Location–Cascade Locks, Oregon

There are a number of hiking trails within the public areas here in the Gorge.  They climb along and around the bluffs and side ravines, generally between the many high waterfalls.  Indeed, this area I’m passing today has the highest concentration of “high” waterfalls, more than any other place in North America.  I detour from Old US30 to trek along one of the trails for a distance.

This is a very short hiking day, comparatively, only around seventeen miles, but I tire from climbing around, plus carrying a heavier pack (it rained last night and I slept through — yes, I hadn’t rigged my fly — everything I have is soaked!).

Hiking the Old US30 Highway, built back in the 20s was a memorable part of my Odyssey ’04 trek, and I find it no less enjoyable today.  If you take a moment, you can read my comments about this old road at my September 7th Journal entry for that year.

Well, it’s day seven.  I’ve been out here a week now, nearly 150 miles.  My back’s a little sore, the body a tad tired, but looks like the old legs are going to come back under me one more time.  I think this is going to prove a most memorable journey — thank you dear Lord.

The Corps didn’t reach the Cascades until April 12th 1806.  Much time was spent exploring the lower tributaries of the Columbia, notably the Multnomah (Willamettre) and the Quicksand (Sandy).  During that time they encamped above the mouth of the Washougal.  They were also concerned about provisions for their return; so hunting parties were sent out.  Natives descending the river “…complained much of the scarcity of food among them.  they informed us that the nations above them were in the same situation…” [Lewis, April 1st 1806]  “This morning we came to a resolution to remain at our present encampment or some where in this neighbourhood untill we had obtained as much dried meat as would be necessary for our voyage as far as the Chopunnish [Nez Perces].” [Lewis, April 2nd 1806]

Lots more pictures today along the Gorge.  Pilot Rock, Horsetail Falls, a hiking trail, a short walk on the Union Pacific Railroad, the Old Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, and finally, the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

Thursday–March 30, 2006
Trail Day 008
Trail Mile–19.8/0162
Location–Hood River, Oregon

Cascade Locks is a five star trail town.  Everything a tired hiker could possibly need or want is within less than five minutes walking distance.  The people here are friendly, a change over the last 200 years.  They like, and cater to, long distance backpackers (the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail drops off the mountain into Cascade Locks before crossing the Bridge of the Gods on its way from Mexico to Canada).

In ’04 I stayed at the Bridge of the Gods Motel, right downtown, within the shadow of the bridge.  Stayed there again this time around too.  Great hosts, friendly folks.  Hiker trash rates.  All whiz-bang new.  Thanks Barbara and Roger, for your hospitality.

Had a long, interesting chat with Kristy, waitress at the local diner.  A slow evening, so we talked Lewis and Clark, and Native American history.  Kristy was born and raised right here by the Locks.  Her father, grandfather — all lived out their lives here.  Her family came from Canada many years ago.  Probably helped widen the ruts in the old Oregon Trail, which passed the Cascades.  Kristy talked about the many Native Americans, dear friends she went to school with (a far away glint here), and how their heritage — and hers seems now a mix.

Good to be in last night; hard rain.  But to my good fortune the good weather holds.  I’m out to a cool, cloudy morning, and by noon it fairs up and turns most pleasant.  Trekking the grinder today, I-84, all the way to Hood River.  Much heavy truck traffic.  The constant racket, rush, and confusion wear me down.  However, there’s raw, expansive beauty here in the Gorge.  So, as I keep one eye on the eighteen-wheelers, I try, with the other, to keep that beauty in focus.

A few more good pictures, I hope.  I’m in by three.

The Corps spent April 9th through the 12th 1806 below the rapids (Cascades).  The snowmelt/spring runoff was in full tilt causing the Corps much difficulty in “hawking” their perogues/canoes and portaging their gear.  The Indians were a constant annoyance, a problem that greatly angered Lewis.

“we passed several beautiful cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendous rocks which cloles [closes?] the river on both sides nearly…the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock [Multnomah, and the high falls area discussed in my journal entry yesterday]…” [Lewis, April 9th 1806]

“…this portage is two thousand eight hundred yards along a narrow rough and slipery road…at present the whole distance is extreemly difficult of ascent…the water appears to be upwards of 20 feet higher than when we decended the river…many of the natives crouded about the bank of the river where the men were engaged in taking up the canoes; one of them had the insolence to cast stones down the bank at two of the men…three of this same tribe of villains the Wah-clel-lars, stole my dog this evening…sent three men in pursuit of the thieves with orders if they made the least resistance or difficulty in surrendering the dog to fire on them…” [Lewis, April 11th 1806]

Friday–March 31, 2006
Trail Day–009
Trail Mile–22.7/0185
Location–The Dalles, Oregon

Don’t know why I stopped by the Hood River Best Western last evening, but I did.  Best Westerns are fine top-o-the-line motels, and the Hood River facility ranks right up there with the best of them.  Anyway, at reception I told Beth and Dan my story about hiking the L&CNHT.  They both listened with sincere interest, then Beth asked what I could afford. When I told her, she didn’t frown or say a word — just went right to her computer and arranged a room for me.  One of the very finest rooms I’ve ever stayed in while trekking, bar none.  Thanks Beth and Dan, for your kindness to this old man; I had a great stay!

Another fine day in the making weather-wise.  Back to the I-84 grinder.  I’ll be on this bruiser, off and on, for a number of days yet, until I’m out of the Columbia River Gorge.  Old old US30, Old US30, and now I-84, all were paved down over the ruts of the old Oregon Trail.  At the Memaloose Rest Area near Mosier, there’s a fine Oregon Trail Interpretive Pavilion.  I stop and get a few pictures.

From the interstate today, there are many fine views into and across the Columbia River Gorge.  The current is really moving swiftly here as the river drops to the sea.  I’ve been climbing steadily since leaving Fort Clatsop.  There, and by the mouth of the Columbia River, at the Pacific Ocean, the elevation was zero.  Over the past nine days, and as I’ve been steadily climbing the Gorge, tomorrow, near Biggs Junction, the Columbia will be standing at 157 feet.

The last part of the hike today I’m back over on old US30.  Thank you, Lord!  Near The Dalles now and after climbing a couple of fences, then dashing across four lanes of I-84, I’m at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum.  The admission fee is a little steep for me, but the kind lady at reception allows me to drift the hall and get some fine pictures.

By early afternoon I’m in The (new) Dalles.  It takes another hour and change to reach The (old) Dalles.  I check into the little mom-n-pop Oregon Motor Motel, right next the post office, a little before four — just like in ’04.  It’s been a fine hiking day!

Saturday–April 1, 2006
Trail Day—010
Trail Mile–25.0/0210
Location–Rufus, Oregon

Bad electric storm last evening.  Buckets of rain accompanied by a full percussion/light show. Never before heard the likes of such thunder, as it echoed/reverberated back and forth across the walls of the Gorge.  Charmed again; sure glad I was in!

This morning I’m out to a cold and misty time of it.  But again, by late morning the clutter burns away — and gives way to another beautiful day.  Looking over my journal entries for the days through here in ’04, I daily lamented the annoying and troublesome wind.  It seemed to blow constantly, right up the Gorge, so hard at times that I literally had to lean into it to make any headway at all.  Well now, the wind’s still here — It hasn’t changed direction, but I have!  So comes help, finally, to bounce the old Nomad along.

Numerous songbirds and a wide variety of waterfowl are ever abundant now.  Ducks and geese in great numbers.  On April 17th 1806 and encamped at Dallesport, Ordway wrote: “a beautiful warm morning…the Small birds of different kinds are Singing around us.”

Ha, I got stopped by the Oregon State Police on I-84 this morning.  Was hiking with the traffic, which I almost never do.  Walking the “I-ways” out here is okay, but only if you’re going against the traffic.  Didn’t know that. The officer was most kind, and very inquisitive about my trek.  She asked if I tend to run into problems with troublemakers along the road.  She also asked if I had a hiding place for my money and credit card.  I just smiled, told her about the little prayer {A Path by the Side of the Road) that I recite each and every morning — that that took care of it!  She smiled back, acted almost apologetic for hassling me; told me to be careful — and it was okay to keep on hiking the with-traffic side.  First chance however, I hopped the center barrier anyway, to hike against the traffic, then I wave to her when she comes back the other way an hour later.

I’m getting a fair distance ahead of the Corps now (time-wise, save being 200 years late).  From April 15th 1806 and through the 18th of that year the Corps remained at Dallesport, set to the task of trading for and procuring horses for the journey across the western high plains and back over the Bitterroots.  As they continued upriver, and through the Long Narrows, they also continued bartering for and purchasing horses — with miserable success.  The whole ordeal, from the tone of the captain’s journal entries, must have been totally frustrating.  On April 20th 1806, from just above the Long Narrows (where I recently passed), Lewis wrote: “[The Teninos] are poor, dirty, proud, haughty, inhospitable, parsimonious and faithless in every rispect, nothing but our numbers I beleive prevents their attempting to murder us at the moment.  This morning I was informed that the natives had pilfered six tommahawks and a knife from the party in the course of the last night…one horse which I had purchased and paid for yesterday and which could not be found when I ordered the horses into close confinement yesterday I was now informed had been gambled away by the rascal who had sold it to me and had been taken away by a man of another nation.”  That day Clark wrote: “I could not precure a Single horse of those people, dureing this day at any price…I used every artifice decent & even false Statements to enduce those pore devils to Sell me horses.”

The following day, April 21st 1806, near the Deschutes River (passed by the Nomad today), after days of effort by all, the Corps was still unable to fully shift travel from water to land.  At that point Lewis became pretty much unhinged.  His journal entry tells it all: “Notwithstanding all the precautions I had taken with rispect to the horses one of them had broken his cord of 5 strands of Elkskin and had gone off spanseled. I sent several men in surch of the horse with orders to return at 10 A.M. with or without the horse being determined to remain no longer with these villains.  they stole another tomahawk from us this morning I surched many of them but could not find it. I ordered all the spare poles, paddles and the ballance of our canoe put on the fire as the morning was cold and also that not a particle should be left for the benefit of the indians. I detected a fellow in stealing an iron socket of a canoe pole and gave him several severe blows and mad the men kick  him out of camp. I now informed the indians that I would shoot the first of them that attempted to steal an article from us.  that we were not affraid to fight them, that I had in my power at that moment to kill them all and set fire to their houses…”

Gass was apparently so surprised by Lewis’ actions that he wrote: “While we were making preparations to start, an Indian stole some iron articles from among the men’s hands; which so irritated Captain Lewis, that he struck him; which was the first act of the kind, that had happened during the expedition.”

Sunday–April 2, 2006
Trail Day—011
Trail Mile–28.0/0238
Location–Arlington, Oregon

If you’ve been following my itinerary from day-to-day, you will have noticed the last two locations, for yesterday and today aren’t there.  That’s because I’ve decided to stay on the Oregon side of the Gorge.  I’ll not be crossing the Columbia this journey.  There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy the miles in Washington after I pass Port Kelly.

I’m out this morning to another cold, drizzly day, but again, by around eleven the day fairs up and turns warm and clear.  Off come my fleece jacket, mittens and headband.

The wind wants to come along and cause me trouble.  By noon it’s blowing every which direction, trying to zero in on me.  It gives up by one and the Columbia turns completely flat.  Of all the days I’ve hiked beside this river I’ve never seen it glass over like it has today.  If the Corps ever experienced a day like this, I know they would have enjoyed it.  By three-thirty, the wind returns.  It’s got me figured out this time and it comes straight at me from the east, pushing hard.  The last three miles of most any day are the tough ones, today especially so.

We’re back on daylight savings time again.  Yippee!  Wish we would stay on it all year.  I really like the late evening light.  I recall a number of years ago; there was a push to keep daylight savings time year-round.  One of the excuses then, at least in Missouri, was the farmers would have to do their morning milking in the dark.  Taking a lantern into the barn was a fire hazard.  So the rationale was that the cows could give milk better in the daylight, which left the rest of us in the dark come evening.

As I climb the Gorge, the climate change is striking.  Down by Portland, and beyond, it’s rain forest.  Here, there are no trees, just grass — and rocks.  Before I leave the Gorge, it will become even more arid.  Near the Dalles, on April 17th 1806, Lewis wrote: “the plain is covered with rich virdue of grass and herbs from four to nine inches high and exibits a beautiful seen particularly pleasing after having been so long imprisoned in mountains and those almost impenetrable thick forrests of the seacoast.”

Monday–April 3, 2006
Trail Day—012
Trail Mile–27.0/0265
Location–Boardman, Oregon

I’m out to another gloomy morning, cold with mist.  The sun tries burning through early morning, but not today.  The wind is back first thing.  It’s got my number now; hits me straight out of the east — blow your hat off kind of wind.  I lean into it all day, just like I did on the westbound trek.

The day remains cold, and by three the rain, mixed with sleet comes along with the wind for good measure.  It’s a hard twenty-seven; I just lean into it and go.

East of John Day Dam, and in the vicinity of Rock Creek, the Corps finally shifted their travel entirely to land.  That first night, April 24th 1806, they camped near Blalock Oregon, passed by me yesterday.

“the natives had tantalized us with an exchange of horses for our canoes in the first instance, but when they found that we had made our arrangements to travel by land they would give us nothing for them  I determined to cut them in peices sooner than leave them on those terms, Drewyer struck one of the canoes and split of a small peice with his tommahawk, they discovered us determined on this subject and offered us several strands of beads for each which were accepted.  we proceeded up the river between the hills and it’s Northern shore…most of the party complain of the soarness of their feer and legs this evening; it is no doubt caused by walking over the rough stones and deep sands…” [Lewis, April 24, 1806]

Tuesday–April 4, 2006
Trail Day—013
Trail Mile–30.0/0295
Location–Hat Rock SP, Oregon

This is going to be a fine hiking day, cool and cloudy, just a little wind coming at me.  No gloves, no headband, only an open jacket this morning.

Either the state police or local sheriff came to check me out first thing almost every morning.  It’s the sheriff’s turn today.  No ID required, just want to know what’s up, why I’m out here on the interstate — if I’m okay.  All have been kind and have shown interest in my journey.

This is a day I’ve been looking forward to; not a big deal, but to me, I guess it is — I’m off the I-ways for this hike.  Three more miles this morning and I’ve got I-84 behind me.  Been on it, on and off (but mostly on), since Portland.  There’ll be plenty more I-ways to cross over or under, or hike alongside before this trek is over, but this is the last one I’ll be on.  Don’t get me wrong, the interstate is not a bad place to be, safe enough, just so much commercial traffic plus long straight stretches disappearing to the horizon.  Tends to wear on a fellow.  Yup, glad to have I-84 in my rearview!

The Gorge is opening up now, the plateau much lower, so the I-way climbs up and out of it from time to time today.  I look behind me often, but it’s just too cloudy, too hazy to see the seventy or so miles back to Mount Hood.  Next snowcaps I’ll see will be the Rockies.

Near Irrigon, and on US730 now the plateau is covered with roundy-roundy irrigation systems.  The climate here is arid, very dry, only 8-9 inches of rainfall per year.  But the soil is loamy and good for a variety of field crops, even vineyards.  I recall wondering, while passing Irrigon in ’04, where that unusual name came from.  I remember chuckling and whispering to myself, “Don’t know, but without irrigation it’d sure be gone!”

In Umatilla I’m back on my planned route again.  Arrive here early; so after a short stop to get some Easter cards off, I head back out and hoof it on to Hat Rock State Park, some 5-6 miles up the road.  Unusual rock formation, shaped like a huge Quaker’s hat, or the one the little fellow wears for St. Patty’s Day.

“By the 27th, the party reached the country of Chief Yellept and the Wallawallas, relatives of the Nez Perce.  The chief rode up with six men and was delighted to see the white men, as they were to see him.  Yellept was chief of a village of some fifteen lodges, with perhaps 150 men, and many horses.  It was currently set up about twelve miles below the junction of the Columbia and the Snake, on the north bank.  [Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage]

Wednesday–April 5, 2005
Trail Day—014
Trail Mile–22.0/0317
Location–Near Touchet, Washington

It was nearly dark when I arrived at Hat Rock SP last evening, so the nearby Good Sam Campground Store was already closed.  I hiked on over by the park water tank and pitched for the night.  Other than the freight trains running across the river, all was quiet.

This morning I beat it back to the store, which has a grill.  Here Sally, the storeowner greets me.  Oh yes, she’s in early making biscuits, and coffee’s brewed and ready — and she invites me in.  Not much going on this morning, except it’s darking over and the rain is setting in.  “Not much activity around here when it’s raining,” Sally remarks, not complaining.  She sets to fixing me a fine breakfast, complete with a freshly baked biscuit.  I try to drain her coffee.  Plenty of time to chat.  Sally tells me of her adventures, from ranching a 50-section spread in Arizona to touring Europe.  Doesn’t take long to realize, deep down, she’s just a wanderlust, like me.  Breakfast is Sally’s treat — and she sends me out with grub for the evening.  Thanks’ Sally!

By the time I hit the road, it’s raining steady.  The wind tries, but decides to back off and let the rain do the job on me today.  And a fine job it does, indeed.  No letup till dark.

I content myself with hammering on up the Gorge.  The rains, the clouds, the fog, all combines to create an eerie beauty to the place.  At two, I put Oregon behind me.  Ten more states to go.  By four, I reach US12, and leave the Columbia Gorge behind me.  I’ll follow the Touchet River, then the Walla Walla River, to Walla Walla, generally the return route followed by the Corps, and later by the Oregon Trail.

Along about here, in late April 1806, things greatly improved for the Corps, at least as to relations with the natives.  They were greeted again by Chief Yellept who, along with his villagers, had invited the Yakima to join them for an evening of festivities.

“…a little before sunset the Chymnahpos [Yakima] arrived; they were about 100 men and a few women; they joined the Wallahwollahs who were about the same number and formed a half circle around our camp where they waited very patiently to see our party dance. the fiddle was played and the men amused themselves with dancing about an hour.  we then requested the Indians to dance which they very cheerfully complied with…about 550 men women and children sung and danced at the same time.”  [Lewis, April 28th 1806]

Thursday–April 6, 2006
Trail Day—015
Trail Mile–20.0/0337
Location–Walla Walla, Washington

The wind blows here.  Perhaps you’ve picked up on that if you’re following along.  On the plateau above the Columbia River Gorge, there’s nothing to stop the wind, save perhaps five or six hundred huge wind-driven turbines.  But they don’t stop it either, they just turn with it.  All night last, from where I’d pitched in a dry gulch below the highway, I could hear the moan of the night wind as it passed the turbine props, kinda like the wind in the tall pine, but not really — more low-pitched and mournful.

The day dawns clear and cold.  I’m having a time getting the old jitney cranked and haulin’.  The damp cold is partly the cause.  Mainly my feet are so much mush from the soaking yesterday.  The feet must be broken in for both dry and wet.  The dry I’ve got; the wet I’m workin’ on.

No complaints though.  Been very fortunate this start-up.  I’ve suffered the usual shin splints, sore back, aching knees and joints, but not nearly as bad as the beginning of other treks.  I’ve been out here two weeks now, hammering 20-30 mile days.  My legs are back under me one more time.  It’s a blessing, pure and simple — it’s a blessing.  Thank you, Lord!

Not much in the little berg of Touchet (rhymes with juicy — locals say it ain’t French!).  There’s a Chevron with a Subway.  I go for the breakfast bun and doubles on coffee.  The klatch has taken up the far corner.  David, Manuel, and Gary.  They take me in.  Happy conversation about the old school days, that stuff.  Good fun.

Out of the Chevron, the gloves and headband come off.  Gentle breeze to my back.  I can see the western extent of the Rockies and many snowcaps to my east.  Be there soon.  I’m now taking (generally) the eighty-mile shortcut followed by Lewis and Clark, through Waitsburg (where I’ll be tomorrow), Dayton and Pomeroy.  When the Corps crossed the Columbia River on April 29th 1806, aided by Yellept, they had 23 horses and a Nez Perce guide to help them onward to the Snake River, west of present day Clarkston.

“…the indians informed us that there was a good road which passed from the columbia opposite to this village to the entrance of the Kooskooske on the S. side of Lewis’s river…we knew that a road in that direction if the country would permit would shorten our rout at least 80 miles…” [Lewis, April 27th 1806]

Friday–April 7, 2006
Trail Day—016
Trail Mile–21.2/0358
Location–Waitsburg, Washington

Walla Walla is a fair-sized town; hiking through takes awhile.  I’m headed for Waitsburg today, continuing on US12, up and over a portion of the western high plains.  The Corps did not pass this way.  Rather, they continued following the Touchet River, west of Walla Walla, as it curved up and around to present-day Waitsburg.

From these plains I’ll descend, as did the Corps, down to the Snake River at Clarkston/Lewiston.  But generally I’ve been, and will continue, climbing.  Where I turned from the Columbia River Gorge at Wallula Junction, the Columbia stood at 348 feet.  By the time I reach the Snake River, day after tomorrow, the river there is at 725 feet.  Yet continuing along US12, up the valleys of the Clearwater and Lochsa, I’ll climb steadily up and into the high-ranging Bitterroots.

Around Waitsburg there’s more annual rainfall than for areas just west.  In these rolling high plains, wheat is king, and during the summer it’s wheat, 360, to the horizon.

“I see very little difference between the apparent face of the country here and that of the plains of the Missouri only that these are not enlivened by the vast herds of buffaloe Elk &c which ornament the other.” [Lewis, May 1st 1806]

Upon leaving their lands, and speaking of the Wallawallas on May 2nd 1806, Lewis noted “…that they are the most hospitable, honest, and sincere people that we have met with in our voyage.”

Saturday–April 8, 2006
Trail Day—017
Trail Mile–9.8/0368
Location–Dayton, Washington

My first mail drop was in Walla Walla.  There I received cards from dear family and friends.  It’s always a morale booster — hearing from folks that are following along.  My next mail drop (scheduled) will be in Great Falls around the end of this month.  My address there will be: M. J. Eberhart,  c/o General Delivery, Great Falls, Montana 59401.  It’d be a joy to hear from y’all!  Please mark your mail “Hold for L&C NHT Hiker.”

In Waitsburg last, and as I turned by the White Stallion Restaurant and Lounge, a car pulled beside and parked.  Out came this lady — straight to me.  “There’s a purpose in what you’re doing, isn’t there?” she remarked with a beaming smile.  “My granddaughter and me, we saw you on our way to Walla Walla, then again on our return trip home.  We knew you didn’t want a ride.  You’re walking for a purpose, aren’t you?” she continued.  And so, there by that fine establishment (hers), I met Gaye and granddaughter, Hillary.  I smiled back, returning her kind greeting, then told her about my return trek — the 200th anniversary of the return of Lewis and Clark.  A broader-beaming smile then, and Hillary was beaming too!  “Did you notice the name of my place — White Stallion?  You know what it stands for, don’t you?” she asked.  Gaye continued smiling and nodding in agreement as I recalled the story of the Wallawallas and Chief Yellept, who had befriended Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1805 — then had come again to aid and assist the Corps on their return.  During that time of renewed friendship and celebration, Chief Yellept offered the Corps a “very eligant white horse” [Lewis, April 28th 1806].  And so, Gaye’s inspiration for naming her place, “White Stallion.”  Gaye invited me in as her guest.  She fed me a huge cod dinner, all the while sitting and entertaining me with friendly conversation.  Also befriending me was waitress, Tammy Jo.  Thanks, Gaye, Hillary, Tammy Jo.  Your kindness and hospitality, your generosity, they’ll remain in my memory.

With an hour remaining till dusk, I hoofed it on up to Lewis and Clark State Park, there to find a grassy spot back under the trees.

Ahh, this adventure is truly turning to one of fulfillment and reward.

The rain began around five this morning, driven by a cold wind out of the southwest.  I break camp in it, and then hasten the remaining distance to Dayton.  This has been a short day.  In Dayton, Shailesh offers the old Nomad a hiker trash deal at his fine Blue Mountain Motel.

I’m in!

“it rained, hailed, snowed & blowed with Great Violence the greater portion of the day.  it was fortunate for us that this storm was from the S.W. and of course on our backs.” [Clark, May 3rd 1806]

Sunday–April 9, 2006
Trail Day—018
Trail Mile–26.9/0394
Location–Pomeroy, Washington

An amazing “coincidence” last evening.  I had walked downtown to see the local sights and to meet a few of the local folks.  Being late, the only place open was the bar and grill.  One seat was left at the bar, between an old gent and a younger chap.  I took it.  Struck up a conversation first thing with the old gent.  In awhile, the younger fellow joined in.  He’s working the wind turbine project.  Came to find he was from Dahlonega, Georgia, the son-in-law of a dear friend there, Juddy — who’s since passed away. Bill, it was a pleasure meeting you.  When you get back home, my regards please, to Juddy’s mother, Georgia Mae, his widow, Donna, his daughter (your wife), Johanna, and all the other kids.

What a blessing, the short day yesterday, with plenty of time to rest.  It was much needed. I’m out at eight to a glorious cool, clear morning.  Folks have been telling me about the Corps’ camp of May 2nd 1806, located just outside of town.  I check my maps and find I can take a detour and pass by there.  So it’s off to the May 2nd camp I go.

I find it to be a pretty amazing place.  The camp is set entirely with iron silhouettes of all the members of the Corps, even the Indian guides, and all the horses.  I spend much time taking pictures — and cleaning the mess of catsup, mayo, mustard, and ice cream off all the plaques so I can photograph them.

The hike today is mostly along gravel roads, a shortcut across a big horseshoe loop in US12, up and onto the plateau, then down to Marengo, a little crossroads community, then back up to the plateau, to finally descend back down to catch US12 coming around.  Beautiful views all along, including many huge wind-driven turbines not here when I passed in ’04.  Along the way I meet an old chap, name of Pepper Nelson — runs Stirrup T Farms in a “little” place called Covello — which, in the early 1900s boasted a population of 107.  There are only two people living there now, Pepper and his wife!

By six, I’m entering the streets of Pomeroy.  By six, the rain is also entering the streets of Pomeroy.

On May 3rd 1806, the Corps camped by Pataha Creek, near present-day Pomeroy, here in Garfield County, Washington.  Nearing the confluence of the Snake and the Clearwater, the Corps was beginning to run into the Nez Perce again.

“we met with We-ark-koomt [Nez Perce Chief]…he is the 1st Chief of a large band of the Chopunnish nation [again, Nez Perce]…[Lewis, May 3rd 1806]

Monday–April 10, 2006
Trail Day—019
Trail Mile–31.5/0426
Location–Lewiston, Idaho

This is going to be a long grind-it-out day.  Cold rain gets me started, and then slacks off from time-to-time as the morning progresses.  But by one, and as I’m working the climb up to Alpowa, which crests just shy of 3,000 feet, the wind starts kicking, driving hail along with it.  On the top of Alpowa I see a very large gray wolf.  He’s grubbing around for field mice, totally oblivious to my presence.  When he finally sees me, he hightails it, literally, up and over the rise, and in a flash, he’s gone.

The Corps also climbed up and over Alpowa.  While on the flat, ranging crest, and on May 4th 1806, Clark wrote: “the soil is extremely fertile…it produces great quantities of the quawmash a root of which the natives are extremely fond.”

During the 200th ’04 anniversary, the Corps’ outbound journey, there were many folks following the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, in automobiles, motor homes, and on bicycles.  To my knowledge, no one else hiked the trail, although there was a lone kayaker/hiker who made the distance, by water and then by land.  His name is Norm Miller, and you can check out his amazing adventure at www.lewisandclark-2004.com. If you followed my journey during that year, you’ll recall it took 124 days and over 3,100 miles.  This year, it being the 200th anniversary of the Corps’ return from Fort Clatsop to St. Louis — and there being unfinished business as to my involvement with the anniversary, I decided to return to Fort Clatsop and do the return trek.  So on March 23rd, at one o’clock, 200 years to the day (hour) I began my personal return journey. This odyssey is going to be charmed.  I can tell already.  I’m seeing so many old friends, and making new ones.

Many times during the ’04 odyssey, and again this trek, folks have commented to the effect: “Well, the Corps of Discovery was a voyage by water, not a journey by land.”  And indeed, both the captains referred to the journey as a voyage from time-to-time.  They did indeed struggle for great distances, up and down many great rivers, during their “voyage.”  However, as through here, and for months, the Corps journeyed by horseback — or they simply walked.  And even when they had horses, they still walked, leading their heavily laden “pack stock” along.

If you’ve read the journals of the members of the Corps, more specifically, those of Lewis and those of Clark, you will have come to know and understand the many individual talents and interests of these two men.  Clark was the boatman, the navigator, and the cartographer.  Lewis was the naturalist, the entomologist, and the anthropologist.  While the Corps traveled by water, Clark spent most of his time as leader of the boat crews. Lewis on the other hand, took to the lands along, traveling for the greater part on foot.  He has been credited with the discovery of many species of plants and animals.

The hunters that supplied meat, the nourishment and energy that kept the Corps going, those Kentucky boys and the greatest hunter, the half-breed, Drouillard — the Lord only knows how many thousands of miles they walked hunting, ranging the plains, the valleys, and mountainsides in search for game.

Oh, but could I have lived 200 years ago.  Could I have been born and raised along the Ohio River.  I would have been one of those Kentucky boys chosen by Clark.  Oh, to have been a member of that remarkable history making/changing expedition, one of the most incredible adventures of all recorded time.  Oh, to have been there — to have been one of them.  Could my dream, my wish be made true, right here, right now where I stand, pack shouldered and ready, you’d see but a puff of smoke — and I’d be gone.  And there, in the complement of the Corps, there in their journals, those documents of time — you’d read my name.

Descending from Alpowa, I reach the upper Hells Gate section of the Snake River by four.  At six, I put the Snake River, and Washington, behind me.

On May 4th 1806, the Corps encamped on the banks of the Snake River, a short distance below present day Clarkston/Lewiston.  In his journal for that day, Lewis wrote: “we met with Te-toh, ar sky, the youngest of the two cheifs who accompanied us last fall [to] the great falls of the Columbia…these indians recommended our passing the river [Snake] at this place and ascending the Kooskooske [Clearwater] on the N.E. side…thither they promised to conduct us…”

That day in his journal, Gass wrote: “we halted at an Indian lodge, and could get nothing to eat, except some bread made of a kind of root I was unaquainted with. We had, however, a dog, which we bought from the Indians…scanty allowance for thirty odd hungry men.”

Tuesday–April 11, 2006
Trail Day—020
Trail Mile–27.6/0453
Location–Lenore, Idaho

I had somewhat dreaded this day.  Up through Clearwater River Canyon the river is squeezed hard both sides by the canyon walls, the road jammed in between the river and the bluff.  Consequently, the road has no emergency lane, either side, and the white line (road edge) is hard against the crash rails.  In ’04, I passed through this section of the lower canyon in driving rain, the wind and the eighteen-wheelers being the drivers.  However, today turns out totally different.  I’ve got more room on the upriver side, the commercial traffic is thin — and it’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day!

The Clearwater isn’t so clear this time of year.  It’s roiling and boiling, brimful with snowmelt, and whatever else it can bring down with it.  The Corps crossed the Snake River below the confluence of the Clearwater (near present-day Clarkson/Lewiston), thus putting them on the north side of the Clearwater, where a number the Nez Perce villages were located.  On the third day’s march up the Clearwater, the Corps “passed” the river to the south side on May 7th 1806.

By late afternoon, the day darks over and the rain begins, but I’m out of it as I’ve reached my destination for the day, the Nez Perce Reservation and the Thunderbird Smoke Shop.  La Verne is still here, still working evenings.  She welcomes me, and in a short while I’m again given permission to pitch behind the fireworks shed — just like in ’04.

“We proceeded up the river 4 miles to a lodge of six families…Here our guide recommended the passing of the river.  He informed us that the road was better on the south side and game more abundant…Accordingly, we unloaded our horses and prepared to pass the river, which we effected by means of one canoe in four hours.” [Lewis, May 7th 1806]

Wednesday–April 12, 2006
Trail Day—021
Trail Mile–15.8/0469
Location–Orofino, Idaho

It’ll be a steady climb today, up US12, which goes up by the Clearwater.  At Lewiston the river stood at 725 feet.  When I reach Orofino this evening, and at that place, the Clearwater stands at 982 feet.

The day starts iffy, drizzle but mild.  The rain soon relents and the day turns fair.  The highway continues by the bluff one side, the river the other, scant room for a road.  I hike outside the crash rail for a fair distance, but the going is a difficult off-camber and the rocks loose and unsafe.  I finally give it up to take my chances once more with the eighteen-wheelers.  On the outskirts of Orofino I stop for my picture by an old dugout canoe in front of a neat little craft shop.  Then it’s on to Canoe Camp, above Canyon Creek, where in 1805 the Corps took to the water for the remainder of their voyage to the sea.

In Orofino, and at the White Pine Motel, I’m greeted again by Dave, who recognizes me immediately.  The rain soon returns — and stays.  Sure glad I beat it in!

“At a distance of two miles, we passed a lodge of two fires…situated on a small branch which falls into Mosquito [Canyon] Creek.  Soon after we arrived at camp, two boys, with Willard, set out to the river near the place we made the canoes [Canoe Camp] for our saddles and a cannister of powder we buried there…” [Lewis, May 9th 1806]

Thursday–April 13, 2006
Trail Day—022
Trail Mile–22.1/0491
Location–Kamiah, Idaho

Looks like the rain is here for the duration; came down hard all night, and this morning it continues, as I don my poncho and head into it.

I’ll be hiking new territory for the first time on this trek, staying US12 to Lolo, instead of climbing to the high plains by Weippe.  Locals have told me not to go up on the mountain trail; “If the snow isn’t hip deep, then it’ll be pure mud,” they tell me.  So I’ll stay the highway and connect back at a place called Powell Ranger Station, just below Lolo Pass.

The Corps was unable to traverse the Bitterroots until the end of June.  On the highways, I’m content I’ll make it through just fine mid April.  I’m cutting across with Lewis!  Plans are to be in Great Falls by the end of this month.

The canyon stays tight with the river.  More no-shoulder road most of the day but the ruggedness of the canyon makes for breathtaking scenery.  The rain stays all day, with clouds running the canyon.  This section between Orofino and Kamiah (cam-e-eye) is spectacular.  The rain, the veil it drapes by the canyon walls, and the clouds running low with the ridges visible above; it’s just magic.  So the eighteen-wheelers that shove and push me, which totally soak me, do not dampen my joy for this day.

I’m into Kamiah by four, to the Kamiah Inn, where hiker trash is king!

I have been frustrating all day about calling my dear friends, Gene and Mollie Eastman.  They live in Weippe.  I would dearly love to see them both again, but I’m not going by way of Weippe this trek, and it’s just too far for them to come down from the prairie, into the canyon, then up to Kamiah.  So better judgment prevails — and I send them an email.

At this point, I am now one month (less 200 years) ahead of the Corps. On May 8th 1806, the Corps again met The Nez Perce Chief, Twisted Hair.  He had been the Corps’ main guide down the Columbia to Celilo Falls.  He had also cared for their horses during the winter of 1805-06.  At camp near Orofino the captains told the Nez Perce about their expedition and the new government they would be subject to.  All the while, they were collecting their horses, and on May 13th 1806, they moved on to Kamiah.  The next day they “passed” the river to the east side where they encamped.  They remained here until June 10th, waiting for the snow to melt in the Bitterroots.  The Corps did not name this camp, however, historians have called it Long Camp or Camp Chopunish, the name Lewis and Clark used for the Nez Perce.  Other than at the two winter forts, the Corps remained here longer than at any other camp.  At Camp Chopunish, Lewis soon became restless.  He wanted to get moving, to return to St Louis.

“I am pleased at finding the river rise so rapidly, it no doubt is attributeable to the melting snows of the mountains; that icy barier which separates me from my friends and Country, from all which makes life esteemable, patience, patience.” [Lewis, May 17th 1806]

Friday–April 14, 2006
Trail Day—023
Trail Mile–29.6/0521
Location–Lowell, Idaho

I’m out at seven to a cold, mushy morning.  No rain yet, but looks are, it’ll arrive soon.  Ahh, but hey, by eleven the sun breaks through, off come the gloves and jacket — and the remainder of the day turns perfect!

More steady climbing today, up and into the upper reaches of the Columbia River watershed.  At Kooskia, a little village I pass late this morning, the Clearwater River stands at 1,140 feet.  Just above here, the Clearwater comes together from the middle and south forks.  US12 follows the middle fork.  Further up, and by early evening I reach Lowell.  Here the Clearwater River has its beginning, at the confluence of the Selway and Lochsa Rivers.  The Lochsa is a formidable river in its own right, and the highway will follow it ever upward for over sixty miles, to just below Lolo Pass.

US12 is much more friendly now, as the traffic thins and the shoulders open up.  This gives me time to look around and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife — large mergansers, mallards, Canadians.  I hear turkey calling all along today.  And I hear the turkey hunters practicing their calls.  Tomorrow is the beginning of spring turkey season.

On the high ridges and peaks above the canyon, which are becoming higher and more rugged around each bend, I can see much snow.  The expedition was detained almost five weeks, waiting for the snow to melt on these high ridges above Weippe Prairie.  The parallel route I’ve chosen will prove a much safer way, and I’ll not be detained.  I am now two months ahead of the Corps — less 200 years.

I reach the fine Three Rivers Motel and Resort in Lowell by five.  Here the owners, Marie and Mike Smith, who’ve hosted guest for over three decades, greet me.  I give Marie my little two-minute Lewis and Clark trek talk, and she takes me in — special handling for the old Nomad!  It’s been a long day.  A good soaking for my tired old bones, then up with the feet; that’s the trick.  Thanks Marie and Mike for your kindness and hospitality!

“we have now been detained near five weeks in consequence of the snows; a serious loss of time at this delightfull season for traveling. I am still apprehensive that the snow and the want of food for our horses will prove a serious imbarrassment to us as at least four days journey of our rout in these mountains lies over hights and along a ledge of mountains never intirely destitute of snow.  every body seems anxious to be in motion, convinced that we have not now any time to delay if the calculation is to reach the United States this season; this I am detirmined to accomplish if within the compass of human power.” [Lewis, June 14th 1806]

Saturday–April 15, 2006
Trail Day—024
Trail Mile–30.1/0545
Location–Wilderness Gateway Camp

When I tell you this trek is charmed, it truly is.  Just when I reached Three Rivers last evening, the rain came to stay, all night, steady and hard.  And oh my — it’s still getting with it this morning.  Okay, so the trek is only half charmed!

Just before reaching Lowell last evening there was this highway warning sign: “Last diesel, last gas for 64 miles.”  Actually, that meant last pretty much everything for the next 64 miles.  The Bitterroots here, the Lochsa (say Locksaw) Wild and Scenic River, this vast, rugged section of the splendid Bitterroot Mountains, remains one of the most remote wilderness areas in all the lower 48.  I’ll force this canyon for the better part of the next three days as I work my way up the Lochsa, from Lowell to Lochsa Lodge, just below Lolo Pass.  From where I picked up the Lochsa, at Lowell, to where I’ll leave it day-after-tomorrow below Powell Ranger Station, I’ll climb over 2,000 feet up the Lochsa Canyon.

I head over first thing for a few provisions at the little Lowell Store.  Then it’s next door for a final hot meal at the Wilderness Cafe.

My poncho goes on — and stays on all day.  Not much traffic, but lots of die-hard kayakers playing in the rapids of the Lochsa, an Indian word, which means, “rough water,” an understatement for sure.  This river is almost totally whitewater, roaring and crashing as it tumbles down.  The climb is steady for the whole day.  During this climb to the Bitterroot Divide at Lolo Pass I had figured on cold, hard weather, so the relentless, biting rain this day hasn’t been a disappointment.  However, with the rain, clouds, and snowcaps, has come the opportunity, and I do believe I’ve gotten some pretty impressive photos.

The Lolo Motorway, which is a high clearance two-track road laid down pretty much over the old Indian (Nez Perce) Trail, is just above me on the ridge.  Through here in late June of 1806, joining the Corps were five young Nez Perce braves.  Two were going to visit their allies, the Salish.  The other three were headed for the Great Falls of the Missouri — and as fate would have, they were to become a Godsend to the Corps.  For, on the 27th, Lewis wrote: “We were entirely surrounded by these mountains…it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped; in short, without the assistance of our guides [the three braves] I doubt much whether we…could find our way.”  The sight would “…damp the sperits of any except such hardy travellers as we have become.”

With the aid of the three Nez Perce guides, the Corps traversed the rugged Bitterroots in only six days, where, in the autumn of 1805, the outbound traverse cost them twelve days — and nearly their lives.

I am now two months and a few days ahead of the Corps (less 200 years), and from this point, and indeed for the remainder of this trek to Gateway Arch in St. Louis, I will have to hike hard to maintain this lead.  For, when the Corps started moving again, up, into, and across these rugged Bitterroots, they had 65 horses, enough to carry both men and baggage.  Ahh, and once over the Great Divide, the Rockies behind them, from there it was literally all downhill, by the waters of that mighty river, up which they had labored and struggled for so long and so very hard.

Easter Sunday–April 16, 2006
Trail Day—025
Trail Mile–30.0/0575
Location–Jerry Johnson Camp

Actually, I didn’t quite make it to Wilderness Gateway Camp last, but chose instead to pull up just short at the old historic ranger station.  The rain had really worked me over all day.  I was pretty much soaked and could sense the early stages of hypothermia, not a good feeling.  The rain hadn’t let up.  In fact, it had been steadily increasing in intensity with a mix of sleet.  Making camp in this sort of weather is a real problem; at least I’ve always found it to be.  I can never seem to get my pack off and open, my tent up, and me and my gear in without a thorough soaking.  The old ranger cabins have porches, the first and only sign of any kind of shelter from the storm all day — I pulled over!

The cold rain, sleet, then snow-mix continued all night.  And this morning it’s still at it.  It takes all the will I can muster just to shoulder my pack and head back out into it again.  Thankfully, my thoughts turn to the brighter side — that this day, and perhaps tomorrow, these next two days might well be the very worst I’ll have to deal with the remainder of this journey.  That thought gives me the will and determination to hit it and go.

Once out and moving, I find the old jitney very responsive, as I get right up to normal operating temperature.  It’s hit the cruise button time — I motor, looking up only long enough to dodge the eighteen-wheeler tornados.  Yes, they’re running on Easter Day!

The steady climb continues as the constant roar of the grand Lochsa fades to my subconscious.  The canyon pinches tight all the day, its gray-cold walls standing hard against the river — and the highway.  The sharp, blind curves are countless.  So too, the many harried motorists, in that instant, as they fly around to meet me hugging the rock.

By late evening I’ve hammered another thirty, having stopped only long enough for water, some needed relief, or a quick photo.

As I reach Jerry Johnson Camp, which is gated and closed for the winter (it’s still winter up here) the day darks dramatically.  The rain, which has been continuous, turns first to rain/sleet, then to rain/sleet/wet snow, then to pure snow.

Lucky for me, the Lochsa Rangers have seen fit to leave the toilet unlocked.  Oh yes indeedy, any port in a storm!  I’m in, and happy to be out of it yet again.  The sleet and rain continue all night, but I’m warm and dry on the toilet floor — stretched out in my Feathered Friends bag, on my comfy Therm-a-Rest pad.  What a blessing.  Thank you kind and thoughtful Lochsa Rangers.  And thank you, dear Lord!

“on an elevated point we halted by the request of the Indians a few minutes and smoked the pipe.  on this eminence the natives have raised a conic mound of stones of 6 or eight feet high and on it’s summit erected a pine pole of 15 feet long [The Smoking Place]…from this place we had an extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow like that on which we stood…” [Lewis, June 27th 1806]

Monday–April 17, 2006
Trail Day—026
Trail Mile–11.3/0586
Location–Lochsa Lodge, Idaho

I’ve a very short day today, the hike on up to Lochsa Lodge, which is a grand establishment in the finest tradition.  So I’m out with a bounce in my step, into the rain and snow. No matter. The cold and dampness will not dampen my spirit.

After an hour, the sun breaks through, the roadway steams, and then dries.  Off come the poncho and the gloves for the first time in days.  What a change!

In the second hour, and as I pass the spot where the Corps climbed from the Lochsa back up to the ridge, and where I turned from the highway to climb the same ridge in ’04, the day darks over, it turns immediately cold again — and the snow returns.

In a few more miles, a yellow Idaho Highway Department truck goes by.  In minutes it passes again, the other way.  Then again in just minutes it passes the third time, then stops and turns, and returns — to pull off just ahead of me.  I’m thinking: “Oh man, now what have I done!”  As I approach the truck, comes a fellow to greet me, with a beaming smile, and a brand new blaze orange vest.  “We have some crazy drivers around here; thought you could use this.” he says — and so, I meet Ron Moss, Maintenance Supervisor at Powell.  While he’s slipping the vest over my pack I get the latest on the weather.  Hey, it’s going to fair up some, and I should have much better conditions once I’m over the pass tomorrow.  Thanks, Ron, for your thoughtfulness!

With less than a mile to the lodge, and as the road climbs yet higher, leaving the Lochsa, the snow returns once again, so hard and with such huge flakes it becomes difficult to see the road ahead.  Fortunately, I’m at the turnoff to Lochsa Lodge, and in moments I’m standing, dripping wet, by the lodge desk.  Gail, the hostess, and Ron, the lodge owner are there to greet me.

Pack off and aside, I’m seated, to have a piping hot cup of coffee placed in my hands!

Folks, it’s sure good to be back to Lochsa Lodge!

“We continued our route along the dividing ridge over knobs and deep hollows…At 12 o’clock we arrived at an untimbered hillside of a mountain with a southern aspect just above the fishery [and just above Lochsa Lodge]…we decided to remain at this place all night, having come 13 miles only.” [Clark, June 28th 1806]

Tuesday–April 18, 2006
Trail Day—027
Trail Mile–28.2/0615
Location–Beyond Lolo Hot Springs, Montana

What a grand time at Lochsa Lodge.  The place is pure class.  So too, the folks there.  Lochsa is a family business, owned and operated since 1984 by Don and Andrea Denton.  In the tavern, I met Mike, Tom and Karen who work at the lodge.  Also Ron and Lorraine, whose stalled van had left them stranded.  We spent a grand afternoon together — much fun for the socially starved Nomad!  A fine cook there also, great food.  Dang, I forget his name.  But I do know that he’s the great grandson of the famous actor, John Wayne.  Hmm, wonder if he’s a Morrison!  Wasn’t John Wayne’s given name Marion Morrison?

I am very thankful the Dentons took me in last.  The snow continued off and on all night, and there are flurries, and it’s cold this morning.  Ahh, but I was comfortable and warm.  Thanks all dear friends (one more time) at Lochsa Lodge!

Ron and Lorraine walk with me back out to US12 and I’m on my way to Lolo Pass a little after nine.  The steady climb gets the old jitney humming right off.  In just a short distance I reach the cathedral-like stand of western red cedar known as DeVoto Grove, named for author, historian and conservationist, Bernard DeVoto. Over half a century ago he often camped in the grove while editing the journals of Lewis and Clark. His ashes are scattered here among these sky-bound sentinels.  DeVoto’s definitive work, his research and writing about the Corps of Discovery, especially as to the journals of Lewis and Clark, that work has been the hallmark on the subject for years.

I linger here.  It is quiet, peaceful, a spiritual place, like in a cathedral.  Western red cedar takes 300-400 years to mature to the likes of those.  If undisturbed, they can thrive for thousands of years.
It has been trying to fair up this morning and at times I can actually see passing patches of blue, but the dark skies rule and the snow returns often as I continue ascending.

By two, I’ve reached the pass.  The sky finally clears and the day becomes blinding-bright, as the sun bounces and reflects from the enormous drifts and mounds of snow.  I linger again, at the beautiful interpretive center.  It’s still closed, but the snowplows have been around the drive.  I take many pictures.  The scenes are remarkable.

As I turn to descend into Montana, I lose an hour; it’s a time change from Pacific to Mountain.  Continuing down, I reflect on the past few days spent here in these rugged Bitterroots.  I recall the mixed feelings experienced while passing by the Clearwater Bridge at Greer — where I crossed after descending from Weippe Prairie in ’04.  I had so wanted to go that way again, as did the Corps in 1806.  But I am content now, pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience the very best of these mountains, the rugged beauty that abounds in the Bitterroots.

I have previously passed and have seen most of the historic places along the Nez Perce Trail, those written about in the books, like Snowbank Camp, Indian Post Office, The Smoking Place, Indian Grave.  Now, having ascended the canyons of the Clearwater and the Lochsa, I know why the old Indian trail took to the high place!

I have also experienced the unexcelled beauty and grandeur, the vibrancy and mighty power, the rushing waters of those rivers that crash and tumble in pure whiteness, bound by the canyon walls.

There are many things one can experience only while walking.  Up through the canyons of the Clearwater and Lochsa, I was constantly amazed at the sheer number of tributaries, the small trickles and rivulets, the larger brooks, creeks and streams, which entered the main canyon from the side hills.  Of course, one can see them while passing swiftly by.  However, one cannot experience, let alone explain, the utter bewilderment as to the seemingly never lessened magnitude/volume of the main waters — above each confluence.  For miles, indeed, for days, I marveled as to this phenomenon.  I actually began believing their true sources to be unseen, to be infinite, their origins some other place, from another time, far above, distant, beyond the canyon walls.

So, though a sense of sadness yet lingers, I depart Idaho with a deep feeling of appreciation and accomplishment.  Appreciation for the path the Lord chose for me, straight through the bosom of Nature’s best.  Accomplishment?  It’s the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve followed in the shadows and in the footsteps of the Corps, best I could.  Too, it is the satisfaction of knowing that I truly understand, perhaps better than anyone alive today, the hardship and sacrifice of those courageous, undaunted Americans — of 200 years ago.

So long Idaho, good-bye to your remarkable lands, good-bye to your kind and generous people.

By late evening I arrive Lolo Hot Springs.  I had planned on stopping off here for the evening.  But even now, during the off-season, it’s way too touristy for me — eighty bucks for a cabin?  I don’t think so.  The Corps managed to stay free, don’t you know!

“when we descended from this ridge we bid adieu to the snow…after dining we continued our march seven miles further to the warm springs [Lolo Hot Springs]…both the men and indians amused themselves with the use of a bath this evening. I observed that the indians after remaining in the hot bath as long as they could bear it ran and plunged themselves into the creek [100 yds. or so to Lolo Creek] the water of which is now as cold as ice can make it…” [Lewis, June 29th 1806]

Wednesday–April 19, 2006
Trail Day—028
Trail Mile–27.6/0643
Location–Missoula, Montana

What a night.  I managed to keep warm, kinda.  With the clear skies this side of the Bitterroot Divide, last night the temperature plummeted to the mid 20s. I can tolerate the cold, the pain and discomfort it brings.  But, and I know I’ve said this many times before, the cold quickly turn my fingers to so many sticks.  It’s downright frustrating.  Actually, it’s scary not being able to tie my shoes, zip my zippers, pack my pack.  Somehow though, I always manage.  Thank you, Lord, for the patience you’ve given me!  I’m up and out, grudgingly — wearing every stitch of clothing I’ve got.

I pass countless thousands of perfectly shaped evergreen today, any one of which could proudly stand as our nation’s historic and traditional White House Christmas Tree.  Their stature, their perfect symmetry, their pure beauty, especially those with snow-festooned boughs, they’re truly stunning.

Just above Lolo, and as I look up (in the cold, I pretty much stay hunched over), I see a horse coming at me straight up the centerline.  There’s a parade of cars creeping along behind him.  Closer now, and as I gaze quizzically (and although the animal is trotting just like a horse), I realize it’s not a horse.  Horses don’t have antlers!  Perhaps that’s because this horse is a moose, a very large moose.  “I can’t believe this!” I whisper to myself.  “Nobody’s going to believe this — gotta get a picture.” I continue uttering under my breath.  As I reach for my camera, and as the moose spots me — and is coming toward me, finally do I realize it might be smart to skip the picture taking and head for the fence, which I promptly muster the gumption to do!  As I clear the ditch, the moose snorts my way, and then turns again to the highway centerline — and I heave a sigh of relief.  As the first motorist passes, downing his passenger window, he shouts: “How’s that for a moose sighting!”  Ahh yes, a moose sighting, indeed. Last I see, the parade continues around the bend, led ever on by the trotter!

Just shy of Lolo, I reach Travelers’ Rest State Park.  As I head over, I’m wondering how I missed this place before.  At the temporary park building, I meet Darby, Dale and Loren — to find out this park location didn’t exist in 2004.

The actual site of Travelers’ Rest wasn’t discovered until just recently.  For many years the camp was thought to be some distance from here, near where Lolo Creek enters the Bitterroot River.  However, when a coat button was found nearby, it got folks looking for clues near the present park site.  Found nearby were more than just clues.  Archeologists found conclusive physical evidence!  They found a mercury-tainted latrine (medicine given members of the Corps by the captains contained mercury).  They also found a musket ball, a blue trade bead, and in the remains of a fire ring, a puddle of melted lead (determined through isotope study to have come from a mine in Kentucky, where lead for the expedition had been procured).  These and other discoveries confirm that the Corps’ campsite locations truly rest — within Travelers’ Rest State Park.

Darby takes time to give me a personal tour.  On the way she shows me the site of the cook’s campfire, where they bedded down, and the location of the latrine.  Darby, Dale, Loren, I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with you.  Your enthusiasm is certainly contagious!

It’s still early afternoon when I turn the corner toward Lolo, so I decide to hoof it on down to Missoula.

“Descended the mountain to Travellers rest leaving those tremendious mountanes behind us — in passing of which we have experiensed Cold and hunger of which I shall ever remember.” [Clark, June 30th 1806]

“The true legacy of the people who trod this land before us is that their story is America’s story — bold, determined, courageous.  At Travelers’ Rest, that legacy continues by engaging our imaginations, our intellects, and our hearts.” [Travelers’ Rest Brochure]

Thursday–April 20, 2006
Trail Day—029
Trail Mile–26.4/0669
Location–West of Potomac, Montana

Descending from Lolo Pass, the Corps (and the old Nomad) followed Lolo Creek to Travelers’ Rest, next to the Bitterroot River at present-day Lolo.  There the Corps rested for three days, detailing and finalizing plans made during the long winter at Fort Clatsop.  Their decision: To split the Corps at Travelers’ Rest.  Lewis was to take a shortcut o’er “The Road to the Buffalo,” from present-day Missoula, across to the Great Falls of the Missouri (Great Falls).  And Clark was to return to Three Forks, generally over their outbound route, and from there cross to and descend the Yellowstone River.  They were to meet again at the mouth of the Yellowstone sometime in August.

On July 3rd 1806, Lewis and his party of nine men departed for the Great Falls of the Missouri.
It is this path taken by Lewis and his party that I am now following.

From Lolo, I proceeded along and down the Bitterroot River to its confluence with Clark Fork River at Missoula.  There I bid farewell to good old US12, which I’d been trekking for many-a-day.  In Missoula, I crossed the Clark Fork, as did Lewis, to pick up the Blackfoot River — and its canyon.  I am ascending there today, along SR200, a fine wide-shouldered highway that generally parallels Lewis’ route.  I’ll be following SR200 off and on across most of Montana.

A couple of diversions (from the din of traffic) today.  First, I see my first eagle this journey, gliding fixed-wing on the thermals above the canyon.  I’ve seen many ospreys the past number of days, but this is the first bald eagle.  And the other?  Well, seems this mutt wanted a chunk of the old Nomad.  He started growling as soon as he saw me, skidded around his fence, jumped the ditch, and shot straight at me, snarling and bearing his teeth.  I turned and deftly (been practicing) let him have it up side the head with my left hiking stick.  This immediately helped him make the right decision — to go back home.

Lewis and his men had a devil of a time with the skeeters along the river here.  For me, dicing it up with the dog today was a better and much quicker deal!

“All arrangements being now compleated for carrying into effect the several scheemes we had planed for execution on our return, we saddled our horses and set out I took leave of my worthy friend and companion Capt. Clark and the party that accompanyed him. I could not avoid feeling much concern on this occasion although I hoped this seperation was only momentary…” [Lewis, July 3rd 1806]

Friday–April 21, 2006
Trail Day—030
Trail Mile–026.3/0695
Location–Ovando, Montana

Within six miles of my destination for the evening last, I stopped for a short time at the Potomac General Store, there to be befriended by Jess, who gave me bottled water, enough for the night and the morrow.

Another cold night.  More sticks for fingers as I fumble to break camp this morning.  Patience, patience, with the coming of spring, this cold weather will surely pass.

At the Clark Fork River, the Indian guides turned from the Corps, for fear of being confronted by their enemy, the Blackfeet.  Without the guides, and finally on a well-marked road as the guides had assured, Lewis made amazingly good time across this shortcut, often covering 25-30 miles per day. They made it to the Great Falls of the Missouri in just nine days, saving over 400 miles and many weeks, compared to journeying their outbound route of 1805.  With a little luck (and a tailwind) I hope to also make the crossing in just nine days.

By eleven this morning, I’m able to pack away my jacket and gloves as the day turns perfect, warm with the least breeze (tailwind) from the northwest — perfect!

By four I arrive at the little village of Ovando.  First (and last) stop is the Blackfoot Commercial Company and Inn, established in 1897, and currently run by Howard Fly.  He’s a Lewis (without Clark) Expedition buff.  We enjoy much good conversation.  He presents me with a very fine, full-color pin depicting Lewis, his Newfoundland dog, Seaman, and in commemoration, the date: July 6, 1806, the day Lewis passed near present-day Ovando.

The inn is an old, old frontier-style wood-frame building, but with completely renovated rooms up.  Howard puts me in #1, right in the front.

The Corps having just separated, those emotions fresh — additionally, Lewis and his men were then faced with bidding farewell to their Indian guides, friends of long standing.  Excerpts from journal entries that day reveal the thoughts and feelings of the Corps, and of the Indian braves:

“it is but justice to say, that the whole nation [Nez Perce] to which they belong, are the most friendly, honest and ingenuous people that we have seen in the course of our voyage and travels.” [Gass, July 4th 1806]

“these affectionate people our guides betrayed every emmotion of unfeigned regret at separating from us.” [Lewis, July 4th 1806]

Saturday–April 22, 2006
Trail Day—031
Trail Mile–26.2/0721
Location–Lincoln, Montana

The wind came, then it turned cold the evening last.  But I remained warm and comfortable in my cozy room above the old inn.

This morning, shortly after Howard opens the store, the local klatch arrives.  Coffee’s on.  Yes!  Oh, and this is when I learn that a huge muffin comes with the room.  And there are cookies from a klatch member.  Yes, yes!  Thanks, Howard, for taking me in, for your kindness, and for your hospitality.  Ovando’s a neat little town — reminds me of the little village where I was raised in the Ozark Highlands of Missouri.

Got a twenty-six to knock out today if I want to reach Lincoln, my planned destination.  So, I’m out and trekking SR200 a little after eight.  The morning presents cool and cloudy, no wind; perfect for hammering the miles.  I tuck and go.  At three per, the hike today will take nearly nine hours.  This should put me at the door to Lincoln around five.  That’ll work — just gotta keep the hammer down and the sticks clicking.  Hey, I’m a workin’ man.  This is my job, what the heck!

The meadows, fields, and woods about Ovando are marked by “knobs,” as described by Lewis.  He actually called the area “Prairie of the Knobs,” for the rumpled landscape that’s shaped by countless oddly formed hillocks, moraines left by glacial activity some 10,000 years ago.  The landscape’s knobby appearance was formed as sediment deposited, dropped during the last glacial ice melt.  Ha, perhaps the “global warming” evidenced during that period was caused by an over population of Indians — who built way too many fires!

All along, for the better part of the morning, and off to the north, stands there a horizon-framed, uninterrupted wall of massifs, rugged snowcaps, the largest continuous wilderness area in all the lower ’48.  It begins just south of, and abuts, Glacier National Park.  It consists of the Bob Marshall (“The Bob”), the Scapegoat, and the Big Bear Wilderness areas.  This vast mountainous region, passed only by primitive roads, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT), is home to the grizzly bear, mountain goats, wolverines, elk, moose, deer, and wolves.

Last year, and beginning on June 23rd, I had the great-good fortune to come back to Montana, here to hike the CDT, through Waterton/Glacier, and the entire wilderness complex.

As I stand here now, gazing in silence and awe at the pure white escarpment, which rises to the Heavens before me, comes to mind the old familiar expression, “been there, done that.”  Ahh, but those words are so inappropriate, so very trite.  For, at the same instant, am I am brought to tears with the realization — that of God’s Grace — priceless gifts to this old man.

By late afternoon, and as forecast, a storm front presses through, bringing cold wind and a scattering of rain.  I arrive Lincoln at five, just as planned (along with the storm), here to be greeted and welcomed by Sandy, owner/manager of the Blue Sky Motel.  After listening attentively to my two-minute pitch about hiking the Lewis (less Clark) National Historic Trail, she takes pity — and takes me in.  Oh yes, it’s a hiker trash deal for the old Nomad!

“these plains I called the prarie of the knobs from a number of knobs being irregularly scattered through it…Cottonwood and pine grow intermixed in the river bottoms mosquitoes extreemely troublesome.  we expect to meet with the Minnetares [here, the Blackfeet] and are therefore much on our guard both day and night…passed several old indian encampments…passed a creek [Arrastra Creek, passed today] on the N. side 12 yds. wide shallow and clear.” [Lewis, July 6th 1806]

Sunday–April 23, 2006
Trail Day—032
Trail Mile–30.5/0752
Location–By Dearborn River, Montana

I had a memorable time in Lincoln.  I recall coming down from the divide and re-supplying here during my CDT trek last year.  And I remember Lincoln for its hospitality and kind folks.  Sandy recommended Lambkin’s of Lincoln for a nourishing home-style supper, so that’s where I headed.  Great food, kind staff.  Thanks Rosie and Sally — and Bobbie, you’re a fine cook. Thank you too, Sandy, for your kindness to this old man!

At the Quick Stop I check with truckers coming down from the pass this morning.  Their rigs are caked and coated with ice, but all tell me the pass is being kept open.

The forecast is for an iffy day, wind and snow, especially at the higher elevations.  Tomorrow doesn’t look the least bit better, so I pick up a few supplies and decide to go for it. The morning begins sun and no clouds but quickly switches to clouds and no sun — along with southeast wind and intermittent sleet.

During the morning the wind intensifies to 20-30 mph, gusting to who knows.  It keeps coming straight at me, driving cold, cold sleet.  By the time I manage Rogers Pass, it’s two.  I had planned to spend the night somewhere near the pass, but there’s nothing up here but ice and wind-driven sleet.  Motorists are crawling and sliding through.  The roadway is pure ice for the last mile up and the first mile down. I push on and into it.  I had hoped for improved conditions once through the pass, but the wind and sleet hit me even harder as I descend.  By five I’m out of the worst of it, down and onto the high plains prairie.  There are no trees here, no protection anywhere for miles.

Late evening, the highway drops to the valley of the Dearborn River.  There’s shelter here, cottonwood and scrub, but the land is posted, both sides.  I look on up the road, at the long hill ahead that climbs back to the prairie.  I know there’ll be no place to camp up there for miles.  I’ve made a rule never to venture onto posted land, but I’m totally beat.  It’ll be getting dark soon.  The sleet continues and it’s turning very cold.  What to do?  Easy, I decide to break my rule.

Just as I’m through the gate and hooking it back, down the highway come two pickups towing stock trailers.  Both cowboys spot me.  Both keep rolling.  On the posted land now, and by the river, I’m looking for a sheltered spot where I won’t be seen.  Just at dusk I settle for a small ravine choked with alder-like brush.  It’s deep enough and far enough away from the rancher’s two-track to conceal my little tent.  I pitch and roll in.

I’m no sooner settled than I hear this old pickup pull to the gate.  “Oh, great!”  I’m thinking.  One of the cowboys that spotted me has sure enough called the owner, and he’s come to flush me out.  I settle back in my tent and wait.  In a moment I hear the old truck pass on the two-track above my camp, to continue on up the river.  In less than five minutes he returns, passing very slowly.  Back at the gate he turns off his engine.  “Oh my,” I’m thinking, “if he walks the fifty yards or so to the edge of this little ravine, he’ll spot me for sure.”  Time seems to stand still.  I try to hold my breath, to listen.  In another moment, the truck cranks, the old fellow passes the gate, closes it behind him — and is gone.

Whew!  What a frightening time.  I’ll be up and out of this place early; that’s for sure!

Lewis and his men turned from the Blackfoot River and followed Alice Creek up to near the Great Divide, a little north of Rogers Pass, then crossed at a place misnamed Lewis and Clark Pass.

“passing the dividing ridge betwen the waters of the Columbia and Missouri rivers at 1/4 of a mile.  from the gap which is low and an easy ascent on the W. side…” [Lewis, July 7th 1806]

Monday–April 24, 2006
Trail Day—033
Trail Mile–34.7/0787
Location–Near Sun River, Montana

After dark the wind finally died down.  By midnight, the sky had cleared and it was turning increasingly cold. Earlier, I’d had no problem preparing for the night.  I just kept all my clothes on from the day, every stitch I had with me.

There’s frost everywhere this morning, including inside my tent and on my fly.  There was a hard freeze for sure last night.  It takes me forever to break camp.  I have to constantly stop and bury my hands under my armpits or in my groin.  I’m finally out and climbing back to the prairie by seven-thirty.  I haven’t seen the rancher again. Thank you, Lord!

The sun is out, but the clouds are trying their best to return.  Looking back at the wall of mountains, their snow-covered slopes glistening pure white in the morning sun, I stop for a moment of thanks.  The Bitterroot Mountains, and the main backbone of the Rocky Mountains, they’re in my rearview now.  Hiking them was a challenging and memorable time, but I’m happy and thankful to be through safely.

The day remains cold, due to the 20-30 mph wind coming straight at me from the northeast.  Here in the prairie, and at the top of each rise it is possible to see a distance of over an hour’s hike ahead.  The views up here on the high plains prairie are totally unobstructed, 360, save the scattered buttes, so what one sees any given time is just more unobstructed high plains prairie.

By mid afternoon the highway drops to follow the valley of the Medicine (Sun) River, to Great Falls. Lewis and his party descended from the mountains and passed this way July 7th-9th 1806.

“The descent was easy, through hills and hollows.  The men could talk only of buffalo, but none were encountered…The next day, the party crossed the Dearborn River and closed on the Medicine River, where they camped.”  [Ambrose, Undaunted Courage]

Tuesday–April 25, 2006
Trail Day—034
Trail Mile–21.6/0809
Location–Great Falls, Montana

My camp last was behind a row of round hay bales along the highway.  With dusk approaching and little traffic, I managed to cross the rancher’s fence and conceal my tent without being seen — and there were no “No Trespassing” signs!  Another frosty night, but I manage quite well in my tent, on my pad, and in my Feathered Friends bag — with all my clothes on.

Today is going to be considerably more pleasant.  The wind has diminished and moved around to the south, and the skies are clear.  The day soon warms and I’m able to remove my poncho, my jacket, my headband, and my gloves for the first time in days.  I think by the time I’m passed Great Falls, summer will be on its way.

Descending to the Great Falls of the Missouri, and near White Bear Islands, Lewis’ party saw thousands and thousands of buffalo.  Joseph Fields had killed a large one on the 9th near Simms where I passed last.  It was the first they’d dined on buffalo since the previous July.

By three, I’m in Great Falls, to meet and cross the Missouri for the first time this trek.  I pause to look, but see no buffalo around here today.  At this juncture, and in ’04 I had yet nearly 1,200 miles to go to reach Fort Clatsop, Cape Disappointment, and the Pacific Ocean.  Lewis’ (and my) shortcut across from Missoula to Great Falls has shortened this journey considerably.

“…when I arrived in sight of the whitebear Islands the missouri bottoms on both sides of the river were crouded with buffaloe  I sincerely belief that there were not less than 10 thousand buffaloe within a circle of 2 miles arround that place.”  [Lewis, July 11, 1806]

Wednesday–April 26, 2006
Trail Day—035
Trail Mile–21.4/0830
Location–Belt, Montana

Great Falls is a fine city, as large cities go.  My mail drop worked.  Maps for the next segment were right here waiting.  Great trek support; thanks Dwinda!

Items/things I need from time-to-time but don’t want to carry every day, those things I send ahead to myself, General Delivery, in what is known in hiking circles as a “bounce box.”  Oh yes, my bounce box, sent ahead from Walla Walla, was also waiting right here for me at Great Falls.  And cards from friends — thanks!

Mail drop days are always slow days, getting back out and trekking.  Today’s no exception.  I finally shoulder my pack and head out of town at noon.  Been keeping my eye open for a Wendy’s all the way from downtown, but no luck.  Got the craving for a frosty.  Lots of casinos though.  I probably pass 40-50 before I get out of town.

From downtown Great Falls to Belt is a little over fifteen miles, so I’ve a short day.  Forecast is for fair weather with 20 mph west winds.  It’s dead on.  There’s heavy traffic, but a full emergency lane keeps me from harm. The route I’m following around to the south of the Missouri generally follows to the portage route used by the Corps in 1805 and again in 1806.  Getting past the falls was a long, grueling ordeal, and moving all their gear took many trips.

At Great Falls, Lewis further split his crew.  To explore the Marias, he took six horses, Drouillard and the Field brothers.  The others stayed to again portage gear to Lower Portage Camp.  They were to meet again at the mouth of the Marias.

I’m in Belt by early evening to pull up at the Black Diamond Bar and Supper Club.  Lots of interest by locals in my trek.  Charlie prepares a fine steak for me.  I passed this little village by in ’04, as it’s a mile down, way down, from the highway.  Glad I came down this journey.  Pitched by Little Belt Creek for the night.

“When Capt. Lewis left us, he gave orders that we should wait at the mouth of Maria’s river to the 1st of Sept., at which time, should he not arrive, we were to proceed on and join Capt. Clark at the mouth of the Yellow-stone river, and then to return home: but informed us, that should his life and health be preserved, he would meet us at the mouth of Maria’s river on the 5th of August.” [Gass, July 16th 1806]

Thursday–April 27, 2006
Trail Day—036
Trail Mile–13.8/0844
Location–Raynesford, Montana

It’s another perfect day for hiking.  Cool and clear, with a 20 mph breeze at my back.  I’m in Raynesford a little after twelve, so I decide to click a few miles off the 26 scheduled tomorrow to Stanford.  Reach the little village of Geyser by early evening, where I head over to the Cabin Creek Bar for a sandwich and a couple of cold ones.
This is Charlie Russell country.  All along yesterday were to be seen the backdrop of mountains and buttes used as backdrops in Charlie’s works.  Most prominent is Square Butte, which looms on the horizon for miles, and will be visible for the better part of two days.

By late evening and on a crown of the prairie, I hang a left onto a gravel two-track, which leads over and down into a coulee.  I find a spot in a little wash to pitch for the night.  It’s been another great hiking day.

On July 17th 1806, Lewis reached the Teton River.  On that day he wrote: “at 5 P.M. we arrived at rose [Teton] river where I proposed remaining all night as I could not reach maria’s river this evening…the Minnetares of Fort de prarie and the blackfoot indians rove through this quarter of the country and as they are a vicious lawless and reather an abandoned set of wretches I wish to avoid an interview with them if possible. I have no doubt but they would steel our horses if they have it in their power and finding us weak should they happen to be numerous wil most probably attempt to rob us of our arms and baggage; at all events I am determined to take every possible precaution to avoid them if possible.”

Friday–April 28, 2006
Trail Day—037
Trail Mile–26.3/0870
Location–Stanford, Montana

The sun warms my little tent to awaken me a little after seven.  It’s such a joy breaking camp without having to withstand the cold.  I’m out to another cool, clear day, with a gentle breeze to my back.  Gotta cherish and remember these great hiking days!

The prairie is rolling now.  Popping every rise, and from that vantage, it is possible to see the highway stretching before me for miles.  Cars pass and reach that pinpoint on the horizon in only minutes.  Two hours later, I’m still grinding toward that point.

Mid-morning comes — and comes this old fellow up the shoulder on his Quad-Trak.  He stops by me, smiles, and then asks where I’m headed.  Here I meet Tom Evans, rancher/owner, Staple Bar Ranch.  I tell him about my hike.  He talks about his ranch, hunting, climbing mountains, and the hard times, from time-to-time, with his cattle.  Folks out here all seem content and happy.  No difference for Tom Evans.  Told me he could have got his Masters Degree — could have gone to Washington.  Whew, no wonder he’s happy here in Montana!  Great meeting you, Tom.  Thanks for the encouraging words.  Ahh yes — “Where never is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

I’m in Stanford a little past noon to check into the little Sundown Motel run by Ray and Marty Blank — same as before.

After setting out from Great Falls, and the following day, Lewis reached the Marias River. “I keep a strict lookout every night, I take my tour of watch with the men.” [Lewis, July 18th 1806]

Saturday–April 29, 2006
Trail Day—038
Trail Mile–22.8/0893
Location–Hobson, Montana

Stanford is one of the friendliest little places it was my pleasure to visit in 2004, and it certainly has maintained that fine reputation this time around too.  Kind folks all about, and the grocery, post office, library, bar and grill are right by.  Ahh, and the good folks at the Sundown Motel.  God-fearin’ people, generous and kind.

I’m in the Judith Basin now, named by William Clark in honor of his sweetheart, Julia Hancock.  This section of the high plains prairie is amply watered, providing great grazing range and incredibly vast areas for grain and grass crops.

It’s another perfect hiking day.  By noon I’m able to change to my short sleeve shirt for the first time this trek.  The winds at my back, the road shoulders are wide, I’m feeling great, and the traffic’s tolerable.  What a life!

Got a 23 to knock out to reach Hobson.  I manage it by four.  The Black Bull Company Saloon and Steak House, which was closed the last time through, is open for business today.  Lots of pickups out front, but I’m the only one at the bar.  The local cowboys have a card game going in the side room. I have a cold one and work my email and journals.  Prime rib is the fare in the dining room tonight.  I’ll be there!

When the card game breaks up, Jim Mikkelsen stops on his way out.  We talk a spell.  Saw him in the bank in Stanford yesterday.  Been in the area fifty years now.  Came here with nothing.  He raises cattle on his own spread down by Utica, where Charlie Russell started his love affair with the high plains of Montana.  Don’t know how big his spread is — out here you don’t ask folks how much land they got.  Learned that the last time through.  It’s nobody’s business!

The dining room here at Black Bull doesn’t open till five, so I saunter on over to the Elk Ridge Saloon, just across the street.  A group of locals are elbowing the bar.  I pull up and strike a conversation with Pat and Mack.  They’re celebrating their anniversary.  Soon came their friends that run the Office Bar in Moore, with a lovely bouquet of flowers to help the couple celebrate.

Steve, friendly owner/bartender/CC&BW.  He and all show much interest in my journey, and there are soon two free drink tokens in front of me.  I decide to save them for souvenirs.  Steve inquires where I’ll be staying tonight.  When I tell I’ll probably be pitching out by the railroad tracks, he invites me to spend the night in his camper out back behind the bar.  Oh yes, my momma didn’t raise no dummy!

Prime rib, a couple tall cold ones, good friends — and a warm, dry place to rest my tired, weary bones.  Yup, been a fine day!

During his exploration of the Marias, Lewis had avoided contact with the Blackfeet, but on July 26th 1806 near present day Cut Bank Montana, the unwanted meeting occurred.

“I had scarcely ascended the hills before I discovered to my left at the distance of a mile an assembleage of about 30 horses, I halted and used my spye glass by the help of which I discovered several indians on the top of an eminence…this was a very unpleasant sight, however I resolved to make the best of our situation and to approach them in a friendly manner.  [Lewis]

Sunday–April 30, 2006
Trail Day—039
Trail Mile–23.4/0917
Location–Lewistown, Montana

A fine stay in Hobson last.  Thanks, Steve, for your kindness and generosity.  I slept soundly in your little travel trailer.

I’m out this morning to a very mild day, so am able to start without my fleece or gloves for a change. Heading from town, on my way back out to the highway, I take a shortcut along the railroad tracks for the first mile.

Just as I reach the road, pulls over this SUV.  Bright smile from Debbie and Jim — again.  They had stopped to befriend me, and bring me a fine steak dinner near Great Falls during my outbound journey in ’04.  “We thought it was you; are you hiking the trail again?”  Debbie asks with a beaming smile.  I recognize her right away.  What an amazing coincidence.  They’re heading back from Lewistown to Great Falls, and our paths cross again!

It’s six miles to Eddie’s Corner.  By the time I arrive, the day has turned very cold and a stiff north wind is driving cold rain mixed with sleet.  I pull off to get out of it — and to treat myself to breakfast. Eddie’s Corner is a unique and very interesting place, certainly not your ordinary crossroads gas stop.  Indeed, Eddie’s Corner is a classic, a truly shining example of American ingenuity, fortitude, and dedication — it’s the epitome of “The American Dream.”

I remember stopping here during my outbound trek; busy place, run by kind folks, the Bauman family.  Near the entrance I take a minute to read the history of Eddie’s Corner.  Here’s a brief quote from an article published a few years ago in the Great Falls Tribune: “For half a century travelers have looked upon Eddie’s Corner as something of an oasis.  About seventeen miles west of Lewistown…Eddie’s Corner, since 1951 has catered to empty tanks, groggy drivers, and grumbling stomachs.  But what is the real key to the success of Eddie’s Corner?  ‘People’s bladder,’ says Joe Bauman, laughing…”

The hostess, greeting folks here today, is Dianne, sister-in-law to Joe Bauman.  Joe is the youngest son of the elder Baumans, who originally opened Eddie’s Corner.  He now oversees the daily operation, carrying on the great tradition that is Eddie’s Corner.  “We’ve never been closed, not a single day; been open 24/7, straight through, for fifty-three years…I’ve been here twenty-three and my daughter is now bartending for Joe.” says Dianne, proudly.

While I’m enjoying my breakfast, Dianne comes over.  “You the fellow that’s walking?” she asks.  I smile and nod.  “Well, your breakfast is paid for; folks stopped in awhile ago and took care of it.” she says.  Oh my, I can’t believe this.  Debbie and Jim have done it again.  Such kindness; it’s just overwhelming — I don’t know what to say.

I’ve been in contact with Jim and Selma Willems, dear friends from the ’04 outbound trek.  They live in Lewistown.  I stayed with them during that journey through, and they’ve invited me back again this trip.  Been sorta expecting to see them sometime today, and sure enough, ten miles from Lewistown, here they come with a cup of hot cocoa!  Selma gives me directions that will take me from the highway to their home in Lewistown Heights.  I’m in by four-thirty.

The night of July 26th 1806, Lewis and his men camped with the Blackfoot braves.  In the morning, and at first light, the Indians made off with all four of the Corp’s long guns.  In the process of retrieving their weapons “…R Fields as he seized his gun stabed the indian to the heart with his knife  the fellow ran about 15 steps and fell dead…”Lewis also shot one of the Indians as they were driving off the Corp’s horses.  “I called to them as I had done several times before that I would shoot them if they did not give me my horse and raised my gun, one of them jumped behind a rock and spoke to the other who turned arround and stoped at the distance of 30 steps from me and I shot him through the belly, he fell to his knees and on his wright elbow from which position he partly raised himself up and fired at me…being bearheaded I felt the wind of his bullet very distinctly.”  Returning to camp, Lewis ordered his men to gather and pack their horses.  Along with four of the better Indian horses, their “…design was to hasten to the entrance of Maria’s river as quick as possible in the hope of meeting with the canoes and party at that place…”

Monday–May 1, 2006
Trail Day—040
Trail Mile–31.6/0948
Location–Grass Range, Montana

What a grand time, again, with the Willems.  They took me in and cared for me like I was one of their own.  “This place is your place,” said Jim.  He showed me his key and clown collections, and they both brought out pictures of their children and grandchildren.  Selma gently pointed out that, yes, they did have six children, but their order, as I had written in my journal entry for July 25th 2004 was incorrect.  It should have read: girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy.  Their youngest son has since returned from duty in Iraq, but must go back over again soon. The American flag still flies 24/7 above the Willems’ rooftop, and will until their boy comes home for good.

More sad good-byes this morning.  Jim leaves for work at seven-thirty.  I finally get out and moving a little after eight.  Thanks, Selma.  Thanks, Jim.  Oh my, I’ve just got to return to Lewistown, one more time — sometime.  Until then, so long, dear friends.

It’s a solid, steady eleven hours of plodding to get to Grass Range today.  Lots of climbing, the last up and down through the Judith Range.  Late morning I turn one last time to get a final look at the snowcaps of the Snowy and Little Belt Mountains.  The mountains are now behind me for good.  Soon, it’s onto the arid high plains of eastern Montana. I’m finally half way across this state. Montana is taking awhile.

I reach Grass Range around seven-thirty.  At Little Montana Truckstop, Sunny and Maxine once again permit me to pitch out back.  It’s been a long, hard day.  Just as I get my tent up and I’m in, the wind comes, bringing cold rain.  I hear its pitter-patter for a very short time.

Taking only brief stops to rest and graze their horses, Lewis and his men cover over 100 miles.  “…we traveled untill 2 OCk in the morning…we now turned out our horses and laid ourselves down to rest in the plain very much fatiegued as may be readily conceived.  my indian horse carried me very well  in short much better than my own would have done and leaves me with but little reason to complain of the robery.” [Lewis, July 27th 1806]

Tuesday–May 2, 2006
Trail Day—041
Trail Mile–24.2/0972
Location–Winnett, Montana

The rain stops by first light, but the cold, brisk wind continues.  And as a result, it’s done a fine job in drying out my tent.  I hate toting a soggy tent all day.  So this little favor sets me to breaking camp in a most joyful mood.

To tend to my stick-like fingers, a common malady this trek it seems, I hasten into the Little Montana Café to wrap them around a steaming hot cup of coffee.  I linger for breakfast, then to chat with members of the local klatch.  The kind waitress packs some cookies for me to take along, and Sunny gives me a copy of the beautiful full-color collector’s edition “Along the Trail with Lewis and Clark, The Return Journey.”  Thanks Sunny, Max, and all at Little Montana Store, for your kindness!

By the time I get out and moving, the wind is pitching an absolute fit.  At the klatch table I had overheard one rancher/farmer comment to another that “It was too wet to plow, and too windy to load rocks!”  I don’t know how stiff the wind has to be to move rocks, but at 40 per, it’s sure doing a job on me.  I must bend to one knee at times, or turn and brace with both trekking poles.  My first hiking experience with fierce wind occurred while trekking the backbone of the Presidentials, along the Appalachian Trail years ago.  But what I have to contend with here this morning is much, much worse.

About three miles out, this van passes slowly, and then pulls off by a rancher’s gate.  As I get a little closer I see it’s a Torgerson delivery truck.  And yup, here to greet me with a hot cocoa and a cold Pepsi is Jim.  He says he had to deliver some parts to Grass Range, but I’m wondering if his supervisor, Arlen, who I’ve met, didn’t let him make the run to Grass Range as an excuse.  Anyway, thanks for coming out to see me, just like before!  Dang, Jim, I’m really going to miss you and Selma.

As the morning passes, the wind relents not the least. It presses me from behind, and quarters me with gusts up to 50 per from both sides.  I’m unable to take a normal stride the whole day, which is causing much fatigue, especially to my ankles.  The cold wind keeps me in my fleece jacket and gloves, plus my poncho, for the duration.  This incessant wind, driven from Canada, being fed by moisture from the Pacific Northwest, is producing waves of wind-driven rain and shotgun pellet sleet.

I hasten to reach Winnett before the post office closes.  I arrive at 4:20.  Yup, the post office closed at 4:15!  Up the street a ways is the neat little Northern Motel.  I check in just as the cold wind/rain/sleet roars through one more time.  The forecast for tomorrow is more of the same.

As I lie here composing this entry, and at 11:00 o’clock, the wind is still howling outside.  I’ll worry about that tomorrow.  I’ve had it for today.

When the Corps needed luck, luck it was!  It is nothing short of amazing that Lewis and his men reached the Missouri River at the very instant Ordway and his party was coming down from the falls.  They transferred their gear from the horses, turned them loose, jumped in the canoes — and they were gone! “we had proceeded about 12 miles on an East course when we found ourselves near the missouri; we heard a report which we took to be that of a gun but were not certain; still continuing…about 8 miles further…we heard the report of several rifles very distinctly on the river to our right, we quickly repaired to that joyful sound and on arriving at the bank of the river had the unspeakable satisfaction to see our canoes coming down.  we hurried down from the bluff on which we were and joined them striped our horses and gave them a final discharge imbarking without loss of time with our baggage.” [Lewis, July 28th 1806]

Wednesday–May 3, 2006
Trail Day—042
Trail Mile–23.2/0995
Location–Hill Ranch Oasis, Mosby, Montana

The wind kept howling most of the night, and it’s all set to accompany me this morning.  I head back to the Kozy Korner Cafe for breakfast, then a pass by the post office and I’m leaning east on SR200 by nine. I’m moving further down and into the arid plains today.  Both Box Elder Creek and Mussellshell River are running with the same brown stuff the Missouri is made of.  These are the first of many murky streams to come. The wind whips me around until four, and then finally backs off as I’m descending to the valley of the Mussellshell.  I’m hoping this weather system might finally be blowing itself out.  The gusts today weren’t as intense as those of yesterday, and there’s been no rain or sleet.

Phil and Delores Hill run a B&B at their lovely ranch home over by Mosby, the other side of the Mussellshell.  I had the good fortune of staying there in ’04.  Last week I emailed them to see if I might possibly stay again. Their reply came immediately — with an invite!  So today, just before the turnoff to their ranch, Phil comes down to haul me the mile or so up the hill to his place.

On August 1st 1806 Lewis and his men passed the mouth of Mussellshell River.  The Field brothers had killed two bighorn sheep on the 29th and on the 1st Lewis “…was determined to halt at this place at least for the evening and indeavour to dry my skins of the bighorn which have every appearance of spoiling…”

Thursday–May 4, 2006
Trail Day—043
Trail Mile–20.7/1016
Location–Sand Springs, Montana

Another grand evening at Hill Ranch Oasis.  I’m finally able to spend some time with Phil and Delores Hill, as they’d been away during my previous stay.  Delores prepared a tank-stokin’ supper — and breakfast. Other guests last were Steve, Jan, and their son, Jake.  They winter in Washington state, then work ’round the clock in Alaska during the summer — so they can get out and enjoy quality time together the rest of the year.  They’re here at HRO prairie dog hunting.  Seems they’ve got this work/play thing pretty much figured out! The Hills have three exchange students, Ana, Sora Lee, and Leona, and they’ve got to be down by the highway to catch the school bus at seven-thirty.  So I load up and take the ride along.  Thanks, Phil and Delores, for opening your beautiful home to me again.  And thanks, especially, for your kindness!

I’m out and moving toward Sand Springs right at seven-thirty, to a much nicer day.  The wind is a manageable 10 per, and the temperature is already in the high thirties.  Each day I’m thinking winter is gone.  I must keep thinking that — till it’s true.

Been keeping something from you.  You’ll find out sooner or later anyway, so I might as well tell you.  I’m carrying a Walkman this trek, been listening to it off and on for the past few weeks.  This morning, the station in Brownlee, Saskatchewan gives the morning temperatures at Moose Jaw and Elbow as minus three and minus one.  Sure gets my attention until I realize I’m listening to a Canadian station, and the temperatures there are reported in Celsius!

This bus stop here at the Hills is the end of the line.  It’s also pretty much the end of the line for everything else. The only thing keeping much of the rolling high plains here from being open range is the highway fence. Looking beyond, there’s little more than miles and more miles — the antelope and an occasional cow. The Missouri River is about as far away as it will be for the remainder of this trek.  With the large reservoirs, Peck and Sac, and due to the far-reaching inlets, this is as close as I can get.  It’s either SR200 here, or US2 up by the Canadian border.  There’s no other way to go, save out and onto the treacherous waters of the lakes themselves.  I’ll just keep trekking along; content in the knowledge I’ll be back near the river soon.

Once back on the river, and finally going with the current, Lewis and his party made very good time.  He was anxious to rendezvous with Clark, then to return to St. Louis. “in future the party should cook as much meat in the evening after encamping as would be sufficient to serve them the next day; by this means we forward our journey at least 12 or 15 miles Pr. day.”  [Lewis, August 3rd 1806]

Friday–May 5, 2006
Trail Day—044
Trail Mile–32.2/1048
Location–Jordan, Montana

The little oasis of Sand Springs stands out in my memory so vividly.  There’s a neat little general store there (and that’s it) run by the sweetest little old lady, Daisy Dutton.  And through an interior door in that store, locals can check their mail and chat with the kind postmistress, Karmie Lockie.

I was most anxious to arrive Sand Springs yesterday.  All along for the past number of days, and as I would enquire as to Daisy’s well being — and the little store, I was consistently informed that Daisy and the store were doing just fine.What a joy to arrive to find the store open — and Daisy right there behind the counter, just as I remember.  But aww, I had missed Karmie, as she’s only at the Sand Springs Post Office until one.  And as is quite customary with my PO timing, I was twenty minutes late.  She’d already left for Jordan.

I dropped my pack, had some lunch, and got caught up on the latest with Daisy.  Ahh yes, and lots of news.  Daisy has five children, thirteen grandchildren, and five great grandchildren! It was a joy seeing you again, Daisy.  Thanks for remembering the old Nomad — and thanks for your continued friendship and kindness!

I decided to hike on for twelve more miles, or until sunset, so the hike today into Jordan wouldn’t take as long.  I managed that twelve just before sunset, as the sheriff passed by — just before I jumped the fence to pitch for the night (not posted!).  Thank you, Lord.

There are condensed ice crystals covering my entire tent this morning, inside and out.  The Billings radio station said it got down to 27 in Jordan last night.  I believe it.  More stick-fingers this morning.  Ha, wonder what folks would think seeing me standing out here on the prairie, hunched over with my hands deep down in my pockets — just standing here!

It’s jacket, mittens, headband and poncho one more morning.  But it’s supposed to reach the mid to high sixties by this afternoon, and I think it’ll make it — there’s not a cloud in the sky; the wind is gentle out of the southwest, and the sun is delightfully warm!

As I’m moving merrily along, and at eight-thirty, this car slows, and then pulls to the shoulder before me.  Oh, I know who this is, it’s Karmie!  Daisy had called her last evening and told her to keep an eye out for me this morning — and here she is!  We have a joyful chat right by the side of road before she heads on to Sand Springs.

Another hour passes, and another vehicle pulls off.  It’s Brad, the postal deliveryman from Jordan.  He’s returning from Sand Springs, and once again, as before, Daisy and Karmie have sent me an ice-cold bottle of Gatorade — thanks friends; great timing, just what I needed!

I make very good time, arriving Jordan by one-thirty.  I head right to the school to see Jackie, who befriended me, checked on me, and kept me in water as I passed from Jordan in ’04.  But alas, she is away today.

Lunch is at the dandy old Fellman Store, where I’m also able to work a room at the Fellman Motel.  The whole operation’s a family affair, since great grandpa Jake, grandpa Phil, Dale and Jeannie (pop and mom) — of daughter, Laurie.  Jeannie brings my coke while Laurie gets my room set.

In the evening, and at the town bar and grill, I have the pleasure of seeing Karmie again.  And I get to meet her husband, Keith, and their daughter, Wendy.  Karmie buys my steak dinner!  Thanks again, Karmie!

What an amazing day.  But I must rest, as tomorrow will bring twelve solid hours of hiking to reach Flowing Well, a little rest area (with water), the only thing across the 68 mile no-man’s-land between Jordan and Circle.

On August 4th 1806, Lewis and his men passed five of their 1805 camps to halt for the evening near present-day Valley County (deep beneath Fort Peck Reservoir).  They were really moving along.  That night, Ordway and Willard went out ahead to hunt, only to meet with near disaster.  On the river “about 11 oClock at night we found ourselves in a thick place of Sawyer as the current drawed us in and we had no chance to git out of them…the Stern run under a limb of a tree and caught willard…and drew him out as the current was verry rapid.  he held by the limb…I run down and took out the canoe and took him in as he Swam through Safe.” [Ordway, August 4th 1806]

Saturday/Sunday–May 6/7, 2006
Trail Day–045/046
Trail Mile–068/1115
Location–Circle, Montana

These are two very long days with one very short entry. (Hiking is hard and writing is hard — hiking and writing is really hard).

Dale has the Fellman Store/Cafe open early, and I’m there by six-thirty for a plate of biscuits, gravy, and eggs.  My tank topped off, I’m out to face the day — a beauty.

Early on, while preparing my return route, I had dreaded these next two days, to the extent of considering going north, almost to Canada, to miss this lonely section.  I’m glad now that I decided to come this way again.  For, there won’t be the August heat of 105-115 degrees to deal with, driven straight from the west by an incessant blast furnace wind — nor will I have the searing sun drilling a hole in my chest like in ’04.

I’ve a gentle breeze to my back; my jacket’s on to block the slight morning chill, and the sun is bright and warm.  Yes, this “crossing,” the 68-mile no-man’s-land between Jordan and Circle, will be entirely different this time around.

Fifteen miles out, and by the Big Dry River (aptly named), Karmie’s mother and Aunt, Jane and Betty, stop to deliver an ice cold jug of Gatorade!  I had worried about having enough water to carry me the 36 miles to Flowing Well Rest Area today, but now that’s no longer a problem.  Thanks Betty, thanks Jane!  And thank you once again, Karmie, for your thoughtful kindness and generosity!

The day soon warms.  Off comes the jacket, but the cool breeze keeps me refreshed the entire day.  Lots of ups and downs, though the highway is arrow straight as it passes along the smaller spurs of the upper ridge that drain generally north to the Missouri (Fort Peck Reservoir).

I arrive Flowing Well just at sunset.  The water is on — and it’s even more quenching than remembered. Evening dining is by the picnic area, then to pitch inside the neighbor’s fence (oh yes, a friend of Karmie’s!)

My feet were dead last, I nearly so!  Thirty-six miles is a fair distance to walk, twelve hammer-hard hours.  My head no sooner hit my makeshift pillow than I was gone. This morning (Sunday) has the makings for another splendid hiking day.  I break camp with my fingers still working.  Yippee!

It’s head down and hammer time again, eleven straight hours if I want to make the 32 to Circle before sunset. Road shoulders are non-existent on this highway, but there is little traffic.  By the end of the day, though, I’ve stumbled up and down from the straight-off gravel washouts enough times to set my left foot to angry complaining.

Concerned locals have stopped often to enquire as to my well being, thence to drive away shaking their heads when I tell them I don’t need a ride.  Doubt if they’ve ever seen anyone walking out here.  It is a long way across, even to drive.  About every two hours, seems there’s a major ridge to top, from that vantage to see the highway dwindling to a pinpoint in the hazy-blue — another two hours distant.  Oh yes, it’s one helluva long ways.

I’m looking hard for Circle, and it comes none too soon.  The kind barmaid at Corner Bar downtown gives a call to make sure Perry and Paula have a room for me again at their fine Traveler’s Inn.  Neat trail town — Kay’s Cafe with great food is right next door. My room has a tub for soaking tired, weary bones.

Lewis and his party were making incredible time down the Missouri. On the 7th of August 1806, they traveled from a point just northeast of present-day Circle, to pass the mouth of the Yellowstone River, a distance of 83 miles.  At my speed, down here on SR200, I won’t be near that point for three more days — and I’m haulin’!

“at 8 A.M. we passed the entrance of Marthy’s river…at 4 P.M. we arrived at the entrance of the Yellowstone river. I landed at the point and found that Capt. Clark had been encamped at this place and from appearances had left it about 7 or 8 days.”

Monday–May 8, 2006
Trail Day—047
Trail Mile–28.6/1143
Location–Richey, Montana

The rain came late last night, just as forecast.  I could hear it on the roof; happy to have been out of it. The morning dawns clear and cool but the wind has already begun. I’m up by seven to head back over to Kay’s for breakfast.  I go for flapjacks and ham — and lots of coffee.  By the third refill, I’ve gotten to know Dawn the waitress.  She fills me in on what’s up ahead in the towns I’ll be passing through. Back at the motel, I spend some time with Perry, the motel keep.  We talk everything from Indian artifacts to old movie houses, like the one in Richey where I’m headed today.

A mile out this morning I’m hiking new territory, cutting across to Sidney.  I’ll not pick up the Missouri for a while yet, until I pass the next reservoir, Sacagawea.  I’m some sixty miles from the Missouri now, the furthest I’ll stray from here on to St. Louis.

The highway continues straight, but much corrugated, lots of ups and downs the entire day. There is little traffic, which is a blessing with the blind hill crowns.  But for the bully wind, the day is near perfect for hiking. By six I’ve hammered out the 28 to Richie.  What an amazing three days, 96 miles hiked over 32 hours.  I’m pretty much beat.  My feet sure need a rest.

The little berg of Richie is off the beaten way.  I head down and in to Sportsmans Bar, where I meet Gary, owner, bartender and CC&BW.  Time for a little conversation with locals while Gary prepares an absolutely mouth-watering 16 oz. steak for me (this is beef country).  Sitting next is Doug, whose sister, Dawn, waited on me at Kay’s this morning.  What a coincidence.  These little towns are so neat.  Doesn’t take long to get to know most everybody.

Gary lets me use his phone, then in awhile asks where I’ll be staying tonight, as there’s no motel in Richie.  When I comment about seeing a place by the church where I might pitch, he offers me a room in his little vacant bungalow right next the bar.  Big smile on Nomad’s face (supposed to get cold rain tonight).

My tummy’s full; I’m warm, dry, healthy and happy.  Ah yes, life is good!

With Lewis’ amazing 83-mile day, I’m still hustling a second day to pull up, and am nowhere near, as they had paddled clear into present-day North Dakota.  I’m still in Montana and will be until day after tomorrow!  At the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Missouri, Lewis wasted no time.  He read Clark’s note, wrote another and posted it (literally) for the men behind, then “…instantly reimbarked and decended the river in the hope of reaching Capt. C’s camp before night.” [Lewis, August 7th 1806]

Tuesday–May 9, 2006
Trail Day—048
Trail Mile–25.0/1168
Location–Lambert, Montana

I’m up and over to Farmer’s Kitchen by seven for a tank-stokin’ breakfast.  All the locals are here.  Doug joins me and we talk oil wells.  Doug’s a roughneck, same job I did in Colorado just out of high school 50 years ago.  He throws the chain; I threw the chain!  One of the many incredibly dangerous jobs on an oil rig.  Both of us still have all our fingers, a sure sign of true pros!  Get a finger hung in the chain just once while the driller (and his screaming diesel engine) are trying to rip it out of your hands, and you’re short that finger.  It’s all lightning fast, a repetitive task that’s done for hours. Ahh, what memories.

Another windy day, 30-35 per out of the north-northwest.  It lets up not the least all day.

I’m entering oil well country now, with double bottom bulk tankers flying both ways.  There’s still no shoulder, so I spend much time down over the side as I dodge the 30+ wheelers.

By four I hang a right for Lambert, a mile down a dirt road from the main highway.  Neat little berg; not much of a downtown, ‘cept for the CQ Bar.  I head for the CQ Bar!  Collin (jolly old St. Nick) is at the bar.  I sit next and we talk about his career as Santa Claus.  Soon comes Rob.  When I enquire of Candy and Terry, barkeeps, as to a room to rent for the night, Rob overhears and invited me to stay at his place.  “Wife’s away for a couple of days; I can use some company,” says Rob.  That arrangement made, I’m set to buy dinner for the two of us — when comes Dakota Gal (from Sportsman’s in Richey).  She insists on buying my dinner!  Candy prepares a steak for me while Terry cranks up the coffee.  Second cup, and more conversation, come to find that Terry is a Sharbono (modern spelling), and related to THE Toussaint Charbonneau of the Corps of Discovery.  He brings out a three-ring binder with page after page of information about the Charbonneau family.  Proud of his heritage; isn’t this amazing!

Rob and wife, Libby, have a delightful old place, her family homestead, a few miles out from Lambert, where Rob and I (and the cats and dog) spend a most enjoyable evening — talking organic farming, motorcycles, and how to heat a drafty old Montana house with the likes of cottonwood in the dead of winter.

“about 7 miles below the point [confluence] on the S.W. shore I saw some meat that had been lately fleased and hung on a pole; I directed Sergt. Ordway to go on shore examine the place; on his return he reported that he saw the tracks of two men which appeared so resent that he beleived they had been there today…” [Lewis, August 7th 1806]

Wednesday–May 10, 2006
Trail Day—049
Trail Mile–21.0/1189
Location–Sidney, Montana

Great night at Rob and Libby’s home on the rolling high plains of eastern Montana.  The wind and me, we’re both up at six.  Rob gives me the tour of their place.  Lots of history here.  Old out buildings that have been restored and converted to other, more modern uses — like the chicken coop, it’s now a very impressive sauna. Over the years the main barn had apparently been convinced by the relentless prairie winds to go along.  It took a BIG tractor, one of those eight-wheel jobs to hook and haul it back up straight.  It’s all braced now, standing tall and sporting a shiny new roof.  “Libby’s dad never sold or traded anything, just parked it,” says Rob.  By the back fence there are old combines, sheep tending wagons, other not-so-new farm and ranching equipment/implements standing at the ready.  I’m told some of the machinery isn’t here in the lineup, and for good reason.  “The old tractor’s still out there in the field where it quit for the last time,” smiles Rob.  Lots of projects completed with many yet to be done.  “We’re going to do a complete remodel on the house and I’m in the process of moving my shop to the old grain bin,” Rob comments as we head back to the house.

In town now, I get the tour of the Lambert Museum.  Every town worth its salt out here on the prairie has a museum, and Lambert has a dandy.  Rob is in the process of cataloging everything, from an original hand-made pair of skis from Norway that Libby’s grandfather made (the first telemarkers?), to bottles and bottles of safflower seeds, those from which first such crops were raised in America.  Rob takes my picture by the stone entrance to the CQ before I head back out on the highway.  I take his in front of the museum.

I just love these little towns — like Lambert, Montana.  Neat places, kind and gentle people.  Thanks, Rob, Libby, Terry, Candy.  Oh, and you too, Santa!  I’ve had a memorable stay!

The hike today takes me to a point abreast of the Yellowstone’s confluence with the Missouri. I’ll end it in Sidney, some distance south.  From Great Falls, the Missouri drops over 1,400 feet by the time the Yellowstone comes in.  Guess I’ve dropped that much too, but it seems today is just another day of straight-shot hiking this endless, undulating prairie.  A cold, driving rain adds to the excitement!  Just before Sidney, comes Dakota Gal to greet me.  She’s just completed a day of substitute teaching in Sidney.  Rob had suggested that when I reach Sidney, that I contact his friends, Bud and Ann.  They’re familiar with the North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where I’ll be hiking day after tomorrow.  They’re home and have the evening free.  Dakota Gal drives me downtown where we meet Bud and Ann to enjoy some right-fine dining at the Cattle-AC Bar and Grill.

Thanks friends, it’s been a grand time!

On the 8th of August 1806, passed the Yellowstone by then, Lewis still hadn’t caught up with Clark.  One senses the dismay in his penned journal entry for that date: “not finding Capt. Clark I knew not what calculation to make with rispect to his halting and therefore determined to proceed as tho’ he was not before me and leave the rest to the chapter of accedents.”

Thursday–May 11, 2006
Trail Day—050
Trail Mile–30.5/1220
Location–East of Sather Lake, North Dakota

The town of Sidney was not along the route I needed to follow, being north some two miles.  So after making a left turn last evening (away from the Yellowstone and the North Dakota border), the first motel along was the Sunrise, so that was it.  Right stop — right decision!  Gloria, the manager, greeted me as I proceeded to give her my little two-minute Lewis and Clark pitch.  Turned out she’s a Lewis and Clark buff too.  The room was mine, compliments of Gloria and the kind Sunrise folks.  Thanks, Gloria, I had a very relaxing and comfortable stay!

After a stop at the mom-n-pop up the highway, my tank topped off, I’m back down to my turnoff, to head on east.  In just a short distance I cross the grand Yellowstown River, then shortly, the Montana/North Dakota border.  Four states behind me now, six to go (I’ll not cross into Iowa this time out).

The strong, cold, wind-driven front from Canada has finally passed through, leaving a high pressure zone complete with that “BIG sky,” tufted with billowy clouds, and here along this morning, gentle, warm breezes. Hiking now and tapping out the day, I’m frustrating the mixed emotions that have suddenly come over me.  I’m glad to have Montana finally behind me — but deep down, seems I’m not.  Over the past three years, and after hiking 2,000 miles of Montana, I’ve come to know and to love the place, with its cold and bitter (or hot and scorching) weather, with its remote and endless vastness, with its unforgiving desolation — and with its unforgettable beauty!  In ’04 I hiked nearly 800 miles across, east to west.  Last year, on the Continental Divide, high above it all, I hiked another 600 miles north to south.  Then this year, on this 200th anniversary return trek, I’ve logged another 600 miles west to east.  Yes, I’ll truly miss Montana — perhaps I’ll never return.  I’ll miss it, I’ll miss it.

There’s a pitcher pump at Sather Lake Campground.  And there are picnic tables and lots of neatly mowed level spots to pitch all around.  But there’s lots of daylight remaining, there are more miles left in these old legs — and I just gotta go, so I water up and hit it.  Six more miles and the paved road takes an abrupt ninety north.  I go straight on the gravel.

Dancing the blue-haze horizon, I begin to make out the edge of the red-gray dirt and rock juttings that are the high pinnacles of the North Dakota Badlands.  On a high mesa, and as the sun sets fire to the western sky, I pitch right on the edge.  It’s a sight to behold, 360. You’ll see what I’m talking about when this next series of pictures gets posted — but they’ll not do it justice.

I see now why many artists and photographers, those of the old west, chose monochromes as their medium for expression.  They were trying to shock us into the least appreciation for what these wide-open spaces truly reveal.

I’m past the Yellowstone now.  North of here, in August 1806, Lewis was past the Yellowstone, chasing Clark. And two of Lewis’ crew were chasing him.  On August 8th and 9th 1806, Lewis camped southwest of present day Williston near the upper reaches of Lake Sacakawea.

“Colter and Collins have not yet overtaken us.  I fear some missfortune has happened them for their previous fidelity and orderly deportment induces me to believe that they would not thus intentionally delay.” [Lewis, August 8th 1806]

Friday–May 12, 2006
Trail Day—051
Trail Mile–30.1/1250
Location–Across and south of Little Missouri River Bridge

The sun striking my tent gets me out and hiking into the crispy cold a little before seven. According to my maps, I should continue hiking this gravel road another eight miles or so due east, then take a ninety south.  But the traffic, little that there is, mostly eighteen-wheel crude oil tankers, are zigging and zagging the adjacent quarter, half, and full section roads.  I can see their dust for the better part of ten miles. Looking my maps again, I see the route they’re following, which apparently is a better way to where I’m headed — so I go their way.

A little after eleven I reach my turn, a two-track, which leads past a ranchers place, over a cattle guard into a pasture, then up, over and around to the locked rear gate to the North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I climb over the gate, and at noon I’m gazing down into the Little Missouri River Canyon from Oxbow Overlook.  More pictures (which will capture little of what’s to be seen).

The North Achenbach Trail begins/ends here.  I follow it as it plunges over the canyon wall, down and into the most bizarre gravity-defying formations near the canyon floor.  The trail is well marked and in good condition. I’m making fair time, even after cautiously moving in for a few bison photo ops — then to dodge more of the mastodon-like hulks along.  At the end of the trail, where it climbs back up the canyon wall, I decide to continue on, a bushwhack along the river down to Juniper Campground.  Not long, I find the reason why there’s no trail here.  It’s because the river meanders over from the far canyon wall to force directly against the bluff on this side.  Between the river and the sheer bluff, there’s little more than a sharply sloped, narrow slide of shale, rock, dirt — and quicksand.  I pick my way through and across, hand over hand.  The soft, bottomless drifts that appear solid, directly by the rushing water, I avoid by sounding with my right trekking pole.  Where my stick goes out of sight — I don’t go!

By four I’m back on the main park road headed for the North Unit entrance.  I arrive just before closing time, there to share great conversation with Ranger Vance, and Valerie Naylor, Superintendent, Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Valerie’s office is in Medora, near the South Unit, TRNP, but she’s up here for the day.  Her responsibilities include not only the North and South Units of the Park, but also the Elkhorn Ranch Site, Roosevelt’s North Dakota home.  When I tell Valerie of this 200th anniversary L&C return odyssey, she thanks me sincerely for “…including the Park in your remarkable journey.”

After draining their pop machine (ran out of water early, which I’d lugged from the pump at Sather), I spend the better part of half an hour ridding myself of a dozen ticks picked up along the (buffalo) trail.With a couple hours of daylight remaining, I hike on, across the Little Missouri River Bridge, up and out of the Little Missouri River Canyon.

“The Bad Lands grade all the way…to those that are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth.” [Theodore Roosevelt]

“from this place to the little Missouri there is an abundance of game  I shall therefore when I leave this place travel at my leasure and avail myself of every opportunity to collect and dry meat untill I provide a sufficient quantity for our voyage not knowing what provision Capt C. has made in this rispect. [Lewis, August 8th 1806]

Saturday–May 13, 2006
Trail Day—052
Trail Mile–27.6/1278
Location–Past Grassy Butte, North Dakota

Climbing from the Little Missouri Canyon, and at an overlook the evening last, on a bronze plaque there entitled “Bad Lands Panorama,” I stopped to read: “The colorful and fantastic shapes along these canyon walls are part of an ever-changing landscape.  The horizontal layers of multi-colored sandstone, clay, and shale are complimented by scattered beds of lignite coal and patches of pastel pink scoria.  Scoria, or clinker, is created when the soft lignite burns, baking the surrounding clay to this bright color.

Other layers contain concentrations of petrified logs and stumps of redwood, cypress and cedar.  The rock layers are easily eroded, thus the scene is constantly changing.  Aided by wind and rain, deep canyons are carved into intricate landforms.  There are dome-like hills, and contrasting sharp ridges with grooved and buttressed terraces.

I have found all of this so intriguing.  I recall passing the North Unit visitor’s center during ’04, there to look down the road leading to Oxbow Overlook with a yearning to go, to see.  That year, I had climbed up Little Killdeer Mountain out of Killdeer, from there to descend into the Little Missouri River Canyon some eight miles below the bridge crossed yesterday evening.  The remarkable formations, their striking color seen along the canyon then, as I hiked out Long X Road — and the Little Missouri River itself — I’d never seen such colorful or bizarre landforms carved by any river in my life.  Yup, I was hooked on that place, for sure.  I had to see more; I had to return.  Indeed, I knew then that someday I would return, to hike the North Unit along the Little Missouri, Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  That promise, that loop left undone — it’s now been closed!  Ahh, and I must tell you this: The awe-inspiring ruggedness and beauty, which I beheld yesterday met all my expectations — in spades.  Thank you, Valerie, and thank you all, caretakers of that special place, Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The straight-line hike, up and down and along these high plains continues today.  It’s pretty much head down and hammer.  To break the monotony, I take a short detour through the little village of Grassy Butte.  The road used to go through, but the new highway — and time, have both pretty much bypassed the place by.  I pull into the little general store, Biecegel Station, run by Don and his wife, Vicky.  Don’s behind the counter today.  I unload, go for his coffee, and then have a seat at the klatch table.  We chat about lots, like his other life in the oilfields, and how he has to go now for most of his store stock, for which he pays retail — thence to try and make a nickel off it here.  I tell him about my boyhood chum, Donnie, how he tried keeping the grocery store going in the little berg where we were raised.  Not a happy ending.  I wish him luck, and sincerely mean it.  That brings a chuckle and a smile.  Don seems happy and content.  And so it seems — it’s all worthwhile.

Across the street stands (leans) the Long X Bar.  Jay is keeping it going, currently.  Fine food.  I go for the double bacon cheeseburger with fries, plus a couple tall frosties.  The whole meal cost less than a quick trip through MacDonald’s.

My sights are set now on Killdeer.  Hammering a few extra miles today will put me in there late morning. Just at sundown, I find a “grassy butte,” where the sun can wake me early.  This day is done.

“jus opposite to the birnt hills [of which I’ve just spoken] there happened to be a herd of Elk on a thick willow bar and finding that my observation was lost for the present I determined to land and kill some of them  accordingly we put too and I went out with Cruzatte only [and got shot in the butt for the effort!]” [Lewis, August 11th 1806]

Sunday–May 14, 2006
Trail Day—053
Trail Mile–9.7/1288
Location–Killdeer, North Dakota

The sun brings me around by seven.  These last three nights out under the stars, they’ve gotten plenty cold. Temperatures during the day have been most pleasant, in the high sixties, low seventies, but as soon as the sun dipped, so went the mercury.  There’s been frost around my camp all three mornings. The sun begins heating things up first thing this morning, so I’m out without my jacket or gloves.  I prefer toughing it for an hour or two rather than having to stop, drop my pack, and change.  Right decision, as I hike only a short time before the sun has the day in the most pleasant mood.

Much traffic right off the bat.  Most all that pass are pickup dualies pulling fifth-wheel horse trailers.  Some are quite fancy, with room for horses — plus humans. In awhile I begin wondering, “Where’s the rodeo?”  Doesn’t take long to find out.  I can hear the speakers blasting from Killdeer a full three miles away. The “Welcome” sign to Killdeer reads “#1 in Cowboy Country.”  Oh yes, it’s rodeo time in Killdeer! I pull off by the arena, get a few action shots, and then head on into town.  I dearly need a bath, as do my clothes.  I’ve got the Bad Lands all over me.  The neat Mountainview Motel is open, and to my surprise, they’ve a room for me.  Linda checks me in while I empty her pop machine (getting good at that).  Time to hit the tub.  Ahh, oh so glad to be here!

I remember Buckskin Bar and Grill.  After ridding myself of the Bad Lands, I’m right there for the very best prime rib this trek.  Eric still runs the place.  Thanks man!

In the evening I give Allan and Gail Lynch a call.  They live just the other side of Dunn Center, eight or so miles on down the road.  They own the land where the Knife River Flint Quarries are located.  They took time to show me the quarries in ’04.  Then that evening, Larry (a friend supporting me at the time) and I were treated to dinner, plus a most remarkable program about the quarries.  Much history, with exciting and interesting stories. Anyway, I’m able to reach them — right away to be invited to stay tomorrow night.  Is this trek charmed or what!  Who says you can’t go back?  Really looking forward to seeing both these dear friends once more.

On August 12th 1806, Lewis met and talked with the first white men seen since 1804.  In his journal entry for that day he wrote: “at 8 A.M. the bowsman informed me that there was a canoe and a camp he believed of whitemen on the N.E. shore…found it to be the camp of two hunters from Illinois…”

While talking with the two men, “…Colter and Collins who seperated from us on the 3rd ist. rejoined us  they were well no accedent having happened.”

Lewis was suffering from the gunshot wound inflicted by Cruzatte, but apparently was not in severe pain.  That day he also wrote: “my wounds felt very stiff and soar this morning but gave me no considerable pain.  there was much less inflamation than I had reason to apprehend there would be. I had last evening applyed a poltice…”

More good fortune that day, as “…at 1 P.M. I overtook Capt. Clark and party and had the pleasure of finding them all well.”

And finally, for that day, and for the remainder of the voyage, the following was Lewis’ last known entry, concluding his writings for the expedition: “as wrighting in my present situation is extreemly painful to me I shall desist untill I recover and leave to my friend Capt. C. the continuation of our journal.” [Lewis, August 12th 1806]

That day, Clark penned: “at meridian Capt Lewis hove in Sight with the party which went by way of the Missouri as well as that which accompanied him from Travellers rest on Clarks river; I was alarmed on the landing of the Canoes to be informed that Capt. Lewis was wounded by an accident. I found him lying in the Perogue, he informed me that his wound was slight and would be well in 20 or 30 days  this information relieved me very much. I examined the wound and found it a very bad flesh wound  the ball had passed through the fleshey part of his left thy below the hip bone and cut the cheek of the right buttock for 3 inches in length and the debth of the ball…I washed Capt. L. wound which has become Sore and Somewhat painfull to him.” [Clark, August 12th 1806]

Monday–May 15, 2006
Trail Day—054
Trail Mile–10.5/1299
Location–Dunn Center, North Dakota, Allan and Gail Lynch Home

This might prove to be a hectic day. Don’t care for schedules, but I’ll be on one this morning. I need to hit the post office for my bounce box, but the place doesn’t open until 9:30.  That gives me just over an hour to sort things and get the box back to the post office.  They close for lunch at 11:30. And today is the last day to sign up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.  I need to go online and decide what to do about that.

As I move through the morning, turns out all the worry is just that, worry.  I take the things I need from my bounce box, and it’s back in the mail, bouncing to Chamberlain, South Dakota.  I send some things home, and get my camera memory card off to Linda, my Webmaster.  All’s accomplished with time to spare.  The kind lady at city hall helps me, and I’m signed up for the prescription meds program without a hitch — and I’m back sitting in the Buckskin Bar for lunch before noon!

Eric, Buckskin owner, greets me.  We have a good chat about my return trek, and the acclaim his fine Buckskin Bar has garnered recently.  The lunch special is prime rib sandwich, and danged if it ain’t every bit as good as last night — compliments of Eric and the Buckskin.  Come to find, Eric’s related to Meriwether Lewis.  Lewis’ sister married a Richards.  Eric is a 5th generation descendent of that family.  That makes Lewis Eric’s great, great, great, great, great uncle!  Enjoyed seeing and talking with you again, Eric.  Thanks for your kindness and hospitality — thanks for lunch!

I’m not back trekking the highway until 1:30, but no problem.  This will be a short day, less than eleven miles to Allan and Gail’s place, and I don’t need to be there before five.

Early afternoon, pulls this car to the shoulder across.  I recognize the face.  “Is that you?” exclaims Debi.  “Yes, it’s me,” I reply.  Debi had befriended me during my outbound trek.  She can’t believe I’m coming through again.  We have a great time getting caught up on Sakakawea South Shore news.  Her daughter, Jonna, manages the motel in Halliday.  “You’re staying at the Halliday Motel tomorrow night; there’s a room there that’s yours.”  Big smile from Debi!

By four, and as I’m entering Dunn Center, comes Gail to greet me.  It’s a joy seeing her again.  She offers a ride, but I’ll hoof it on the hour or so to their place now.

I’m in before five, to be greeted by Allan.  Cold one in hand, a glad and happy exchange, and it’s all business from there, as Gail sets to setting a full table, while Allan flips the burgers. Relaxing after dinner, I’m trying to figure how best to express my keen interest in seeing the snake effigy spiritual site, found and protected by Allan.  Since the discovery a few years ago, he’s taken only a handful of native holy people to the site.  Quite remarkably, and before I can say a word about it, Allan comments that he wants me to see the effigy, and that we need to get going if we expect to have time to see all that’s there before dark!

My head’s spinning as the reality of what’s just happened settles.  Gotta get my shoes and jacket.  Might I take my camera?  Allan’s brought the truch around.  Gail nudges me to get going.  This is miraculous; it happened so fast!

We take many roads, visiting every compass point.  On the way, Allan remarks: “Only thing I ask is: don’t ever reveal the location.”  No problem.  I have not the least idea where we are — don’t really want to know either!

Near the site now, Allan says: “See that faint bump over there on the hill; it’s a rock cairn.  It marks the general area.  The tribes that came, perhaps over the centuries, looked for that sign.”  From the road now, Allan follows a faint grassy two-track, around a slight knoll, toward the cairn.  We soon park and walk.  First up, of the remarkable man-made rock formations, is the cairn itself.  It stands no more than three feet high, constructed of four or so (takes two to move ’em) sized rocks, topped with smaller basketball, then softball size stones.  Allan makes an offering of crushed sage before we move on.

Next, he leads me to a gently sloping area where the teepee villages stood.  Many perfectly round teepee rings are present and easily recognizable.

Slightly further on now, down a small spur of the hill, he stops to point out a medicine ring, also known as a prayer ring or prayer circle.  We tarry as he makes another offering of crushed sage.

Leaving the prayer circle now, and crossing to another gently sloping knoll, we arrive at the sacred snake effigy.  It is a remarkable sight to behold.  “Here’s the end of the tail,” says Allan.  I can see the entire serpent now, from its tail to its head.  The likeness is true in every regard; no imagination needed.  By the serpent’s head rests a chair-sized boulder with a sculpted seat, a place to sit comfortably to pray or meditate. To the fore of the snake, past the prayer seat, there’s a long line of perfectly placed rocks.  “If you follow that line it will take you straight the confluence of the Little Missouri and the Missouri rivers,” says Allan.

As we linger in the waning light, and as I consider the purpose and significance of this special place — to my thinking, this shrine can be easily explained.  Simply, the serpentine nature of the river, it’s symbolized by the snake, the ultimate serpent.  The waters of the river — the source and sustainer of life.

“Capt. Lewis fainted as Capt. Clark was dressing his wound, but Soon came too again.” [Ordway, August 14th 1806]

Tuesday–May 16, 2006
Trail Day—055
Trail Mile–11.3/1310
Location–Halliday, North Dakota

After one of the best night’s sleep in awhile, I’m up a little before seven to spend a few minutes with Allan before he hits the door.

Allan is caretaker of 23 oil wells.  In the process he drives 160 miles a day, seven days a week.  The last well checked yesterday had quit pumping, so he’s had to line up parts and a repair crew for this morning.  Every day a wells stands idle costs the company over $3,000.00 in lost revenue.  So, he’s gotta keep ’em pumping.

I linger the morning with Gail.  She prepares breakfast for me, then lunch.  In between, I get the tour of the Knife River flint quarries again.  The pockmarked field is quite an amazing place.  It’s hard to imagine how, with primitive tools, and by hand, tons upon tons of flint was removed and lugged away. When the subject turns to Knife River flint, it’s interesting to see the contagious enthusiasm in the faces of both Allan and Gail. Seems they never tire of showing the quarries, or taking time to tell the fascinating story — 11,500 years of history.

Dang, it’s tough saying good-bye, especially to dear friends, ones you know you may never see again.  It’s tough.

I manage to shoulder my pack and head out the drive early afternoon.  Gail had offered to drive me the mile or so back up to the highway, but I declined her kind offer as I wanted their place a part of my hike route, to their door and back.

It’s a beautiful day, warm with the least breeze.  There’s no road shoulder to speak of, but the traffic is light and I make good time into Halliday.  By the motel, Debi and her daughter, Jonna, are there to greet me. In the evening I’m invited to dine with Debi and her family.  It’s been a very good day!

The time it’s taken me to arrive here, near the mouth of the Knife River, is a full three months less than that taken by the Corps.  However, from this point forward, with the current of the mighty Missouri carrying them, the Corps traveled much faster, at times covering over twice to three times the distance I’m able to cover in a single day.  By the time I reach central Missouri, the gap will shrink to less than two months.  Once the Corps passed the villages near Mandan, they were headed for the barn!

“when we were opposit the Minetares Grand Village we saw a number of the Nativs viewing…these people were extreamly pleased to See us.”  [Clark, August 14th 1806]

Wednesday–May 17, 2006
Trail Day—056
Trail Mile–15.4/1326
Location–Golden Valley, John and Renee Lindemann home

I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow last.  The long-mile days have caught up with me; the rest these past two days has been much needed — a blessing.  Thanks, Debi and Jonna, for your kindness, I certainly enjoyed my stay in Halliday.

In ’04 I didn’t take time to check out downtown Halliday.  This morning I head there, first to chat with Postmistress, Marion, then next door to the little mom-n-pop cafe for a tank-stokin’ breakfast.

I’m out and back on SR200 at ten.  Another glorious day in North Dakota.  I’m hiking in the Spring Creek/Knife River Valley, south of Lake Sakakawea, a lush, fertile valley with kind and gentle people

By three, I’m in Golden Valley, a neat little German community a mile or so off the highway.  First stop, again, the post office.  I recognize Darlene immediately.  She smiles, “You were here before.”  Oh yes, I was here before.  Actually, Darlene saved me a heap of grief in ’04.  I’d walked off and left my debit card at the post office in Hazen where she worked at the time.  On her way home to Golden Valley that evening, she caught up with me and returned my card, before I even knew it was gone!

I inquire of Darlene as to getting permission to pitch in the city park.  With another big smile, Darlene tells me I’m in. She’s a member of the Woman’s Club that takes care of the park!  Thanks, Darlene.

Here in Golden Valley there’s one of the most incredible private collections of motorcycles (and cars and trucks) to be found anywhere.  The whole operation is a labor of love created and cared for by John Lindemann and his father, Bill.  I had the pleasure of meeting Bill back then and spending a fair amount of time with him as we toured their place. You’ll find some neat pictures in the Odyssey ’04 album. This time through, I want to meet John, who was out of town before.

I make a stop at the Saddle Sore Saloon to inquire as to their whereabouts. Sheila, the bartender, says they’re both around, and no more than tells me to try the shop than Bill goes by. “He’s heading for the shop,” says Sheila. “Leave your pack and get on down there.” I’m out the door in a flash.

At the shop I find both Bill and John. Another big smile when Bill recognizes me.  He introduces me to John, and then they both drop what they’re doing to take me through the museum again.

Since I was here in ’04, Bill has completed the restoration of a 26 Model-T Roadster, and John has added an absolutely stunning 36 Harley to his collection.  John now has at least one of each model year Harley clear back to the early thirties.  I take a bunch of pictures.  You’ll find them in the ’06 Album in about three weeks.

Heading back to the shop, John asks where I’ll be staying tonight.  When I tell him that Darlene said it’d be okay to pitch in the park, he suggests I stay at his place instead.  Well, that’s a no brainer! We make dinner arrangements, then I head back to the Saddle Sore to fetch my pack and to thank Sheila.  Here I meet Mike and Scott.  After my two-minute speal, Mike buys me a cold one.  Scott leaves, to return in minutes with a Knife River flint arrow point he’d just found in his field — and with a grand smile, he hands it to me! In a short while, come the Lindemanns, Bill and Eleanor, and John and Renee.  Bill insists on treating me to dinner.  We enjoy a great evening together.

Wow, what a day!

Just as I’ve been greeted and befriended by area inhabitants today, Lewis and Clark “…were visited by all the inhabitants of this village who appeared equally as well pleased to See us as those above.” [Clark, August 14th 1806]

Thursday–May 18, 2006
Trail Day—057
Trail Mile–21.7/1347
Location–Hazen, North Dakota, Wayne and Myra Axtman home

John and Renee have an absolutely beautiful home; and they sure made me feel welcome.  This morning, Renee prepares a full spread breakfast, bacon, eggs, pancakes, and the works.  John then drives us back downtown where I’m introduced to many of his (and Bill’s) dear friends at the morning coffee klatch.  For once, I’m not the elder!

Darleen had sent over some sweet rolls, just for me, which makes me the envy of the entire bunch. More sad good-byes now. Thanks so much, Golden Valley, all dear friends there. I will long remember your most sincere kindness and hospitality.  Oh yes, thank you!

It’s a mile or so out to the highway, and I’m back heading east a little before nine. Another perfect hiking day along the Sakakawea South Shore.  Near Beulah, John comes whizzing by on of his old Harleys.  In awhile, returning from an errand in Hazen, he stops to again bid me farewell.  A few more pictures (of his ’46), then one good kick, the old Harley comes to life, and he’s off.

My left foot has been griping lately.  There’s no paved shoulder along this section of SR200 and I must keep stepping off constantly into steeply rutted gravel right next the white line, so my left foot has been taking the hit.  Sure glad to reach Hazen.

During my outbound, I was befriended by Myra Axtman.  At the time she was the Hazen Chamber Exec.  This hike, she and husband, Wayne, have invited me into their lovely home, for dinner and to spend the night.

On the bike path entering Hazen now, comes this city maintenance truck.  Bright smile right at me, and I meet Cissie.  “I’ll see you at Myra’s tonight,” she says.  “Me and husband, Mike, have been invited to dinner with you. Been following your adventures since we saw you near Portland during the ’04 hike.”

Myra now works at Union Bank in Hazen.  She’s asked me to stop there on my way in. Glad for that, as the sky opens just as I arrive. Cissie’s right here, too. After a glad welcome from Myra, I meet Marion’s son, Wayne (Marion’s the Postmistress at Halliday). Around here, seems everybody’s either related or knows everybody else!

I’m now invited to Cissies’s house for a cold one, to have laundry done, to take a shower — and to just relax until Myra and Wayne get home from work. This works! Thanks, Cissie and Mike.

In the evening, and at Myra and Wayne’s now, I’m treated to a wonderfully prepared meal on their spacious deck (rain’s quit), along with Cissie, Mike, and Judy, another sweet lady, who along with her husband and son befriended me in ’04.  Blake, her son, still in high school at the time was interning at the local weekly and wrote a very flattering article about the old Nomad.

My, oh my, has this been a remarkable day — what a memorable evening!

“Colter one of our men expressed a desire to join Some trappers [the two white men they’d met, Dickson and Hancock] who offered to become Shearers with and furnish traps &c.  the offer a very advantagious one, to him, his Service Could be dispenced with from this down and we were disposed to be of Service to any one of our party who had performed their duty as well as Colter had done, we agreed to allow him the prvilage…” [Clark, August 15th 1806]

Friday–May 19, 2006
Trail Day—058
Trail Mile–29.4/1376
Location–Hensler, North Dakota

I had asked Myra not to trouble with breakfast; no luck — but lucky me!  She prepares the works, just like Renee had done for me in Golden Valley.  We have a fine visit.  Myra calls the bank to tell them she’ll be a little late (as I load my plate again).

Aw, another day for sad farewells.  Sure would like to return someday, to see all my dear friends in Hazen.

Myra prepared a lunch and dinner for me, which I’ve squirreled away in my pack.  So my stop at the local jiffy on the way out is to get a couple bottles of pop for the day.  That’s it.  A klatch here, Ken and Mel.  Have a good chat with both before I’m out for the day.  Purchased a tube of sunblock and have slathered it on.  Looks to be the makings for a hot one today, first time to start with my short sleeves.  Pearly white arms — they’d sunburn for sure.

No road shoulder again, and my left foot starts pitching a fit first thing.  Near Stanton I pull off — and take my shoes off to rest my barking doggies.  A little adhesive tape on the tip of the third and fourth toes, portside, and I’m back out haulin’ again.

I made the side trip to Stanton in ’04.  Just north of Stanton, on the Missouri River is located the Knife River Indian Village.  It’s a National Historic Site, having been the home of Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the Corps to the Pacific and back.  This entire area is rich in history, especially as has to do with the expedition.  The Corps spent much time here during the winter of 1804-1805.  In 1806, however, determined to reach St. Louis before winter, they were set with the urgent purpose of moving down the river. As luck would have it, just past the turn to Stanton comes a fully paved emergency lane.  Okay left foot, let’s go; you’re out of trouble now!

I’d hoped to make it to Fort Clark this evening.  I arrive by five, with loads of daylight remaining, so I hoof it on toward Washburn.  The earlier I arrive there tomorrow the better.  I want to spend time again at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and hopefully, at the Fort Mandan Historic Site.

As dusk approaches, and as I chug down more water, do I realize that I’m almost out of water.  Luck would have it (twice today!) I meet Arnie.  He’s pulling out of his drive, one of only a few passed all day.  He waits for me to come beside, and then asks if I need a ride or anything.  I decline the ride but ask if he’d permit my use of his outside faucet to fetch some much-needed water — for the upcoming evening and night.  “You don’t want to drink that water,” replies Arnie.  In a flash, he whips his car in reverse and begins backing up.  “Come on up to the house, I’ll get you some water from our fridge,” says Arnie as he looks over his shoulder, dust flying.

Watered up now, and another mile or so behind me, I’m at Hensler, a little village next the Missouri by the tracks.  Arnie said I could pitch in the park. “There’s a pavilion there.  Get under it where you’ll stay dry,” he told me. I thought that comment strange at the time.  But I no sooner arrive the park than the wind comes up driving sheets of rain from the west.  I’m in; I’m dry. Ha, thanks Arnie!

“as our Swivel Could no longer be Serveceable to us as it could not be fireed on board the largest Perogue, we Concluded to make a present of it to the Great Chief of the Memetaras…I then a good deel of Ceremony made a present of the Swivel to the [One Eye] Chief…” [Clark, August 16th 1806]

Saturday–May 20, 2006
Trail Day—059
Trail Mile–03.3/1379
Location–Washburn, North Dakota

The rain finally gave it up last, but the mutt next to the park didn’t.  First time I’ve fallen asleep by Walkman radio!

The front that chugged through has brought the cold wind back, out of the northeast. Oh yes, I’m hiking northeast this morning, but only for an hour or so. Sure glad I hammered the miles yesterday evening when it was calm and mild.  Jacket, long sleeves, and mittens are back on this morning — one more time.

Today I’m near the Missouri again, and will trek nearby pretty much the remainder of this odyssey. At Washburn the Missouri stands at just below 1,700 feet. From here on down to St. Louis it will drop another 1,300 feet, so the current is really moving, and the Corps moved swiftly with it

I’m anxious to see downtown Washburn; bypassed in ’04.  I’m in by eleven, in time for breakfast at the Lewis and Clark Cafe. Lots of Lewis and Clark here. Lots of picture taking. I’m not disappointed.

By noon I’ve reached the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Now, and while taking pictures of the remarkable steel likenesses of Captains Lewis and Clark, and Chief Sheheke, near the entrance came Dan and Karen from Illinois. They’re touring the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and while waiting patiently for me to get out of the way — for their turn at pictures — we strike up a most interesting conversation. Interesting? Oh yes, for it is now that I meet yet another descendant of a Corps member! This time the ancestor is William Bratton. And the relative? Great, great, great grandson Dan!

Kevin, Center Interpretive Coordinator, who greeted and befriended me in ’04 is away today.  But David, President of the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, which operates the Center, is in. And in a moment comes David to greet and welcome me. More kindness extended to the old Nomad, as he nods to his receptionist to prepare a complimentary pass for me. David then offers to drive me up to Fort Mandan, some two miles distant, as did Kevin two years ago. Standing nearby, and overhearing our conversation, Ted and Barb from Hawaii also offer to take me up!

Much has been added since my last trip through and I thoroughly enjoy my visit. I take the ride with Ted and Barb. At the Fort, we’ve pretty much got the place to ourselves. Steel statuary of Seaman, Lewis’ Newfoundland dog, has been added at the Fort site. The river panorama and the sculpt-work are both quite remarkable.  Ted takes my picture as I proudly stand with Seaman.

Back at the Center, and greeted yet again by David, I mention (with a fair degree of guilt) that I had told Kevin long ago I would join the Foundation — I never did. I wanted to close that loop. So, we’ve taken care of that today! This old (200-years-too-late Corps member) Nomad is now the newest member of the Fort Mandan Foundation.

Lots more pictures before I bid farewell to Ted and Barb, and Dan and Karen — and David and all dear friends at the Center, and the Fort.  Thanks all, for your genuine kindness!

I’ve made it a goal to hike each and every day this trek. And so far, in 59 days, I’ve not missed one. Today, though, has been the shortest by far, just a little over three miles — and a tad over one hour (two actually, as I’ve put another time zone behind me. I’m now on Central Time). 1379 miles over 59 days averages out to nearly 24 miles per day. I’m pleased with that. And I pray, that through God’s Holy Grace, I might maintain my health and stamina for the remainder of this odyssey, of which I am now over half way, and that I might finish this remarkable return trek in like stead.

In crossing the Missouri, I depart the Sakakawea South Shore. And in so doing, I leave many dear, kind friends behind, friends I may never see again. On August 17th 1806, and near here, the Corps (all members) suffered the same sad good-byes…..

“Settled with Touisant Charbono for his Services as an enterpreter the pric of a horse and Lodge purchased of him for public Service in all amounting to 500$ 33 1/3 cents…at 2 oClock we left our encampment after takeing leave of Colter who…set out up the river…we also took our leave of T. Charbono, his Snake Indian wife and their Son Child who had accompanied us on our rout to the pacific Ocean…I offered to take his little Son a butifull promising Child who is 19 months old to which they both himself & wife wer willing provided the Child had been weened.  they observed that in one year the boy would be sufficiently old to leave his mother & he would then take him to me if I would be so freindly as to raise the Child for him in Such a manner as I thought proper.” [Clark, near present-day Hensler, August 17th 1806]

Sunday–May 21, 2006
Trail Day—60
Trail Mile–30.3/1409
Location–Double Ditch Indian Village Historic Site, north of Bismarck, North Dakota

The rain the weatherman’s been calling for finally comes this morning, and it seems content on staying. I go for breakfast, then while away time in my room, waiting for the rain to quit. Sarah, the innkeeper, tells me it’s supposed to clear out late morning. Sure enough, by eleven, the rain finally stops — same time the wind starts howling.

Out and moving southeast now, I’m having a tough time of it. The rain’s decided to return, and the wind is driving very cold from — you guessed it, the southeast! Seems I just can’t win with the wind out here.  Fleece jacket, mittens and poncho on, I lean into it. During my daily morning prayer, and each day, I always ask the Lord to grant me patience. This morning, I pray for a double dose!

The landscape here in the high plains is slowly changing as it drops ever-so-gently to the east. As the distance away, from the sheer wall that’s formed by the Rockies, increases, so too the annual rainfall. No longer is there need for forty acres per cow. Here are lush fields of grain — and even trees, lots of trees! So, I’ll not complain of this rain. The farmers need the rain. With added patience a blessing, I’ll trek through this day, and I will be thankful for it.

On SR1804, and where the Missouri bends to come next the road, there’s a little primitive park, camping permitted. I passed this place on July 3rd 2004. A group of Bismarck Class of ’01 grads had invited me to stay the night, to camp with them, and to help celebrate the 4th. They put on a special fireworks show just for me. It was a hoot! I’d sure like to see them all again, so last evening I tried reaching Aaron Franklund, one of the young fellows who’d befriended me. But alas, no luck. Perhaps when I reach Bismarck, I can try again.

The wind keeps pushing; I push back, finally reaching the beautiful high ground overlooking the Missouri at Double Ditch. I descend the bluff and find a flat spot on a little shelf just above the rushing waters and pitch for the night.

There are no bad days on the trail; some are just a bit better than others.

Double Ditch was one of seven Mandan villages that thrived but were then abandoned, even before the Corps passed in 1804-1806.

“I set my self down with the big white man Chiefe and made a number of enquiries into the tredition of his nation as well as the time of their inhabiting the number of Villages the remains of which we see on different parts of the river, as also the cause of their evacuation…he Said that in the Village Opposit to our Camp and at that time his nation inhabited 7 villages…” [Clark, August 18th 1806]

Monday–May 22, 2006
Trail Day—061
Trail Mile–11.3/1420
Location–Bismarck, North Dakota

I’m waking at a proper hour now, since slipping to Central Time.

The wind, which kept kicking well into the evening last gets up with me. But I’ll not find it a problem this day as I’ve a short hike on to Bismarck and I’ll be in the shelter of trees along and below the river bluff. It’s great being back near the river again. It’s taken a long time to get here, but now I’ll be close to it most every day, and though trekking in their very long shadow, I’ll be where I’m able to sense the presence of the Corps once more. Double Ditch is quiet and serene this morning, no archaeologists, no digging this time through. The circular depressions in the sod tell the story, the remains of hundreds of earthen lodges that once stood here. There’s evidence, also, of two ditches, trenches fortified by high picket stockades, which contoured the village high ground, from the river bluff, around and encircling the village, then back to the bluff. This village, combined with other nearby encampments, and before the great smallpox epidemics of the late 1700s, comprised a metropolis for that era, being home to over 10,000 Mandans.

The hike today is short and sweet, and before eleven I’m at Pioneer Park, location of Meriwether’s Restaurant, and down the way, a full-size replica of the Corps’ keelboat. The restaurant opens at eleven, and I’m right here for coffee and a fine lunch, compliments of Brenda and Kristi, two kind locals who befriend me and who express much interest in my journey.

From the park, it’s a short hike to the state capitol and the North Dakota Heritage Center. Near the Center stands the most impressive bronze statue of Sacagawea and son, Pomp. I passed here in ’04, but no matter, I had to return to this spot one more time. The light of the day isn’t right, but I take the picture anyway. In the Center, there are so many things to see. I try to limit my time to the late 1700s, early 1800s.

Late afternoon now, I’m in south Bismarck where I check into the Expressway Inn. I go for the local phone book first thing. Along SR1804 yesterday I stopped by Painted Woods Ranch to speak with the farmer/rancher, to enquire as to the Franklund family. I recalled Aaron telling me his folks farmed/ranched considerable land nearby. Bob gave me Aaron’s father’s name, which I now find in the Bismarck phone book. Hey, I’ve got Aaron’s mom on the phone! “He’s out at the farm,” she says, “but I’ll have him call you as soon as he’s home.”

Well, how about this? In awhile comes Aaron and Renee, two of the kids from ’04! We have a grand time talking the past — and their future. Great to know that the whole bunch is fine: Aaron, the other Aaron, Matt, the other Matt, Liz, Ashley, Darrin, Jeremy, and Josh — all Class of ’01, Century High, Bismarck.

“Capt. Lewis’es wounds are heeling very fast, I am much in hope of his being able to walk in 8 or 10 days.” [Clark, August 19th 1806]

Tuesday–May 23, 2006
Trail Day—062
Trail Mile–30.2/1450
Location–Livona, North Dakota

Bismarck, though the capital of North Dakota, is no big city by any measure. However, out here on the northwestern high plains, it’s a fair-sized town, clean and neat, with folks that greet you with a glad smile and a happy disposition. Yup, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Bismarck

Heading south now on SR1804, first mile marker says 78, so I’ve got 78 miles to go to reach the South Dakota state line — plus 9 more, which will make 87 to the little village of Pollock. From here to Pollock there are no gas stations, no convenience stores, nothing. So I’m going to try and hammer it in three days, that’s how much food I’m carrying. Water? Will have to take my chances on water.

A few years back there used to be a marina, a restaurant or two, one with a gas station, but they’re all closed down now due to years of low water in Lake Oahe. This whole upper area’s been left high and dry. No fish, no fisherman. No fisherman, no conveniences. A few large ranches and farms, that’s it. Not much reason for anyone else to be out here — or to be passing through for that matter.

By nine o’clock the breeze starts coming up from the southeast. Oh yes, I’m hiking southeast. By nine-thirty it’s at fifteen, by ten, at twenty, on its way to twenty-five. Noon now and I’m having to lean hard into it — the “breeze,” that is. Out here, until the prairie grass is bent flat, folks don’t use the word “wind.” Been listening to the weatherman for weeks, and he’s yet to mention wind! I finally give up, take my hat off and stuff it in my pocket, after chasing after it for the third time.

Thank goodness I’m now working my way around the last large Missouri River impoundment, Lake Oahe. It’s a huge reservoir, stretching from just below Bismarck all the way down to Pierre, South Dakota.  To pass the far-reaching lake fingers and coves, the highway zigs and zags, first south, then east, then south some more, following the mile-square sections. Definitely not the kind of place you’d take your scout troop for a weekend hike.

By three, the wind is pushing at me at thirty-five, gusting to forty. I halt at times just to hold my ground. By early evening I reach Glencoe Church/Cemetery. Flowers are kept by many of the graves — so there’s a water faucet right inside the gate. I bottle up and Camel up. Ah, lucky me; I’ll have enough water now to make it through most of tomorrow.

Late evening now, comes a severe weather alert broadcast by the Bismarck/Mandan radio station. Severe thunderstorms accompanied by hail are forecast for the evening. Looking northeast, I see what’s coming, an ominous black wall of clouds. I’ve got to find a place to get out of this one. Near mile marker forty-eight, and as the storm moves in, hard winds begin driving darts of rain and hail. Past a curve I pull off by a large machinery barn. The front access door is padlocked. None of the large sliders will budge, all bolted from the inside. Around the lee of the building and toward the back I find another access door. I clutch the doorknob, hesitate for a little prayer — and give it a twist. The door opens. Actually it flies open, from the pressure built up, and almost knocks me down. But I’m in and out of it. Thank you, Lord. The whole place shudders as the wind howls and the rain and hail pelt the metal roof and sidewalls. I find a spot behind one of the huge tractors, lay out my bedroll, say another prayer, and call it a day.

In August 1806, Clark noted that significant changes had occurred to the river since first passing in 1804.  Ha, he sure wouldn’t recognize any of this section today; it’s all submerged under Oahe.

“I observe a great alteration in the Corrent course and appearance of this pt. of the Missouri.  in places where there was Sand bars in the fall of 1804 at this time the Main Current passes, and where the current then passed is now a Sand bar…the entrance of Some of the Rivers & Creeks Changed.” [Clark, August 20th 1806]

Wednesday–May 24, 2006
Trail Day—063
Trail Mile–32.7/1485
Location–Northwest of Pollock, North Dakota

The wind and rain continued hard into the night, but even through the snare-drum racket I managed to sleep. I was exhausted from fighting against the relentless wind. My patience, energy, and the day all ended at the same time.

I’m out and hiking into a very unsettled day. The sky is completely overcast, the ceiling uncomfortably low, the whole mess moving at an alarming speed. I’ve started with my jacket and poncho. Good thing as the rain, which had passed in waves all night, soon returns. The wind that’s driving the clouds from the northwest comes to drive me, in accordance with the Weatherman, who’s called for a very “breezy” day. Oh yes, thirty-five per, gusting to over forty. The wind will be my companion once again.

In awhile the cloud ceiling lifts some, revealing what is now the big sky of North Dakota. I can see no less than three severe thunderstorms, one to the south, the others to the southeast, each with its gray, arching curtain of rain dragging the prairie.

I’m in pheasant country again. Yesterday I was startled many times as the birds flushed before me, cackling and making the most unsettling racket. Today I’ve already kicked up over a dozen.

A short way into the day stops one of the local ranchers. Duran and his family have apparently worked the land here for many years. As we talk, he laments as to how their land was taken for the reservoir. Where once there was a beautiful meandering Missouri, remain only mud flats today. He’s intrigued by my account, hiking the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. He’s been a student of local history, and especially of the Corps. “The Cannonball River comes in right up there. The Corps shot two elk at that place,” says Duran. I give him my card and ask if he’ll sign my guestbook.  I continue on — as the rain continues.

The wind steadily increases in intensity to near forty, gusting at time to near fifty. With the rain, which comes and goes, my feet have become soaked. I have asked for more patience — to endure what is shaping to be another hammer-it-out day. Not complaining, just a reality check on energy and stamina. Monotony comes in different forms.

The gas pumps and restaurant are closed at Beaver Creek Bay, have been since September of last year. There’s still a Beaver Creek, but no bay. I head over the short distance anyway, as there’s a porch roof on the front, under which to escape this latest wave of rain — and I hope and pray they’ve left the water on. I’m in luck. The front hose bib is off but the side one works. I fill my three twenties and camel up. A bite of lunch, and then kill some time before heading back out in the wind-driven rain.

Late evening pulls this car to the shoulder, my side. The gentleman gets out and waves to me with a grand smile. I meet Ron Gerhardt from Bismarck. The usual questions followed by the usual answers. I’m surprised though when he asks where I’ll be staying tomorrow night. When I tell him I’ll find an old building or a row of trees somewhere ahead, Ron suggests I consider staying at his vacation place in Pollock. “I’ll not be there, but the door will be unlocked for you,” says Ron. When I comment that he knows nothing about me, come to find out he does! “You know Jim Damico?” he asks. I can’t believe it! Jim stayed at Ron’s during his L&CNHT bike journey in ’04. I missed meeting Ron and his little village of Pollock, as I’d hiked the other side of the river that year. He reaches in his cooler and hands me a Coke, then two huge peanut bars. “That’s all I’ve got with me right now.” he says, disappointed voice but a happy smile.

So it is, the old Nomad is continually befriended, but seems he’s never prepared for the outpouring of kindness and generosity showered down. Befuddled and dumbfounded, I manage a “Thank you.” It’ll sure be a blessing to get in, take a shower, and have a hot meal. Amazing, thanks, Ron!

After more than eleven hours of hard pounding, I’ve manage the distance from MM48 to MM14. This will leave a very manageable 23 into Pollock for tomorrow, and Ron’s place.

I find that spot I was hoping for in a row of trees, out of the wind. The rain has finally stopped and the wind is calming down. Looks like the makings for a very pleasant night. Two cheese sandwiches, and the nut bars Ron gave me, and I’m down for the count.

Though I’m moving at a respectable rate, compared to the progress made along this section by the Corps, I’m not keeping pace. South of my present location is where the Corps encountered problems with the Sioux. “…that the Seioux were the Cause…that they were a bad peoples.  that they had killed Several of the Ricaras Since I Saw them.” [Clark, August 21, 1806]

Thursday–May 25, 2006
Trail Day—064
Trail Mile–22.3/1507
Location–Pollock, South Dakota

Though quite remote, this area by the Missouri/Oahe is certainly picturesque. There are numerous photo opportunities all along this morning as the sun rises above the mesas and buttes. And the pheasants, they seem to be everywhere.

Storm fronts are coming through at intervals of about every two to three days, so today is an in-between. The breeze is actually a breeze for a change, gently nudging me along. So, it’s a very nice hiking day. More thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow afternoon with a stiff “breeze” from the southeast again — but that’s tomorrow. I’ll worry about it then.

Ron makes a special trip out to greet me around nine with some breakfast rolls and a Coke. He and wife, Joyce, enjoy bicycle touring and are in the process of completing a perimeter cruise around North Dakota. Memorial weekend upcoming, they’ll be out and pedaling again. Around noon, and on his way back to Bismarck, Ron stops the final time to bring another Coke, and to wish me well.

Pollock is a neat little village. Interesting, too. The town had to be totally relocated in the sixties when the Oahe dam was built. The old city site is now in the bottom of the lake. I get in by two-thirty, to hit the mom-n-pop cafe for lunch.

Ron and Joyce have a lovely second home here in Pollock, and I have it all to myself. Oh so good to get a shower and clean clothes. In the evening, I hit the cafe again for a fine supper. While I was out, Ron’s neighbor, Alvena, stopped by the house to leave a plate of confections and goodies for me. More kindness; what a fine welcome back to South Dakota!

“my worthy friend Capt Lewis is recovering fast, he walked a little to day for the first time. I have discontinued the tent in the hole the ball came out.” [Clark, August 22, 1806]

Friday–May 26, 2006
Trail Day—065
Trail Mile–26.4/1533
Location–Northeast of Mobridge, South Dakota

I enjoyed a restful stay at Ron and Joyce’s home in Pollock. Sure glad I decided to come down the SR1804 side of the river this trek!

The “breeze” is already whippin’ it up as I head over to the little mom-n-pop for breakfast, and it’s blasting through from the southeast; not good news for me this day, another day to just make the best of it. One day at a time is the only way to go. It’d be impossible to successfully pull off a journey of this magnitude any other way. Pray for the best; take it as it comes, be thankful and of good spirit, no matter; sounds simplistic but that’s the secret. No other way will work, at least not for me, not for very long anyway.

At the post office, I have an enjoyable chat with postmistress, Paula, also with Vina at the Welcome/Interpretive Center. I don’t get moving down the “trail” until ten.

From Pollock, SR1804 climbs back up and onto the wide-open prairie. Two hours out and nearly six miles later (of what is going to be a hot, head down ‘n hammer day) I can still turn and look back down on the little village of Pollock. I’m sure not running out of prairie, for there’s one huge chunk of it up here, rolling to the hazy blue — 360.

I’m being eased into the heat of summer, having been exposed to short afternoon doses the past few days. But now, apparently, I must be prepared for what’s to come, the daily frying pan. By noon the heat waves are dancing, creating mirages over the tarmac. The stifling heat, driven by a 30 mph southeast “breeze” has created the most unusual haze. Haze is supposed to limit one’s view, but this haze just looks soupy and thick, because it’s still possible to see great distances through it.

For this day, I’ve grossly underestimated my water needs/consumption. By two, I’m already drawing down on my second of three 20 oz. bottles. Over a gentle rise, I see two men working a huge hookup of farm equipment, machinery the purpose for which I have no idea. Drawing closer, one of the farmers comes to the road to greet me and to ask the usual questions. I learn that the machine is an air drill for planting no-till crops. They’re sewing (drilling in) sunflower seed. We talk about the dry land, the low level of the reservoir, and my near-empty water bottles — which are promptly filled, the process of which drains the farmer’s thermos. “Don’t worry,” he says, “I live right over the hill; you’ve a long way to go to reach Mobridge.”

Still later in the day, and down one full water bottle again, in the far lane stops a pickup. I turn to see this rancher lady holding out a bottle of water. Oh yes, I go right over. “Checkin’ on our cows,” she says. “We need rain real bad. Grass is drying up and our ponds are almost empty.” But no matter; she finds a grand smile for me as I chug the entire bottle of water just handed me. “Thirsty, weren’t you?  I know how it goes out here.” Another big smile from the kind lady as I hand back the empty bottle.

The sun continues scorching the road — and me, until the fringes of a thunderhead block it. I stop to get some spectacular pictures, as the dense, undulating curtains of rain drape and drag the prairie. I’ve talked about this remarkable sight many times; now I’ve got pictures of it. But alas, as for my two friends today — the storm is across the lake to the south, perhaps as far as fifteen miles away; no help for this rain-starved area.

By late evening I’m managed only twenty-six miles. In a normal day, especially after hiking for ten hours or more, I will easily have covered 30 miles. But not today. With the heat (the Mobridge radio station says it’s 98 right now) and the unrelenting wind (oops, “breeze”) that’s been shoving straight at me at 30 per, gusting to over 40, I’ve done well to manage 26 miles.

The Corps is far outdistancing me now, day-to-day, as to our respective travels down river, as they were riding the swift currents of the mighty Missouri. Consequently, there’ll be days now with no quotes from Clark’s journal, as he seldom made multiple entries for any given day.

Saturday–May 27, 2006
Trail Day—066
Trail Mile–11.2/1544
Location–Mobridge, South Dakota

For my camp last, I found a secluded, wooded draw that cut the prairie rim, just a short distance off the highway. Thunder was cracking and lightning flashing to the southwest, the same storm I’d spoken about yesterday. I positioned my tent to the lee for protection from the 30 per breeze and rain, the latter of which never arrived. The breeze kept chugging through though, all night, rattling my tent and causing me restless sleep.

The morning dawns bright — and breezy. No problem. To reach Mobridge, I’d stuck with it and put all but eleven miles behind me yesterday. So, this morning (and before the breeze can start freight-trainin’ me), I’ll be in Mobridge!

Descending the prairie, and from this vantage now, as locals had told me in Pollock, the views out and across the Missouri/Oahe Reservoir are truly breathtaking. I pause often, to just turn and turn — and to look. By ten-thirty, I’ve descended to the intersection of SR1804 and my old friend, US12. I’ve been saving a buy-one-get-one Dew cap, which I promptly redeem at the corner jiffy. They’ve a little klatch area — and the kind attendant lets me go for a cup of ice.  Oh my goodness but doesn’t being thirsty sometimes have its rewards!  Two Pepsi’s and another cup of ice later, my thirst is finally quenched. I just sit, lean back and relax, totally content — Buuurp!

The cottonwood trees are in full bloom now, and as I head down the street toward the little East Side Motel and Cabins, the remarkable phenomenon for which the cottonwood tree is named is occurring. The air is filled with snow. And on the ground along, and by the fences and hedges are there such amazing drifts! The wind-(breeze) blown cottonwood seed-wings look in every respect and entirely like snowflakes drifting, a proverbial storm floating by. Save the fact it’s ninety-some degrees out, one would certainly be easily enough fooled.

At East Side, Linda recognizes me from my stay during the outbound. I’m greeted with what can only be described as that “Prairie Welcome” smile. Ahh, and I’ve been the fortunate beneficiary of that contagious smile, everywhere along. Linda’s got a room for me, with a tub, for a special hiker-trash rate. She even takes time to get her magnifier and tweezers out, to remove the tip of a Locust thorn I crossed paths with in camp last.

Wow, is the Corps ever headin’ for the barn. On August 26th 1806, they were in present-day Lyman County, below Pierre. I won’t be anywhere near there for at least another five days.

Sunday–May 28, 2006
Trail Day—067
Trail Mile–28.2/1572
Location–Akaska, South Dakota

I had a fine stay in Mobridge, due entirely to Linda’s kindness at East Side Motel and Cabins. She allowed me to check in early and stay late. Since I hike every day, it’s a blessing when I arrive in town late morning, to be able to check in, take a shower and get my feet up.

The breeze (20-25 per) is at my back for a change. Yippee! Well into the hike today SR1804 peters out as the road turns to gravel for the remainder of the way into Akaska. More pheasant all along. I flush thirty or more. They’re not the least concerned with passing vehicles, but my being a’foot, that really spooks ’em.

Akaska is a delightful little village. I’m able to look down on the little berg from a hill a mile or so out. They’ve a neat park, campground, a short main drag — and Linda’s Supper Club. I arrive just at happy hour. The place is packed; one stool left at the bar. As I drop my pack, comes this grand smile from Linda. All her patrons watch with puzzled expression as I slip behind the bar for a big “welcome back” hug!

The kitchen is closed, but not for the old Nomad. Oh yes, salad, a delicious 10 oz. steak, plus fries and toast. Fun chatting with locals, Darrell and Jim. Jim had seen me coming in on 1804, buys me a cold one.

I pitch in the park behind Linda’s, just like in ’04.  Early morning, the rain comes in hard — just like in ’04.

Monday–May 29, 2006
Trail Day—068
Trail Mile–31.0/1603
Location–North of Onida, South Dakota

Breakfast is on and the klatch is in — at the bait shop! Eggs, a huge mound of hash browns, ham steak, toast, and a half pot of coffee later and I’m fueled. Jim, who runs the campground and post office, stops to chat. We’d met in ’04. He again extends best wishes for a safe journey.

It’s three miles straight east to the main highway, which runs almost due south for miles. As I make the turn, it’s easy to see how this day will play out. Oh, it’s pleasant enough alright, cool with a mild cross breeze. However, being able to see the roadway ahead to a pinpoint on the horizon does little to boost the morale. I say my morning prayer, including a request once again for patience, as the oil tankers and cattle trucks fly by. The pavement is concrete, with expansion joints and rain grooves cut in. It’s possible to hear the eighteen-wheelers a full two minutes, one as they come, one as they go, the racket their tires making on the pavement surface, nerve-racking. “Crank your Walkman up and keep plodding old man, you’ll be over that far away hill, where the highway dances the hazy-blue, soon enough.”

I’m heading for the barn now too, just as did the Corps. The Missouri bears generally southeast from here, and that’s exactly the direction to St. Louis. The road goes that way one ratchet notch at a time, a distance south, a ways east, and then back south again, stair stepping along.

More pheasant today, many more.  I kick up hundreds, not exaggerating. There are hunting lodges out here, seemingly in the middle of nowhere — but certainly in the middle of the finest bird hunting anywhere.

A straight line thirty plus today. I’m tired, not only physically but also mentally. By an old abandoned farmstead, with abandoned tractors, trailers, bailers and tillers, I pitch by a grove of locust, as the cackling, fluttering pheasants carry on all around.

Tuesday–May 30, 2006
Trail Day—069
Trail Mile–32.1/1635
Location–North of Pierre, South Dakota

A short distance (straight ahead, then left) to Agar. The Bunkhouse Bar is open for breakfast. I go for a Pepsi to wash down my stack and eggs, compliments of Marty, the bar owner. “Lots of bicyclists through here every year, but you’re the first one walking it, breakfast’s on me,” she says. Then comes that beaming smile from Marty and mom, Sola. This kind of generosity and hospitality — easy to reject, always hard to accept. I thank her the best I can.

The post office is right down the street. I send some things home, get a little cash back. This is road kill day. Begins with a couple snakes, two porkys and a coon, followed by three jackrabbits and a fox. Then comes a doe, and sadly, her little fawn, which had stuck right there by mother’s side, by the side of the road, till it starved to death. I reach for my camera, until better judgment prevailed.

By lunchtime I’m in Onida, and into the mom-n-pop for their special, and more Pepsi.

As I hammer the concrete, toward another thirty-plus day of dealing with the noise and confusion, my thoughts wander to consider the thousands upon thousands of folks that shoulder backpacks every year, to take short and extended hikes through the forests and along mountain trails all across this glorious land. And I think too, of how it takes a special breed to lift a pack and take to the open road. For every thousand or so of the ordinary backpackers, there may be one insane enough, driven enough (the Lord only knows by what), to take to the highways and byways. I’m one of the former for sure. But more and more I’m becoming one of the latter. I thoroughly enjoy the quiet and solitude found in the forests and mountains, but danged if I don’t love the open road.

And why?  Ahh…
It’s the people, the places,
The pain and the trials.
It’s the joy and the blessings
That come with the miles.
It’s a calling gone out
To a fortunate few,
To wander the fringes
Of God’s hazy blue.

As the sun is near setting, now to be blocked by a wall of black extending clear across the northern horizon, I quickly conclude that it’d be good to find shelter and get out of this impending storm. Ahh yes, over the next hill comes a corral with outbuildings, and a pickup camper on stilts. I stop to watch intently for a few minutes. Okay, nobody’s about, so over I go, just as the first quarter-size splats of rain arrive. Hey, hey, the camper door is unlocked, so in I go. Nobody’s been here for a very long time, except the field mice. They’ve had a field day. I move the dinette cushions to the upper cab-over bunk area, spread out my tent fly for a cloth, and unroll my sleeping bag. What a snug, dry place to be as the electric show begins and the wind-driven rain comes. Thank you again, Lord!

Wednesday–May 31, 2006
Trail Day—070
Trail Mile–15.1/1650
Location–Pierre, South Dakota

Been whittling on the miles for this day — for the past three days, so there’d be time to see the sights in Pierre. I get out and moving a little late due to the hanger-on rain, but still manage to enter the city a little past noon. I could see the capitol from across the river in ’04, but I never crossed over to see it, a decision I’d come to regret. I’ll close that loop today. But first, I’ve got to find a cobbler to try and get my worn out shoes repaired. No way after over 1,600 miles I’ll make it much further with them; the heels are completely gone.

I get direction from the kind folks at a little family-run auto repair. In fact, the kind lady calls the shop and I get to plead my case. I give the poor fellow my two-minute pitch. He tells me there isn’t much he can do with cross-trainers like I’m wearing. He really doesn’t want to fuss with me. But after I tell him how the wore down shoes are wrecking my feet, he relents, even offers to come and pick me up!

In minutes this little Maxima pulls to the curb. Behind that broad, familiar smile is Steve. I open the passenger door, and hanging onto it turn and hold my foot up for him to see. “Come on, get in; we’ll do something to straighten them out.” I’m in and we’re off to his little shop behind his mother’s. On the way, he tells me how he’s kept the business going after his father passed away, but that he has to work another full-time job in the log home business to make it.

Neat little shop. Lots of shoes and boots, other leather and canvas items on the floor and lining the shelves, all in one stage or another of repair. I take my shoes off, apologize for their smelly condition, and hand them to him. The machinery starts whirring and the rubber (what little’s left of it) hits the grinder. “Smells like car tires, doesn’t it? Same kind of rubber,” says Steve. In less than forty minutes my old clods are sporting brand new heels. Steve smiles again and hands them back to me. “Dad taught me pretty good, didn’t he!” he exclaims. The return ride downtown, and Steve has me back on the street. Thanks Steve. Oh yes, this is so much better; I’m walking straight again!

In ’04 a kind chap had stopped to greet me just below Oahe Dam. We talked for the longest time. Caleb runs an outdoor adventure business; canoeing, kayaking, guiding, skin/scuba diving, backpacking, and custom game processing. I promised to look him up if ever back this way. A few blocks down and I’m at Caleb’s place, Dakota Adventures/Steamboat. He’s in. Yup, that “high plains” grin as he sees and recognizes me. Another loop closed today!

The South Dakota Capitol building and complex is quite impressive.  The large, dark dome can be seen for miles, towering above the city, and the day is perfect for pictures. I take a bunch.

Early evening, I check into one of the mom-n-pop motels downtown.  Wow, what a fine day! The Corps is four days ahead of me; no way I can match their progress from here on downriver.

“we discovered the first Signs of the wild turkey…My friend Capt Lewis hurt himself very much by takeing a longer walk on the Sand bar…than he had Strength to undergo, which Caused him to remain very unwell all night.” [Clark, below present-day Pierre, Grand Detour (Big Bend), August 27th 1806]

Thursday–June 1, 2006
Trail Day—071
Trail Mile–24.8/1675
Location–Pit Stop, past De Grey, South Dakota

Take my sweet time this morning, working my journal entries, sending a few emails. First stop out (at 10:30!) is Country Kitchen for breakfast. On the way, Steve, the kind fellow who repaired my shoes yesterday, is passing. He stops. More upbeat conversation as he again wishes me safe passage on to St. Louis.

Out of Pierre, and near the river/reservoir, there’s a wide bike path leading east beside the road. I take it as the morning traffic is quite heavy. I’m relying on reaching a little watering hole for supper, some twenty-five miles out, called the Pit Stop. So for snacks today, I’m carrying a piece of my breakfast toast, two little serving tubs of peanut butter and jelly plus a package of M&Ms.

Great hiking day. Bright, billowing clouds tuft the sky, with only a slight breeze from the south. Here below Oahe, in its tail waters, the river resembles a river once more, but for only a short distance until it begins forming the headwaters of Lake Francis Case. The river won’t truly “run” until I reach Sioux City.

Used to think that eighteen-wheelers rolled a lot of rubber. But today I see the granddaddy of them all, two double bottom side-dump gravel haulers. Each trailer has triple duels front and back. That’s forty-eight wheels hittin’ the road. Add the ten for the semi tractor and it totals fifty-eight! Oh yes, these fellows are rumblin’ when they pass, especially when fully loaded. But as with almost every big rig driver, they’re most courteous, giving me all the road they can when they go blowing by.

Doesn’t take long, as usual, for the reservoir and the road to part company. The river turns, meandering away, and the road climbs back up on the wide-open prairie. Here I stay the remainder of the day.

By a little after seven the miles for today are racked. Up a long pull from a deep cut in the prairie floor, and rolling the prairie once more, I can see the little oasis that is Pit Stop. A short gravel drive leads me there, where upon entering, I’m greeted by Patty.

I’m hot, tired, dry, and hungry.  This has got to be it for today.  Hope I’ll be able to pitch nearby.
Friday–June 2, 2006
Trail Day—072
Trail Mile–36.1/1711
Location–Fort Thompson, South Dakota

Great evening last, at Pit Stop, a delightful little oasis on the high, open prairie. Had a great burger and fries, lots of iced down Pepsi, and a couple tall ones.

After chatting with hostess/waitress/cook, Patty, and locals Kenny, Danny, Fred, and Steve, Patty offered me a perfect spot to pitch behind the store, flat, nicely mowed, and sheltered should the wind come up. Had my camp set and was in at dusk. Thanks, Patty, and all friends at Pit Stop.

Another fine hiking day in the making as I head on down the long, open road. I can easily see where I’ll be two hours from now. Soon I’m on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, and as has always been the case while hiking Indian lands, folks begin stopping to offer me a ride, or to check that I’m okay. From here to anywhere yonder, it’s one heck of a long ways out here, and the folks who stop all end up in the most remarkable puzzlement when I kindly decline their offer to get in and ride.

The day has really heated up, and by the time I reach Mac’s Corner, a gas/convenience stop some twenty-three miles out, I’m out of water and suffering a powerful thirst. Putting the quick-chug on a couple cold Pepsi Cola solves that problem.

While relaxing and listening to the farmer’s pleading for rain, I’m also calculating the time it’ll take to hike it on down to Fort Thompson today. It’s four-thirty and with only twelve more miles to go, I can easily be at the casino/restaurant/motel complex before dark.

By hiking on today though, I be creating a real problem with my mail drop in Chamberlain. No way can I be in there before noon tomorrow, and I don’t want a lay over till Monday. Solution: I hit the pay phone and call the post office in Chamberlain, then send an email to Bobbie, owner, Lake Shore Motel in Chamberlain. Hey, it’ll work! Bobbie has offered and she’ll be allowed to pick up my bounce box and other mail tomorrow morning. Wow, have I ever cranked out the miles today. Same old hot, tired, dry, and hungry. Lucky me, the Lode Star Casino Restaurant still have the grill hot at 9:00, and soon comes a fine steak and baked potato! Renita and Wally agree I qualify for a very special rate at their five-star motel. Oh yes, I’m in for the night.

Saturday–June 3, 2006
Trail Day—073
Trail Mile–22.3/1733
Location–Chamberlain, South Dakota

The day begins nicely as I manage to get out and hiking by 7:30. But the “breeze” is becoming a nuisance already by nine.

Many fine vantages down onto Lake Francis Case. This reservoir like all the others along the chain is low, perhaps as much as twenty-five feet. The old snags, from trees left standing when the land was flooded, can be seen along both shorelines. Fishing must be good though as there’s been a steady stream of fishermen, boats in tow, flying by the past two days.

As the day heats up, and as the road again leaves the river to climb to the high, open prairie, the “breeze” really starts kickin’, straight out of the south. Oh yes, I’m hiking south. I’d figured arriving Chamberlain by 2:30, but it’s closer to 4:00 by the time I’m in town at the quick stop chugging my first Pepsi.

It’s been an average hiking day, but I’m totally pooped out — and oh-so-glad to reach Lake Shore Motel. Bobbi has my drop box and other mail for me. She checks me in. I head to my room and collapse. This day’s a wrap.

Sunday–June 4, 2006
Trail Day—074
Trail Mile–27.2/1760
Location–Bijou Hills, South Dakota

Lights out, finally, at one this morning.  Spent much time sorting my bounce box and packages from home, counting out my meds, glucosamine/chondroitin, coated aspirin, regular aspirin, and multi-vitamins. New maps in pack for this next section. Old maps to send home. Camera memory card switch, full one out, blank one in. I’ll not need my fleece jacket or mittens any longer, so they go in the “send home” package. These mail drops work well at intervals of about every 14-20 days. This particular one, the fourth for this journey, is the next to last one this go-around.

First stop this morning, back to the motel office to see Bobbi. She’s graciously agreed to take my bounce box and other packages to the post office tomorrow, thus saving me hanging around another whole day. Thanks, Bobbi, for your kindness and help. I’ve had a great stay here in Chamberlain.

I’ve managed to hold onto many of the personal/business cards given me during the ’04 outbound. One’s from an old beekeeper named Albert. Albert lives down by Bijou Hills, north of Platte, where I’ll be passing today. As luck would have it, I was able to reach Albert yesterday evening. So, sometime today he’ll come out and try tracking me down. We’ll share some good times if he does. Oh, and hopefully, he’ll have time to take me up to a remote, picturesque spot visited in ’04, a place he owns on the Missouri called Twin Buttes. The buttes are situated in such a way as to create a deeply sheltered cove/valley, open only to the river. He drove me up through his pastures and fields and along the ridge to this special place. That day and that place have remained vivid in my memory.

I’ve made the climb up and out of Chamberlain, back onto the rolling high plains, from here to cross over I-90, then to zig and zag my way along. I’m headed now for the Bijou Hills, which stand on the far-distant, hazy horizon.

These past few days I’ve been thinking about my dear friends, Honey and Bear, kind folks who run “The Cabin,” a hiker hostel by the Appalachian Trail in Maine. During two of my past three treks, and way out here away from their home, they came to search and find me. While on my outbound Lewis and Clark trek, they tracked me down early June a little south of here. A few weeks ago I sent them a postcard with the taunting little message, “Can you come out and play?” And so, these past few days I’ve had this persistent thought that they’re on their way. It’s so occupied my mind that I’ve begun looking back over my shoulder toward each approaching vehicle. Oh my, and yes you’ve guessed it! A little after two today, and as I’m clickety-clacking merrily along, pulls along this camper-totin’ red pickup.  I stop, turn, and then gape in total disbelief as Bear greets me with, “We’ve come out to play!” Unbelievable; they’ve managed to find me again, out here in the middle of nowhere. Good thing there’s no traffic, for here we stand, HoneyBear, and the old Nomad, hugging, in the middle of the road. After many minutes of joyful chatter, plans are made for them to find a nearby campground while I trek a few more miles.

By seven, and nearing 265 St. comes out the dirt road an old familiar pickup. It’s Albert! Ah yes, the old sweat-stained slouch hat and a squint-of-a-smile — dang, Albert, it’s good to see you again! What an incredible day this is turning to be.

Well, the sun doesn’t set out here until after nine now, and we talk as to how there’d be time to make the run up to Twin Buttes. Plans are made for Albert to come at eight to the Union Cemetery a short distance up the road. By then, Honey and Bear will have come back for me — and we’ll all go up to Twin Buttes together. And so, it all works so very well. We are able to share a magic time at Twin Buttes, from that grand, high vantage above the plains, to watch in silence as the sun sets across the mighty Missouri.

“from this eminance I had a view of a greater number of buffalow than I had ever Seen before at one time. I must have Seen near 20,000 of those animals feeding on the plain…” [Clark, below White River near Bijou Hills, August 29th 1806]

Monday–June 5, 2006
Trail Day—075
Trail Mile–26.4/1786
Location–Platte, South Dakota

Honey and Bear found a great campground yesterday called Snake Creek, on the Lake, right down from Bijou Hills. By the time we bid farewell to Albert, and got back down from Twin Buttes, and to the campground, it was past dusk. I’m on a Pepsi binge again, so had no difficulty chugging the two twenties picked up at the camp store. No problem with all the caffeine either. For as soon as my bedroll was out, I was out.

We rise to a blustery morning but there’s no rain. Coffee’s on at the camper, plus breakfast. I’m being well cared for. By eight-thirty, we’re back to Union Cemetery. Plans are for me to hike it on in to Platte while Honey and Bear look for a campground a little further along. By noon, they’re back to check on me, to feed me, get me hydrated and back on the road.

Nothing exciting about pounding long mile straight stretches interrupted only by ninety degree turns. The last one for the day leads me the ten miles on a beeline to Platte. Hot, hot, and much traffic. Honey and Bear are waiting for me when I arrive at Shorty’s, a bar/restaurant right downtown. For supper, I’m treated to a steak dinner, followed by a specially prepared cake iced down with “Lewis and Clark, Happy Hiking.”

The decision is to spend another night at Snake Creek, and we’re back there before dark. Then to share a memorable time under the stars before calling it a day.

Tuesday–June 6, 2006
Trail Day—076
Trail Mile–16.5/1803
Location–Geddes, South Dakota

Snake Creek Campground is a quiet, peaceful place. I slept very well.

Coffee’s on at the camper, so I head over. Along with the coffee, we finish off the rest of the celebration cake.

Back at Platte now, that dreaded, unavoidable time has come — saying good-bye. I try to control my emotions, but I always loose. More pictures, a group (Honey and) Bear hug, and it’s time to return to the road. In less than a moment, it seems, their camper is little more than a dot on the straightaway horizon. I put my head down and hammer as the funk begins. But this day I decide to fight it. With effort, I manage to raise my head, smile, and say my morning prayer.

I’ve a short hike today to Geddes and the Sportsman’s Inn. I’d stayed there in ’04, and it was a memorable time. Dan had just completed the restoration on one of the old two-story downtown buildings. The makeover included a grocery, restaurant, two bars and spacious guest rooms upstairs. Chuck and Pat now manage the whole operation. I had talked to Chuck the other day and made reservations for one of the rooms tonight.

Making the turn from the highway toward downtown, Ron happens to be passing and stops to chat. He wishes me well for the remainder of this odyssey, and promises to stop by the Sportsman’s for a cold one with me this evening.

At the bar now, Chuck checks me in, then prepares a great steak dinner, complete with homemade soup. Dan stops by along with many locals. A memorable time. Sure glad I made the effort — it’s been a great day!

On the return, through present-day southern South Dakota, the Corps again encountered the Sioux.  “I told those Indians [Teton Sioux] that they had been deef to our councils and ill treated us as we assended this river two years past, that they had abused all the whites who had visited them since.  I believed them to be bad people & Should not Suffer them to cross to the Side on which the party lay, and directed them to return with their band to their Camp, that if any of them come near our camp we Should kill them certainly…” [Clark, August 30th 1806]

Wednesday–June 7, 2006
Trail Day—077
Trail Mile–19.9/1823
Location–Pickstown, South Dakota

Another fine stay in Geddes. Neat little prairie town, kind people.

Restaurant’s open for breakfast at 6:30 and I’m right there. I sure miss my coffee the morning’s I’m in the woods. So, when there’s an opportunity, piping hot coffee in the morning is a special treat — and the bacon and eggs and potatoes and toast aren’t a bad deal either!

Another relatively short hike today, on down to Pickstown near the Nebraska border. Less open prairie now. More wheat, corn, and soybeans. Good soil, and rain in more abundance, which comes at noon. Since I’m nearing Lake Andes, I hurry it on to the quick stop. While the storm passes, there’s time for lunch and a few email replies. Towns are appearing more regularly now — first time to actually pass through one for lunch in awhile.

Two more hours and I’m closing on Pickstown, and another storm is rapidly closing on me. I hurry on to Ft. Randall Inn, where Julie takes certain pity on this old man by providing shelter from the storm.

Thursday–June 8, 2006
Trail Day—078
Trail Mile–27.7/1851
Location–Lynch, Nebraska

Sure lucked out with the rain yesterday. Dodged it okay, but it came to stay in the evening last, and it’s still at it this morning.

I’m up and moving by seven, over to Fort Randall Cafe. The place is wall-to-wall fishermen, all wondering what the day will bring weather-wise, what with the drizzle and a dark, looming wall to the west. The hike across Fort Randall Dam is close to three miles, but there’s no lightning and it’s calm. I head out without my raingear; dumb. Before I’m halfway across the rain comes hard, and I must stop and poncho up.

A fellow in Geddes told me about a shortcut for the first half of the hike today. It starts from a gravel road just below the far end of the dam. From my vantage now, near there, I see no gravel road. What I do see below are the ruins of a church next the old Fort Randall site, so I drop down the embankment and go for some pictures.

Hiking out the old fort entrance, I finally locate the road I want to take. It should lead me up the ridge, along a power line cut, and into Gross. Two miles into it, I’m having my doubts about where this road is taking me. Soon comes a pickup with trailer in tow. I flag the fellow down. Robert is a local rancher — and a Lewis and Clark buff. He assures me that I’m headed the right direction, then tells me about a historic site called the Pinnacle by the Corps, Old Baldy by the locals, located on the river on land he owns down by Lynch. This prominent feature is spoken about in Lewis’ journal.

The hike up and around back onto the prairie is most enjoyable. The pheasant have thinned out now, to be replaced by turkey and quail.

At ten-thirty, and without the least fanfare, I cross from South Dakota into Nebraska. How I know I’m at the line — the two states don’t line up right. The road from South Dakota runs slap into a corn field, the one from Nebraska, hay meadows. The misalignment is hooked together with a ninety from North Dakota, along the line for a couple hundred yards, then another ninety to bump up with the road from Nebraska. Six states down now, four to go.

By noon I’ve made good time and am nearing the little village of Gross, population, three! By the turn to town comes another pickup. “You lost?” asks the driver. I smile and assure him I’m not. Fellow’s name is Bill. He tells me about the Nebraska Inn in Gross. Oh yes, I head there!

By the time I reach the place, Bill and his hired hand have finished their lunch, but he lingers and we chat awhile. The lunch special is a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. And for dessert, cherry cheesecake. Ranchers are coming and going, but Mary, the hostess, waitress, and cook, has a heaping plate in front of me in no time. What a meal. And at the counter now I can’t pay. “Bill bought your lunch,” says Mary. “Said not to tell you till he left.”

Oh my, what a day this is turning to be. The rain has passed. There’s a breeze out of the east, but it isn’t a problem. By five, the gravel road and the miles for today are behind me. Down the hill and around a bend or two and I’m in Lynch. The bank’s open. Actually it’s closed, but the door’s open. Kind fellow inside answers my questions about the town, and then sends me down the street. “Go to the gas station and see LeRoy. He might have a room for you,” he says. So down to the gas station I go. Sure enough, after sizing me up, LeRoy tells me I can stay in the old hospital, now the Catholic Church hall/annex. It’s an old building, but well cared for. I’m given a neat little room off the hall, across from the kitchen and just down from the shower.

Talking Lewis and Clark now, LeRoy expresses disappointment that I didn’t hike it over to Old Baldy. “You really should see it,” he says. “Come on, I’ll run you back out there.” And so it is I get to see this remarkable land feature after all. Thanks, LeRoy, for taking time, for your kindness!

Back in downtown Lynch, LeRoy gives me the guided tour of the village, and then drops me off at the Sundowner, where I enjoy a fine supper.

Friday–June 9, 2006
Trail Day—079
Trail Mile–30.3/1881
Location–Past Niobrara, Nebraska, Santee Indian Reservation

A little before dark last, Marita stops by to interview me for the local weekly. Mary had called from Gross to tell her about my return journey. At the gas station yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to find LeRoy knew I was coming. Though not telling me how he’d found out, he did prepare me for the interview.

The old hospital was a quiet, peaceful place. I enjoyed a very restful night. Thanks, LeRoy, and all kind folks in Lynch.

This morning I’m up and over to the store/cafe/bait shop for breakfast. Tank topped off, I’m out and moving east to a beautiful morning. In a couple hours comes the little village of Monowi. And for sure it’s little — population, two! The old bar there, Elsie’s, is open. I stop for a pop, to sit with Elsie for the longest time as we enjoy a leisure chat. Come to find Elsie is a widow now. That cut the population of Monowi in half, to just one. Elsie quite proudly explains how she serves now as mayor, police chief, city manager, cemetery secretary, and librarian. Yes, the town of Monowi has a library, a gift from her husband. Oh, and at the bar, she’s the barmaid, cook, waitress — and bouncer! Sure had a fun time talking with you, Elsie. Thanks for opening the library.

After a few pictures, mostly of abandoned buildings, I’m out and hiking ever east. The highway returns to the river again for some panoramic views. Along here, SR12 is designated “Shannon Trail.” Shannon was the youngest member of the Corps, only nineteen, I believe. It was along this section of the river, and while hunting, he got lost and was reported missing for days. The account of his survival and subsequent return to the party is quite interesting. Historic markers and kiosks have been placed at intervals along where I’ve been hiking the past two days.

The highway also follows historic Ponca Creek, which finally empties into the Missouri. Up and over the next ridge which crowds the Missouri, I descend to the Niobrara River, and the town of Niobrara. I’d hoped to find a place to stay here this evening, but no luck. So I keep on trekking, to enter the Santee Indian Reservation. In five miles or so I pull up at the casino for supper, before hiking on a short distance to pitch in a sheltered draw beneath the trees.

“about two miles below the Quicurre [Niobrara], 9 Indians ran down the bank and beckoned to us to land, they appeared to be a war party, and I took them to be Tetons…as one Canoe was yet behind we landed in an open Commanding Situation out of Sight of the indians…about 15 minits after we had landed Several guns were fired by the indians, which we expected was at the three men behind…when I proceeded to the point about 250 yards I discovered the Canoe about 1 mile above and the indians where we had left them. I then walked on the Sand beech and the indians came down to meet me.  I gave them my hand and enquired of them what they were Shooting at, they informed me that they were Shooting off their guns ar an old Keg which we had thrown out of one of the Canoes…those Indians informed me they were Yanktons.” TClark, September 1st 1806]

Saturday–June 10, 2006
Trail Day—080
Trail Mile–22.6/1904
Location–Crofton, Nebraska

There were some spectacular thunderheads visible to the east last evening, and the forecast was for a drastic cooling down from the sweltering temperatures I’d endured during the afternoon — and for rain. The cooling down and the rain came along together shortly after I set camp. The rain continued throughout the night.

I linger in my tent until nearly eight this morning, waiting for the rain to stop. I finally break camp and head out into a drizzle, which gives it up around nine. The temperature drop during the night was dramatic, and this morning I’m again hiking along with my hands in my pockets.

The white line is the shoulder; thankfully, there’s little traffic. However, the “breeze” is back out of the east-southeast again at 15-25 per, gusting to 30, so it’s lean into it time again. In a couple hours, and as I’m popping along paying no mind, stops Karen Redowl. She’s the kind waitress who befriended me in the casino restaurant last night. She’s returning from Yankton and stops to give me a Snickers and an orange. Happy lady, happy family — thanks Karen!

By four, I’m in Crofton. I’d hoped to find a room here tonight, but alas, and again, no luck. Instead, I hit the local bars for a couple tall ones before heading to the city park men’s room, where it’s warm and there’s light to work my journal entries. No one’s been around, and I find the place so comfortable that I lock the door and retire for the night.

“I am happy to find that my worthy friend Capt L’s is so well as to walk about with ease to himself &c.” [Clark, September 3rd 1806]

Sunday–June 11, 2006
Trail Day—081
Trail Mile–35.4/1939
Location–Newcastle, Nebraska

Ha, good night’s sleep in the toilet — warm, comfortable, quiet!

The early klatch is waiting this Sunday morning for Wilmer to open the Wiebelhaus. We’re in and coffee’s ready by a little after seven. When I ask Wilmer about fixing me some breakfast, he shrugs, tells me his wife’s the cook and that she won’t be in until around eight. Then he frowns a little and says, “I’ll try, no promise on the eggs, though.” Hey Wilmer, the breakfast was great, thanks!

Down the main drag now, heading for the highway, passes this fellow; he flips a quick u’ey, comes back, pulls by and stops. “You’re a long distance hiker, got a purpose don’t you,” he asks. As I begin my little two-minute pitch, I reach through the passenger window, shake hands, and hand Kevin (local newspaper editor) one of my cards. He’s interested right away, wants a picture, and has some questions. Kevin gets his shot with me standing below one of the many Pvt. Shannon flags, which adorn most all the utility poles throughout town. Turning toward the highway now, I urge him to check my website, then email me if he still has unanswered questions.

It’s another iffy morning, very cool with fast, low-rolling clouds. A moderate mist keeps passing in waves. As the dampness descends, I resist stopping to don my poncho. This time I win, as the sludge moves on and the day turns mild.

For the longest time I’ve been looking forward to reaching Wynot again. That’s where I had such a grand time before, with the Colgate family. But alas, as I enquire of the barmaid at the Sandbox Saloon, she tells me they no longer live in Wynot.

I’d planned on spending the night in town, but after lunch — and the sad disappointment — and it not yet three, I decide to head back to the highway and beat down a bunch of the miles to Ponca, where I hope to find a room, take a bath, and get my feet up tomorrow.

This highway along is dangerous. There’s no shoulder; it drops straight off from the white line to ruts ending below in the ditch. So I walk the white line, not a really smart idea, what with the blind hills and curves — and the traffic. No Walkman radio today. I say my daily prayer again and keep hammering on, through Obert and Maskell, clear to Newcastle. Eleven-plus hours, and thirty-five miles later now I pull into Lyle’s place on the main drag in Newcastle. Lots of laughter and frivolity. Yup, just what the old Nomad needs to cheer him up. At the bar, all stools are filled left, all right, one empty in the middle. I move in, and am no more seated than the locals all around smile and greet me. Can’t buy my own here; thanks, fellas!

Tom’s been trying to close since before I showed up. Been here an hour now myself. More folks stop by; Tom’s having no luck.

He finally clears us out, and we’re down the street to the Copper Stop, a fine dining establishment. Great buffet. I’m full, content, and happy. This day has turned out just fine after all.

Saw a spot by the ball diamond earlier.  It’s dark as I pitch a little past the bleachers.

Monday–June 12, 2006
Trail Day—082
Trail Mile–11.2/1950
Location–Ponca, Nebraska

Lots of morning doves around the ball field. Their persistent cooing wakes me at six. A few more winks, then I break camp and head toward Ponca; hope to get in around eleven.

Another cool, clear day.  I’m wearing my long-sleeved Patagonia Capilene and still must hike hunched over for the first hour, hands in my pockets. More no-road-shoulder, white line (white knuckle) hiking; not fun — say my morning prayer first thing.

I’m glad to be back again to Traveler’s Rest. Fine motel. It isn’t new, but it has been and is being kept up — very clean and neat. Oh, and what’s really neat: The post office in Ponca is right across the street, plus all the other hiker needs are nearby, within a block or two. Oh yes, Ponca is a trail town lover’s delight.

It’s a blessing to find the towns closer together now, like today. And there are farms along at frequent intervals, both sides of the road.  Creeks — and trees.

Been looking with much anticipation the past couple of days, for my old friend, Erv. Hopefully, he’ll come riding up on his motorcycle. He lives (summertime) in Iowa, so his place isn’t all that far. He’d commented earlier that he might try tracking me down. There aren’t that many motorcycles on the road out here. So as each one approaches now, I look with much expectation — c’mon Erv, you can do it!

Tuesday–June 13, 2006
Trail Day 083
Trail Mile–31.1/1981
Location–Winnebago Indian Reservation, North of Winnebago, Nebraska

Ever since Lynch, my first full day in Nebraska, I’ve been trekking SR12. That was five days and over 125 miles ago. For nearly that distance, there’s been no road shoulder, just sloping ruts from the white line down to the ditch. Folks have run off the road constantly, creating a drop-off of up to half a foot in some places. There I’ve been each day, white-knuckle walking the white line, or the ruts. And so here this morning, heading back to the highway from Ponca, am I surprised and relieved to find a fully paved emergency lane. This sets me back a full path from harm’s way. Oh thank you, Lord!

The forecast for today is hot, so I start right out in my sleeveless shirt, slathered with sun block.

If you’ve been following my picture album this trek, you’ve enjoyed some pretty fine shots of breadbasket America. There’s been something of interest most every day. However, the past two days have been skimpy. But the lack of photos doesn’t correspond to a lack of scenery. To the contrary, I’ve just been preoccupied with the hiking conditions — and in a bit of a funk as a result. I’ll get back on track today, promise.

Earphones on. Music time. Not as much concentration needed for the traffic. Hey, getting some Omaha stations now. Get a minute, take your Rand(y)-dandy McNally Atlas out. Open it a few pages to the interstate grid page for the whole United States. Place your left index finger on Astoria/Portland and your right on Omaha. Covered some territory, eh! A month or so should do it for this trek, the entire round trip with the Corps, Wood River to the Pacific then back again to the wharf below Gateway Arch, St. Louis. Sure hope you’re enjoying this adventure as much as the old Nomad. A time-worn, cliché, but oh so true — it’s been “The Journey of a Lifetime.”

Ah, first picture of the day, a shot of a beautiful Nebraska farmstead. Oh, and here’s another; a good-sized dugout canoe, standing on end. Well, anyway, it’s there in that huge cottonwood, just waiting for someone to chop it out.

Folks along have warned me about being on the reservation at or after dusk. Apparently, since my passage through in ’04 there’s been an alarming increase in drug related crime. So, as dusk approaches and I pass the “Entering Winnebago Indian Reservation” sign, I wait for a break in the traffic to jump the tracks, across to a secluded grove of cottonwood where I stealth for the night.

“…at meridian we came too at Floyds Bluff below the Enterance of Floyds river and assended the hill, with Capt Lewis and Several men…” [Clark, September 4th 1806]

Wednesday–June 14, 2006
Trail Day—084
Trail Mile–36.5/2018
Location–North of Tekamah, Nebraska

I’m out early to a absolute blustery day. The wind (heard a weatherman actually use the word “wind” the other day) is ripping already. I’m trekking southeast; the wind, of course, is from the southeast — 25 per, gusting to 40.

Corn is king now. There’s been a gradual change from wheat to corn, from arid lands to watered lands. And with the trend now, away from petroleum-based fuels to bio, more and more acreage hereabout will be planted in corn. For the Indians, the Mandans, Hidatsas and Aricaras, corn served as their primary “fuel” source for centuries. Cache pits unearthed at Double Ditch and other village sites have been found packed with corn, maze as we know it, like the dainty, colorful ears we now use to create our traditional fall decorative scenes.

Compared to my last trek, which was aborted due to illness, this journey has been remarkably injury and pain free. What a true blessing; thank you, Lord; keep me going just a bit longer!

Well, I was squeaky clean when I departed Ponca, but it’s haul ’em to market time out here, and the hog and cattle trucks are running full tilt. All the truckers give me as much room as they can, as they always do, but even then, the aroma (and mist) that’s left as they pass has settled upon me. Ooowhee, am I turning ripe!

I reach Winnebago by eight this morning, to stop for breakfast, and to chat with two Indians working on renovating the Heritage building, site of their casino. As I answer questions and as they talk about their much wished-for “one of these days” down the Missouri canoe journey, the older one asks if I ever hear “the music.” I mention that I heard some Indian children singing the other day. “Oh no,” he says, “That’s not what I mean. You never see who is singing, nor, (as much as you might search) can you ever find who is singing.” “Ahh,” I exclaim, “I have often heard the music to which you refer. It’s a faint, far away melodic-yet-melancholy sound that drifts the air, across the peaks and the meadows — as if from another place, another time. We call that the Pipes of Pan.” We both smile, and then shake hands, and I depart.

South of Winnebago, the emergency lane goes away and the hog and cattle haulers double up. Heads up, old man!

Erv has come out to find me today, and he catches me just north of Decatur. I’d watched intently the past few days, as each motorcycle approached. And today, here he is! As Erv looks for a motel, I continue hiking — to within 3 miles of Tekamah, where he comes to fetch me. We share a great evening.

Thursday–June 15, 2006
Trail Day—085
Trail Mile–20.4/2038
Location–Blair, Nebraska

We’re out early, and in a hurry this morning. Erv drops me off right back at the spot where he’d whisked me away the evening last. He’s trying, and looks as if he’ll succeed in outrunning the oncoming electric storm, a solid wall of black to the northwest. I hurry to don my poncho, but still end up with a good soaking. In an hour, I’m back in Tekamah, and to Dick’s Western Store, where Floyd glues another pair of heels on my poor run down shoes. Two thousand miles on these poor puppies now; don’t know how much longer they’re going to last. Hopefully, we’ll both make it another 500 miles.

The storm has passed, driven by the wind, which is now howling from the east, southeast at 35, gusting to near 50. Often now, I must stop, crouch, and brace with my poles to keep from being literally carried away. I make a point to emphasize the “bless me with patience” part of my morning prayer yet again this day.

A number of times the past month or so, as I give my little two minute narrative in answer to questions folks have asked as to my purpose out here, have I been told about the “big fat guy” that’s walking from San Fran or L.A., to New York City. Apparently, he’s sought out and picked up all kinds of publicity. I hadn’t heard any of it myself, until today, when I hear on the news that his whole trek was pretty much a hoax. Turns out he took rides a whole lot more than he ever walked. “Aww, Jeez,” I’m thinking as I hear this “Just what I need. Now, everyone will begin questioning my veracity, as to hiking every day, and covering in excess of thirty miles many of these days.” Oh well, folks can think what they may. I can’t change that. All I can do is look folks in the eye when I’m asked, and tell them the truth — “Yes, I’ve walked it, every foot of it, from Fort Clatsop, to St. Louis. Truth has a way of winning out; I certainly know and believe that.

Yesterday, in Herman at DJ’s Redbird Bar, Donna Jean remembered me from ’04. And this evening, so too does Sandy at Main street bar and grill in Blair remember me. After a mouth-watering rack of smoked ribs at Sandy’s I’m out and heading ever south. There are trees everywhere now, and I’ve no problem finding a perfect spot sheltered from the wind where I pitch for the night.

“we met a tradeing boat of Mr. Ag. Choteaux of St. Louis bound to the River Jacque to trade with the Yanktons…we purchased a gallon of whiskey of this man and gave to each man of the party a dram which is the first Spiritous licquor which had been tasted by any of them Since the 4 of July 1805.” [Clark, September 6th 1806]

Friday–June 16, 2006
Trail Day—086
Trail Mile–25.9/2064
Location–Omaha, Nebraska

I’m up and out a little after seven. And oh yes, the wind’s also up and out a little after seven — trying to persuade me to turn and go the other way. Lord, I know these circumstances will soon change. But oh my, what would otherwise prove a very pleasant and easy hiking day; well — more patience, please; more patience.

The heat’s been turned way up and a mirage is dancing the tarmac ahead as I enter north Omaha. I make frequent stops to ice my tummy down, at the last jiffy to call Charlie and Linda, dear friends living here in Omaha. Charlie, you may recall, is the model railroad buff who’s building a scale model of the old MoPac Bagnell Branch Railroad in his basement. If you get a minute, click on “MoPac ’05” in the content bar and give a look. Quite remarkable

Charlie’s home. In fact, he’s taken half a day off from work anticipating my arrival. I’m near the heart of downtown Omaha now, where Charlie comes to fetch me. Twenty minutes and we’re back to his lovely suburban home, where I’m greeted by his wife, Linda, and son, Colin.

Though crusted with dirt, grime, and stock truck trailings, I’m restless to see the old railroad. Charlie had sent pictures, many of which now adorn the MoPac album. So, filled with anticipation, I’ve just got to see the layout right away. My-oh-my, their entire basement houses a work of art, so amazingly realistic, so true to scale.

Finally, after scrubbing the first layer off, and after dinner, Charlie stokes the old coal box, tops off the boiler tanks and we chug away, down the tracks on the most nostalgic journey back in time. What fun, and you bet — deep down, we’re all just kids at heart!

After a pleasant evening, relaxing in conversation with these dear friends, I retire to my room, here to work my journals, for all of twenty minutes — ZZZZZ…

Saturday–June 17, 2006
Trail Day—087
Trail Mile–18.3/2082
Location–Plattsmouth, Nebraska

This morning I wake to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Charlie likes his morning coffee — I’m right there to keep him company! Then he and Linda team up to prepare a tank-stoking breakfast. And so now, that time arrives again, more sad good-byes. Thanks Charlie, Linda, and son, Colin, for a memorable stay in Omaha! Charlie and Colin have me back downtown, and by one I’m again on my way.

Omaha’s skyline is quite impressive, so from a good vantage, I take a few pictures, one including the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters building where Charlie works.

The annual World Series of College Baseball is underway now at Rosenblatt Stadium in south Omaha, right by where I’m hiking — more correctly, by where I’m trying to hike. It’s slow going threading my way along the streets filled with throngs of fans.

A bit further south is Offutt Air Force Base. I pause a moment there too, for a few pictures of the avenue of flags gracing the main entrance. Hey, no hassle this trek!

The Platt River was one of the major landmarks passed by the Corps in 1804. Lewis made a five-hundred-word entry in his journal describing the Platte. Locals hereabout have their own description. They call it “the river that runs a mile wide and an inch deep.” Folks, along with their kids and dogs, are out frolicking in the middle, in ankle-deep water, hundreds of feet from either bank.

As I cross the Platte bridge, and just south, a car is parked by the shoulder. The family is crouched by the fence gazing intently into the trees next to one of the many oxbow lakes. Their youngest daughter takes her turn with the binoculars. I stop to see what’s got their attention. That’s when I see this huge nest — with an eagle content at her task of sitting!

A little after eight, and near dusk, I arrive downtown Plattsmouth, to duck into the little mom-n-pop restaurant (called Mom’s!), just as the thunder buster that’s driving quarter-sized splats of rain also arrives. Great timing. The sheets of wind-driven rain pass in waves as I sit comfortably, and dry, enjoying a heaping plate of hot roast beef. As the storm continues, I extend my dinner hour by ordering a grand slice of rhubarb pie! It’s dark by the time my supper’s downed, and the storm passes. But I have no problem pitching on the dry pavilion floor, in the little park high on the hill overlooking the village. There I lay out my bedroll and call it a day

“all being anxious to get to the River Platt to day they ply’d their orers very well, and we arived at our old encampment at White Catfish Camp.” [Clark, September 8th 1806]

Sunday–June 18, 2006
Trail Day—088
Trail Mile–26.0/2108
Location–Nebraska City, Nebraska

The sun shines into the pavilion — early and hot, causing me to roll, then rise. Mom’s is open on Sunday, at seven, believe it or not, and I’m right there for coffee, followed the full high-octane combo of biscuits, ham, eggs, and hash browns.

Today’s a hammer-it-out day, on the highway straightaway, all the way to Nebraska City. Lucky me, the gentle breeze has moved to my back, and there’s an oasis (quick stop) a ways down, and another (orchard stand) equally well placed. I ice my tummy at both to fight the heat and unusually high humidity.

Traffic’s running heavy, but a full emergency lane provides protection from the onslaught. To dull the incessant drone, I crank the choir music on my Walkman, and then listen to the Father’s Day sermon.

Monday–June 19, 2006
Trail Day—089
Trail Mile–26.6/2135
Location–Brownville, Nebraska

I’m up and going early this morning; lots to get done — plus miles to go before I rest. My bounce box, maps/meds, and camera memory care, all are waiting for me at the Nebraska City post office. Box and packages under arm, I head for Johnny’s Cafe less than a block away. I take a booth, and the kind waitress lets me spread everything out on the table. It takes an hour to sort all my stuff, and then get the boxes back to the post office.

When I passed through here on my outbound journey two years ago, the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trail & Visitor Center was still under construction and not yet open. Recently, and as far back as Omaha, folks have been telling me about the place. So, this morning, and before I begin my twenty-seven mile trek to Brownville, I head toward the bluff overlooking the wide Missouri — and the Lewis and Clark Center. Folks are right. The Center is nothing short of amazing. In partnership with the National Park Service, the MRB L&C Center Foundation, a non-profit Nebraska corporation, operates the Center. The 12,000 sq. ft. facility is located on 80 scenic acres of high ground overlooking the Missouri. Here are housed many Corps-related exhibits, both interpretive and interactive — even for kids! Of the over 300 natural discoveries made by the Corps, 178 were never-before seen plants, and 122 were unknown animals. All are here in one form or another for me to see and to marvel. And outside stands the most authentic, full-size replica of the 55 ft. keelboat that I’ve seen. What a joy experiencing all of this, coupled with the pleasure of meeting and talking with Cheryl Hunt, Office Manager for the foundation.

The hike today, finally, is a full day spent beside the river, along the old Steamboat Trace Railtrail. What a pleasant jolt away from the daily highway grind — hiking the secluded trail that hugs the bluff for over 25 miles, from Nebraska City to Brownville. A cool, quiet, calm day, indeed a welcome change.

It’s dusk as I enter Brownville.  After pizza and a cold one at TJ’s I head down to the City Park and pitch.

“our party appears extreamly anxious to get on, and every day appears produce new anxieties in them to get to their Country and friends.  My worthy friend Cap Lewis has entirely recovered  his wounds are heeled up and he Can walk and even run nearly as well as ever he Could.” [Clark, September 9th 1806]

Tuesday–June 20, 2006
Trail Day—090
Trail Mile–27.3/2162
Location–Falls City, Nebraska

A single day without the rock-hard highway, without the racket, fumes and confusion, a day without the relentless wind, just one day without this continual grind and I’m completely spoiled. I’ve grown tired and weary. The long, hammer ’em out days this trek, with scant few exceptions, have been grueling, days of trial by wind, days constantly stacked against me.

Yes, I’ve grown tired and weary, ready for some other kind of trail. Tomorrow, thankfully, I’ll put Nebraska behind me. After thirteen days and 340 miles, Nebraska will be in my rear-view. Should I ever return here, it will not be with trekking poles.

As I shoulder my pack, the day shoulders the wind. 30-45 per, out of the south. I’m hiking south. Today, just today, Lord. With your help I can do one — more — day.

Wednesday–June 21, 2006
Trail Day—091
Trail Mile–30.7/2193
Location–South of Iowa Point, Kansas

I’m anxious to get going this morning. No breakfast, not even coffee — just out and go. I’ll stop for lunch and a Pepsi in Rulo. Why so anxious? Well, today my road leads to Kansas. Also, it’s 56 miles to Atchison, and I want to be there tomorrow evening. So today I’ll shoot for a thirty-plus, to end the day somewhere around Iowa Point, a dot on the map and the road.

Late morning I’ve done the ten to Rulo. Here’s a little store/cafe/bar, called Rulo’s Only Stop, so I’m in luck for lunch, my Pepsi fix, and supper to go. By two, I’m standing on the 40th meridian, by a marker on the bluff high above the Missouri floodplain. This spot, established in the early 1800s, fixes the point from which Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and much of Colorado were surveyed. Here is also the line between Nebraska and Kansas. Whee, Nebraska’s behind me — and hopefully, too, the wretched wind!

Today I also cross the last of the Indian reservation, the Sac, Fox, and Iowa. Not that I’m happy or relieved; rather, just another goal met. For, as was the case during the outbound L&C journey, I have been treated with utmost kindness while trekking their lands, each the various Indian tribes.

The day begins cool and cloudy, but by mid-afternoon the tarmac starts cooking. And why not, it’s officially the first day of summer! Fortunately (or unfortunately), with this heat also come the predictable afternoon/evening thunderstorms. Right now the sky is clear, but the air is heavy, and the day has turned uncommonly calm — both sure signs of the impending onslaught.

Reaching the thirty-mile point, I begin looking for a place to pitch for the night. I’d really prefer a sheltered spot, and as luck would have it, just at dusk, and with the far-off, audible rumble of thunder, comes this old barn, up the meadow and back a ways. I head there. Ahh, this is perfect. A sound roof; and the kind farmer has scattered bales of straw all about the dirt floor. I set my tent up right in the middle.

Everything arranged for the night, and as I bite into the last piece of fried chicken, the supper packed at Rulo’s Only Stop, the storm arrives. The light and sound show is “Circle Theatre.” I’m out long before intermission.

Thursday–June 22, 2006
Trail Day—092
Trail Mile–24.7/2218
Location–Atchison, Kansas

The storm passed during the night, leaving a cool but cloudy morning. I’m on the road to Atchison by seven. Miles of no shoulder again, but the traffic is both light and most considerate. So, and where usually a problem, the blind hill top-outs aren’t as scary. In places today, the road has been widened and improved — or moved. At an intersection, neither marked nor on my map, and as I stand in a quandary, stops this bright yellow state highway truck. A smile from the driver, and proper directions, I’m quickly on my way again.

I hadn’t really planned on going into Troy, even though it’s listed as an overnight. Last minute though, and looking down the muddy two-mile shortcut, I decide to continue on to Troy. Time for breakfast, and another Pepsi fix.

It’s early afternoon before I’m hiking again — in the rain.  But no griping, for the day is cool and most pleasant (say no wind).

The road today roller coasters the hills near the river, the countryside about lush with fields of head-tall corn. Recent rains have greened everything, especially the corn stalks. This is corn research territory. Sure seems they’ve picked the right place for experimenting. I’ve never seen so many different varieties of corn, all remarkably green and healthy.

A perfect hiking day — cool, no wind, a little rain, poncho on and off but twice. By four, the sky goes blue, the road steam comes up — but I’m in Atchison.

For the past number of days, and on September 12th, the Corps (only thirteen days out of St. Louis) met other river travelers almost daily.

“Met Mr. McClellin at St. Michl. Prarie [near St. Joseph] we found Mr. Jo. Gravelin [a former U.S. Army scout] the Ricaras enterpreter whome we had Sent down with a Ricaras Chief in the Spring of 1805 and old Mr. Durion the Sieux enterpreter…he was instructed to teach the Ricaras agriculture and make every enquirey after Capt Lewis and my self and the party.”

Friday–June 23, 2006
Trail Day—093
Trail Mile–27.8/2246
Location–East of Platte City, Missouri

I’m out at seven to what will turn out to be “get lost” day. Right from the get-go I head down the wrong highway, ’til I notice the sun isn’t in the right place. It’s supposed to be east of me, but this morning it’s seems to be coming up from the north. This mistake only cost two blocks. Next, after crossing the bridge into Missouri I need to hang a right and follow the river down River Road. Seems simple enough, but I walk right past the turn to wander along another quarter mile before realizing that error. Then, finally, on River Road I turn east way too soon on a road going entirely the wrong direction. Another half-mile round trip brings me back.

These mistakes, however, do not dampen my good spirit nor deter my positive outlook for the day, not in the least. I’m happy and thankful getting another state behind me, this one, Kansas. That’s eight down now: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Two to go: Missouri and Illinois.

Also today, I am much excited about seeing the “captain” of my support team for the first time in over three months. Yes, Joyce is coming out to be with me and to provide direct support for the next five days. I know we’ll have a great time together.

So, even with all the backtracking, I manage to keep my cool — and hoof out over 27 miles in nine hours and change, to reach Platte City a little after four.

All in all, it’s been a joyful day for sure. On the river here, the Corps enjoyed a grand day too!

“we met three large boats bound to the Yanktons and Mahars the property of Mr. Lacroy, Mr. Aiten & Mr. Coutau all from St. Louis those young men received us with great friendship and pressed on us Some whisky for our men, Bisquet, Pork and Onions, & part of their Stores…our party received a dram and Sung Songs untill 11 oClock at night in the greatest harmoney.” [Clark, September 14th 1806]

Saturday–June 24, 2006
Trail Day—094
Trail Mile–30.4/2276
Location–Excelsior Springs, Missouri

The Corps of Discovery, as they broke camp near here on September 15th 1806, were only eight days travel from St. Louis. As I consider the minor setbacks of getting lost yesterday, those short delays pale in comparison to the challenges and hardships suffered by the Corps during their return journey. I mostly skipped the snows of the Bitterroots and the Continental Divide, saving much time and difficulty. And I didn’t have to shoot buffalo for supper or make my shoes. The Corps had to dodge the grizzlies and hostile Indians. All I’ve had to dodge are the eighteen-wheelers. Certainly, I’ve had to deal with little in comparison, for the highways and byways are bringing me swiftly home.

This is the third time I’ve had to negotiate Kansas City. During my transcontinental trek of ’02 (which you can read about here at nimblewillnomad.com), I trudged straight through, generally following the route of the Santa Fe Trail. During the 200th anniversary, the Lewis and Clark NHT outbound journey, I cut through north of the metro area. Both of those routes, I thought, were less than ideal — until following the route taken today, that is. I figured that by staying even further north, by crossing the river at Atchison, then hiking east, I might enjoy a less hectic time of it — wrong! For, this trek today, by way of SR92, is proving to be the single-most nerve-wracking day of this entire hike. The perfect nightmare mix: narrow road, crushing traffic flying, a hundred blind hill top-outs, and no shoulder. A combination making for dangerous, no-fun hiking, and it continues the entire day. For sure, it’s beautiful countryside hereabouts, rural estates, gentlemen farms, fences, horses, and rolling hills with green wooded slopes and lush meadows. But I’ll not recall much if any of it.

By three-thirty, I’ve managed Kearney, just as the wind comes up hard, driving curtains of rain. I don my poncho, lower my head and hammer — as the onslaught continues and the traffic hoses me down. I decide to stay with it and put this killer highway behind me today. The road to Excelsior Springs is long and grueling, the traffic unrelenting. I reach the outskirts of the city, and the end of SR92, by six. I can certainly recall better days on the trail.

“passed the enterance of the Kanzas river which was very low, about a mile below we landed and Capt Lewis and my Self assended a hill which appeared to have a Commanding Situation for a fort, the Shore is bold and rocky imediately at the foot of the hill, from the top of the hill you have a perfect Command of the river, this hill [metro/downtown Kansas City] fronts the Kanzas and has a view of the Missouri a Short distance above the river.” [Clark, September 15th 1806]

Sunday–June 25, 2006
Trail Day 095
Trail Mile–26.3/2303
Location–Lexington, Missouri

This is going to be a beautiful hiking day, cool, the least breeze to my back. It’s amazing how conditions can change so from one day to the next. Yesterday, rain, crushing traffic, no-shoulder highway. Today, wide open highway, tolerable traffic, and a fully paved emergency lane.

I’m past Kansas City now, in the beautiful, rural Missouri countryside, lush with fruit trees commented about by Clark. After passing the Kansas River on September 15th 1806, the Corps “landed one time only to let the men geather Pappaws or the Custard apple which this Country abounds, and the men are very fond of.” They set camp for the night near Little Blue River.

Monday–June 26, 2006
Trail Day 096
Trail Mile–20.2/2323
Location–Waverly, Missouri

A new bridge has been built across the Missouri near Lexington, but the road approach from the north side is not yet completed, so access to the bridge follows seldom-used county roads, winding around to the new location. It takes an extra hour of hiking in order to reach the new bridge. Once across, my support team captain was there and waiting, a blessing. I was tired and weary and would have been stuck in the woods for the night — very happy to be lifted away to town.

Today is shaping to be another fine hiking day, cool, little traffic, and not so many miles. The highway winds the countryside, up, around, and through little villages along. By early afternoon I’m in Waverly.

This will be the third time I’ve hiked the state of Missouri. Since I’ve already hiked both sides of the Missouri through here, where I’m hiking today is familiar ground. South of the river exist the remnants of the old Santa Fe Trail. During the mid 1800s it carried settlers and early commercial traffic west from Franklin. I’ll pass there on the Katy Trail in a few more days.

“at 11 A.M. we met a Captain McClellin late a Capt. of Artilry of the U States Army assending in a large boat.  this gentleman an acquaintance of my friend Capt. Lewis was Somewhat astonished to See us return and appeared rejoiced to meet us.  we found him a man of information and from whome we received a partial account of the political State of our Country, we were makeing enquires and exchangeing answers &c. until near mid night.  this Gentleman informed us that we had been long Since given out by the people of the U S Generaly and almost forgotton, the President of the U. States had yet hopes of us…” [Clark, September 17th 1806]

Tuesday–June 27, 2006
Trail Day—097
Trail Mile–19.2/2342
Location–Marshall, Missouri

Another grand hiking day, cool and clear. I’m out and heading ever east-southeast by a little after eight. There’s much commercial traffic here on US24, but a fully paved shoulder sets me back from harm’s way.

Corn and soybean fields grace the highway both sides this entire day, with plentiful rain to green and grow the crops. The corn is tassling out and stands “as high as an elephant’s eye.” There’s a new ethanol plant near Grand Pass, and all the stations along have signs advertising E-85 fuel (85% ethanol).

By two I make the turn into Marshall and this short hiking day is complete. Two or three more days and I’ll arrive North Jefferson where I’ll interrupt this journey until September. That way my finish date will correspond with the 200th anniversary of the Corps’ return to St. Louis — September 23rd 1806.

Wednesday–June 28, 2006
Trail Day—098
Trail Mile–29.7/2372
Location–North of Boonesboro, Missouri

I just absolutely love towns like Marshall. Little mom-n-pop cafes, and old, but well-maintained motels, like Gene’s Clean Motel (a vintage WWII Willys Jeep parked out front), owned and managed of course by — Charlie!

I’ve got to do a little zig-zagging today in order to cross the Missouri River at Glasgow. From Marshall the highway runs due north for over six miles to the village of Slater before turning east again. I’m in Slater by lunchtime — to have lunch at the local gas station/cafe.

The day is really heating up, the blazing sun cooking as I cross the flood-plane bottom, and from here, the old box-frame bridge to Glasgow. Sure happy for the modern conveniences of sun block and sunglasses

South of Glasgow and on SR87 now, I’m entering Daniel Boone country. Daniel sure left his mark hereabouts. Most near every geographical feature honors this famous frontiersman; landmarks such as Boonesboro, Boone’s Lick, Booneville, Boone County. Daniel was alive and well when the Corps passed by here in 1804 and again in 1806. But nowhere, in any accounting, journals or otherwise, is there any mention of Lewis and Clark ever meeting Daniel Boone. Indeed, the Corps stayed the river, making record miles (in excess of 70 miles certain days) on their return through these parts.

Today it’s heads-up hiking as the countryside rolls, the road rolling with it, sharp turns and blind top-outs, one after the other, but locals seem used to surprises at every turn and top, and give me space as I hug the narrow, banked-off shoulder. The sun is setting and travelers have turned their headlights on as I top another hill, here to find a delightfully manicured spot among the locust trees. I no more get pitched, to roll in, than the wind comes up, driving torrential, sideways rain. I must hold down my trekking sticks/tent poles to keep the little Nomad tent from being lifted and carried away. To my great relief, the storm passes just as quickly as it arrived, to leave the night calm, clear, and cool.

“our party entirely out of provisions subsisting on poppaws, we divide the buiskit which amounted to nearly one buiskit per man, this in addition to the poppaws is to last us down to the Settlement’s which is 150 miles   the party appear perfectly contented and tell us that they can live very well on the pappaws.  we made 52 miles to day only.  one of our party J. Potts complains very much of one of his eyes which is burnt by the Sun.  Shannon also complains of his face & eyes &c.” [Clark, September 18th 1806]

Thursday–June 29, 2006
Trail Day—099
Trail Mile–36.9/2409
Location–Katy Trail, McBaine, Missouri

As I break camp at seven, to head on south toward the Katy Trail, I cogitate as to how these last days on to Jefferson City might play out. As I figure, it’s 15 miles to the bridge at Boonville, there, Old Franklin, the beginning of the historic Santa Fe Trail, and the crossing of the Katy Trail. From Old Franklin to Jeff it’s another 50 miles. It’d be an easy three day hike for sure. But the Katy is straight, level, easy going. So covering the remaining 65+- to Jeff in two days is certainly a possibility. Decision time, decision time…”Aww Jeez (old man), why not just see how it goes today!”

Well hey, the 15 to Old Franklin, (and a short stop at Snoddy’s Store on US40) is behind me by noon, and I’m hiking east on the shaded and quiet old rail-trail well before one. So, by now I’m set to thinking: “Looks like it’s hit ‘er and go time; let’s try for two days to Jeff!”

From here, and on to St. Charles, this will be the most pleasant segment of the whole journey — shaded, secluded hiking along the river and beside tall, cool bluffs.

I’m through the railroad tunnel and into Rocheport by five. Here there’s a bike rental/cafe, trailside. So, I break for supper, to promptly drain their pop fountain in the process. Seems I’m constantly dehydrated now. However, the condition poses the least problem, has little effect or consequence. I just keep tanking up and am good to go again, another blessing for sure. Thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done (and continue to do) in keeping me in Your Grace, strong, healthy, enduring — ninety-nine straight days on the road, over 2,400 miles. Yes, thank you Lord; thank you!

The cool of the evening sets in as I trek along beside the mighty river, all the way to McBaine, a little village right by the trail. Here, a stone’s throw to the south, I find Lucky Lucy’s Bar and Grill. It’s dusk as I turn for there, to be greeted by Lucy and many locals hanging out. All welcome me with much good cheer. When they find that I’m hiking, not biking, and what my adventure is about, we share a delightful evening of conversation. I’m permitted to use Lucy’s phone — then to pitch for the night in her quaint little beer garden off the side door. What an amazing day; oh yes, I’ll be in Jeff tomorrow evening!

Friday–June 30, 2006
Trail Day—100
Trail Mile–26.5/2436
Location–Katy Trail, North Jefferson, Missouri

The long distance covered yesterday, the hours on the trail (over 36 miles, 15 hours in all), that the day passed surprisingly fast, that it turned most enjoyable, are no doubt due to the strange intertwining of Father Time and old age, much as that perplexing and unexplainable relationship continues to baffle man — and to play out in this old codger’s life.

Lucky Lucy has her unusually quaint little place open by seven. I’m right there for breakfast, along with the local, longstanding klatch. Lucy told me all about her place last night, what makes it so unusual (and for that matter, quaint). It’s the way the building and the fixtures are put together. The entire structure, including the inside walls — and the bar itself — are constructed of concrete block. Yes, that’s right, the bar is a thick stack of mortar and concrete block! “All we have to do now” said Lucy, “when the place floods clear to the second floor, is replace the ceiling and clean up the mess. We can get everything out of here and to high ground with only a few hours notice. And the bar stays put now.” A wide, smug smile from Lucy. Oh yes, she’s Lucky Lucy alright; but sure looks to me like she’s more than made her own luck! Neat place Lucy. I’ve had fun; it’s been a memorable stay in your little (at times UNDER the wide Missouri) village of McBaine.

This is not the final day for this journey, but it’s the last in a long and uninterrupted string of days hiked this time out. I’ve less than 27 on to North Jefferson now, not a long day, so I should arrive around five-ish; sure looking forward to that moment. The Nomad Support Crew, its team captain, Joyce, will be there to fetch me away for a welcome break, a much-needed time of rest. I had also hoped to be greeted by my Webmaster, Linda, this evening. She had planned to come to North Jefferson too. She’s worked so hard, and served so diligently, in keeping current our ’06 Odyssey page, at http://www.nimblewillnomad.com; what a blessing. It’s sure been a fulltime job for her, what with all the journal entries to post, and the picture album pages to construct. But alas, due to urgent matters she’ll be unable to make it, to share in the joy of this day. So, I want to say now, “Thanks, Linda, thanks for your generosity and kindness, for all your time and help; and thanks, especially, for your friendship.” My prayers are with you, with your husband, Fred — your precious health — I pray that you both be completely and fully restored to health, and that you be made whole again.

I’m not away from Lucky Lucy’s till nearly eight-thirty, and if I’m going to do the miles to North Jefferson by five, then I’ve got to move along. Hiking the Katy is pretty much a straight shot today. By eleven I’m in Easley and Cooper’s Landing. The river snakes back and forth across the wide floodplain, from bluff to bluff, and here at Easley it’s hard against the east side. I stop for a Pepsi. While resting a moment, I meet Jeff, another old codger, my age. He’s from New Zealand, bicycling the U.S. We share stories — and talk “wanderlust.”

I’m really behind now, and must set to hauling. The bluff wall has opened, more bottomland, and the river has crossed back to the other side. Little shade makes for hot, hot; I chug the water. A little before five I hear the roar of traffic from busy US63. Shortly comes Joyce “up” the Katy to intercept me. It’s a grand moment. Another remarkable accomplishment (in His Grace) granted this old man. By five-thirty we’re in North Jefferson, loaded up — and gone.

“we arived at the enterance of Osage River at dark and encamped on the Spot we had encamped on the 1st & 2nd of June 1804 haveing came 72 miles. a very singular disorder is takeing place amongst our party that of Sore eyes.  three of the party have their eyes inflamed and Sweled…” [Clark, September 19th 1806]

Wednesday–September 13, 2006
Trail Day–101
Trail Mile–22.0/2458
Location–Katy Trail, Steedman, Missouri

After over two months of waiting off-trail for the Corps to catch up, I’m finally back on the Katy Trail today around noon, heading east. My destination is the wharf below Gateway Arch in St. Louis, near where the Corps departed over 200 years ago, and where it all ended September 23rd 1806. And I will be there (Good Lord willin’) September 23rd 2006. There will I end this remarkable roundtrip adventure, a journey of some 230 days, nearly 6,000 miles.

The day is calm and mild, just the least breeze, with temperatures in the high seventies. An absolutely perfect day for hiking. I seem to remember long stretches of open trail with no shade through this section of the Katy, between Jefferson City and St. Louis, but the trail is mostly a green tunnel, trees shading both sides and above.

The view from across the river here presents a close horizon dominated by the beautiful Missouri Capitol, sitting atop a high dolomite bluff, directly above the mighty Missouri. It is a stunning most remarkable site to behold, and I try for a few pictures through breaks in the foliage.

In the little village of Tebbetts I stop in to see my friends, Lloyd and Mary Ann Smart, at Smart Brothers Farms. Lloyd is in the field today, as the corn is ripe and time has come for harvest. Trucks arrive continually to be weighed and to unload at the elevator. I’m disappointed not to see Lloyd this time through, but it’s my good fortune to arrive in time to see Mary Ann, and to meet her daughter, Theresa, Theresa’s daughter, Jody, and Jody’s son Jayden Allen (that’s Mary Ann’s and Lloyd’s great grandson). They all line up, big smiles, as I take their picture. Catch you next time, Lloyd!

Just across the river from Tebbetts comes in the Osage River. This is an historic spot along the Missouri, as The Corps encamped there on three different dates, June 1st and 2nd 1804, and again September 19th 1806.

Near Mokane a bicyclist catches and passes me. I’d seen him heading in to Jefferson City as I began my hike today. By the time I reach Steedman, he’s already set camp and is relaxing in the local watering hole. Dark has descended as I enter, to meet Mark from Chicago. He’s bicycling the Katy, from Sedalia to St. Louis. We enjoy dinner and the evening together.

I need my little MicroLite to set camp.

a fair morning.  we Set out at light and procd. on   Soon passed the mouth of Mine River. Saw a number of Turkeys but we being anxious to git down do not detain to hunt.  gathered Some Pappaws which our party are fond of and are a kind of fruit which abound in these bottoms and are now ripe.  in the afternoon one of the hunters killed a deer.  late in the evening we arived at the Mouth of Osage River & Camped having made 84 miles this day. [Ordway, September 19th 1806]

Thursday–September 14, 2006
Trail Day–102
Trail Mile–20.7/2479
Location–Katy Trail, McKittrick, Missouri

You may have noted that for my last two daily journal entries, the quotes from the Corps, those of Clark and Ordway, are dated September 19th 1806. The mileage for that date, as recorded, has Clark’s entry showing 72 miles, and Ordway’s listing of the distance traveled as 84 miles. In any regard, what’s amazing is the fact that the Corps was really moving downriver. That’s why I’ve returned to the trail here beside the river quite a bit in advance of the Corps’ passing — because there’s just no way, from here on to St. Louis, that I’ll able to cover the miles that they covered in September 1806 and still finish on the 23rd.

Along the river here, the channel mostly hugs the far floodplain bluff. But where it meanders across to this side, there’s just no room for both SR94 and the old railgrade, so the highway leaves the bottoms to climb and dip the hills above. By these areas, especially along the river near Bluffton (appropriately named) the scenery is delightful. The overhanging bluffs, contrasted by the swift flowing waters, present the most interesting landscape — for some great pictures, I hope!

The little villages through which I’ve been passing these past number of days remind me much of those little communities along the old Bagnell Branch Railroad, which passed through my hometown of Russellville. Time, and the modes of travel, those being the railroad, and here additionally, the river, have long since been passed by. The boom days for places like Portland, Bluffton, McKittrick (and Russellville) occurred well over a century ago. Many of the beautiful old homes have been kept and are well maintained, but in some of the little bergs, and unfortunately, there are more old buildings than there are people. But I just love these places, the old false-front stores along Main St. (or Railroad Avenue), the slow pace — and especially, the kind people.

Clark had written about the Corps picking and enjoying pawpaws, and that they were dependent on that fruit for sustenance in order to save precious time usually given over to hunting. He also made note as to “…a very singular disorder is takeing place amongst our party that of the Sore eyes.  three of the party have their eyes inflamed and Sweled in Such a manner as to render them extremely painfull, particularly when exposed to the light, the eye ball is much inflaimed and the lip appears burnt with the Sun, the cause of this complaint of the eye I can’t [account] for…”  Today, researchers believe the cause of the illness suffered by members of the Corps, and as described by Clark, strongly suggests dermatitis, a problem related to their diet of pawpaws, which are known to cause such inflammation. I haven’t seen any pawpaws yet, but I’m enjoying my fill of the ripe, bitter-sweet fruit of the persimmon.

Here in McKittrick there’s a fine supermarket trailside. I head over for pizza and a fountain Pepsi before pitching on the remains of the old depot foundation.

Friday–September 15, 2006
Trail Day–103
Trail Mile–22.7/2502
Location–Katy Trail, Marthasville, Missouri

Seems I never learn. It was a beautiful clear night last, so I pitched my tent without the fly. Well, it didn’t rain as you might have suspected, but during the night the temperature dropped and the dew came in so heavy that everything in my tent got soaked. So, this morning, I awake to a frightful mess. My down bag is totally collapsed and must weigh close to five pounds. My socks and shoes are soaked. My camera is dripping wet. And my maps, well, hopefully they’ll stay together long enough for me to scatter them around to dry later.

Along the trail this morning, the dew encased spider webs, suspended between nearly every overhanging branch, give the impression of an eerie path to a haunted house. Soon, though, the cool of the morning, and the dew, give way to another delightfully warm day, and by mid afternoon, and along the open railbed, the trail really starts cooking.

Of the many and varied businesses that once thrived in the villages along, about all that’s left in most today, besides the grain elevators, is the local bar and grill. There’s one in Tebbetts, Mokane, Steedman, Portland, Rhineland, and McKittrick. All will fix you a burger and fries, along with your favorite beverage. Today, and in the heat, I stop for a pop at the little watering hole in Treloar.

After being off the trail nearly three months, after three relatively long mile days back-to-back, and after the heat of the day, I’m totally pooped by the time I reach Marthasville. And so, am I really looking forward to seeing the old Nomad Support Crew, and its team captain, Joyce. She put me back on the trail and got me going again in Jeff, and is, this moment, on her way to Marthasville, to fetch and whisk me away for the weekend.

In Marthasville now, I hasten over to Loretta’s Place, to see this dear friend and her husband, Jr. They both befriended Joyce and me during my outbound ’04 journey. They were so kind; it was a very enjoyable time. But alas, I arrive to find the entrance covered in dirt and deep in weeds, the front door locked, and a “For Sale” sign nailed to the wall. Aw, dang, its times like these that returning can make for such a sad and unhappy occurrence. In a daze, I wander over to the post office, where the postmaster gives me the bad news. “Loretta, she’s been shut down for over a year now. She closed the place up right after Jr. died.”  — and so the postmaster tells me. Dang, dang!

Joyce arrives a little after four. I give her the news about Loretta’s Place, then I load and we’re gone.

On the evening of September 20th 1806, the Corps arrived at the little French village of La Charrette, near present-day Marthasville. At the time, this village was the most westerly outpost along the American frontier.

as three of the party was unabled to row from the State of their eyes we found it necessary to leave one of our Crafts and divide the men into the other Canoes, we left the two Canoes lashed together which I had made high up the River Rochejhone, those Canoes we Set a drift and a little after day light we Set out and proceeded on very well.  The Osage river very low and discharges but a Small quantity of water at this time for so large a river.  at meridian we passed the enterance of the Gasaconnade river below which we met a perogue with 5 french men bound to the Osarge Gd. village.  the party being extreemly anxious to get down ply their ores very well, we Saw Some cows on the bank which was a joyfull Sight to the party and Caused a Shout to be raised for joy…we Came in Sight of the little french Village called Charriton 
[La Charrette, near present day Marthasville]  the men raised a Shout and Sprung upon their ores and we soon landed opposit to the Village.  our party requested to be permitted to fire off their Guns which was alowed & they discharged 3 rounds with a harty Cheer, which was returned from five trading boats which lay opposit the village.  we landed and were very politely received…as it was like to rain we accepted of a bed in one of their tents.  we purchased of a Citizen two gallons of Whiskey for our party for which we were obliged to give Eight dollars in Cash, an imposition on the part of the Citizen.  every person, both French and americans Seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledged them selves much astonished in Seeing us return.  they informed us that we were Supposed to have been lost long Since, and were entirely given out by every person &c. [Clark, September 20th 1806]

Monday–September 18, 2006
Trail Day—104
Trail Mile–17.3/2519
Location–Katy Trail, Matson, Missouri

Rested up and ready to head on out and finish this journey! The Nomad Support Team Crew Chief, Joyce, has me back to Marthasville around one-thirty, and I’m headed east for St. Louis. A short-mile day, so I should make it to the little village of Matson before dark.

The afternoon is very pleasant and the hike is most enjoyable as the Katy pops in and out, from total shade by the bluffs, to full sun as the bluff gives way from time-to-time — to gently rolling hills. This is vineyard/winery country. Many neat little passed-by-time communities again today, such as Nona, Alexander, and Klondike. Near Klondike, the bluffs rise again in all their glory, presenting some of the tallest, most-sheer white rock faces I’ve seen yet, standing the very edge of the trail, straight up, then hanging some 200 feet above the wide Missouri.

In the bottoms, between the river and the bluffs dwell some of the mightiest of all the grand cottonwood. Numerous of their kind and of ample height and girth to conceal within the largest of pirogues, hand-hewn boats, which served the Corps so very well. Along the ridges and atop the bluffs, begins just the hint of show in the maple and oak. Hopefully, a sign of sights to come — fall!

Just at dusk, and near Matson now, comes Joyce with a glad wave and a happy smile. Ahh yes, another fine day on the trail for the old Nomad!

The Corps was really haulin’ 200 years ago at this time. On the 21st of September they further closed the distance to St. Louis, from Marthasville to St. Charles. I’ll not make half that distance today. “Sunday 21st Sept. 1806 we Set out as at the usal time and procd. on  passed Scatteing houses along the Shores. met a great number of Indians in canoes mooving up the River. the people of the Settlements were makeing inqueries of us & were Surprized to See us as they Said we had been given out for dead above a year ago. towards evening we arived at St. Charles fired three rounds and Camped at the lower end of the Town. the people of the Town gathered on the bank and could hardly believe that it was us for they had heard and had believed that we were all dead and were forgotton. the most of the paty got quarters in Town and refreshments. late in the evening hard rain commend. and continued hard during the night. [Ordway, September 21st 1806]

Tuesday–September 19, 2006
Trail Day—105
Trail Mile–21.9/2541
Location–Katy Trail, St. Charles, Missouri

Daniel Morgan Boone received a Spanish land grant in 1797 for a tract of land right near the little village of Matson, where Crew Chief, Joyce, drops me off this morning. A log home was built, and in 1798 Daniel, his wife, Rebecca, and their son, Nathan and his wife, spent the first winter there. The first American trail west of the Mississippi passed nearby and was blazed by the Boones. At that time, the Boone Settlement was the western-most settlement on the American frontier. Near Femme Osage Creek, and on an historic marker is inscribed: The Expedition’s stop here [Femme Osage Creek] held the potential for an historic meeting between the renowned and soon-to-be-renowned explorers. An American settlement of 30-50 families, known as the “Boone Settlement” had sprung up along the Femme Osage. The patriarch of this settlement was the celebrated frontiersman Daniel Boone. He had arrived five years earlier at the invitation of Spain, which had offered him a grant of land…Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sent the Fields brothers, Reubin, and Joseph, ashore to purchase fresh food at the Boone settlement. The brothers returned with corn and butter, along with families from the settlement wanting to meet the Expedition. The Expedition spent an hour here before crossing the river to explore Tavern Rock and Cave.

For unknown reasons Daniel Boone was not among the settlement well wishers. There’s little doubt the captains realized Boone lived here. Pvt. Joseph Whitehouse’s journal mentions Boone, and the captains certainly knew at least as much, but neither captain noted the fact that Daniel Boone, one of the most famous backwoodsmen of the era, lived nearby.

I’ve an enjoyable hike on in to St. Charles.

On September 21st 1806 the Corps traveled from La Charrette (Marthasville) to St. Charles. “rose early this morning. Colected our men. Several of them had axcepted of the invitation of the Citizens and visited their families. at half after 7 A. M we Set out. passed 12 canoes of Kickapoos assending on a hunting expedition. Saw Several persons also Stock of different kind on the bank which reviv’d the party very much. at 3 P M we met two large boats assending. at 4 P M we arived in Sight of St. Charles, the party rejoiced at the Sight of this hospital village plyed thear ores with great dexterity and we Soon arived opposit the Town, this day being Sunday we observed a number of Tentlemen and ladies walking on the bank, we Saluted the Village by three rounds from our blunderbuts and the Small arms of the party, and landed near the lower part of the town. we were met by great numbers of the inhabitants, we found them excessively polite. we received ivitations from Several of those…the inhabitants of this village appear much delighted at our return and seem to vie with each other in their politeness to us all. we came only 48 miles today. the banks of the river thinly Settled &c. [Clark, September 21st 1806]

Wednesday–September 20, 2006
Trail Day—106
Trail Mile–23.2/2564
Location–Alton, Illinois

I arrived St. Charles about four last evening, to find the “Modern Day Corps” already set up in the park — in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s return, September 21st 1806. I recalled the suspicion I harbored in ’04 about the Modern Day Corps, as to their keelboat and pirogue, and that suspicion proved out as I strolled the park yesterday evening. At the boathouse and on the grounds of the park rest the keelboat and the pirogue, those vessels most likely used by the Modern Day Corps to ascend from the mouth of the Missouri at Wood River (Creek), to St. Charles, in May of 2004. I suspected they had engines concealed in the holds (not for the public to know about or to see). Yesterday I took pictures of the keelboat, resting on a trailer with its prop shaft extending from the hull.  I also got a shot of the pirogue, on display in the park with its prop concealed inside an extended double skeg.

You may recall, and if you’ve read my early journal entries for the outbound journey in ’04, you’ll know how very upset I became when I learned that a friend who had planned on departing Wood River on May 14th 2004, and at the exact hour of the Corps’ departure, to paddle upriver, was stopped simply because of the “importance” of the Modern Day Corps — their desire to get uncluttered, unspoiled pictures of themselves on the river. It really made me mad, and I’m still not over it to this day. My friend did depart later that day, and over the next number of weeks he struggled/paddled his kayak a great distance up the Missouri. Unfortunately, and before he could complete his amazing journey, injuries forced him to discontinue his upriver trek. Anyway, so much for the “authentic reenactment” by the Modern Day Corps — and the uncluttered pictures of their great departure!

Later in the evening, and before pitching behind the Phillips 66 Station near I-270, I enjoyed the pub-crawl up the main drag in St. Charles. At the City Club (owned and managed by Roy Cox for the past 54 years), I enjoyed seeing Roy and meeting and talking with steelworkers, Luke, Dede, and Dave.

This morning I break camp around eight to head into Phillips for my morning coffee. Out and truckin’, I’m soon up to speed. My legs are under me; I am strong and of good cheer — thank you, Lord!

The Katy Trail has been extended from St. Charles to a little place called Machens. South of Machens, and near Black Walnut, the combined floodplains of the Missouri and the Mississippi narrow, and across the ripened fields of corn, and at a distance of some 5-8 miles, it is possible to, see coming in, the shining dolomite bluffs that rise above the eastern flank of the Mississippi.

I had planned on stopping for the day in West Alton, but the little bar and grill has since closed, and I am hungry for other than a cooler sandwich at West Alton Bait and Tackle, so I hike it on the remaining three miles, across the Clark Memorial Bridge, over the Mississippi, and into Alton, Illinois. I find the sun angle perfect, lighting the bridge, suspension cables, and the superstructure towers. The traffic is tolerable and I’m able to get some fine pictures. If you’ll click back to “Announcements” on our homepage, you’ll see, under the latest update for “Odyssey ’06” hyperlinks to many interesting sites — like Clark Memorial Bridge.

I’m in the last state on this return journey now, Illinois, and my hike here will be very short (in comparison). I’ll cross back into Missouri (St. Louis) o’er the historic US66 Chain of Rocks Bridge on Friday.

According to the forecast, looks like I’ll finish this amazing odyssey on Saturday, just as it began — in the rain — what better!

Thursday–September 21, 2006
Trail Day—107
Trail Mile–11.5/2576
Location–Lewis and Clark State Memorial Park, Hartford, Illinois, thence on to Saint Thomas, Illinois

Two-hundred years (to-the-day) wise, the Corps is rapidly closing on me.  I’m less than a day ahead of them now, but I’ve got this figured out (at least I think I do) so as to reach St. Louis the same September day, the 23rd.

I did the right thing, hiking on into Illinois last evening, as I enjoyed a fine meal at the local Bar-B-Que. To pitch for the night, I found a (not so quiet) concealed spot under the pines behind the local McDonalds. Ahh, yes, and there I head first thing this morning for my favorite: an egg and cheese biscuit, hash browns, and coffee. I linger until ten, working my journal entries and catching up on email.

It’s another short hike today along the Levee Top Trail to Wood River and Hartford. A few miles south of Alton is the National Great River Museum. Approaching, I hear folks calling my name. Oh my, it’s Ron and Joyce Gerhardt from Pollock, South Dakota. Ron had befriended my dear friend, Jim Damico on his ’04 L&CNHT bike trip. What a coincidence that we also met during my return through South Dakota this year. And don’t you know — Ron and Joyce befriended me then, just as they had done for Jim! And here they are; they’ve planned their vacation, to enjoy a bike trip along the Katy, and by closely following my itinerary and scheduling their trip accordingly, they’ve managed to intercept me here today. Thanks, Ron and Joyce, for your kindness, and for taking the time to track this old man down!

A short distance up the levee is the town of Wood River. Here, with but individual funds, and under the supervision of T. J. Lanahan, and after long months of toil, has been built the most remarkable and authentic replica of Camp Dubois, the fort constructed and occupied by the Corps during the winter of 1803-04. Here it’s my distinct pleasure to meet Churchill Clark, a seventh generation, forth grandson of William Clark. Churchill takes time, and we share much joyful conversation about the present — and about the days of long, long ago. By the fort entrance, I have my picture taken with Churchill and Jay. Both these men, along with others, have (this year) canoed down the Yellowstone and the Missouri — to Wood River. What a joy meeting all of you; I had a grand time at Camp Dubois. See y’all (and my dear friend, Norm Miller, who’ll be with you) at the wharf Saturday.

Back on the levee now, and after another short hike south, I’m at the Lewis and Clark State Memorial Park. Here, there’s a most remarkable interpretive center, with movies, displays, paintings, another fort — and much more. I spend fun time, like a little kid, looking all around again, then to have my picture taken with President Jefferson, and with Captains Lewis and Clark.

In the evening now, I hasten on south to the eastern approach by the old US66 Chain of Rocks Bridge. Here is the not-so-new Canal Motel, where Jim, Joyce and I sought shelter from the storm in ’04. I check in — supposed to rain again this night.

What a day!

Near here, just south of the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, is Columbia Bottom. And near where the two great rivers cut in 1804-06 was located Fort Bellefountaine. “the hard rain continued this morning untill about 11 Oclock A. M. at which time the party collected and we Set out & procd. on  towards evening we arived at Bell fountain a Fort or cantonement on South Side which was built since we ascended the Missouri & a handsome place…” [Ordway, September 22, 1806]

Friday–September 22, 2006
Trail Day–108
Trail Mile–10.4/2586
Location–Clark’s Grave, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

I’m up, but not moving so fast. For this morning I’m toting an old, familiar burden. We all know about burden.  It comes to us, to bear upon us in all ways, in all sorts and sizes. And thus does it saddle us. From beyond that shadowy veil does it come — from where it forever dwells that dark, back side of Heaven’s rainbow. As you may suspect, what I’m having to pack today isn’t my pack, which has long-since become an integral part of me. No, what I am lugging along this morning is the bittersweet anguish/joy of arriving at the end of another remarkable (almost mystical) journey.

And so, if you’ll indulge me, here’s the crux of it: On September 22, 1806, the Corps of Discovery encamped near the mouth of the Missouri, just upriver from where I’ll cross the Mississippi again this morning, near the Chain of Rocks. Now it is true that Captor Time has neatly boxed us up, has separated the Corps from me, by 200 years — physically. However, I must tell you, and please understand that there is no possible way that Time can isolate us spiritually, emotionally. Ahh, and in this circumstance, Captor Time must certainly frustrate to enslave, to keep the Corps from me, to keep us from being one in thought, from being one in the very knowledge (present and past) of what Time itself has wrought. Always in parallel have our respective journeys unfolded and have they played out. Always have they been separated by Time’s gulf, which cannot be breached? But here, near the end now, Time is helpless to keep us from joining together, from sharing the bittersweet, from communing our joys of heart, and too, our anguish of mind.

Scholars have long studied the Corps; they can recite all their names, their ancestry, their dates of birth, and of death. They can tell us about each member of the Corps, the deeds of each, their accomplishments. They can speak on and on in terms of time and of space. But there is not one of them, nor is there anyone alive today, who knows the Corps as I know the Corps. For I have ventured long and have toiled long — in their shadow, and in their very presence. Our paths have crisscrossed many, many times, to create an intertwining of minds and spirit. Of that intertwining, defiant of Time, and so, beyond Time — that such intertwining exists is all I can tell you.  I cannot write of it. In all the writings, in all you’ve read about the Corps, you’ll not see the least footnote bearing such witness, nor likely, will you ever.

The morning is cloudy; a steady, cool breeze. Forecasters still call for isolated, severe thunderstorms today. The weather holds though, and conditions for crossing the old US66 Chain of Rocks Bridge couldn’t be better, considering the torrential rain endured during my crossing in May of ’04. The bridge is pretty much mine. Richard, a retired career Marine is out for his morning walk, and he takes time to snap my picture, the old bridge girders,  Chain of Rocks, and the St. Louis skyline for a backdrop. I cross from Illinois, back into Missouri, exactly at noon.

Strong winds come up but the weather holds as I trek on south. I tarry, stopping for lunch at Cristo’s on the corner of Riverview and Broadway. I’m in St. Louis now. Ethel and Mark head me out in the right direction, on down Broadway. I’m hiking toward Bellefontaine Cemetery now, the gravesite of Captain William Clark. I will once again pay my respects to this great soldier, explorer, statesman, and patriot. The rain finally comes as I pass the cemetery gate. Hard rain forced me to don my poncho while here in ’04. So, what better weather (and setting) for such a visit today!

A tour bus has stopped in front of Clark’s grave, and many are milling about, children romping and climbing the many stones and markers. I bide my time across the way, waiting for the quiet solitude. In moments the bus loads, lumbers off, and I am alone on this high point of ground above the city. The monuments about bear testimony, extolling the life and times of this great American. I tarry long in the rain and in the silence, pondering times long past, as I peer through that shadowy window above spoken — a blessing given.

Just before five comes the old Nomad’s Support Crew Chief, Joyce, and her assistant, my sister, Salle Anne. In the evening, we search Columbia Bottoms for my friend, Norm, to no avail. Later, we visit Camp Dubois in Wood River, to spend some time with Churchill and others. Dark now, we retreat to Canal Motel at old US66 and the approach to the Chain of Rocks Bridge in Illinois. It has been a very fine day, one of slow pace, and of reflection.

“This morning being very wet and the rain Still Continueing hard, and our party being all Sheltered in the houses of those hospitable people, we did not [think] proper to proceed on untill after the rain was over…I took this oppertunity of writeing to my friends in Kentucky &c…it seased raining and we Colected our party and Set out and proceeded on down to the Contonemt. at Coldwater Creek about 3 miles up the Missouri on it’s Southern Banks…” [Clark, September 22nd 1806]

Saturday–September 23, 2006
Trail Day–109
Trail Mile–7.7/2594
Location–Wharf/Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

Today, with the Lord’s blessing, the old Nimblewill Nomad will complete this amazing odyssey, a round-trip journey by foot, covering nearly 6,000 miles. It is an amazing thing to ponder, a walk from St. Louis, to the Pacific Ocean then back again, a journey of over 230 days. To have the stamina and endurance, and indeed, to maintain within, the drive and determination needed to accomplish such goal so far-reaching — only through trusting in the Lord, only through His grace and glory has such an achievement come to pass. So I thank the Lord for His blessings so bestowed, so lavished, upon this old man.

At the end of Odyssey ’98, a 4,400 mile journey from the Florida Keys to the Cliffs of Forillon, Cap Gaspe, Quebec, I recall my thoughts, that perhaps that day might be my very last along the trail. In the book Ten Million Steps, I wrote: “I have always had a feeling deep down–from the very first day–that the Lord would protect me, that He would provide safe passage. In my mind’s eye I could see all the places ahead, the boundless horizons, the countless miles. I somehow prepared for all of that. I prepared for the going of it. But, somehow I never prepared for the finish of it and today is the day for the finish of it.” And that day at the Cliffs of Forillon I wrote: “I follow the trail beside the cliffs to the waters of the Atlantic where the mountains disappear below the waves to the ocean floor. Standing here at the water’s edge and looking at the cliffs and the end of this, a mysterious, grand and glorious scheme of things that are these ancient and near timeless Appalachian Mountains, I realize that for these mountains there is a end, not perhaps in time, but certainly in space. In terms of the presence of man on this planet and that span of time, these mountains are truly immortal…and I consider the frailty of man and my own mortality. Soon the last chapter in my life will be written not only in time but also in space as my remaining days flow to their end, much as these mountains flow to their end here at the sea.” These comments were written over 17,000 trekking miles ago. Ahh yes, thanks dear Lord, thanks for Your grace and for Your blessings.

This final day o’er the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail begins back at the gate to Bellefontaine Cemetery, where Joyce has brought sister Salle Anne, and me. Sis and I are out and hiking (in the rain) right at eight. With the distance remaining to reach the wharf below Gateway Arch only eight miles distant, we should arrive at nearly the time the Corps arrived — noon, 200 years to the day.

It’s sure dreary “a wet disagreeable morning,” what with overcast skies, the rain, and the boarded up neighborhoods we’re passing through — dreary, dreary. And my feelings and thoughts? Oh yes, they could just as easily turn that way, but sis cheers me as we share a grand time. And, indeed, the time passes quickly, as Joyce drives up, keeps tabs on us, then zips on ahead. A little before eleven we’re making the turn from Broadway to Washington, and finally, the approach to the Arch. Arriving brings a very emotional time for me; feelings words simply cannot express. I’m sure missing my dear friend, Sheltowee, who’s been with me at the end of my last three grand adventures. But Joyce and Salle Anne are here, to share in my excitement and joy — broad smiles, big hugs.

There is much activity at the wharf. Programs are planned for the 200th anniversary of the Corp’s return. The fellows who’ve canoed all the way from the upper Yellowstone, near Livingston, Montana,  will be arriving soon. The “Modern Day” Corps is to arrive early afternoon. And at one, there’ll be an unveiling ceremony for the beautiful bronze statue of Lewis, Clark, and Seaman, by Eads Bridge, near where the Corps landed in 1806.

I’m at the wharf to greet Churchill Clark and his men, as they arrive to cheering and much revelry. With them is dear friend, Norm Miller, whom I’ve not seen since our paths crossed at Cayuse Junction in the Bitterroot Mountains in 2004. We exchange congratulations and share a grand time.

“we rose early took the Chief to the publick store & furnished him with Some clothes &c.  took an early breckfast with Colo. Hunt and  Set out decended to the Mississippi and down that river to St. Louis at which place we arived about 12 oClock.  we Suffered the party to fire off their pieces as a Salute to the Town.  we were met by all the village and received a harty welcom from it’s inhabitants…” [Clark, September 23rd 1806]

“a wet disagreeable morning.  we Set out after breakfast and procd. on  Soon arived at the Mouth of the Missourie entered the Mississippi River and landed at River deboise where we wintered in 1804…about 12 oClock we arived in Site of St. Louis  fired three Rounds as we approached the Town and landed oppocit the center of the Town, the people gathred on the Shore and Huzzared three cheers.  we unloaded the canoes and carried the baggage all up to a Store house in Town.  drew out the canoes then the party all considerable much rejoiced that we have the Expedition Completed and now we look for boarding in Town and wait for our Settlement and then we entend to return to our native homes to See parents once more as we have been So long from them.–  finis.” [Ordway, September 23rd 1806]

So now, and thus does this amazing journey with Lewis and Clark come to its end.

God Bless you all, my dear family — and friends…

Somewhere In The Past

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