Friday, August 28, 2015

The Lewis & Clark expedition as Adventure

The first words put to paper about this land we call Idaho came from the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their trip had been primarily a river journey -- until they were forced to cross, in the words of one member of the expedition, "the most terrible mountains I ever beheld."

 Because it was so well documented, their adventure became America's adventure.

Cort Conley

Cort Conley is an author, historian, and former river guide. He has written about some of the 'big ticket' adventures that occurred in Idaho. "For me, adventure has at least two aspects," says Conley. "One is a certain amount of risk, which requires obviously a certain amount of audacity or courage; and the other would be a certain amount of learning to come from the experience.

 "There was risk, because, for instance, Sergeant Floyd died; when he fell ill, there was no way to get help for him. And certainly there were a lot of tense meetings with the natives.

 Conley says the preparation for the expedition was strenuous. "If you look at the list that Lewis put together, there's 130 yards of cloth, there are 500 flints for their rifles. They had 144 pocket mirrors. I remember 4,600 needles. They had a library. They had Barton's treatise on botany. They even had a four volume dictionary. But obviously nobody ever looked at it for spelling!

Meriwether Lewis

"In terms of the learning from that experience, the expedition was a treasure trove. They brought back our first descriptions of plants and animals and birds and 132 maps. So that was America's odyssey, and it was an 8,000 mile adventure, in a sense.

"And the thing that I like the most about it is when they are on their way back, they are almost to St. Louis, and John Coulter asked permission to stay and go back. To me, there is an adventurous soul! He had been out going on three years and still, what he'd seen and what he'd learned just wetted his thirst for more. And he goes back and discovers Yellowstone."

Thank you to Outdoor Idaho for this article!

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