Monday, September 20, 2010 MORE rain, 61 degrees
We left Longview on WA 4 through an industrial part of the city. We had seen trees clear-cut, huge trucks hauling logs, and now we saw where they were taken, a huge Weyhaeuser facility that grades, planes, and dries lumber. It stretched a half-mile along the highway. When the road left the city, we found that we were following the Columbia River 86 miles to its mouth. The river is wide and gray in today's gloomy weather. Along its banks there is evidence of its past as well as its present: old dock pilings rotting away and newer piers capable of mooring very large container ships, barges, and even the NCL cruise ship, Norwegian Pearl. Further down the road, we pulled into two overlooks, one a wide beach with mighty surf rolling in from the Pacific and the other a short walk to the North Head Lighthouse, long in use to warn ships of the shoals at the mouth of the Columbia.
Our destination was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located at the mouth of the Columbia River. This was the terminus of the 1804-1806 expedition. In North Dakota we visited Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804-05 before continuing to the Pacific. Now we learned about the hardships the Corps of Discovery endured crossing the Rocky and Bitteroot Mountains. They were in uncharted territory, not knowing what they would encounter next. Sometimes they were trekking over rugged mountains, and other times they were riding rapids in their dugout canoes. One especially tense moment occurred when Lewis and Clark tried to convince the Shoshone Indians to provide them with horses. Then Sacagawea, who had been kidnapped years before, realized that the chief was her brother. Following an emotional reunion, the chief was more than willing give them what they needed.
The expedition finally reached the Pacific in November 1805. The Corps was trapped in a torrential rain storm for six days in what they called the Dismal Nitch. Once the storm abated, Lewis and Clark polled everyone to determine where they should winter. They voted to cross the Columbia to build their encampment away from the prevailing winds and to be closer to elk herds. The Corps remained at Fort Clatsop from December 1805-March 1806. During that time the captains updated their journals while others hunted, fished, and boiled sea water for salt to preserve their food supply, repaired equipment, and made new clothing. But it was a miserable winter as it rained 94 of the 106 days they were in the fort. Finally in March they began their way east. This time they knew what to expect and where to go. They arrived in St. Louis on September 20th, 204 years ago today, completing all the tasks assigned to them.
We spent over three hours at the interpretive center, reading large panels with text and pictures depicting the 4,000 miles of their journey. We also watched a film, viewed artifacts, and used interactive displays. Then we were at Fort Clatsop for an hour and a half, walking around the reconstructed fort, very similar to Fort Mandan, watching two more movies, and viewing more displays. We have a new appreciation for how what Lewis and Clark accomplished changed our country for all time.
TODAY'S ROUTE: WA 432-WA 4-US101-WA 401-retrace to US 101S-US 26E- I 84E, Portland, Oregon, finally after 11 days in Washington