I don’t remember when I first heard of Lewis and Clark, but I have a clear memory of their expotition from my first trip to Astoria – Dismal Nitch and all – before the turn of the millennium. Astoria was one end of their great out-and-back trek. I’ve also been to Harper’s Ferry – at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers – where they received their weaponry, and through St. Louis, where they launched the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Having been to those defining points, I have some sense of connection with these guys.
On August 13, 1805, William Clark took three compass readings from atop the rock before you. While looking out from this exposed limestone bluff, he selected geographic landmarks as points on which to take bearings. His resulting maps became an important resource for future travelers.
The Corps of Discovery began their journey with no printed materials such as maps or reports to guide them through what is now Montana. In addition to the constant challenge of deciding which water route to take, they were also faced with deciding which of the countless landforms to plot and describe as they attempted to fulfill their mission. President Jefferson instructed Lewis to describe all features that could be positively identified by future travelers.
As you ascend Clark’s Lookout, observe the vastness of the surrounding area. When you reach the top, consider the view and decide which geological points you would include on a map. What features do you see that would help others navigate through this terrain 200 years from now?
– excerpted (!) from Clark’s Lookout State Park interpretive signs
As I ascend Clark’s Lookout for the second time (having left my camera in the car the first time around, curse, trudge, curse, trudge, curse), I’m more focused on observing the vastness of the hill in front of me than of the area surrounding me.
As I reach the top, holding myself unsteadily against the bone-dry and hot-as-hell gale, I’m considering whether I can get a photo with my hair whipping to all points of the compass simultaneously rather than considering how I can help future travelers. A replica of the compass that helped Lewis and Clark navigate this terrain 212 years ago (Oh, happy palindromic coincidence) brings this atypical image to mind.
But what really strikes me is that Lewis and Clark knew there were snakes in them thar hills, and they kept going. Despite my deep connection with them, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision.
Checkout this National Geographic journey log if you’d like to know more about Lewis & Clark.