More Practical Matters
What To Pack
Bearing in mind that Western weather can be unpredictable and fast-changing, even in mid-summer, it's best to be prepared with a variety of clothing. On hot days, lightweight, light-colored clothing will be most comfortable. But pack a sweater, jacket, and rain gear for when the weather turns cold or wet. Sneakers or walking shoes are best for touring historic sites, but toss in a pair of lightweight hiking boots and sport sandals. Casual clothing is appropriate everywhere along the trail. Don't forget a swimsuit, sun block, and wide-brimmed hat.
Campers should make sure their gear is waterproof and able to stand up to high winds. A ground cloth and extra tent stakes are good ideas. Other camp essentials include a simple tool kit with a hammer, axe, and pocket knife; a reliable camp stove and fuel (wood campfires are prohibited in some locations); cooking and eating utensils; a can opener; insect repellent; a bucket for hauling water and washing dishes; biodegradable dish soap; rope (for clothesline and other uses); first-aid and snake-bit kits; a camp lantern and flashlight; matches; trash bags (along with separate space for recyclables); and a bag for dirty laundry.
Travelers hoping to preserve their trip in pictures should include a wide-angle lens and polarizing filter for the high, wide horizons and beautiful skies. Binoculars might come in handy, as will books and travel games. And don't forget a good atlas or state highway maps-the maps in this book are general and should always be used in conjunction with a more detailed local highway map.
Traveling With Kids
To children, all of life is an adventure, with new discoveries made every day. Seen from this perspective, a trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail makes an ideal family vacation. it's interesting, educational, informal, and can easily be combined with a more traditional Western vacation, say, to Yellowstone National Park or the Oregon coast. Moreover, it is an economical vacation choice, since most historic sites are free or cheap, and since nearly all of Lewis and Clark's route lies far from expensive big cities and traditional tourist attractions.
Still, it's always a challenge to keep kids happy and occupied. Here are a few ideas on how to do it. Have them keep a journal like Lewis and Clark did, describing their trip in words and pictures. (Journaling is a great way to develop writing skills, and this is a grand time to start.) Plan a Lewis and Clark scavenger hunt, making a list of items the kids can look for along the way. Such "treasures" might include a keelboat, dugout canoe, Indian earth lodge, river, animals, and statues of Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, York, and Lewis's dog, Seaman. You might want to provide an inexpensive camera so your child can take photos as the discoveries are made.
If you're camping, consider packing along a separate tent for the children (if they're old enough). Most kids love having a tent of their own, and it will give the grown-ups some rest and privacy too. Kids also enjoy having a bit of their own money to spend on vacation. Help then learn financial responsibility and decision-making by giving each child a special trip allowance. Make sure they know this money should cover any souvenirs or extras they want to buy, and that it should last the whole trip.
What To Read
Many travelers will want to read more about Lewis and Clark before, during, or after tracing the captains' route of discovery. For maximum enjoyment, get a copy of the Lewis and Clark journals and read along with what the voyagers found as they crossed the continent. The complete journals are published in several multi-volume editions (with Gary E. Moulton of the University of Nebraska the editor of the most recent, definitive set), but a one-volume abridgment will suit the vacation traveler's purposes just fine. Many people believe Bernard DeVoto's American Heritage Library edition is the best.
One of my favorite books about Lewis and Clark is Dayton Duncan's Out West: An American Journey. I first read this wonderful book upon its publication in 1987, and it accompanied me on my own explorations of the route while researching this guidebook. Duncan traced the explorers' route on his own in a camper van. In clean and thoughtful prose, his book weaves history with modern-day observations about life in the western United States. It is a gem.
Other books that might be of interest include Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose; Lewis and Clark: Historic Places Associated with Their Transcontinental Exploration, compiled by Roy E. Appleman and recently reprinted by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation and the Jefferson National Expansion Historical Association; Gerald Olmsted's Fielding's Lewis & Clark Trail; The Way to the Western Sea, by David Lavender; Lewis & Clark: Pioneering Naturalists, by Paul Cutright; Lewis and Clark: Partners in Discovery, by John Bakeless; and Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery, by Dan Murphy and David Muench.
There are many others. In fact, don't be surprised if, during the course of your Lewis and Clark explorations, you find yourself wanting to read everything you can about the captains and the expedition. "Once you get interested, you become a buff, and there's constant controversy about why they did this, how they did this, what did that look like, what were they wearing," says Butch Bouvier, a Lewis and Clark aficionado from western Iowa. "It's constant. It's exciting."
Finally, there are a wealth of other good travel guides about the regions covered in this book. Among those I would recommend are Montana Handbook, by W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell; Idaho Handbook, by Don Root; Idaho for the Hungry, by Jenna Gaston; Trail of the Great Bear, by Bruce Weide; and Oregon Handbook, by Stuart Warren and Ted Long Ishikawa.
Tending The Trail
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is one of eleven routes so designated by the federal government. It was established in 1978 and spans 3,700 miles. The trail is administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with many federal, state, and local agencies; the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Inc. and other private organizations; and private landowners along the route. Together, they work to preserve and interpret sites of historical significance and areas where the trail can still be retraced.
The National Park Service has published a brochure showing its designated water, land, and motor route segments. The map also lists and briefly describes key historic and recreational sites along the way. Copies may be obtained at many locations along the trail by writing the National Park Service, 700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53711; or by calling (608) 264-5610.
People interested in learning more about the Corps of Discovery may want to join the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. This not-for-profit organization formed in 1969 to continue the work started by the Lewis and Clark Trail Commission, which Congress established in 1964. The organization holds an annual convention each August, and participants take part in a variety of activities including field trips and seminars. The foundation publishes We Proceeded On, a scholarly yet entertaining quarterly journal dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition and related topics. Many foundation members also take part in local and state chapter activities. For information, write the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 3434, Great Falls, MT 59403. You can also access the foundation's website at http://www.lewisandclark.org .
Both the National Park Service and the Trail Foundation seek to encourage and assist public and private interests to identify, preserve, and interpret sites important to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Information is available from the Park Service office in Madison.
Go back to Retracing the Voyage of Discovery by Car, Part II.
Go back to Retracing the Voyage of Discovery by Car, Part I.