Final Destination


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Article I wrote for the Tri-City Herald newspaper.

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Final Destination

  1. 1. Tri-City Herald: Local Visit the Tri-City Herald Final destination This story was published Sunday, November 13th, 2005 By Nathan Isaacs, Herald staff writer ASTORIA, Ore. -- "When are we going to get dry?" Erik James of Portland asked his father as his family walked out from the cold, damp forest where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery camped 200 years ago after reaching the Pacific Ocean. The 33-member military party, led by Capts. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, no doubt asked the same question as the 10-year-old blond boy, who was trying to shake the rain from his clothes. "It would be distressing to a feeling person to See our Situation at this time all wet and cold," Clark wrote in his journal on Nov. 12, 1805. While cargo ships and tour boats have replaced tribal canoes, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge now spans the Columbia River, what hasnt changed in the 200 years since Lewis and Clark is the ever-present fall rain. As one local man said, "It rains here only once. ... It starts in October and ends in May." Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery set off in 1804 from St. Louis to chart the West, meet its people and to find a navigable water route from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, if such a fabled waterway existed. Along the way, the group met and traded with dozens of native tribes, shot a grizzly bear and was chased by other grizzlies, straddled the headwaters of the Missouri River, crossed the Continental Divide, got lost in the Bitterroot Mountains and paddled down the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia Rivers, briefly stopping to explore the Mid-Columbia. By the time the expedition reached the Pacific in November, the group was low on trade goods, hungry, miserably wet and looking for a place to winter before returning home. A Missouri-based group of reenactors has traveled the entire Lewis and Clark route, enduring many of the same hardships. Mike Dotson of Monon, Ind., who portrays Pvt. Alexander Willard, said the constant rain has made many of the reenactors as miserable as the men they portray. It rained all but 12 of the 106 days the Corps of Discovery spent at Fort Clatsop. Heres a sample from Clarks journal entries over a two-week period that showed how the rain affected him and the party: "Ocian in view! O! the joy," Clark wrote Nov. 7, 1805. "Not withstanding the disagreeable time of the party for Several days past they are all Chearfull and full off anxiety to See further into the ocian," he wrote two days later. "Rained as usial all the evening, all wet and disagreeable Situated," was Clarks Nov. 14 journal entry. "O! how horrible is the day" Clark wrote Nov. 22. Rain was the forecast -- "as usial" -- this weekend as Astoria and other coastal communities in Oregon and Washington kicked off Destination, The Pacific, one of 15 national events commemorating the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Those brave enough, or wearing enough foul weather gear, could attend lectures by Lewis and Clark historians and authors, watch a Lewis and Clark film festival, observe as archaeologists dug away at Fort Clatsop or try to trade with the Lewis and Clark reenactors.1 of 2 7/14/07 5:29 PM
  2. 2. Tri-City Herald: Local Govs. Ted Kulongoski and Christine Gregoire, from Oregon and Washington, welcomed more than 1,000 people to Fort Stevens State Park, near Warrenton, for the events opening ceremony Friday, which also was marked by passing rain and hail storms. "This is one of greatest cultural moments in Oregon," Kulongoski said. Military veterans from more than two dozen tribes, including the Yakama Nation and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, joined in the event, carrying the flags of their tribal nations. Bob Tom, a member of the Shasta and other river tribes in southwestern Oregon, walked past each tribal representative with a burning bunch of dried sage, the smoke from which he said is used to help purify each person. Rudy Clements, a member of the Warm Springs tribe, said Lewis and Clark benefited from the help of the tribes. He said thats something to be copied today: "We can take the best each other has and become better people." "We have a common future on this sacred land," Gov. Gregoire said. The Corps of Discovery talked daily with the Chinook and Clatsop tribes during the stay along the Pacific. Many tribal members could speak and understand a little English, learned from the sailors with whom they traded when passing ships came into the Columbia River estuary. Many tribal members also wore pieces of sailors uniforms, Clark noted in his journal. While much is made of the uncharted West explored by Lewis and Clark, the expedition was aware of what to expect at the Columbia Rivers mouth. Lewis carried with him a letter of credit, signed by President Thomas Jefferson, should the expedition meet any merchant ships at the rivers mouth from whom they could replenish supplies or catch a lift back home. In 1775, Capt. Bruno de Heceta, a Spanish explorer, sighted the rivers estuary. Capt. James Cook came by in 1778. Capt. John Meares named Cape Disappointment in 1788 when he couldnt find the rivers entrance. And on May 19, 1792, Capt. Robert Gray named the river after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. "Yet, we also recognize now, as our ancestors must have sensed then, that the arrival of the Corps of Discovery marked the beginning of the end of our way of life," said Joe Scovell, chair of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes. "The arrival of the Corps of Discovery was, at best, a mixed blessing. We cannot forget this as we commemorate the bicentennial." He said the event has helped let the public know these tribes have weathered the storm of the last 200 years and, "We are still here." A similar message was written by Sgt. Patrick Gass in his Nov. 16 journal entry, "We are now at the end of our voyage, which has been completely accomplished according to the intention of the expedition, the object of which was to discover a passage by way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific ocean; notwithstanding the difficulties, privations and dangers, which we had to encounter, endure and surmount." Get the entire Tri-City Herald delivered to you at home - subscribe now. Call 509-586-2138 or 800-750-4967 6 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday 7-12:00 p.m. Saturdays 7-10:30 a.m. Sundays and holidays © 2007 Tri-City Herald, Associated Press & Other Wire Services2 of 2 7/14/07 5:29 PM