So fellow travelers, I first met Lewis and Clark at PS 26 in Yonkers NY.
Faded filmstrip images from third grade history lessons peaked my interest. Soon I was scouring the shelves of my local public library, reading everything I could find about their journey. The details of their expedition ignited a lifelong desire to wander in nature.
Yet it was the story of the extraordinary friendship between William Clark and Merriweather Lewis which drew me in. As a bookish “slant-eyed” kid who preferred climbing trees to dressing Barbies it was easier to go solo than fit in. Lewis and Clark’s tight well balanced camaraderie intrigued my solitary spirit. Since the longest we lived anywhere was four years, any close friendships I did form were left behind like unforwarded mail (although the advent of social media has forged some reconnections from my childhood and teens.)
Twenty years ago I visited the Museum of Westward Expansion at the base of the St. Louis Arch. I could have wandered the exhibit for hours and the view at the top of the arch (yes, if you get there, it’s worth the time and effort to make the trip up) with its vast horizons stretching east and west put their journey into mind bending perspective.
And I have been to the historic locations in good old Philadelphia where they gathered supplies for the expedition. Whenever we get stuck at an airport on our coast to coast travels I remind myself a 24 hour delay is nothing compared to obstacles like the month of portage it took for the expedition to make their way around the Great Falls of the Missouri River.
Photo Note: This is not the Missouri River, but it is a fitting image. This is the Crooked River which runs through Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. Photo by Emma Rahalski
The historic Lewis and Clark trail ends on the northern coast of Oregon. By a serendipitous bit of good luck , the little Air B&B beach cottage I found available for two nights was located at Sunset beach, on the northern coast of Oregon….
on Clark Road, just past Lewis Road
a mere fifteen minute walk from the one end of the Fort to Sea Trail.
W O W
I would have the chance to walk in the footsteps of my life long heroes.
The Fort to Sea trail runs between a quiet stretch of the Pacific Coast and Fort Clatsop, the shelter built by the expedition when they arrived at the Pacific Coast in November 0f 1805, knowing they would have to winter over before beginning the trip back East. It turns out the trail is a six mile hike each way over some tough terrain, so most hikers arrange for a drop off at the Fort and pick up at Sunset Beach rather than hiking uphill back to the Fort. So hiking the full trail would be an adventure for another time.
I decided to walk from the coastal trailhead up the trail away from the beach. I simply hiked until I could no longer see the parking lot, then stood taking in everything I could see and hear at that vantage point.I made myself a promise to return and hike the full trail from the Fort down to the coast.
It was a cloudy and misty day, a flat light not great for photography, but good ambiance for historic imaginings. As I walked back towards the ocean, I passed a large exhibit which described a massive coastal storm which hit the Northern Oregon coast in 2007. It destroyed much of the coast line snapping huge trees like match sticks. You can still see the aftermath nearly ten years later.
trees like bones scattered on the hillside
As I came out of the coastal brush to seagrass covered dunes, I made note of the point where I first heard the sound of waves
and I turned to look back at the hills
before walking the final steps
to the great Pacific Ocean
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.