Celebrating the bicentennial journey

I am writing from the road this week as I travel across Idaho, a
state made up of 83,557 square miles of some of America’s most
scenic and rugged splendor.
I am writing from the road this week as I travel across Idaho, a state made up of 83,557 square miles of some of America’s most scenic and rugged splendor.

I was sent to Idaho for training in my new role as communications coordinator for the California-Nevada branch of a large women’s charitable organization. The Dispatch played a role in this turn of events, since it was my writing for the paper that first caught the attention of this non-profit group that works to improve living conditions for women and children all over the world.

You know, wherever I go, Gilroy is always with me. Even here in Idaho, even in a class composed of students from the 13 westernmost states (and India), once they heard where I was from, people said, “Oh, isn’t that where the Garlic Festival is held?”

Once class was over, I set out to explore what I had never seen before. I discovered that this summer marks the 200th anniversary of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s historic adventure exploring thousands of miles of uncharted and unexplored territory.

When our third president, Thomas Jefferson, commissioned Lewis and Clark to map out an all-water route to the Pacific, the land they explored nearly doubled the size of the U.S. and cost less than 3 cents per acre.

The expedition recorded the first sightings of many animals, such as jackrabbit, coyote, and grizzly bear to have been observed by the outside world. They described more than 300 new species to science.

As I travel across Idaho, I am amazed by the way the terrain changes so rapidly from dry desert-like flat land to soaring mountain peaks and canyons filled with lakes and rivers surrounded by dense pine forests, which level out into blossoming mountain meadows.

As Americans celebrate the bicentennial of the most important journey concerning the North American continent since the voyage of Christopher Columbus, I am visiting many important Lewis and Clark campsites and retracing part of their journey.

Tomorrow I hope to arrive in Lewiston at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, the site where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805.

Known as “Idaho’s Seaport,” cargo is shipped by barge 465 miles downriver to the Pacific. Boats reach the port by passing through locks at eight dams. It’s hard to believe I am so far inland when I can see oceangoing ships passing between mountain ranges.

Two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark set out to discover a passage to the Pacific, but what they really discovered were 58 hospitable nations who could have ended their journey at any time, but who saved it instead.

The Nez Perce tribe cared for the expedition’s horses until they were needed for the return trip; they drew maps for the captains and showed them where to get the best wood for canoes.

Sacajawea, their teen-age Shoshone interpreter, used her family connections to help them in trading with other Native Americans. She also rescued the journals recording the expedition’s discoveries when they fell into a river.

As our nation commemorates both its 229th birthday and the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark, I invite you on this trip with me. Walk with them at www.lewisandclark200.gov and see what you discover – because their trail winds through us all.

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