Skip to comments.Camping and Lewis and Clark
Posted on 08/20/2006 9:07:27 AM PDT by nuconvert
Camping and Lewis and Clark
BY DAVE BARRY
(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published on April 7, 1996.)
Now that it's warmed up, I'm thinking about camping. Don't misunderstand me: I'm not thinking about actually going camping, in the sense of venturing outdoors and turning my body into an All-U-Can-Eat buffet for insects. I'm just thinking about camping.
What got me on this topic is a book I'm reading, called ''Undaunted Courage,'' by Stephen E. Ambrose, about the ultimate camping trip: the Lewis and Clark expedition. If you're a product of the U.S. educational system, you no doubt remember this historic endeavor, in which a tiny band -- (they didn't even have a keyboard player) set out in three tiny ships the Nina, the Pinta and the Merrimac -- and became the first Westerners to make the perilous voyage around Plymouth Rock and discover the Monroe Doctrine, without which the cotton gin would never have been invented.
That's pretty much how I remembered it, too, but the actual facts, as set forth in ''Undaunted Courage,'' are these:
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, in which he paid France $10 million for a humongous batch of land without having any idea what was in it. Why would Jefferson make such a purchase? The answer is simple: He didn't have a wife. There was nobody to say to him: ''You spent $10 million for what? Take it back right now!'' Guys without wives are always making impulse purchases that border on the insane. If hang gliders had been invented in 1803, Jefferson would have bought one of those, too.
Anyway, the United States found itself in possession of this extremely large parcel of land, and nobody knew what it contained in the way of geography, natural resources, shopping, etc. So Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on an expedition to check it out and also see if they could find a way across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, which Jefferson hoped would be a better trade route for beaver pelts bound for the Orient. Back then, the beaver pelts had to be transported by river to St. Louis, then overland to the East Coast, then by ship to London, then by another ship to the Orient, where they had to be burned immediately, because, as you can imagine, after all that travel they smelled like the inside of Marlon Brando's laundry hamper.
''Forget it!'' the Orientals would say. ``We'll just go naked!''
So in 1804, Lewis and Clark set out in search of a better route. Reading about their brutally difficult, extremely dangerous trek across the continent, I was reminded of the summers when I was a counselor at Camp Sharparoon, and I used to set off, leading a party of 10- and 11-year-old boys, into the vast, uncharted wilderness around Dover Furnace, N.Y., fully aware that we would have to survive for an entire night with nothing to sustain us except roughly 200 pounds of marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars. We used these to make the famous campfire treat called s'mores. Sometimes we'd hook up with a group of girl campers and make s'mores together; this is when I observed a fundamental difference between boys and girls:
How girls make s'mores: (1) Place Hershey bars on graham crackers. (2) Toast marshmallows. (3) Place toasted marshmallows on Hershey bars to melt chocolate.
How boys make s'mores: (1) Eat Hershey bars. (2) Eat marshmallows. (3) Throw graham crackers at other boys.
Anyway, Lewis and Clark -- whether because of religious reasons, or sheer ignorance, we shall never know -- did not take any s'mores ingredients on their expedition, so they had to survive by shooting and eating things like elk. I am deeply impressed by this. I have always procured my meat by taking a number at the supermarket; you could leave me out in the woods for a year with a machine gun and an electronic elk detector, and I'd still never be able to shoot an elk. And if I did somehow manage to shoot one, I wouldn't have a clue how to eat it. I mean, what part do you eat? You can definitely rule out the eyeballs, but then what? You just pick up a haunch and start chewing? I don't even know what a haunch is.
Guess what else Lewis and Clark ate? Dog, that's what. In fact, Lewis is quoted on page 322 of ''Undaunted Courage'' as saying that -- bear in mind, this is after two solid years of camping out -- he liked dog even better than elk.
My feeling is, you have to be pretty desperate to eat a dog. I mean, with elk, at least you know they don't like you. But a dog is going to be hanging loyally around your campsite, thrilled to be there, ready to fetch you a stick. How can you just pick up a frying pan and say, ``Here, boy''?
The point is that things were pretty rough for Lewis and Clark, and since this year marks the 190th anniversary of their return, I think it would be nice if Americans commemorated their courageous effort to open up our continent. Perhaps some of us will even want to pack our sleeping bags and retrace their steps through some of the still relatively unspoiled wilderness they explored. Others of us will want to wait until there is plumbing.
This grafitti covered rock, (Indian petroglyphs, Clarke's signature and even Gen Custer's signature a year before the Little Bighorn), attest to the vibrant/historic point on the Clarke Expedition route and later the Oregon Trail settlers!
"-- he liked dog even better than elk."
Of course he did, 'cause it was probably cooked by the tribe they were passing through.
I don't think they took dogs along on their trek. Nor, would there be "wild dogs" to hunt, unless you are talking about wolf or coyote.
The tribal feast would have been the first western diners for passing tourists.
Of course, dogs performed many functions for some tribes, such as security alarms and pulling travious, before horses
were introduced to the Americas.
The men of the Corps of Discovery were the Special Forces of today---the best our country had to offer. Jefferson gave Lewis carte blanche to select his men from the Continental Army.
Today, we hike twenty miles in rigid soled boots with state of the art packs on established trails and think we are something special. Lewis' men averaged significantly more than that in mocassins without trails and with heavier and much less manageable loads. They almost starved going over the Divide and, thus weakened by hunger and illness, still shot rapids on the Columbia that even the local Indians wouldn't try.
One of my college professors said that, if you want to experience how difficult the Expedition was, plunge into a mountain stream up to your neck and then try to push a log upstream. He wasn't very far off the mark.
He would't have had enough money to get in anyway.
That reminds me...in the movie Hidalgo, Viggo Mortenson's character explains that the Lakota (Sioux) word for horse is translated as meaning "Big Dog".
Because the Lakota who first encountered the Spainiards had never seens horses before.
After years in the Boy Scouts and US Army, my idea of "roughing it" these days, is *slow room service*. LOL.
good read :)
Good thing Jefferson was single. That way he didn't need the 48 hour rule.
I traveled the Lewis and Clark trail in 2003. I tried to stay as true to the spirit of the Corps of Discovery as possible, except we went by car, stayed in nice hotels, ate in restaurants, used cell phones, laptops and flew home from Portland.
Other than that, we really roughed-it!
Actually, Meriwether Lewis did take a along a Newfoundland (which he had purchased for $20 in 1803). The dog's name was Seaman and he was adopted by the whole Corps of Discovery and referred to as "Our Dog".
The book, Undaunted Courage, is fascinating. I had no idea of the hardships faced by the Corps during their exploration.
Lol. Sounds like the only way I'd do it!
*snort* I'm going to save this for our son to read when he's doing US History this year, along with "Undaunted Courage", of course. ;o)
Lewis brought his newfoundland - Scannon. The expedition ate and traded both dog and horse, even leather shirts and moccasins after nearly starving in the bitteroot mountains. Deer, Elk, even Grizzly are more or less plains animals, the mountains in those days were nearly devoid of game in the wintertime.
Thanks for the info. I was just in it for the joke anyway. You KNOW how us Americans love hitting roadside diners.
There was some cult situated there when I passed through in the early '80's. I stopped (unwittingly) at their restaurant and had some of the best homemade apple pie ever. I still remember the rose relief in the crust, and the conversation with the poor beguiled waitress...