On the Trail of Lewis & Clark

with Captains Charles R. Knowles & Carole Smolinski

notes by James Richard Fromm, member of the Corp


Tuesday, June 16, 1998 - Moscow, Idaho

N 46o43' 678"

W 116o 00' 365"

Arrived at 7 A.M. and met with Captains Knowles & Smolinski as well as camp wrangler Mike Beiser and his assistant Matt Cantrill. Other members of the Corp include:

The purpose of this expedition was a unique opportunity to study two of the most fascinating episodes of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. During the week's field course, sponsored by the University of Idaho we retraced their Fall 1805 and Spring 1806 journey through the land of the Nez Perce people in the heart of central Idaho. It was expected that we would experience those early explorers' adventures as we study their journals while following their routes and camping near their campsites. View the landscape as Lewis & Clark described it, and learn about its natural and geological features. Hey, and we receive two college credits besides.

Before loading our baggage a short meeting was held for purposes of getting acquainted, appointing three messes (groups of four responsible for preparing meals, cleanup, and journal writing), a general overview of expected events to come and a synopsis of this days activities.

Loaded and ready to go we leave for the first nights camp at "Pheasant Camp" currently known as Lolo Campground. We arrived at the top of the Lewiston Hill with a brief explanation of the history of what we're looking at from the captains.

Arriving at "Big Eddy" or Slaterville we again have an opportunity to discuss events and history of this area. We proceed on to what is now Lenore, Idaho but was , in 1805, the site of Canister Creek named such because near this location the Corp buried two canisters of powder.

Moving further upriver we stop at an "Island?" which is believed to be the camp site of Twisted Hair. It is not currently an island but may have been, as so described in the journals of Lewis & Clark.

Loaded and on the road again we cross the river at present Greer, Idaho and begin our ascent to the top of the bench toward the small community of Weippe. After stopping at an Historical Marker on the outskirts of Weippe to discuss events which occurred near this location we proceeded on to Lolo Campground which was referred to by the Corp as "Pheasant Camp" as that was all they were able to kill for food at this location.

After setting up camp we followed a trail believed by some as the same trail followed by the Corp on September 19, 1805 and which has a fine stand of cedar known as the Lewis & Clark Grove. At one location is an exceptionally large tree known as The Clark Tree. Some suggest that Clark blazed a mark on this tree as he passed through this area.

Returning to camp we had a fine meal of dog and pheasant. Well actually it was chicken but it was still very good. After cleanup we gathered around the campfire where captain Knowles explained and demonstrated the workings of a .54 cal. 1803 Harpers Ferry flintlock. Members were invited to try their prowess. We had only one casualty. O.K., Jacquie cut herself attempting to start a fire with flint & steel. Upon tending the wounded and before retiring for the evening we had a discussion of the travels of Lewis & Clark from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean & their return to Idaho. Much speculation.

Wednesday, June 17, 1998 - Rose at 5:30 to a beautiful clear day. Birds chirping aplenty - temperature 62oF. This day our mess is in charge of clean-up. Loaded gear and headed for Mussellshell Meadows. Found, identified, and tasted camas all of which are new experiences for me as I had never seen it before or if I did I didn't know what it was. It has a long stem, perhaps 1 - 1 1/2 feet long with a pale blue flower with seeds located below the flower about the size of olive seeds and about 10 - 20 in number. The edible portion is the bulb much in appearance to an onion. Also at this location is found Jerusalem Artichoke, a thistle with purple leaves with "edible" multiple bulb-like structures on the top.

Moving on we arrived at another historical marker overlooking Weippe Prairie where on September 20, 1805 Clark came upon three Indian boys attempting to hide in the grass. This was their first meeting with Nez Perce. Our next stop is an overlook of "Big Canyon" and the Greer Bridge over the Clearwater river leading into Greer, Idaho where we entered the Weippe area the day preceding on a paved road. We are now on the new "Lower" Fork Creek gravel road leading into Orofino, Idaho.

Here we cross the river, lunch at "Canoe Camp" and begin our decent of the Clearwater, after minimal but sufficient instruction in proper raft handling. We arrive at Myrtle beach and set up camp having no physical casualties in route. I did loose my prescription sunglasses and broke the band on my wristwatch at a brief rest stop at Lenore but it was another clear and pleasant day. After setting up camp and consuming a fine dinner of salmon we are provided a presentation by Otis Half-moon a member of the Nez Perce Indians in charge of Nez Perce historical areas in a four state area.

Thursday, June 18, 1988 - This day it is our duty to prepare the meals - Arose at 5:45 - Sun was shinning. Being the first to pack my gear I had plenty of time to review my notes of the preceding days and reflect on events. We are loaded and on our way by raft.- 9:30 A.M.

Arrived at Colter Creek, present day Potlatch River, for discussion and to reflect upon the area. Colter Creek is 50 miles from "Canoe Camp", both ours and the original Corps' point of departure by water, as the crow flies. Moved on downstream to Lapwai Creek and the Spaulding Mission site and Interpretive Center (11:30) for lunch after removing the rafts and readying them for transport. Had an interesting presentation from Diane Mallickan Park Ranger/Cultural Interpreter and member of the Nez Perce Indians. Learned here among many other things that July, the month of my birth, is "KHOY-TSAHL - Season of the run of blueback salmon in Wallowa Lake. The meat is red and good". Other items of interest I was able to view was an original Peace Medal and a replica of an authentic "Sweat House" - I believe I'll build myself one of these next to my log cabin.

From this point we loaded again into the van and traveled downstream to Timothy Campground. This site was or is near the the home of Chief Timothy. Here we set up camp for the evening after traveling to Pataha Creek which was visited by Lewis & Clark on May 3, 1806, on their return trip to St. Louis, after a "disagreeable journey of 88 miles." We then returned to the confluence of the Lewis River (Tsceminicum by the Nez Perce) and Kooskooskie River (Snake River and Clearwater River) and visited the Lewis & Clark Center and a remarkable monument erected by N.N. Dreher.

Friday, June 19, 1998 - Loaded the vans heading East upstream toward Kamiah, Idaho. We stopped at an historical marker relating to the Nez Perce Legend of the Ant & Yellowjacket. Upon arriving in Kamiah we moved across the river and traveled East a short distance and heard the story of the Cyote & the Monster depicting the Legend of Creation and how this place became the "Heart of the World." We also visited, nearby, the First Indian Presbyterian Church and the burial site of Chief Lawyer - Died Jan. 3, 1875, about 74 years.

That evening we were hosted at the Nez Perce Community Center by a Nez Perce woman and her family with salmon, camas, venison, bitterroot, potatoes, and Indian tea. We had an opportunity to hear from her regarding Nez Perce life and tradition as well as fielding questions from us. The evening was concluded with a dance in which all participant danced in a moving circle in such a manner as allowed the host and her family to meet and shake hands with each member of the guests. On the grounds of the community center we set up our tents for the evening (Except one unnamed member who camped out in the "Womens Rest Room").

Saturday, June 20, 1998 - Left Kamiah by way of Lawyers Creek to Cottonwood, Idaho where we arrived at 10:00 A.M. and proceeded on to the Cottonwood Catholic Church and a discussion of the history of the area and the possible route of John Ordway and two other members of the Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery on their way to and from the Lewis River to collect salmon for the main body at "Camp Chopunnish" or "The Long Camp" near present day Kamiah, Idaho. These names were given to the site by individuals other than members of the expedition as no member of the corp ever referred to the site by a name other than "Camp."

Traveling on to examine possible routes of Sergeant Ordway we visited the old "Ghost Town" of Za-Za an old-time settlement believed to be composed of a Post Office and General Store possibly around 1912. From this location we descended Corral Creek to the Snake River. We had to stop a few times to let the breaks cool at which time numerous members elected to walk the remaining miles to the river. I hope this wasn't a reflection on their confidence in the Captain to get them to their destination safely! Having reached our destination and discussing this location as a possible site for a fishing camp visited by Ordway our next challenge was the ascent back to the top of the grade with a fully loaded 15 passenger van.

We arrived at our last nights camp overlooking the Salmon, Snake, Grande Ronde, the Emnahah's, Wallowa, and Seven Devils. Altitude of the camp as recorded by GPS is 5345. The region is located south of Mt. Craig in the Wapshilla Range. Our evening meal consisted of steak, corn on the cob and salad. The Captains, as heretofore mentioned, set out the members allotment of spirits for the evening. Later around the campfire the two Captains presented each member of the Corp with a "Friendship Medal", an authentic replica of the original as presented to selected Indians which Lewis & Clark met along their route.

Sunday, June 21, 1998 - With great reluctance on the part of some we left this majestic site and traveled north to Moscow stopping briefly at Waha Bar & Grill for a rest stop. As with other expeditions of which I have been fortunate to experience it is always difficult to part from individuals I have grown to admire and respect.

See you on the mountain!

J. R. Fromm


The punctuation, spelling, syntax, incorrect words and otherwise poor use of words is as they were written in my notebook.