Using Lemhi Pass, Lewis with an advance party of three men crossed the Rockies on foot. Imagine when he realized that the Rockies were not like the Appalachians which are a single range of mountains with many passes. The Rockies are many ranges with few passes and rivers full of boulders and rapids. They now knew that there was no easy portage, there was no northwest passage,and they had to have horses to cross over.
While Lewis was returning and still on other side of Lemhi Pass he ran into some Shoshone women gathering food, and they took him to their village. There he met Chief Cameahwait. This village turned out to be the Lemhi Shoshone, Sacajawea’s people, though Lewis wouldn’t know this until later.
He, his three men, and Chief Cameahwait with fifteen warriors crossed back over Lemhi pass to the east and traveled back down the Beaverhead. They met Clark and some of his men near Camp Fortunate.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when Sacajawea and a childhood friend of hers immediately recognized one another. And then imagine Sacajawea’s happiness when she realized that Chief Cameahwait was her brother. It is said that she cried tears of joy. That is when the expedition realized that these were Sacajawea’s people.
She told her brother that these white men needed to cross the mountains and needed to trade for horses. He told her that he would trade horses for guns.
Sacajawea was still a young girl but also a young wife with a baby during the expedition. She did not speak English but her husband Charbonneau could speak Shoshone. He did not speak English either. His native tongue was French.
I learned a lot about her while at the museum in Great Falls. I even got to try on what she would have worn. It was made of animal skin and was heavy. Good for winter, but not so sure about summertime.
I find it peculiar that their journals always refer to her baby as hers but not Charbonneau’s. I’ll let you speculate on that peculiarity on your own.
The expedition traded for horses from Sacajawea’s people, and then they left behind their canoes and some supplies which they hid for their return trip. Now they are traveling with loaded packsaddles. They crossed Lemhi Pass, and Sacajawea was truly back home, though just for a visit.
In Salmon where I spent the night, there is an Interpretive Center which highlights her life and the lives of her people, the Shoshone, which are also called the Snake Indians. As soon as I heard this I wondered if this is because they lived in the land of many snakes. I sure saw a lot of those sidewinders in a very short length of time yesterday.
So I left this morning from Salmon, Idaho to follow north the trail on the Salmon River, just as the expedition did. The river is very navigable here, but won’t be soon up ahead.
Late in August of 1805 Clark left with an advance party to explore this river and the rugged canyon it flowed through. He came back and reported that the Salmon is almost one continuous rapid and passage with their canoes is entirely impossible.
It is 110 miles north to Lolo Pass where they will cross the rest of the Rockies. The drive by the Salmon River and its forks was really nice. I realized that I could have driven farther last night. There are several nice inns and lodges on the river plus restaurants and at least one gas station about twenty miles north of Salmon.
On their way north they were looking for a way over Idaho’s mountain barrier. They struck out without a trail to follow, but their experienced Shoshone guide showed them the way. They followed a difficult ridge top divide. The mountains here were treacherous, and they were mostly wet and cold as they crossed the snow covered ridges. They experienced the season’s first snow.
I was on US 93 as it climbed through the mountains, and this drive is beautiful. It keeps switching back and forth and climbing higher into a big ponderosa pine and fir forest.
The experts who have studied the Lewis & Clark journals agree on most about the Lewis & Clark Trail, but not this part through the mountains. It was a difficult crossing as the mountains closed in around the creek, and they had to walk the horses on the steep sides of the mountains. Several packhorses slipped, fell and injured themselves.
The path they took is lost, and this is why the area is called Lost Trail Pass. I stopped at a rest area here. It sits on the Idaho/Montana state line at the Continental Divide. It is beautiful up here with yellow flowers everywhere. I packed a lunch and ate it at one of the picnic tables while Reading a book. It is called “Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy” by Carlos Eire. I’m a long way from Miami. But it is a very good book.
Left the pass and came down into the Bitterroot Valley. Here is where the expedition found the Salish Indians who were very good to them. The place was at Ross’s Hole and the meeting took place on September 4, 1805.
The expedition was very tired and hungry. The Salish gave them blankets and some fresh horses in a trade. One of the journalers said that these were the most likable and honest “savages” he had ever seen.
These Indians were named the Flathead Indians by Lewis. Their heads were not shaped any differently so we’re not sure why he gave them this English name.
This valley is where these people spend their winters. They gathered bitterroot, wild onions and everything else to prepare each year.
There were problems with the language though. No one in the party could speak their language, but there was a Shoshone boy living with the tribe. He could speak both the language of the Salish and Shoshone, so he and Sacajawea could communicate.
She in turn translated to her husband what he said, her husband translated it in French to one of the members of the expedition, who then translated it into English for the rest of the Corps. It was slow going but it worked.
The Salish people gave them their knowledge of the area, including information about the trail that would lead them over the mountains ( Lolo Pass) and to the Pacific Ocean. The tribe told the Corps that they were the first white men any of them had ever seen.
I ran into a lot of smoke north of Darby, Montana. There is a forest fire nearby. It got so smoky that you could not see the surrounding mountains in one area. To the left side of US 93 going north all the roads for about 5 miles were blocked off by law-enforcement. I also passed by a staging area for forest fire equipment and people. This must be quite a fire.
I finally got to Travelers Rest which is very near Lolo, Montana. This is where Louis and Clark came to find the trail crossing over the Rockies. They camped here for three days from September 9 through the 11th in 1805.
They named it Travelers Rest because this is where they stopped to prepare, rest themselves, and rest the horses before attempting to go farther. They also stopped here to confirm that there was an Indian trail up the Blackfoot River to the Pacific Northwest. I got here too late to tour the State Park, so I’ll have more on that tomorrow,
Game was plentiful so they ate well. To the west you can see snow covered Lolo Peak. They decided to follow the old Indian trail and with their Shoshone guide the 33 members of the expedition left here on September 11, 1805.
They would also stay here again on their return in the end of June, 1806.