We made it! We officially arrived on the Pacific Coast on September 27th after a September 1st departure. As we journeyed across the U.S., we criss-crossed the many and varied paths of western expansion and couldn’t help but get lost in the stories of early travelers. There are two primary trails that were blazed in the 1800s that you likely know by name, but you may not be as familiar with their origins, routes, and usage.

PS: There is a little treat at the end of the post.

Almost There
Craters of the Moon, ID - September, 16 2015

The Lewis and Clark Expedition was originally commissioned to Meriwether Lewis by his childhood neighbor and mentor, President Thomas Jefferson in 1802: "The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by its course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado and/or other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.” At just 29-years-old, Lewis wisely anticipated the arduous journey ahead and voluntarily invited his old war buddy, William Clark, to co-captain the expedition. In May of 1804, the two met in St. Louis, Missouri (population 4,000) along with their rigorously tested crew and the country's first government contractors. They prepared supplies and gifts for bartering with the Indians, and headed out to map America towards the Pacific Ocean.

 

All Roads Start in St. Louis

Less than a decade later, the now famous Oregon Trail was tested by over 400,000 settlers heading west, leaving an estimated 10,000-20,000 dead along the way. Astonishingly, given its high death toll, this trail was first established as an alternative to the treacherous Lewis & Clark Trail. The route is now well-marked along Interstate 29, originally known as The Great River Road. The use of this deadly trail continued until the first transcontinental railroad was opened in 1869.

Gateway to the West
St. Louis, MO - September, 3 2015

Like Lewis and Clark before us, we too finalized our westward preparations in St. Louis. Today, the area is a bustling port city with a population of nearly 400,000 and still home to the giant Arch dubbed the “Gateway to the West.” A massive renovation is currently underway, covering the majority of the downtown riverfront area as a part of the CityArchRiver project to convert the area into a more beautiful and usable pedestrian space. This effort reminded us of our hometown revitalization project, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership in Atlanta.

Kansas Train
I-70E Colby Exit - September 4th, 2015

 

Windmills
Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve - September 4th, 2015

We made our westward trek just south of both iconic trails, deciding to cut directly through Kansas towards Colorado before venturing farther north. Though we passed through Kansas in a single day, the beauty of the plains country was not lost on us. We drove through some of the clearest skies and countless miles of windmills, oil drills, grain silos, and, my favorite, the sight of an entire train in a glance. We quickly moved into plains region of Colorado and at last saw the glimmer of Denver with the mountains painted in the background.

Eastern Clay, Meet Western Rocks
Red Rocks Amphitheater - September 6th, 2015

We visited one of the most famous venues in the world, Red Rocks Amphitheater, which was recently designated as a national historic landmark. Formerly named both “The Garden of the Titans” and “Stage Rock,” Red Rocks Amphitheater was designed by Denver Architect Burnham Hoyt in 1928. The Red Rocks are part of the Fountain Formation, which predates the Rockies by hundreds of millions of years.

Awestruck
Mount Moran - September 8th, 2015

On September 9th, we returned closer to the Lewis and Clark Trail and arrived at Teton National Park discovered by John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Quite simply one of the most stunning places I’ve visited in the US, we set up our home base near Colter Bay. We hiked Jenny Lake, one of the many natural glacial lakes in the area, and of course had to test one of our new frame designs for 2016 in the water.

Rheos Floatables Test, "They work!"
Jenny Lake - September 10th, 2015

Rest Stop
Jenny Lake - September 10th, 2015

Yellowstone National Park Entrance - September 10th, 2015

From the Tetons, we took a short hour drive north to Yellowstone where we had a chance to explore the geothermal and wildlife regions in this gorgeous area. You can read more about our Yellowstone excursions here.

Craters of the Moon, ID - September 16th, 2015

We continued towards the Pacific and veered away from the Lewis and Clark Trail to join the Oregon Trail route. From the 1840s through the 1860s, tens of thousands of early settlers passed through southern Idaho on their way west. The rugged lava terrain, now preserved as Craters of the Moon National Park, made travel even more demanding. The emigrants typically passed through during the hottest part of the summer, and the drying, shrinking wood caused wheels and boxes to come apart. Fragments of broken wagons littered the trail.

The monument area is 1,200 miles with nearly 700 miles of black volcanic rock from eruptions as recent as 2,000 years ago. It is the largest lava field in the contiguous US. Photos can hardly do justice to this bizarre and spectacular region. Apollo 14 astronauts used the unfamiliar geological terrain in preparation for future trips to the moon.

Ann's Recliner
Columbia River Gorge - September 19th, 2015

After thousands of miles of sparse wildlife and vegetation, we greeted the return of lush greenery as we approached the city of Portland. We enjoyed the scenery and a comfortable hike at Angel’s Rest Trailhead. The near 2000 foot drop in the Columbia River Gorge area descends straight into the water below.

Name that Bird
Columbia River Gorge - September 19th, 2015

Portland offers thousands of acres of parks and wilderness, which provide the perfect setting for native (and the inevitable invasive) plants and animals. The city of Portlandia fame is just a half hour north of Oregon City, the original Oregon Trail destination.

Blood Moon Eve
Newport, Oregon - September 27th, 2015

After dropping off the Airstream in Corvallis (home of Oregon State University) we continued on to the coast of Newport just in time for sunset. Another wonderful surprise, we’ll share more about this cool fishing village soon. After an extended stay in Oregon getting the truck ready for travel again, tomorrow morning we leave for our next stop: Yosemite. 

Now for the treat...enjoy!
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