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Entries For June 16:
Captain Lewis (current)
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The difficulty we met with from the fallen timber detained us until 11 o'clock before we reached this place. Here is a handsome little glade, in which we found some grass for our horses. We therefore halted to let them graze and took dinner, knowing that there was no other convenient situation for that purpose short of the glades on Hungry Creek, where we intended to encamp as the last probable place at which we shall find a sufficient quantity of grass for many days. This morning Windsor busted [sic] his rifle near the muzzle.
Before we reached this little branch on which we dined, we saw in the hollows and N. hillsides large quantities of snow yet undissolved. In some places it was from two to three feet deep. The snow has increased in quantity so much that the greater part of our route this evening was over the snow, which has become sufficiently firm to bear our horses; otherwise it would have been impossible for us to proceed, as it lay in immense masses, in some places 8 or ten feet deep. We found much difficulty in pursuing the road, as it was so frequently covered with snow.
The air was cold. My hands and feet were benumbed. We knew that it would require five days to reach the fish weirs at the entrance of Colt Creek, provided we were so fortunate as to be enabled to follow the proper ridges of the mountains to lead us to that place. Of this, Drouilliard, our principal dependence as a woodman and guide, was entirely doubtful.
Short of that point we could not hope for any food for our horses, not even underwood itself, as the whole was covered many feet deep in snow. If we proceeded and should get bewildered in these mountains, the certainty was that we should lose all our horses and consequently our baggage, instruments, perhaps our papers, and thus eminently risk the loss of the discoveries which we had already made if we should be so fortunate as to escape with life. The snow bore our horses very well and the traveling was therefore infinitely better than the obstruction of rocks and fallen timber which we met with in our passage over, last fall, when the snow lay on this part of the ridge in detached spots only.
Under these circumstances we conceived it madness in this stage of the expedition to proceed without a guide who could certainly conduct us to the fish weirs on the Kooskooskee (Traveler's Creek Rest), as our horses could not possibly sustain a journey of more than five days without food. We therefore came to the resolution to return with our horses while they were yet strong and in good order and endeavor to keep them so, until we could procure an Indian to conduct us over the snowy mountains; and again to proceed as soon as we could procure such a guide, knowing from the appearance of the snow that, if we remained until it had dissolved sufficiently for us to follow the road, we should not be enabled to return to the United States within this season.
Having come to this resolution, we ordered the party to make a deposit for all the baggage which we had not immediate use for and also all the roots and bread of cows which they had, except an allowance for a few days to enable them to return to some place at which we could subsist by hunting until we procured a guide. We left our instruments, papers, &c., believing them safer here than to risk them on horseback over the roads and creeks which we had passed.
Our baggage being laid on scaffolds and well covered, we began our retrograde march at 1 P.M., having remained about 3 hours on this snowy mountain. We returned by the route we had come to Hungry Creek, which we ascended about 2 miles, and encamped. We had here more grass for our horses than the preceding evening, yet it was but scant. The party were a good deal dejected, though not as much so as I had apprehended they would have been. This is the first time since we have been on this long tour that we have ever been compelled to retreat or make a retrograde march. It rained on us most of this evening.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.