Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cabin fever with Lewis & Clark

Southern California normally has the most boring weather in the world: sunny and blue skies, day after day after day. I'm not complaining about that, mind you! But lately we've been having some overcast and wet-ish weather. It seldom rains outright (and not for long) but there's often a fine mist that wets everything and makes the roads slick. It kind of reminds me of the winter weather when I lived in southern Brazil, although not as drizzly and not as persistent. And at first it's kind of nice for a change - cool mornings with a bit of fog from the coast, or maybe a dreary and wet day to break up the monotony - as long as it clears up by noon! Or after a day; two at the most! After that I start feeling kind of blue and blah and yearn to feel the sun again. So, since I'm stuck with my own little case of SoCal cabin fever (although today's looking a little better), I thought I'd talk about one of my favorite books about some guys who really got out into the great outdoors: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West.

Undaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestStephen Ambrose chose to focus on Lewis and why he was ideally suited for the task or exploring the newly purchased Louisiana Territory. In addition to having grown up on the frontier he was also friends with President Jefferson. And together with William Clark, they and the Corps of Discovery (a little over 30 men) travelled across unknown territory to the mouth of the Columbia River and returned, losing only one man very early in the journey.

Ambrose discusses the amazing accomplishments as well as the mistakes that were made, but places everything into proper context, giving us an excellent insight into the personality of Lewis. I found it fascinating to read how the Plains looked with their endless herds of buffalo and frequent encounters with grizzly bears, or the struggles in crossing the Rocky Mountains which turned out to be much more difficult and hazardous than they had imagined. The plants and animals and Indians they encountered along the way are all here, including the 15 year-old guide Sacajawea who is rightly honored, with her infant son. They may not have found the all-water route that Jefferson wanted, but they accomplished something amazing for the time and shared some truly uncommon experiences.

Ambrose retained the original spelling by the men which provides an interesting, and sometimes amusing, look at the time. It's an exciting and readable book that made me want to plan a trip to see parts of the trail myself and wish I could have seen it as they did.  And it might help a little when you're feeling kind of cooped up.

No comments:

Post a Comment