19 June 2017
After a year and a half journey, the expedition finally arrived within a few miles of their destination, the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River. Unfortunately, one of their greatest tests awaited them so close to success. A huge winter storm forced them up against a rocky and unforgiving northern shore and trapped them there with little food or decent clothes for the conditions. Capt. Clark wrote of the brutally difficult conditions and wondered if they were going to survive this last trial. Finally, after six days, the weather relented, and they were able to move on to their destination at the Pacific Coast. Their time at the Dismal Nitch, which was the name Capt. Clark gave it, was over.
The Expedition arrived at the coast and decided to build a fort along the coast to pass the winter months before returning to their starting point near St Louis. They selected a spot on the north end of what is now called the Clatsop plains approximately 5 miles southwest of what is now the city of Astoria. It proved to be a harsh and long winter, but they faired well with no loss of life. In the spring they headed east and divided into two groups, so they might explore more of the countryside. The trip back to the starting point took roughly one third as long as the trip west.
As we traveled as close as possible to the route they took and saw the conditions that they must have endured, we can only wonder at the courage and dedication to the task they had. They were truly heroic figures then and now.