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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lewis and Clark faced challenges on Lolo trek

This week, our biweekly Lewis and Clark Report deserves more than just a short note at the bottom of this column.

Exactly 200 years ago today, Lewis and Clark were entering one of the most dramatic passages of the entire expedition – and certainly the most dramatic of their visit to the Inland Northwest.

On Sept. 11, 1805, the expedition left its Traveler’s Rest campsite on the Bitterroot River near present-day Missoula and started up Traveler’s Rest Creek, now called Lolo Creek.

The expedition members were heading for Lolo Pass and what they hoped would be an easy passage over the Bitterroot Range to the Columbia.

Easy? Hardly.

The Lolo Pass trail turned out to be “intolerable” and “verry bad,” in Clark’s own spelling. Yet that was nothing to what the expedition endured when the group made it over the top of the pass and started making its way down the Lochsa River.

The problem: the Lochsa was (and still is) a wild, roaring steep-banked river. On Sept. 14, high in the upper reaches of the Lochsa, they were forced to kill one of their colts for food.

The creek that comes in at that spot still bears the name Clark bestowed on it: Colt Killed Creek.

The next day, Sept. 15, was even worse. The “road” (an Indian trail) left the river and started climbing the high ridge to the north.

It was one of the steepest and most exposed trails of the entire journey.

“Several horses slipped and rolled down steep hills which hurt them very much,” wrote Clark. “The one which carried my desk and small trunk turned over and rolled down a mountain for 40 yards and lodged against a tree, broke the desk.

“The horse escaped and appeared but little hurt. … When we arrived at the top … we could find no water and concluded to camp and make use of the snow we found to cook the remains of our colt and make our soup.”

He ends the passage, dispiritedly, by writing, “From this mountain I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see.”

Yet the low point didn’t come until the next day, Sept. 16. Clark sums it up by writing, “To describe the road of this day would be a repetition of yesterday, except the snow, which made it worse.”

A mid-September snowstorm had arrived in the high country that night and continued all day. When the party left in the morning, four inches of new snow was on the ground. Clark wrote that several times he had to “hunt several minutes” to even find the trial. Before long, there were six to eight inches of new snow and the expedition was in danger.

“I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life,” wrote Clark. “Indeed I was at one time fearful my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons (moccasins) which I wore.”

He finally was able to find a suitable camp and make fires to warm the rest of the expedition members as they straggled in. Clark’s words give a hint of their relief at making it through the day: “Killed a second colt which we all supped heartily on and thought it fine meat.”

The next few days continued over mountainous terrain, but the weather improved and the worst was over. On Sept. 20, they emerged from the mountains into the prairie at present-day Weippe, Idaho, and then down to the Clearwater River.

The Rocky Mountains, through which they had struggled since July, were finally behind them.

100 years ago in Spokane: A group of civic boosters, the 150,000 Club, adopted a new “yell” on Sept. 5, 1905.

Here’s how it went:

“What can you,

For Spokane do,

I can boost,

And so can you,

I can,

You can,

Spokane!”

The 150,000 Club was so named because it was dedicated to guaranteeing a population of 150,000 by 1910. The 1905 population was about half that.

To get that kind of population increase required more than yelling. It required “boosting,” or to use a more modern phrase, shameless hyping.

The 150,000 Club issued a manual that extolled the myriad ways in which Spokane was superior to any place on Earth.

Among the entries:

“ “Because she has the mining that made Denver.”

“ “Because she has the agriculture that made Kansas City.”

“ “Because she has the climate that made Los Angeles.”

Whoa. Now that was a stretch.

Yet the 150,000 Club didn’t stop there. It continued on to explain that Spokane has “the most equable and all-the-year-round pleasant climate of any city in the country.” Even the winters are “cool, bracing and invigorating, but without dampness or cold winds.”

By the way, all of this boosting didn’t quite work. Spokane’s population in 1910 reached only 104,402.

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