In case you haven’t heard yet, we are going back on the trail again this year. Actually, we follow some historic trail or other every summer, but I’m talking about THE trail, the Lewis & Clark Trail – my favorite.
Fred and I have traveled the Lewis & Clark Trail many times together, but until last summer, he didn’t have a name. I name all kinds of inanimate objects around my house, including plants and my 100 year old mounted buffalo head (his name is Reginald, in case you wondered), but I had never named my silky dark beaver pelt for some reason, and my larger, lighter complected pelt is also nameless. So why now? And why Fred?
Not sure. It just kind of happened. For a time on last year’s excursion – a very brief time, as it turned out – he had a companion onboard the coach. One of our sojourners purchased “Felicia” along the way, and displayed the two handsome furs adjacent to each other on the coach, so it just seemed natural that they should both have names. Unfortunately, Felicia retired early, to be shipped home along with other treasures acquired on the trip, and Fred finished the trail alone.
But I digress.
The point of the story is that we are receiving enough interest in the iconic Lewis & Clark Trail to make the trip again in 2014 and I couldn’t be happier. After eight trips (actually, we have run many more than eight; that’s how many I’ve done personally) this excursion has become one of our signature tour programs, and definitely my favorite.
The fur trade of course, was the economic drive behind the 1803-1806 expedition so we devote a fair amount of time to learning about America’s first industry, including its successor: the buffalo trade.
There are many places throughout the West interpreting the North American fur trade, and we include the best of them on our itineraries, of course.
One of my favoties is the re-creation of Fort Benton, located at the northernmost point of the Lewis & Clark Trail, in today’s central Montana. Here we meet “Burnt Spoon”, the very personification of a legendary fur trapper, who spins tales and answers our questions about the fur trade, the Lewis & Clark Trail and Fort Benton itself, which also happened to be the end of the line for steamboats on the Missouri River and played a pivotal role in the subsequent Montana gold rush.
Another is the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, Nebraska. This outstanding but little-known Nebraska State Museum is situated adjacent to the original Bordeaux Trading Post, which sounds rather grand but in actuality is only a dugout. It is, however the real deal and served Natives and fur trappers in the early part of the 19th century. It doesn’t get much more authentic than this. Both the museum and the soddy are included on the Old West Trail (July 12-18).
So if you’d like to go with Fred and me this summer to experience these and many more authentic locations in the Great American West, we’d be glad to have you join us.
See you on the trails!
This month’s Trail Talk is sponsored by:
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. She is a frequent presenter at numerous history conferences and trade association meetings and is a regular contributor to ABA’s Insider online magazine. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.