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Cruising the Lewis and Clark route of the Northwest — in comfort

By Terry Colby, Chicago Tribune

It rained on Friday at the end of our cruise on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. That's not surprising, because it rains an average of 196 days a year here. But the rain added a dimension to the tour that highlights the legendary expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Standing amid tall evergreens — spawned by some that were there in 1805 — at Fort Clatsop, rain wetting your head and feet, river sounds nearby and a foggy mist rising through the pines, you can almost feel the presence of the two explorers and their Corps of Discovery team. This is the place, a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, where the team spent 106 winter days, all but 12 of which were rainy. As they prepared to return East and report to President Thomas Jefferson about their 4,000-mile round-trip trek across the continent, they must have been jubilant about their successes and reaching the Pacific. Even still, they were suffering from colds, influenza and rheumatism, wearing rotting clothes and fighting fleas in their beds that made a full night's sleep all but impossible.

We know this because the time spent at Fort Clatsop was when Lewis and Clark worked on the highly detailed maps and journals that outlined their daily lives and described the new animals and plants that the men had encountered along the way. Maybe the rain was a good thing.

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