Clark and Lewis – serious adventurers

Serious adventurers

Like many people, I am typically a creature of habit. And as I get older, I find that I am becoming even more so, despite my best efforts to be more spontaneous. I tend to order the same thing from the taco shop near our house every time we visit: two fish tacos, battered and fried, with rice and beans. My wife’s habit of rearranging the furniture every month or two used to drive me batty (until she realized how much I hated it and has settled for once or twice a year more recently). I even get ready for bed in the same order every night: brush my teeth, get into some PJ shorts, get my clothes ready for the morning, then read a little on the right side of the bed (my side of the bed) before turning out the lights.

But when I’m out in nature, discovery and adventure are the name of the game. I love to see new vistas, new plants, new wildlife. I’m that guy that at the end of every hike always says, “just to the top of this ridge and we can be done.” Or, “after we pass that far boulder and see what’s on the other side, then we can head back to camp.” It’s the same with fly fishing: “we can call it a day after we fish up around this next bend – just one more riffle – just one more cast.”

Mountain streams like this beauty are just wide, wet trails into unknown lands and certain adventure.

Mountain streams like this high Sierra beauty are just wide, wet trails into unknown lands and certain adventure. What is just up around that bend?

Sometimes I fancy that I’m an adventurous guy, but I intentionally have friends that are so much more adventurous than me that it keeps me grounded. My friend Lee isn’t satisfied with anything less than the adrenaline rush you can only get from a class four rapid on Idaho’s Lochsa River. Rob, who directs an outdoor program for a Christian college, teaches his students how to survive in ice shelters in the high Sierras. And Ryan would rather sleep near the river in the back of his open-bed pickup in the snow rather than take the time to throw up a tent. These guys are adventurous – they make me look like a big sissy. And that’s good for me.

Probably the most adventurous men in US history, however, were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (Clark sure got he short end of the stick, poor guy. You never hear anyone call it the “Clark and Lewis expedition”!). These captains and their Corps of Discovery were determined to find the best land route to the Pacific Ocean “or perish in the attempt”. They were men of “undaunted courage”. (You owe it to yourself to read historian Stephen Ambrose’s book by the same name.1)

As they cut across this vast, unknown continent, they faced hostile Teton Sioux Indians and ferocious grizzly bears with only muskets and blades. They endured one of the coldest winters imaginable while staying with the Mandan Indians near present-day Fargo, North Dakota. And they shot class five rapids on the Columbia River (these were the days before the dams) in hand-carved canoes.

In return, they had the privilege of being the first (white) men to see the “tremendous mountains” (the Rockies). They had been the first to taste the pure waters of the Yellowstone, the Jefferson, the Lochsa, the Clearwater, and the Snake, some of the mightiest rivers in the world. They were the first to catch, and eat, western cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarki (not likely on a size 18 PMD fly, though). In fact, the second major goal of the expedition, after finding the best route across the interior of the continent, was to make valuable scientific observations of the flora and fauna of this newly acquired land. That made Lewis and Clark the first naturalists of European descent to name and describe literally hundreds of plants and animals new to science (

Embed from Getty Images

What an incredible honor! Imagine being the first people of your culture to see the lodgepole pine or a gray wolf or a western rattlesnake. The Corps of Discovery added more to science in their 2 1/2-year expedition than the previous 180 years combined. Being the first to not only see, but also describe and name the American goldfinch, the black-billed magpie, the Canada goose, the gray jay, and the long-billed curlew gives a whole new meaning to bird watching!


Questions for thought

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 meaning you never leave the house and 10 meaning you throw all caution to the wind, how adventurous are you?

What personality character traits and life experiences have shaped your particular level of adventurousness?

What adventures is the Lord calling you to today?



Creator God, you are the author of all adventure and the greatest adventurer ever. And we know that when you call us out of our comfort zone, into adventure, you have a plan and you promise to go with us. Fill us with confidence to follow you anywhere. Amen.


1 Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the opening of the American west (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996)



About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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4 Responses to Clark and Lewis – serious adventurers

  1. julgarvin says:

    Great movie on netflix “Lewis & Clark” Expedition. We watched it a few months ago. Made bungie jumping look easy. Great piece Dave.

  2. Dave says:

    Thank you for gifting that book to me so many years ago. To this day it is still the best book I’ve read. It humbled me as I vicariously traveled with them an their intrepid and arduous journey. I realized that I would have given up shortly after leaving St Louis. God gives us challenges. It’s our choice to either honor those challenges or wave them on. “A man has got to know his limitations” (qoute from Dirty Harry – Magnum Force) but we can’t possibly know what our limitations are until we challenge our fears. Your Mom has taught me to “Let go & Let God”! Great advice! It’s how I try to persevere through my challenges. Love you!

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