|Botanical Discoveries: Buckbrush
or Chaparral (Ceanothus sanguineus)
Collected on June 27, 1806 along Idaho's Lolo Trail
A favorite food of deer, hence the name "Buckbrush," also
commonly called Chaparral. The scientific name is
Ceanothus sanguineus. Early
settlers, coming years after the Expedition, called this plant "soapbloom"
because the flowering twigs produced a soapy foam when beaten in water. This
occurs because the plant contains the toxin saponin, in modern times used
for soaps and shampoos.
Related to our BlueBlossom, this shrub was labeled "Ceanothus
atropurpureus" by Pursh. Notes on the label state that Lewis found
"a large speceis of redroot now in blume" (Moulton, 1993: 7) on 10
Jun 1806 which is certainly this species. Apparently a specimen was not
gathered until the party was traveling on 27 Jun near Hungry Creek along
the Lolo Trail in Idaho Co., Idaho (Moulton, 1993: 55-59). The Expedition
traveled some 28 miles that day. It is possible the date "Jun. 27,
1806." on the sheet is incorrect. If so, the specimen probably was
collected at Camp Chopunnish near Kamiah in Idaho Co., Idaho.
Pursh: "Ceanothus atropurpureus. Near the foot of the Rocky
mountain, on Collins Creek. Jun. 27, 1806." Lambert: "Herb:
Lewis & Clarck."
The Expedition's Journey
The guides have joined the Expedition and it's time to move on. The
native peoples give the Corps a show as a special
Last evening the Indians entertained us with setting the fir trees
on fire. They have a great number of dry limbs near their bodies, which,
when set on fire, create a very sudden and immense blaze from top to
bottom of those tall trees. They are a beautiful object in this situation
at night. This exhibition reminded me of a display of fireworks. The
natives told us that their object in setting those trees on fire was to
bring fair weather for our journey.
We collected our horses and set out at an early hour this morning. One of
our guides complained of being unwell, a symptom which I did not much
like, as such complaints with an Indian are generally the prelude to his
abandoning any enterprise with which he is not well pleased. We left 4 of
those Indians at our encampment. They promised to pursue us in a few
hours. At 11 A.M. we arrived at the branch of Hungry Creek, where we found
Joe and R. Fields. They had not killed anything. Here we halted and dined,
and our guides overtook us.
At this place the squaw [Sakagawea] collected a parcel of roots of
which the Shoshones eat. It is a small knob root a good deal in flavor and
consistency like the Jerusalem artichoke.
After dinner we continued our route to Hungry Creek and encamped about 1
1/2 miles below our encampment of the 16th inst. The Indians all continue
with us and, I believe, are disposed to be faithful to their engagements.
Captain Clark, 25 June 1806
We collected our horses and set out early and proceeded on down Hungry
Creek a few miles and ascended to the summit of the mountain where we
deposited our baggage on the 17th inst. Found everything safe as we had
left them. The snow, which was 10 feet 10 inches deep on the top of the
mountain, had sunk to 7 feet, though perfectly hard and firm. We made some
fire, cooked dinner, and dined, while our horses stood on snow 7 feet deep
at least. After dinner we packed up and proceeded on.
The Indians hastened us off and informed us that it was a considerable
distance to the place they wished to reach this evening, where there was
grass for our horses. Accordingly we set out with our guides, who led us
over and along the steep sides of tremendous mountains entirely covered
with snow except about the roots of the trees, where the snow was
partially melted and exposed a small spot of earth. We ascended and
descended several steep, lofty heights, but, keeping on the dividing ridge
of the Chopunnish and Kooskooskee rivers, we passed no stream of water.
Late in the evening, much to the satisfaction of ourselves and the comfort
of the horses, we arrived at the desired spot, and encamped on the steep
side of a mountain convenient to a good spring. Soon after we had
encamped, we were overtaken by a Chopunnish man who had pursued us with a
view to accompany Captain Lewis to the Falls of Missouri.
Captain Clark, 26 June 1806
We collected our horses early and set out. The road still continued on
the heights of the dividing ridge on which we had traveled yesterday, for
9 miles or to our encampment of the 16th September last. About 1 mile
short of the encampment, we halted by the request of the guides a few
minutes on an elevated point and smoked a pipe. On this eminence the
natives have raised a conic mound of stones, 6 or 8 feet high, and erected
a pine pole of 15 feet long. From hence they informed us that when passing
over with their families some of the men were usually sent on foot by the
fishery at the entrance of Colt Creek in order to take fish and again meet
the party at the quamash
glade on the head of Kooskooskee River. From this place we had an
extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow
like that on which we stood. We were entirely surrounded by those
mountains, from which, to one unacquainted with them, it would have seemed
impossible ever to have escaped. In short, without the assistance of our
guides, I doubt much whether we who had once passed them could find our
way to Traveler's Rest, in their present situation, for the marked trees,
on which we had placed considerable reliance are much fewer and more
difficult to find than we had apprehended. Those Indians are most
admirable pilots. We find the road wherever the snow has disappeared,
though it be only for a few paces.
After having smoked the pipe [probably
Kinnikinnik--Wally] and contemplating this scene sufficient to have dampened the
spirits of any except such hardy travelers as we have become, we continued
our march and at the distance of 3 miles descended a steep mountain and
passed two small branches of the Chopunnish River just above their fork,
and again ascended the ridge on which we passed. At the distance of 7
miles, arrived at our encampment of 16th September last.
Our meat being exhausted, we issued a pint of bear's oil to a mess with
which their boiled roots made an agreeable dish. Joe Potts's leg, which
had been much swollen and inflamed for several days, is much better this
evening and gives him but little pain. We applied the pounded
and leaves of wild ginger, from which he found great relief.
Captain Clark, 27 June 1806
Hmmm, bear's oil and boiled roots. Captain Clark calls this an
"agreeable dish." It would, at least, be nourishing and probably
tasted just fine out in the wild country surrounded by snow-capped
mountains. Note the wild ginger poultice used to ease the inflamation of
Joe Pott's leg. Good medicine.
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Bringing history alive: Traveler's Rest