Finding My Way

I spent last week at Cape Disappointment, the desolate, wind blown place where the vast Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Cape Disappointment is the place where Lewis and Clark ended their journey across what is now the United States and this is the fourth time I’ve been there. I love it. I used to think that the place was probably named by Lewis and Clark, because of the miserable, cold and wet winter that they spent there but I found out that the name actually came from John Meares, a British fur trader. Just north of the Cape, Meares turned his ship around, thus missing his chance to discover the mouth of the Columbia. Reason enough to feel disappointed when he found out — and besides, I can’t imagine that Lewis and Clark, no matter how unpleasant the winter, were disappointed to have achieved their goal of reaching the great western sea. While I was there, I walked for miles on the wild, uninhabited beach every day and looked across the water, imagining the lands that lie across the Pacific and thinking about the forms of life that live under the water. But mostly I contemplated Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their band of thirty-three. I marveled, thinking of them leaving Virginia and traveling by canoe and by foot and crossing the entire continent, only losing one of their group on the trip. On the way there, I wasn’t able to navigate through Portland without a GPS.

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