The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, June 20, 1806

Lewis, June 20, 1806

Friday June 20th 1806. Our hunters set out early this morning; most of them returned before noon. R. Feilds killed a brown bear the tallons of which were remarkably short broad at their base and sharply pointed this was of the speceis which the Chopunnish call Yah-kar. it was in very low order and the flesh of the bear in this situation is much inferior to lean venison or the flesh of poor Elk. Labush and Cruzatte returned late in the evening with one deer which the former had killed. we also caught seven salmon trout in the course of the day. the hunters assured us that their greatest exertions would not enable them to support us here more than one or two days longer from the great scarcity of game and the difficult access of the country, the under brush being very thick and great quantities of fallen timber. as we shall necessarily be compelled to remain more than two days for the return of Drewyer and Shannon we determined to return in the morning as far as the quawmash flatts and indeavour to lay in another stock of meat for the mountains, our former stock being now nearly exhausted as well as what we have killed on our return. by returning to the quawmash flatts we shall sooner be informed whether or not we can procure a guide to conduct us through the mountains; should we fail in procuring one, we have determined to wrisk a passage on the following plan immediately, because should we wait much longer or untill the snow desolves in such manner as to enable us to follow the road we cannot hope to reach the United States this winter; this is that Capt. C. or myself shall take four of our most expert woodsmen with three or four of our best horses and proceed two days in advance taking a plentiful) supply of provision. for this party to follow the road by the marks which the baggage of the indians has made in many places on the sides of the trees by rubing against them, and to blaize the trees with a tomahawk as they proceeded. that after proceeding two days in advance of hungary creek two of those men would be sent back to the main party who by the time of their return to Hungary Creek would have reached that place. the men so returning would be enabled to inform the main party of the probable success of the preceeding party in finding the road and of their probable progress, in order that should it be necessary, the main party by the delay of a day or two at hungary creek, should give the advance time to mark the road through before the main party could overtake them, and thus prevent delay on the part of the rout where no food is to be obtained for our horses. should it so happen that the advance could not find the road by the marks on the trees after attempting it for two days, the whole of then would return to the main party. in which case we wold bring back our baggage and attempt a passage over these mountains through the country of the Shoshones further to the South by way of the main S. Westerly fork of Lewis's river and Madison or Gallatin's rivers, where from the information of the Chopunnish there is a passage which at this season of the year is not obstructed by snow, though the round is very distant and would require at least a month in it's performance. The Shoshones informed us when we first met with them that there was a passage across the mountains in that quarter but represented the difficulties arrising from steep high and rugged mountains and also an extensive and barren plain which was to be passed without game, as infinitely more difficult than the rout by which we came. from the circumstance of the Chopunnish being at war with that part of the Shoshones who inhabit the country on this side of the Mountains through which the road passes I think it is highly probable that they cannot be well informed with rispect to the road, and further, had there been a better road in that quarter the Shoshones on the East fork of Lewis's river who knew them both would not have recommended that by which we came to this country. the travelling in the mountains on the snow at present is very good, the snow bears the horses perfictly; it is a firm coase snow without a crust, and the horses have good foot hold without sliping much; the only dificulty is finding the road, and I think the plan we have devised will succeed even should we not be enabled to obtain a guide. Although the snow may be stated on an average at 10 feet deep yet arround the bodies of the trees it has desolved much more than in other parts not being generally more than one or two feet deep immediately at the roots of the trees, and; of course the marks left by the rubing of the indian baggage against them is not concealed. the reason why the snow is comparitively so shallow about the roots of the trees I presume proceeds as well from the snow in falling being thrown off from their bodies by their thick and spreading branches as from the reflection of the sun against the trees and the warmth which they in some measure acquire from the earth which is never frozen underneath these masses of snow. Bratton's horse was also discovered to be absent this evening. I presume he has also returned to the flatts.