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The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Lewis, June 17, 1806

Tuesday June 17th 1806. we collected our horses and set out early; we proceeded down hungry creek about seven miles passing it twice; we found it difficult and dangerous to pass the creek in consequence of its debth and rapidity; we avoided two other passes of the creek by ascending a very steep rocky and difficult hill. beyond this creek the road ascends the mountain to the hight of the main leading ridges which divides the Waters of the Chopunnish and Kooskooske rivers. this hill or reather mountain we ascended about 3 miles when we found ourselves invelloped in snow from 12 to 15 feet deep even on the south sides of the hills with the fairest exposure to the sun; here was winter with all it's rigors; the air was cold, my hands and feet were benumbed. we knew that it would require five days to reach the fish wears at the entrance of Colt Creek, provided we were so fortunate as to be enabled to follow the proper ridges of the mountains to lead us to that place; short of that point we could not hope for any food for our horses not even underwood itself as the whole was covered many feet deep in snow. if we proceeded and should get bewildered in these mountains the certainty was that we should loose all our horses and consequently our baggage instruments perhaps our papers and thus eminently wrisk the loss of the discoveries which we had already made if we should be so fortunate as to escape with life. the snow boar our horses very well and the travelling was therefore infinitely better that the obstruction of rocks and fallen timber which we met with in our passage over last fall when the snow lay on this part of the ridge in detached spots only. under these circumstances we conceived it madnes in this stage of the expedition to proceed without a guide who could certainly conduct us to the fish wears on the Kooskooske, as our horses could not possibly sustain a journey of more than five days without food. we therefore came to the resolution to return with our horses while they were yet strong and in good order and indevour to keep them so untill we could procure an indian to conduct us over the snowey mountains, and again to proceed as soon as we could procure such a guide, knowing from the appearance of the snows that if we remained untill it had desolved sufficiently for us to follow the road that we should not be enabled to return to the United States within this season. having come to this resolution, we ordered the party to make a deposit for all the baggage which we had not immediate use for, and also all the roots and bread of cows which they had except an allowance for a few days to enable them to return to some place at which we could subsist by hunting untill we procured a guide. we left our instruments papers &c beleiving them safer here than to wrisk them on horseback over the roads and creeks which we had passed. our baggage being laid on scaffoalds and well covered we began our retrograde march at 1 P.M. having remained about 3 hours on this snowey mountain. we returned by the rout we had come to hungry creek, which we ascended about 2 miles and encamped. we had here more grass for our horses than the preceeding evening yet it was but scant. the party were a good deel dejected tho not so as I had apprehended they would have been. this is the first time since we have been on this long tour that we have ever been compelled to retreat or make a retrograde march. it rained on us most of this evening.