From O the Joy! to Dismal Nitch

Dismal Nitch –  could any place name be more apropos?

After a long and arduous journey across the North American continent,  Lewis and Clark were finally nearing their destination, the Pacific Ocean.  They had left St. Louis on May 14, 1804,  and on November 7, 1805 William Clark had written in his journal, ‘Ocian in view – O the Joy!’   But they weren’t there yet and on November 10th  a severe winter storm pinned them down in a cove that Clark called  “that dismal little nitch”.

On November 12th he wrote,  “It would be distressing to a feeling person to See our Situation at this time all wet and cold with our bedding also wet, in a Cove Scercely large enough to Contain us … canoes at the mercy of the waves and driftwood … robes & leather Clothes are rotten ..  our Situation became Seriously dangerous…”  

We stopped by Dismal Nitch on the north side of the Columbia River, and I pondered the name and plight of the great explorers.

So near their goal but day after day of waves and wind and rain.

Eventually the storm subsided and the Corps of Discovery moved on to Station Camp where they stayed for 10 days and explored the area.  Then after taking an historic vote – where all participated including York the slave and the woman, Sacagawea – they agreed to cross the river to set up their winter camp where game was thought to be more plentiful.  It would be called Fort Clatsop, for the Clatsop Indians who helped them there.

They still had a long and rainy winter to endure before their return trip but return they did, and continued to record their discoveries in their journals.

Is it too much to say that their journey can be a metaphor for life?  We too have seasons full of Joy! but also know the occasional Dismal Nitch.

In any case, I never get tired of revisiting their story and the places they touched in the Pacific Northwest.

~ Susanne

13 Comments on “From O the Joy! to Dismal Nitch

  1. How fun to actually get to see those places! My favorite part of the Lewis and Clark story is Seaman their Newfoundland dog! I did a lesson about him with my English learners and it was so fascinating!

    • My husband has always been a huge Lewis and Clark fan so I’ve become one over the years too! And it’s fun that there are so many footprints of their journey here in the Northwest. There are a couple sculptures of them in Washington and Oregon and both include the dog! I never knew his name! thanks for sharing! 🙂

      • Yes there are quite a few “young readers” books about him. I have one called “Seaman, Dog of Discovery”. It’s amazing some of the things he did to defend them along the journey. 😀

  2. Our kids loved Fort Clatsop and we went there often. It is very helpful to see the size of things instead of just reading about them.

  3. Dismal Nitch is a particularly good name from those days of exploration. The Lewis and Clark story makes for a fascinating and exciting read. I feel the same way about The Oregon Trail and reading descriptions of those adventures.

    • Yes I love the name Dismal Nitch! And I love reading about the adventures from the Oregon Trail too! The stories from these amazing cross country journeys never get old!

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