Cold-weather bicycle ride

Local middle and high school students who participate in Western's Talent Search Program gathered in April for a cold-weather bicycle ride, trying to earn a spot in the “Lewis and Clark Expedition of Rediscovery.”

CULLOWHEE – A group of Western North Carolina high school students will pedal and paddle their way across nearly 500 miles of Montana this summer as they follow the path of Lewis and Clark in a trip sponsored by Western Carolina University's Talent Search Program.

The “Lewis and Clark Expedition of Rediscovery” is a project in which students enrolled in the Talent Search program are attempting to retrace the famed explorers' entire route over four summers by hiking, bicycling and paddling from St. Louis, Mo., to the Pacific coast of Oregon .

Last summer, the first group of eight students cycled 450 miles between St. Louis and Yankton, S.D. This year's group of nine students will mount “aluminum horses” -- their mountain bikes -- on June 28 at Wolf Point, Mont., and head west across the plains, said Todd Murdock, director of Western's Talent Search Program.

After eight days and 420 miles of cycling, the students and Talent Search staff and volunteers will board canoes to paddle 48 miles of the Missouri River over four days. The group will fly back to Atlanta on July 11.

The Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, began its four-year journey in 1803, traveling from St. Louis to the Pacific and opening up the American West for exploration. During the bicentennial anniversary of that legendary event, the Expedition of Rediscovery provides an opportunity for the students to test themselves mentally and physically, learn some history and find out how to get along in a group and make group decisions, Murdock said.

Talent Search is a federally funded program that Western has hosted for 23 years. Students join the program in the seventh grade and the Talent Search staff follows them through to their high school graduations, providing academic, career and financial aid counseling while encouraging the students to go to the post-secondary school of their choice. One of the primary methods used by Western's program to help young people expand their horizons is outdoor adventure.

Western's Talent Search staff currently works with about 900 middle and high school students from Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, and from the Qualla Boundary.

This year's group of nine student participants includes four students who completed the first leg of the Expedition of Rediscovery last year, Murdock said. The four returnees were part of a group of 16 Talent Search students who met on Western's campus in April for a “shakedown session,” which featured a cold-weather bike ride and campout. Nine of the 16 were chosen to go on this year's trip.

The four students who are coming back for their second experience on the Lewis and Clark path are Jason Murphy and Isaac Rhodes, both students at Hiwassee Dam High School; Drew Bowers of Swain County High School; and Jason Crisp of Smoky Mountain High School .

“I'm really pleased that there are some returning students,” Murdock said. “I expect them to contribute some good leadership to the group.”

The five new participants are Swain County High School students Josh Anthony, Amber Giordano and Jessie Nosworthy; Tyler West of Nantahala School; and Miah Williams of Robbinsville High School.

The adult staff will include Murdock; Talent Search staff members Chad Anderson, Maggie Donahue and Leigh McDonald; and a Talent Search graduate, Troy Adams.

In preparation for the Expedition of Rediscovery, the group met May 27 to go on a 45-mile bicycle ride and students were given a training schedule and other materials to study. “Each student will have an area of expertise that they will study up on and be responsible for on the trip,” Murdock said. “Students will specialize as mechanic, nutritionist, physiologist, geographer or meteorologist. All these were important aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and will be no less significant to us.”

While they are traveling across Montana, the students will cook their own meals with grocery store-purchased items and the entire group will camp out each night, Murdock said.

The students will maintain journals and take photographs, and after they return, the best parts of those journals and photographs will be combined to create PowerPoint presentations for each student to take back to his or her school, Murdock said.

The journey begins on June 27 when the Talent Search contingent travels by airplane from Atlanta to Billings , Mont. While they are on the Lewis and Clark path, the group will post regular updates on the Web, which can be accessed by going to the Talent Search Web site, http://www.wcu.edu/talentsearch , and clicking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of Rediscovery 2004 Summer Trek link, http://www.wcu.edu/talentsearch/lewisclark2004.htm.

The group will fly back to Atlanta on July 11, and the students will be reunited with their families that night during a banquet at Western, Murdock said.

The Expedition of Rediscovery is being financed with federal funds appropriated by the U.S. Department of Education. The trip is free for the students involved, who only have to provide their own spending money, clothing and personal items. The students are currently raising sponsorship money to help offset the cost of airplane tickets, Murdock said.

For information about the Expedition of Rediscovery, contact Murdock at (828) 227-7137.

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Last modified: Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University