Students cycle across Montana plains.

Talent Search students cycle across the plains of Montana on the 2004 segment of the "Expedition of Rediscovery."

CULLOWHEE – Journal entry by Swain County High School student Jessie Nosworthy, July 5, 2004, Lewistown, Mont. -- “Today we will be leaving Lewistown and going to Geraldine (by bicycle.) I remember when we first crested the top of that 20-mile climb coming in to Lewistown and I can remember the way it felt to know that it was going to be downhill from there out. I knew in time that I would have to do it again.

“I imagine Lewis and Clark felt the same way 200 years ago and it blows me away to think that even as time goes on and customs change, the hearts and thoughts of many do not.”

Nosworthy recorded those thoughts in her journal as she and other members of the “Lewis and Clark Expedition of Rediscovery” prepared for a 74-mile bicycle ride to Geraldine, Mont. With a cold rain and strong headwind, that particular day proved to be one of the toughest for nine local high school students and five adult staff members from Western Carolina University's Talent Search Program as they spent June 28 through July 10 trekking across Montana, following the path of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The students and staff flew from Atlanta to Billings, Mont., on Sunday, June 27. The next day, the group hopped on mountain bikes to begin a two-week journey of almost 500 miles. This year's trip was the second leg of the Expedition of Rediscovery, a four-year project in which Talent Search students are attempting to retrace the entire route of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during the 200 th anniversary of their famed exploratory trip by hiking, bicycling and paddling from Missouri to the Pacific coast of Oregon .

This year's journey started with six straight days of cycling, followed by a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July in Lewistown. Then came two more days of cycling before the group boarded canoes to paddle for four days on the Missouri River .

The student crew included four who participated in the first leg of the Expedition of Rediscovery, a 450-mile bike ride, last year -- Jason Murphy and Isaac Rhodes, students at Hiwassee Dam High School, Drew Bowers of Swain County High School and Jason Crisp of Smoky Mountain High School. New student participants this year, in addition to Nosworthy, were Josh Anthony and Amber Giordano of Swain County High, Tyler West of Nantahala School and Miah Williams of Robbinsville High School.

The group completed the trek and flew back to Atlanta on Sunday, July 11. Students and staff returned unscathed, except for student Miah Williams, who sprained her ankle at a campsite on June 30 and was forced to return home early, said Todd Murdock, director of Western's Talent Search Program.

With the first two segments of the Expedition of Rediscovery completed, and two more to go over the next two summers, the project is proving to be educational, on many levels, for the students involved, Murdock said.

Not only are the trips providing an opportunity for the students to learn in-depth information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but they also are learning about leadership and group dynamics, Murdock said.

“This group was awesome,” he said. “They dealt with conflict in a positive way, and they were good compromisers and worked through their decisions with both task and relationship in mind. We couldn't have asked for a better group of students.”

“I think they all brought back different lessons, but some will be common to all,” Murdock said. “They learned they could do a lot more than they thought they could, and that to be other-directed is a superior mindset than to be concerned about self.”

Journal entry by Hiwassee Dam High School student Jason Murphy, July 10, 2004 , Billings , Mont. – “Tonight, Todd wants us to write about a lesson we've learned while on this trip. Mine would have to be responsibility. Before the trip I was used to my parents doing most things for me that I could do for them just as easily, such as washing clothes or (washing) the dirty dishes, or even picking up after me.

“After doing that a few times for two weeks for others, I kind of know what it is like. So right now I make a promise to start doing more for myself and my family, whom I miss very much.”

This year's journey across the high plains of Montana proved to be full of interesting and amusing situations, Murdock said.

One particularly interesting encounter occurred on the Missouri River when the Western North Carolina contingent met up with a high school group from Libby, Mont., that also was paddling the Missouri River, Murdock said. The Montana students were accompanied by their teacher and Steve Morehouse, a Lewis and Clark expert and re-enactor who was paddling the river in his replica dugout canoe and giving talks in his period dress. Morehouse also did the cooking on one night, and the North Carolina group dined on beaver tail – just like Lewis and Clark.

Journal entry by Hiwassee Dam High School student Isaac Rhodes, July 9, 2004, Slaughter River, Mont. – This morning we hiked up to the Hole in the Wall. The trip today was 14 miles. Todd and I were very efficient in our paddling, so we had to stop and wait for everyone else on more than one occasion.

“Lewis and Clark frequented this campsite twice – on May 28, 1805 , and July 29, 1806. We are camping across the river from another white cliff. The scenery in this state never ceases to amaze me. It is an awesome feeling to be clueless to what lies ahead, just around the next bend of the river.”

Talent Search students and crew will return to Montana next summer to continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean . Although nine students participated in this year's Expedition of Rediscovery, the Talent Search staff at Western works with 900 middle and high school students throughout the school year. Students join the program in the seventh grade and the 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.

The program at Western serves students from the counties of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain, and from the Qualla Boundary.

Over the 23 years that Talent Search has been based at Western, one of the primary methods used by the staff to help young people expand their horizons is outdoor adventure.

Journal entry by Swain County High School student Drew Bowers, July 5, 2004 , Lewistown – “I feel that we have accomplished a lot on our trip, but I can't imagine what Lewis and Clark felt after they had worked for a year, compared to our five days. I'm sure giving up had crossed their minds, but I think when they saw the Rocky Mountains they knew that their hard work had paid off. I'm sure that giving up has crossed my mind and many others' minds, but it feels great when you finish the task that you set out to do.”

The Expedition of Rediscovery is being financed with federal funds appropriated by the U.S. Department of Education. The trip is free to students involved, who only have to provide their own spending money, clothing and personal items.

This year's students were assisted by local business that provided funding and supplies, including Bilingual Consulting of Charlotte, Liberty Bicycles of Asheville, Parker Farm of Cullowhee, Brookside Campground of Topton, Nantahala Outdoor Center of Bryson City, Jackson Paper of Sylva, Pepsi of Bryson City, and Motion Makers Bicycle Shop of Sylva.

All Talent Search students are eligible to apply for participation in the 2005 Expedition of Rediscovery, Murdock said. For more information about the project or other Talent Search programs, contact Murdock at (828) 227-7137.

Journal entry by Nantahala School student Tyler West, July 3, 2004 , Lewistown – “The wake-up call this morning came around 6:30 (nice and early.) All morning I prepared myself for the 20-mile climb and anticipated the seven-mile descent after the snowy Judith Mountains. But, all in all, our optimism won out and the ride over the mountains will be something I will never forget.

“The view was amazing, and the images of the snow-capped mountains rising over the Montana prairie will be embedded in my mind forever.”

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Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2004
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