Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

“My Indian Maiden” Struggles with Sacagawea’s Cradle Board

©Bert Gildart: After trying on the replica cradle board and the attached head band displayed at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana, Jane Gildart (my young Indian maiden) believes Sacagawea had to have been one tough woman.


"My Indian Maiden" hefts cradle board with "her baby Pompey" to begin the start of "her (imagined) 26 day journey" around the five falls of the Missouri.

That toughness was particularly needed between June 13 and July 15, 1805 – the 26 days the Cops of Discovery struggled around the five separate falls comprising the Great Falls of the Missouri. During that time Sacagawea carried her infant child, Pompey, joining with the men in their struggles, all of whom fought exhaustion, rain, hail storms, excessive heat and the prickly pear, which constantly pierced their double thick moccasins.

That story is particularly well told at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  The center does so with an exhibit hall, theater and various displays.  Displays include sculptures by famous artists, maps showing the routes, grizzly bear skulls, and bison artifacts.


Perhaps the most heroic of the displays greets you the moment you enter the center. The heroic assemblage features men from the Expedition struggling to haul their canoe up a huge embankment.  The canoe was made from a cottonwood tree and the wheels were sectioned from a tree.  I was curious about the perfect hole in the wheel that accommodated the axel, and was told the Corps carried hand drills.

Sacagawea of course struggled with the men, and she served Lewis and Clark as a guide, despite her young age.  She had been captured while young and later married the French trapper Charboneau.

Throughout the long journey she totted their child Pompey and though she must have been constantly challenged, most likely the challenges were greatest at these great falls of the Missouri.


Rough weather constantly assaulted them and Lewis wrote of hailstones that measured “7 inches in circumference and waied 3 ounces…”   Lewis also wrote that in one afternoon his path converged with a bear, a mountain cat or wolverine and three buffalo bulls.”

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Struggles were immense for Corps of Discovery when the reached the Great Falls; Black Eagle Falls, one of the five comprising the Great Falls of the Missouri; L&C Interpretive Center provides impressive displays.

Sacagawea struggled with the captains through this country and again my  “Indian Maiden”  turned to the cradle board and hefted it, judging with the interpreter that it weighed about 30 pounds.  To facilitate weight distribution Sacagawea  had attached a head band, and that helped Janie when we she tried it on; but as Janie reminded me Sacagawea carried the baby all day long, and at this juncture in their journey, he struggles must have been particularly difficult.  For 20 grueling miles over a period of 26 days she and the Corps plodded around five massive falls.


Though the Great Falls of the Missouri have been tamed, nevertheless suggestions of great energy remain.  Several of the five falls have been impounded and now produce hydroelectric power.


Bison were integral to the Expediion, and are interpreted at the L&C Center as both utilitarian and as an object of art.


But the question I have is what would the Corps think if they could rise in mass from their graves and visit this incredible land through which they once struggled.  Obviously the question will remain forever unanswered, but it does seem as though they would be delighted that their adventures are cherished and that they are preserved with imagination displays such as are now found along the route of their 8,000 mile-long two year journey. One third of that time was spent in Montana, and some of the most significant challenges remain in this state.  Appropriately those struggles are preserved at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana.




**Airstream and our First 100,000 miles


One Response to ““My Indian Maiden” Struggles with Sacagawea’s Cradle Board”

  1. Tom & Sandi Palesch Says:

    Great L & C Center in GF. We spent quite a bit of time there as well as the one in ND and SD researching their journey. Most fun was in Ft. Benton where we met people that guided Dayton Duncan and Stephen Ambrose floats on the Missouri as they did their writing on that epic journey. L&C inspiration still as exciting today as it was 200 years ago.

    Great photos of the Center!