Why the story of the expedition still captivates people
The public is fascinated partly because they have had some great literature and some good documentary film come out. Stephen Ambrose's book sold over a million copies and it was on the New York Times best-seller list and the tragic story of Lewis, the fallen hero, is appealing to people. It's accessible. It's not people that are so distant from us. It's not a George Washington or Roman or Greek heroes. Lewis and Clark don't seem that far away. They seem like people you could understand or relate to. There were just average people on the trip, hunters and privates, a woman and a child and sort of a bumbling Frenchman. These are appealing to people. People come to it for different reasons. They like the scientific work. Some people like the adventure of Lewis and Clark, the raging river, the encounters with grizzly bears, the insurmountable mountains. People like to get out on the trail and see where Lewis and Clark were and find the lands somewhat like Lewis and Clark saw them. The lands that were similar to today, the low, low trails, the Bitterroot Mountains, the scenic white cliffs of Missouri and Montana. You can follow Lewis and Clark. You can get in your van or your RV and get a sense of where they were. You can take your journals or a guidebook and see they camped near here although so much has grown up with cities and towns and pastures and wheatfields and cornfields and cattle ranges, there are still parts of it that seem similar to the way Lewis and Clark saw it. It's just a great story.