On the Trail of Lewis and Clark in Wisconsin

Field Notes, January 2012
by Jim Rosenberger

Since the bicentennial celebration we all have worried about a loss of interest in Lewis & Clark history, then something happens which shows the magic of the story of the Corps of Discovery is alive and well.

I received an email from Don Peterson at the Lewis and Clark Trial Heritage Foundation headquarters in Great Falls, MT telling me of a Mr. Paul Timm who had inquired about the signs which appear all along the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail. Mr. Timm lives in Friendship, Wisconsin and Don thought I might be interested in contacting him. I did email Mr. Timm and found something truly impressive was taking place in Wisconsin relative to Lewis and Clark.

Paul Timm is a physical education teacher in Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. He and fellow teacher, Ginny Fritz received a grant from Fund for Teachers because Grand Marsh Elementary was a Wisconsin School of Promise/Recognition for two consecutive years. This past summer, with the help of this grant, Paul and Ginny, along with their spouses, traveled the entire Lewis & Clark Trail by motorcycle. They traveled nearly 7,000 miles in 22 days, visiting many of the sites, interpretive centers and museums along their route. Like the Captains, Paul and Ginny had to improvise along the way, especially when they confronted Mother Nature in the form of the flooded Missouri River.

Lolo Pass: An unforgiving wilderness, then and now.

Upon their return Paul and Ginny started on a project to bring cross curricular activities to their students. “We wanted to incorporate physical education with history and science”. To accomplish this they blazed replica of the Lewis and Clark Trail through one of their school forests located just north of Grand Marsh Elementary School. The westbound trail is .75 miles, the Clark return trail is also about .75 miles and the Lewis route is about .8 miles. Signs will be placed along the trail to indicate where you are and what historical significance the location has. Community schools, businesses, teachers and students are working together to have the trail completed by spring.

The trail will be used for history, science and physical education classes. It will be mostly used for hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. The trail will be open to the community and no fees will be charged. Since it is school property, it is considered public land and the hope is that the community will use it as much as the school. Paul and Ginny would like to see Grand Marsh use the trail for a yearly celebration similar to Westfield’s Rendezvous Days.

It is exciting, not only to see this enthusiasm and interest in Lewis and Clark history here in Wisconsin, but also to see the effort being put forth to utilize the story of the Corps of Discovery for the education of our students. Our Chapter has offered any assistance we can give to help accomplish this and Chapter members will be updated as progress is made.

You can read about their motorcycle trip on their blog, “Corp of Discovery, II“.

This article appears in number 41 of “Field Notes”, a newsletter created by the Badger State Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc. The publication can be accessed here, in its entirety.