“Art at its highest and nature at its truest are one.”
— Knute E. Westerlind, the architect of Municipal Auditorium in Sioux City, Iowa, designed in 1938 and finished in 1950
By Glynn Wilson –
CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. — From this vantage point looking out from the American Creek Campground, the Missouri River looks as blue as the ocean. The rolling hills on the far side to the north make this place look like Scotland in an otherwise flat landscape, the plains of South Dakota, where you can legally drive 80 mph.
I swear I’m not making this up.
On the way here from Missouri through Iowa and Nebraska, high fructose corn syrup country with industrial farms as far as the eye can see for days along the road, we experienced the gradual increase in elevation one small rise after another. Not being able to see over the horizon because of the general flatness and rise in the land, it appeared to go on forever, mile after a hundred miles. It must have seemed like it took forever if you had to come here in a horse drawn wagon.
Lewis and Clark passed through here in a large boat with six other men and an indigenous woman, Sacagawea.
Just about the time you hit Chamberlain on the road today, the landscape changes, dramatically, and then — there is the river, wide and strong.
Along the way we stopped by the river in Sioux City, Iowa, and took in the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center to learn more about the current interpretation of the Jefferson administration’s “Expedition of Discovery” from 210 years ago.
We passed the Sioux City Municipal Auditorium on the way to the riverfront park, and I noticed something interesting. On top of the building, a philosophical expression was carved in the stone: “Art at its highest and nature at its truest are one.” I had not run across that before, and searching for it in Google was not much help. So I called the city museum and talked to a historian who revealed the origin of the expression. It was coined apparently by the architect, Knute E. Westerlind, when he designed it in 1938.
I like the saying and may adopt it as this trip’s motto, since I’m traveling with an artist named Walter Simon. We’re exploring nature in more ways than one. We are two men and a dog, in a camper van and a tent instead of a boat, but otherwise just Lewis and Clark and their dog Seaman.
Now the most famous of American explorers, the cross country trip led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark was nearly forgotten in the 19th century, revived only in the 20th century by historians, including Gary E. Moulton, who published The Definitive Journals of Lewis and Clark.
I’ve long wanted to follow this route across the country, having once made it to the end of the trail at the Saltworks at Seaside, Oregon, back in the year 2000, visiting Portland for an annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. As the story goes, Lewis and Clark established their winter quarters at Fort Clatsop on December 8, 1805, where the “Corps of Discovery” camped to prepare for the long journey home. The men wanted salt on the way back to flavor the elk, fish and dog they ate along the way — and Lewis approved it knowing it would improve morale.
Our morale was doing great on this trip until we hit the Big Lake State Park Campground in northwest Missouri, where we found the large swarm of giant brown mosquitoes to be a particular nuisance. Otherwise the weather has been fine, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the 50s and blue skies for the most part. We did get some sparse showers overnight at the Finger Lakes State Park Campground, when a cool front came through on Sunday and gave us a major break from the heat of the Gulf Coast.
On Sunday morning, we made it into St. Louis and visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the Gateway to the West Arch, after camping in the Meramec State Park Campground on Saturday by the Meramec River.
The first night on the road, we camped in a friend’s driveway in Jonesboro, Arkansas, journalism professor Ron Sitton, my old buddy from The Southerner days in Tennessee, where we got written up in the press about our trip.
We had packed up the MoJo camper van Friday morning and headed north, out into the wild of the West to see for ourselves what’s really going on in the Sacred Stone Encampment where the Standing Rock Sioux are fighting a major oil pipeline and gaining national attention.
After a few days there we will head for Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and then Yellowstone National Park, where there are stories, photos and video footage we need for our larger story about the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the commercialization and privatization of the parks. Next we will stop at interesting places along the way, such as Arches National Park. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments here and on Facebook.
You won’t see these stories being asked about by the national news media or talked by the candidates in the presidential debates.
Please keep following us and sharing the links. We need all the support we can get to recover the expenses of doing this important trip and bringing attention to these critical national stories that are not being asked about or talked about.
We need your support to get us on down the road, and hopefully back home in a few days or weeks. We are now calling our journey the “Expedition of Rediscovery.” We need to rediscover our national mission, where natural rights, nature and art meet. We need to respect our native roots, and stop the corporate pillaging of our land, our water and our people. Or else.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.