My traveling starts in 1999 with a cross country trip through the whole USA from the East coast to the West coast. I follow three different trails, which I am able to concatenate pretty good. The first trail is the George Washington Trail, which leads me from Washington D.C. via Pittsburgh to Erie and back again to Pittsburgh. Then I follow the George Rogers Clark Trail which leeds me down to St. Louis. The last and also the longest trail is the Lewis & Clark Trail. The end of this trail is at Seaside near Astoria in the state of Oregon. The final part is the Highway 101 to the North through the Olympic Forest and up to Seattle. From there I have to fly back home.
In the following year I decide to buy an old used SUV. I want to drive on backroads and with a rental car you are not allowed to drive on unpaved roads. For buying a car I was sure I would need a couple of days, so I plan only a short trail for this year. With the decision of having my own car I have also fixed my base station to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. There my car awaits me for the trails in the oncoming years. But let’s go back to the trail in the year 2000. I follow the Sullivan, Clinton and Broadhead Trail This one leads me from Easton in the east of Pennsylvania up to Finger Lakes and along their shores. The finish of this trail is the visit of Old Ft. Niagara and, as a must see, Niagara Falls.
With my last year bought SUV, I am able to travel portions of the Lewis & Clark Trail, which I was not able to drive two years ago, because I have had a rental car at this time. In particular these are the trails via the Rocky Mountains. The most common trail is probably the Lolo Motorway in the Clearwater National Forest. But following this trail shows the first disadvantage of a fixed base station: I have to travel around 4000 miles (towards and back) to reach my trail and then again my base station. But I take the opportunity to visit Martin in Chicago and Jean and Matt in Detroit whom I have met on my 1999 trail.
On my next trail in 2002 I follow Zebulon Montgomery Pike who had like Lewis & Clark the order to explore the newly acquired country. He started one year after the Lewis & Clark expedition from St. Louis and followed the Mississippi to its sources. From there I follow the north shores of the Great Lakes (through Canada) and reenter the US at Detroit. There I visit again Jean and Matt and take the opportunity to see the Henry Ford Museum.
My trail in 2003 also follows Zebulon Montgomery Pike. It would have led me from St. Louis to the south end of Colorado and from there through New Mexico to Texas and Louisiana. I planned to do the whole trail in one year but I soon discover that this would be almost impossible. So I split it up in two trails with the split at the south end of Colorado. But my job has pretty much canceled my original plans and I have to drive the second part from Colorado through New Mexico and Texas first. On my way to Colorado I visit Rex and Mark in Kansas City. Then I go on to Colorado, through the plains of New Mexico to White Sands and down to Texas. There I leave Pike’s route and follow the Rio Grande. This gives me the chance to visit the Big Bend National Park. In the vicinity of Eagle Pass I hit Pike’s route again and drive on to Louisiana. In Natchitoches the end of the trail is reached.
In 2004 I am able to follow the first part of the Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail. The start is in St. Louis and I drive along the Missouri River to the mouth of the Osage River. I follow the latter up to Kansas, where Pike went to the northwest to visit the Pawnee Indians. From there the trail went on to the southwest down to Great Bend and along the Arkansas River into Colorado. Despite to Pike I am able to climb Pikes Peak (with my car). Crossing the Wet Mountain and Sangre de Christo Mountain Range and the impressive Great Sand Dunes I reach the end of my trail in Alamosa. On my way back I stop in Sioux Falls, where Christine Albert & Chris Gage and the Red Willow Band give a concert at the Washington Pavilion, with 1700 people nearly sold out. From there I drive via Kansas City back to Pittsburgh.
My first destination in 2005 is again St. Louis. From there I follow the Missouri and the trail of John Colter and Manuel Lisa, when he build the first trading post at the Yellowstone River in the area of the Big Horn River. Colter followed the Yellowstone up to Pryor Creek. From there he crossed the Pryor Mountains to Cody in Wyoming. Crossing the Wind River Mountain Range he reached Jackson Hole and from there via Teton Pass today’s Idaho. He went on north, until he crossed the range again at the south side of today’s Yellowstone Park. Now he followed the Continental Divide, crossed Dunraven Pass and reached Tower Junction. He crossed the Yellowstone and followed Soda Butte Creek and Clark‘s Fork up to Cody again. From there he took the direct way to Pryor Mountains and Yellowstone River and back to the fort. I now drive on to Detroit, where I visit my friends Jean & Matt, and on to Pittsburgh, where I reached the end of my this years journey.
The trail in 2006 follows the footprints of the so-called Astorians, who were guided by Wilson Price Hunt. Hunt followed the Missouri from St. Louis up to Mobridge and then headed west along the Grand River. He reached the Powder River in Montana and went on south to Wyoming, followed the Wind River up to Dubois and crossed the mountains at Union Pass. The next mountain range was crossed at Teton Pass and then he followed the Teton and Snake River. In the area of nowadays Ontario, OR, he had to leave the Snake River and followed an old Indian trail up to nowadays LaGrande and Pendleton. The last leg of the journey followed the Umatilla River up to the Columbia River and the Columbia all the way to the Pacific Coast. From Astoria I drive back to Pittsburgh within 6 days, again visiting my friends Jean & Matt in Detroit.
In 2007 I first get my 88 Chevy S10 BDS Lift Kit installed. Then I visit my friends Jean & Matt in Detroit and Sherry and her family in Prairie Du Chien. I drive on to Richland, WA to the mouth of the Walla Walla River. There my Robert Stuart Trail starts. I drive further south via Pendleton and through the Whitman National Forest to LaGrande. From there, I–84 follows the trail very close and I reach Ontario along the Snake River banks. Further on the Snake River I pass American Falls and reach Portneuf River. Down Portneuf and Highway 30 I reach the “Big Hills” area, following Thomas Fork to the north and crossing into Wyoming at Fairview. Stuart crossed the mountain range at Sheep Pass and went north through the valley. He reached the Snake at nowadays Palisades Reservoir, entered again Idaho and followed the Snake northwesterly to Heise. There he caught up with Hunt’s old trail, went through Teton Basin and over Teton Pass to Hoback Junction, Pinedale and southeast to South Pass. Through the Great Divide Basin he headed up north through Muddy Gap to Sweetwater River. Along Devil’s Gate he went through nowadays Pathfinder NWR and arrived where is now Casper. After his winter pause, Stuart went by canoe along the North Platte to the Missouri and on to St. Louis. From there he went overland by horse to the Ohio and along this river to Pittsburgh, where I reach the end of my this years journey.
You won’t believe it, but 2008 was the first year since a long time, where I had no unexpected stops at mechanics. At first I follow the Interstates up to Kansas City and then on bigger Highways up to Omaha. There I start my Stephen H. Long Trail along the Platte and South Platte River to Denver. Along the Front Range to the south I reach Monument, where I visit Harv & Barb. On to Colorado Springs I arrive at Pikes Peak. Edwin James from the expedition was the first white man to be known to actually reach the summit of Pikes Peak. Then I drive on to the Arkansas River. The expedition first followed the Arkansas to the west into the Royal Gorge. I also follow this route as far as possible by car and hike the rest on the Tunnel Drive. Now it is time to turn around and follow the Arkansas to the east. In the area of Rocky Ford the expedition split. James followed the Arkansas with part of the group to the east up to Ft. Smith. I also follow this route, but at Ft. Smith I turn back to Rocky Ford to also follow Long’s group. I drive to the south down to Canadian River and along this river to the Arkansas. Eventually I reach again Ft. Smith, the end of my this years trail. Now I have to drive back on the Interstates to Pittsburgh.
2009 is the beginning of my set of Jedediah Smith Trails, which will keep me busy for the next couple of years. Jedediah explored most of the Country West than anyone before him. He was the first to cross the Sierra Nevada and traveled up all the Pacific coast. He survived numerous battles and Indian massacres until he was killed in 1831 by Comanches. My travels start in 1822 where he set of near nowadays Chamberlain, SD with a small group for beaver hunting. I visit the Badlands and Black Hills with Mt. Rushmore, which Jedediah passed south. I reach the Big Horn Mountains and follow the Big Horn to Wind River Valley and the Wind River up to Dubois. A short ride gets me up to Union Pass and back to Dubois. Now I travel back the valley and go south to the Sweetwater. Again I reach South Pass and follow the Big Sandy south. I reach the Flaming Gorge area, circle around the south end through Utah and go up through the Bear River Divide to Evanston, WY. From there I go up north, following the Blackfoot to the Snake. I insert a short trip to the Craters of the Moon, then I turn north into the Lemhi Valley. I cross Lemhi Pass and Gibbons Pass and travel along the Bitterroot to the north up to Missoula. Along Clarks Fork I reach the end of my this years trail near Thompson Falls in Montana. Then I travel on Interstates back to Pittsburgh.
In 2010 I follow the next leg of my Jedediah Smith Trails in the years 1824—1826. The start is at my last years end in Thompson Falls. I travel the same way back to the south like last year traveling up, now crossing Gibbons and Lemhi Pass into the lava plain area around Idaho Falls. Then Smith started hunting along the Portneuf and Bear River. I follow these rivers up to the first fur trader rendezvous at Henrys Fork. Then Smith went for his winter quarters in cache valley. There he explored the Salt Lake area. I use the opportunity to travel a bit more to the west to explore the area around Wendover and Bonneville Flats. Back on track in cache valley, I follow his traces to eastern Nevada and along Salmon Creek Falls up to the Snake and further on the Boise. From there he trapped the Payette River up to the sources, turned back to Boise and trapped the Boise to the east. Finally he reached the Big Lost River and the lava plain at Idaho Falls again. On his way back to Cache Valley he crossed the Tetons to Jackson Hole and followed the Snake and Salt River to the Bear River. In summer 1826 the second rendezvous happened. Now I am traveling back along the Interstates to Pittsburgh again.
2011 I follow the next part of my Jedediah Smith Trails which starts in 1826 at the rendezvous point in Cache Valley near Logan, UT. The trail goes south over the mountain range into Utah Valley and further on to the south down to the Sevier River. Jedediah followed this river down to Clear Creek and along Clear Creek over the mountain range to nowadays Fort Cove. I–70 follows roughly his path. Approximately along I–15 the trail goes down to St. George, the end of the trail for this year. I use the opportunity to explore off his trail Cedar Breaks and the Upper and Lower Zion National Park. Along the Interstates I travel back from St. George to Pittsburgh.
Most of my travels in 2012 have been off my Jedediah Smith Trail in 1826. I first visit the San Rafael Swell, Goblin Valley State Park, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon before I reach my starting point for this year in St. George. This gives me only one day traveling along the Virgin and Colorado River to Las Vegas. From there I travel back via Memphis, visiting Graceland, and Nashville, visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, to Pittsburgh.
My traveling in 2013 is again more back on my Jedediah Smith Trails in 1826. This time I am only two weeks off my trail around the Moab area before I pick up my trail at Las Vegas. From there I follow the Colorado River down to Needles. With Indian guides Jedediah went through the Mohave Desert to the San Bernardino Mountains. Via Memphis and Nashville I travel back to Pittsburgh.
In 2014 I follow the sixth part of my Jedediah Smith Trails in 1826/1827. Again I spend two weeks in the area of Moab before I am back on my trail over the San Bernardino Mountains. From there I follow his trails to LA and San Diego and back over the San Bernardino Mountains into the San Joaquin Valley. I follow the valley up to Sequoia National Park before I start my way back to Pittsburgh along I–40, St. Louis and Louisville.
In 2015 the seventh part of my Jedediah Smith Trails in 1827 is on my list. Unfortunately pretty much everything goes wrong this time. Therefore I only have three days in Sequoia National Park and one day north of Kings Canyon. Along I–40 I go back to St. Louis and from there via I–70 directly to Pittsburgh.
In 2016 it’s time for the eighth part of my Jedediah Smith Trails in 1827. Unfortunately pretty much everything went wrong this time again, but this time because of my mechanic in Warrendale, PA. Therefore I only have one day to offroad in the area of Green River, UT, and one day in the High Sierras in Jedediah’s footsteps. Along I–40 I go back to Pittsburgh with a small detour to the Jack Daniels and George A. Dickels Distillery in Tennessee.
Unfortunately I had to pause traveling from 2017 on. My mechanic in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, screwed up my car so tremendously that it was almost impossible to get the truck back on the road with a reasonable amount of money. I was also forced to change jobs and I needed a whole year to figure out a new plan. But now I am there:
FollowTheExplorers is back!
But with a new scope. I am no longer restricted to the US explorers but to the explorers worldwide. I bought an old Unimog in December 2017 in Germany to build this truck in the next years up as expedition truck. If everything works out I will be on the road someday for 1–2 years on the whole American continent. Unfortunately I am not allowed to stay longer than 6 months in the US. Therefore I am forced to spend my money in other countries…