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Published November 07 2004

Re-enactors call time out: No winter in the wild for this Lewis and Clark group

ST. LOUIS - Two centuries after Lewis and Clark were in the midst of their 8,000-mile trek through the uncharted West, re-enactors following the explorers' path have no plans to duplicate one thing - spending winter in the wilds.

Members of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles - the official re-enactment team - will pass this winter at home.

"The original expedition didn't have the luxury of going home, but we do," said the crew's captain, Scott Mandrell, 39, of Alton, Ill. "And we're going to take advantage of it.

"I'm looking forward to some sushi. That's one thing I've missed desperately."

The re-enactors were to arrive in downtown St. Louis on Sunday following a three-day drive from North Dakota, with their keelboat and two smaller pirogues hooked up to trailers.

From downtown, they will head to the Lewis and Clark Museum and Boathouse in St. Charles to show off their boats and talk about their journey.

The real Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Charles in May 1803 and didn't return there until September 1806. When they reached North Dakota in November 1804, the icy Missouri River forced them to camp for five months. They built wooden huts and nearly ran out of meat.

The re-enactors include a core of about eight men from the Midwest who have been on the Missouri since beginning their journey on the Illinois side in mid-May, with about 200 others joining in here and there along the journey.

Looking to keep it realistic, the re-enactors have made all the original stops, done some of the same hikes - in some cases, as long as 20 miles - and hunted buffalo. They slept on the keelboat's wooden trunks, ate meals cooked over a fire, and were troubled by ticks.

But the most difficult aspect was being away from their families.

Mandrell returned to Alton briefly in August to take his 6-year-old daughter to her first day of kindergarten. With a 3-year-old son, he plans to take a family vacation to his wife's family home in Vermont.

"We're going to take some time away in a place Lewis and Clark never went," he said.

Next April the crew will return to Washburn, N.D., to resume the trip.

"The purpose of our exercise is the journey, not so much the time spent stationary," Mandrell said. "We are not Lewis and Clark. We are the Discovery Expedition. Our mission is to complete the journey. We want to focus on that and make that successful."