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Walking Down A Dream

The Nez Perce Trail
by Dan Hartman

Sept. 11, 2011

Kelly and I drove down to The Tetons Friday.  As we were passing through the west end of Little America, we spotted a man dressed in shorts and an orange vest.  What made him unusual was the jogging stroller he was pushing.  As we drove by, I noticed it contained a heavy backpack.  

Ten hours later, we were returning home when we once again came across the strange traveler.  Amazingly he was 25 miles farther down the road.  Curious, we stopped and questioned him.  He said he was headed for The Bear Paw National Battle Field.  Also he was planning on spending the night in Cooke City.  I told him Silver Gate was closer.  

Later that night, I got to thinking.  His destination was where The Nez Perce gave up their dream of reaching Canada and freedom.  I wandered if this man had walked all the way from Walla Walla Washington, where the flight of The Nez Perce had began?  The next morning, I saw him walking past our cabin. I rushed down and asked him if I could talk to him about his journey.  In the next few minutes I realized I had caught the proverbial tiger by the tail.  

Bart Smith had quite a background.  As I suspected, he had indeed walked all the way from Walla Walla.  Over 800 miles and still 400 more to go to his destination.  This wasn’t his first long trek.  In 1992, Bart traversed The Pacific Coast Trail.  In following years, he proceeded to tackle all the National Scenic Trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail.  He has published 5 photographic books.  This is his first National Historic Trail, but it’s been so enjoyable Bart is already planning his next Historical Trail adventure.  He says his wife Bridgie will meet him at the Bear Paw Battle Field and drive him to Independence MO where he will retrace the 800 mile Trail Of Tears to Chattanooga TN.  

Back to the present, Bart hopes to reach The Battle Field by October 1st, when The Nez Perce Nation commemorate the battle between The US Calvary and The Nez Perce.  His pack weighs 60-70 lbs, and he likes to carry a gallon of water.  Friday's 31 mile walk (Tower to Silver Gate) was his longest one-day total thus far.  He usually averages 20-25 miles per day.  When asked what he hopes to take away from this particular journey, Bart replied,”it’s the unique perspective I’ve gained walking it daily.  It’s amazing how little the landscape has changed over the last 134 years, if you look past the highways and power poles.  In many cases the same ranches are still in existence where The Nez Perce had their Skirmishes with settlers.”  

The 52 year old Bart has completely financed his treks on his own.  If you would like to help, his address is: Bart Smith 24 Westlake Ave SW Lakewood WA 98498 Web Site: E Mail:


View slide show

Bart Smith And His Pack

Bart On His Way Again