Mount Ellis Academy Follows Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

September 30, 2015 | Michael Lee

This year marks the 114th school year for Mount Ellis Academy (MEA) in Bozeman, Mont. With enrollment up and the dorm full, students and staff began the year with adventures abounding. During the first week of school each year, the seniors take off into the Crazy Mountains for senior survival and the rest of the student body goes on outdoor school.

Outdoor school took 64 staff and students to the Upper Missouri River Breaks this year, where they paddled all their food, water and gear for 47 miles, reversing the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, who journeyed to try and find the Northwest Passage 210 years ago.

A lot has changed since Lewis and Clark made their famed journey, but some of the pristine conditions have remained largely untouched. Students and staff alike thrilled at the sight of the white sandstone cliffs, slot canyons and the winding river. Not only did students get a lot of great exercise and learn to work together, they also worked on a physics problem about the most efficient way to use a canoe paddle, learned about geology, looked at the importance of cottonwood trees on the river, read Lewis' and Clark’s journals, and wrote journals of their own detailing their trip down the river.

James Stuart, science teacher, described this particular trip as “the most beautiful trip on this river" he has made. After the first night and morning of rain, the clouds broke up in the sky, which left a perfect backdrop for the voyagers as they began the journey. It was perfectly clear overnight, and the stars were displayed in abundance.

The following morning, a mystical fog hung over the river and in the camp until after the first group departed. “[The views] were really pretty,” says Lindsey Schumacher, sophomore.

Seth Ellis, math teacher, agrees: “The sun shining through the fog was absolutely killer.” Ellis also shares how impressed he was with the students. “Kids in Montana are so ready for adventure, and they are willing to just get out and put the work into it," he says. "It was a grueling trip, but so few people get out there; it was a great experience to be able to see some of what Lewis and Clark saw.”

God blessed the MEA team with an amazing place to live, and it is a great experience to be able to discover the reality of our Creator in His book of nature — the great outdoors.