Liner Notes

A Voyage of Such Nature


Here's a sample of "The Bird Song" circa 1681, a well-known song with many variations - some for children.  I picture a hot, dry Fall day riding up the Arkansas on horseback in 1806, watching the birds make lazy circles in the sky.  Don & I played this as a duet on banjo & guitar.

Here are the three of us at the Pike Stockade near Alamosa at the same time of year that Pike was there in 1807.

Here is the project layout.  The quality is much better than it shows here.  It is an 8-panel (folds twice) poster.

The front features Pike's map from Great Bend to the stockade at Alamosa.  A brief explanation of the project with a the Peale portrait of Pike is shown with the quote from his journal from Christmas, 1806.  The songs are then listed with a theme that fits each.

The back shows a brief history of the expedition with several quotes from the journals & pictures that show the areas he passed through.



Colorado Trio Commemorates Pike Expedition

with Album of Acoustic Colonial-Era Songs


Three Colorado acoustic musicians have combined talents to produce an album of Colonial-era songs commemorating the bicentennial of Zebulon Montgomery Pike's travels in Colorado.


Tom Munch of Pueblo, Don Richmond of Alamosa and Rex Rideout of Conifer have just released a CD titled "A Voyage of Such Nature: Acoustic Music in Celebration of the Pike Expedition." The dozen songs on the album correspond with 12 points of interest on Pike's journey in Kansas and Colorado in 1806 and 1807.


"The album is a collection of songs from the era of the expedition that express the emotions and adventures we envision Pike and his men went through," Munch said.  "The songs are circa 1600 to 1800 and are acoustic instrumental renditions that are faithful to the past, yet also influenced by the present and freshened to appeal to modern ears."

Munch is a professional singer and guitar player who performs solo and with various bands in the area.  Richmond is a professional musician who plays a bevy of stringed instruments both solo and with several bands, and also engineered this project in his Alamosa studio. Rideout, who studies and performs music of the early West on many instruments, is the historian of the group.  He often performs in a duo with noted Western historian Mark Gardner.  Each of the musicians played several instruments on the album, including guitar, mandolin, viola, banjo and fiddle, as well as several historic instruments such as jaw harp and bones.


The concept for "A Voyage of Such Nature" was the brainchild of Munch, who serves on the Zebulon Pike Bicentennial Committee, which is organizing events for this year and next.  Munch started reading Pike's journals in 2005 and was inspired to find a musical interpretation.   "Zebulon Montgomery Pike is one of the truly remarkable men in American history who is unfortunately only remembered for a mountain named for him that he never climbed," said Munch.   "Reading his journals and letters reveals a man who was deeply loyal, devoted, compassionate and driven for his 27 young years."


Pike's journals include very little about music so Munch set out in early 2006 to find songs that could represent Pike's journey.  He researched approximately 250 songs of Colonial America in his quest for the flavor of the expedition.  " I was struck by how beautiful some of the melodies were and how much they could be used to express the mental state of Pike's men during their journey up the Arkansas River and into the mountains," Munch  said.  "I believe that music can transport one back to the trail in 1806 as much as any other vehicle we have.  This recording has some gorgeous music that you can listen to without knowing it is historic.  Yet when taken in context of the Pike journey, can relate the listener to the trials of that epic expedition."


The CD cover is a copy of Pike's original map with his trail highlighted and the 12 songs listed according to what was deemed "a good fit."  Listeners are encouraged to follow along with the map.  For example, a moment of reflection on Mt. Rosa during Pike's attempt to climb Pike's Peak is represented by the song "Mist-Covered Mountains."  And Pike's miserable stay near present-day Westcliffe where he nearly froze to death is expressed by the plaintive, sorrowful song "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair."  Other songs include military marches, country dance tunes, soulful derivations of well-known songs of the time, and even the first American musical advertisement,  "Nottingham Ale."


Munch and Richmond worked together to pick the ballad-style tunes.  More jaunty and better-known tunes were chosen by Rideout.    "While there were gems from the past that we wanted to introduce to the listeners of today, we wanted some in the collection to be familiar to them," Rideout said.  "'The Girl I Left Behind Me' was popular in the British Isles and took on various forms throughout the existence of the United States. It is recognizable to all,  and 'Bonaparte’s Retreat' is still well known."


Instrumentation was discussed by the three musicians at the beginning of their project.  For example, Pike mentions in his journals the use of the guitar in Mexico.  (In their houses the ladies play the guitar, and generally accompany it with their voices.)   But while Americans were playing the guitar back East, this was not an instrument they would play in the West at the start of the 19th century. "If we had stayed true to the instruments that may have been found in Pike’s expedition there would be few to choose from, so we elected to make use of the full range of acoustic music today," said Rideout.


Rideout added that other historic instruments were a natural choice  "It was well known that the Lewis and Clark expedition had fiddlers within the ranks.  Pike also writes in his journals of his men enjoying the music of the fiddle during their exploration of the Mississippi," he said.  "Lewis and Clark also included Jaw harps in their trade goods for the Indians."


Though the album's vision is largely from Munch and the historic authenticity is largely from Rideout, the contribution from Richmond is clearly heard throughout the CD.  "Don is probably the star of this project," said Munch.  "Without his talents on fiddle, mandolin, banjo, accordion, you name it, and as the engineer of the project, this album would not be what it is.  Don is such as amazing musician. He just shines.  I have heard him described as the only person who can make a banjo sound sensitive, and that is very true."


Richmond said the CD was a pleasure to add to his arsenal of recording projects.  "Doing this album with Tom and Rex was just a great little exploration and journey in itself," Richmond remarked. "Growing up in the San Luis Valley, I had heard about Pike almost all my life and had friends who used to do an annual hike recreating his journey over Mosca Pass into the Valley. It was great fun to explore his trials and his joys with Tom and Rex and try to reflect them in the music, and I love the way the tunes came to life for us."


Munch said he wanted to make this album as a way to spotlight Pike's importance in American history.  "Pike's journey to the American Southwest in 1806 and 1807 has been mostly overlooked by historians and the public alike," he said.  "Considered the 'lost pathfinder,' he has been derided for becoming bewildered in the wilderness and being captured by the Spanish.  His  contribution both to our country's early geography and to the  commerce established in the Southwest (which helped build  the nation's fledgling economy) cannot be overstated.  For me, he is one of the linchpins in our country's history."


Rideout said he feels that Pike has been ill used in history as well.  "Pike has been criticized for failing to find the headwaters of the Red River. Yet Major Stephen Long in 1820 and then Lieutenant James Abert in 1845 were sent to find the same source as part of their duties and also failed.  In time it was discovered that the headwaters were in the panhandle of Texas, nowhere near the area each had been sent to explore," he said.


"Pike’s capture and escort through Mexico has also been seen as a failure," Rideout continued.  "Yet he kept careful notes of the topography, industry and culture he found there. He was resourceful in hiding these notes from his captors. Shortly after his release from the Spanish, he compiled this information and published it in 1810, well before Lewis and Clark published their work. Traders armed with this publication immediately headed for Mexico with pack animals heavily loaded.  Commerce led to Americans moving into the area, creating conflict and eventually war with Mexico. This resulted in the annexation of much of the Southwestern parts of our nation.  All of this influenced by Pike's 'failed' exploration."


Rideout has a clear admiration for the subject of their CD project.  "Pike had been ordered to turn back before winter in both his explorations of the Upper Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers but continued on to complete his orders in spite of a lack of winter provisions. This type of dedication propelled him to the rank of Brigadier General at the time of his death at the capture of York in the Battle of 1812 -- one of the few successful engagements in that conflict.  It is reasonable to consider that his successful career and dedication could have propelled him to the Presidency had he survived."


The CD includes a full fold-out page highlighting various quotes from Pike's journals so that a glimpse of the man can come through in his writings.  The album title is taken from Pike's entry on Dec. 25, 1806, in which he laments the various difficulties "of a man on a voyage of such nature."


A concert tour started in the fall of 2006 and is continuing this year in the towns where Pike actually traveled.  For more information or to order the CD directly, go to Munch's website  You can buy the CD in Kansas and southern Colorado at the following locations: Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic, Last Chance Store of the Santa Fe Trail Association in Larned, TNT and Big Timbers Museum in Lamar, Boggsville Historic Site near Las Animas, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, El Pueblo Museum and the Pueblo Library InfoZone Museum in Pueblo, Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs, Boggsville Historic Site near Las Animas, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park near Canon City, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve near Alamosa.  "A Voyage of Such Nature" is also available via and Richmond's website is, and you can visit Rideout’s website at





Pike started his journey in July of 1806 from St. Louis.  He was charged with returning some Indians to their homeland in what  would become Missouri, making peace between tribes, establishing peace for the U.S. with the Comanches, and lastly, finding the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers.  He had many trials in Kansas before he was finally free of his first three  responsibilities and able to pursue what would be the most difficult part of his journey.


In mid-October 1806 Pike and his men struck the Arkansas River and started upstream.  In addition to looking for the headwaters of the Arkansas, Pike was also tracking a group of 300 Spanish soldiers who had been in northern Kansas just three weeks prior to his visit there.  While on the journey he took observations and kept an accurate journal of daily happenings.  When he reached the Fountain River near present-day Pueblo he attempted to climb Pike's Peak (what he called Grand Peak or Highest Peak) in late November and climbed a lesser peak in its path later named Mt. Rosa (from which he viewed Pike's Peak and decided it was unclimbable in the winter weather).  It is notable that Pike was the first European American to complete a high-altitude alpine ascent of a North American mountain.


When he reached the Royal Gorge (what he called the "Grand Canyon of the Arkansaw") in early December he thought he had found the headwaters of the Arkansas and turned away from the river (still believing he was trailing the Spanish) to find the Red River.  He wound up making a circle through South Park and past the South Platte River (which he correctly identified) and ended up 70 miles upstream on the Arkansas.  He was convinced that he had found the Red River, only to find when he hiked downstream in early January 1807 that he was still on the Arkansas. 

He made one more attempt to find the Red River by crossing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the hardest part of winter and ended up in the San Luis Valley in late January where he came upon the Sand Dunes and the Rio Grande River (which he again thought was the Red).  He built a stockade on a tributary of the Rio Grande, the Conejos River, and it was here that he was captured in an amicable ceremony by the Spanish in late February.  Under the Spanish forces, he was taken through Santa Fe to Chihuahua  & was eventually released in Tejas (Texas) where he returned to U.S. soil at Natchitoches in early July. 

Along the way the weather changed from Indian summer to bitter winter.  The men went from summer uniforms to blankets and skins. The trip to the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers would almost kill Pike and his men.  He would celebrate a birthday,  have a son born back at home, and lose one of his men in New Spain before he finally was able to see his beloved wife Clarissa & his family once again.

-- Tom Munch



Here are some of Pike's journal entries:


Pike sees Pike's Peak for the first time and the Wet Mountains -      15th November, Friday.—...At two o’clock in the afternoon I thought I could distinguish a mountain to our right, which appeared like a small blue  cloud....When our small party arrived on the hill they with one accord gave three cheers to the Mexican mountains.  Pike describes the hike up Mt. Rosa and the beautiful view the next morning -     26th November, Wednesday.—Expecting to return to our camp that  evening, we left all our blankets and provisions, at the foot of the mountain...We commenced ascending, found it very difficult, being obliged  to climb up rocks, sometimes almost perpendicular; and after marching all  day, we encamped in a cave, without blankets, victuals or water. We had a  fine clear sky, whilst it was snowing at the bottom. 


Pike spends a miserable Christmas in 1806 -

    25th December, Thursday. -- It being stormy weather and having meat to dry; I concluded to lie by this day. Here I must take the liberty of observing that in this situation, the hardships and privations we underwent, were on this day brought more fully to our mind. Having been accustomed to some degree of relaxation, and extra enjoyments; but here 800 miles from the frontiers of our country, in the most inclement season of the year; not one person clothed for the winter, many without blankets, (having been obliged to cut them up for socks, &c.) and now laying down at night on the snow or wet ground; one side burning whilst the other was pierced with the cold wind: this was in part the situation of the party whilst some were endeavoring to make a miserable substitute of raw buffalo hide for shoes &c. I will not speak of diet, as I conceive that to be beneath the serious consideration of a man on a voyage of such nature. We spent the day as agreeably as could be expected from men in our situation.


Near present-day Westcliffe, the men come the closest to death in the hardest part  of their adventure together -     19th January, Monday.—We again took the field and after crawling about one mile in the  snow, got to shoot eight times among a gang of buffalo, and could plainly perceive two or  three to be badly wounded, but by accident they took the wind of us, and to our great  mortification all were able to run off. By this time I had become extremely weak and faint,  being the fourth day, since we had received sustenance; all of which we were marching hard  and the last night had scarcely closed our eyes to sleep. We were inclining our course to a  point of woods determined to remain absent and die by ourselves rather than to return to our camp and behold the misery of our poor lads, when we discovered a gang of buffalo  coming along at some distance. With great exertions I made out to run and place myself behind some cedars and by the greatest  of good luck, the first shot stopped one, which we killed in three more shots; and by the dusk had cut each of us a heavy load  with which we determined immediately to proceed to the camp in order to relieve the anxiety of our men, and carry the poor  fellows some food. We arrived there about 12 o’clock, and when I threw my load down, it was with difficulty I prevented myself  from falling; I was attacked with a giddiness of the head, which lasted for some minutes.  On the countenances of the men was not a frown, nor a desponding eye; but all seemed happy to hail their officer and companions...


He describes the beauty of the land in the San Luis Valley  -      5th February, Thursday.—...we ascended a high hill, which lay south of our camp, from whence we had a view of all the prairie and rivers to the north of us; it was at the same time one of the most sublime and beautiful inland prospects ever presented to the eyes of man...The main river bursting out of the western mountain...making many large and beautiful islands…all  meadow ground, covered with innumerable herds of deer...In short, this view combined the sublime and beautiful; the great and lofty mountains covered with eternal snows, seemed to surround the luxuriant vale, crowned with perennial flowers, like a terrestrial paradise, shut out from the view of man.


Pike is finally captured by the Spanish and is incredulous as to his mistake of the Rio Grande for the Red River -     26th February, Thursday.-...Sir, the governor of New Mexico, being informed you had missed your route, ordered me to  offer you...whatever you may stand in need of to conduct you to the head of Red river"..."What, said I, is not this the Red river,"  "No sir! the Rio del Norte." I immediately ordered my flag to he taken down and rolled up...     My compliance seemed to spread general joy through their party...but it appeared to be different with my men, who wished  to have a little dust (as they expressed themselves) and were likewise fearful of treachery...the hospitality and goodness ...began  to manifest itself by their producing their provision and giving it to my men, covering them with their blankets, &c.

I had the great good fortune in 2006 & 2007 to be involved with the Zebulon Pike Bicentennial Committee through my association with the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.  I have also recorded an album of songs with my good friends Don Richmond & Rex Rideout to honor Zebulon Pike & his men.  The album is a collection of songs from the era of the expedition that express the emotions & adventures we envision the group went through.  They are circa 1600 to 1800 & are acoustic instrumental renditions that are faithful to the past, yet also influenced by the present & freshened to appeal to modern ears.

In researching the music of Pike's era I was struck by how beautiful some of the melodies were & how much they expressed the mental state of Pike's men during their journey up the Arkansas River & into the mountains.  I believe that music can transport one back to the trail in 1806 as much as any other vehicle we have.  This recording is some gorgeous music that you can listen to without knowing it is historic, yet when taken in context of the Pike journey can relate the listener to the trials of that epic expedition in 1806 & 1807.