Without ships to carry them home, the expedition had to make their way back overland. But they could not set out immediately, as winter was fast approaching. The members of the expedition voted to set up camp seven miles inland from the coast, along the Columbia River and near the home of the Clatsop Indians. The expedition spent a miserable winter here, as the sun shone only six days and the rain stopped for only twelve. The time was used productively, however, in sewing clothes, drying meat, and making other preparations for the long journey home. They also made salt. For fifty days, three men at a time boiled ocean water in a kettle, eventually producing about four bushels of pure salt. The salt was a valuable seasoning and an equally valuable trading commodity for the trip home. The expedition began their return journey on March 23 and arrived in St. Louis on September 23, 1806.