First Press About my Expedition

Bob demonstrating how the sail works.

Greetings!  Bob Bellingham from Australia, after 12 weeks paddling the Missouri River from the headwaters in Montana, stayed overnight at Cooper’s Landing last Wednesday, August 22.  He is only five or six days from St. Louis, his final destination.

While we were looking at his boat and gear on the boat ramp, Tom and Tyler paddled up.  They are two free-spirited 20 year-old men paddling in a canoe from Great Falls, Montana, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The two, and Bob, have been leap-frogging down the river on their own individual journeys.  What a nice evening sharing river stories, eating Thai food, and listening to a couple from Guatemala play music!  I know, right? In Columbia, Missouri!

Earlier in the evening Tess and Zach from the Columbia Missourian, one of our local papers in town, came down to interview Bob and me.  This is a nice story about Bob and his journey, and my first local press regarding my expedition.  It’s pretty special.  (Thank you, John Schneller)

You can find the article from Friday, August 24, here:  Columbia Missourian.

L-R: Zac the photographer, Bob the paddler, Tess the writer.

A photo of me, and Bob, from the article.

Do what you love and love what you do.


I am having a conversation with Eddyline regarding their Shasta kayak, my boat of choice for the trip.  They’ve also offered discounted gear.

Bob Bellingham’s Shasta kayak and gear

I will meet with Bob Bellingham this week when he paddles by Cooper’s Landing.  Hoping to pick his brain regarding his trip which began at Three Forks, Montana.  He is headed for St. Louis.  We will also discuss the possibility of me purchasing his Shasta kayak, which he would keep for himself if he didn’t have to fly the boat home to Australia.

My dear niece, Rene Freels from St. Louis, mentioned creating a promotional video for the expedition, and a kick-starter campaign.  Sounds like a good idea.

Discussing ideas with Charlotte Overby, beloved in our river community, and currently River Coordinator for Conservation Lands Foundation.

Researching GPS possibilities.  Is SPOT a form of GPS, or a different system altogether?  Is it enough?  Suggestions welcome.

Student teaching is now pulling on my right hand while expedition planning is pulling on my left.

The more I learn, the greater my vision.

May seems so far away, yet so close.  I long to begin the trip with all of its uncertainties.  The thrill of adventure beckons me.

I will sleep when I get old.

live fast ~ paddle slow


Here is a short clip on what to expect on the lakes regularly:

Let’s see, where do I begin?

Below Three Forks (photo by Norm Miller)

Okay, where do I begin?

Do I start at the Missouri River’s source, Brower’s Spring, or do I start at the Missouri River’s mouth, Three Forks, where the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers merge to become the mighty Missouri?  Approximately 300 miles separates the ultimate source and the river’s official mouth, and about 10-12 days of paddling.  At one time, with all due ignorance, I pictured that 300 miles to be pristine Montana wilderness, kayaking through isolated Rocky Mountain Wilderness on a sweeping clear water creek, just me, the mountains, and the wildlife.  Not so, I have learned.  Here is Mark Kalch’s account of paddling from the source at Brower’s Spring to Three Forks:

The Red Rock River issues forth from the lake and winds endlessly and listlessly out of the valley. Snaking back on itself time after time with negligible flow meant forward movement out of the area was slow. A coyote wandered to the river’s edge to investigate my kayak and I. His boldness surprised me. Cattle followed me along the river’s meander. Slowly, slowly I carried on.

On to Lima Reservoir the wind picked up and forced an early camp. Overnight my tent was buffeted by its strength. Across the still body of water and a short portage later I once more hit river. Now things hit up a gear. The river, narrow, shallow but running super fast was an interesting encounter. Trees fallen in the water loomed as sweepers and strainers. Turning a 17 foot kayak on a fast corner in an 18 foot wide river takes some doing. Soon man made his presence felt. Fences, of barbed wire and electric lurked in possibility around every corner. Out of my boat, dragging under the lower wire, submerging myself in the icy water, back on board and away again. Repeat for days at a time.

The river finally spewed onto Clark Canyon Reservoir, much to my relief. Another crossing and dam portage on to the Beaverhead River. Now wider, flowing fast, this river looked the part. Appropriately, fisherman now lined it’s banks in drift boats and suited in waders. A quick heads up alerted them to my presence. Non-plussed about my appearance the immediately returned to their labour. Just one guide questioned me – “You headed to New Orleans?”. My reply had him genuinely stoked!

The Beaverhead wound it’s way to Dillon and on to the small town of Twin Bridges. At times beautiful and peaceful, at others endless ranches, cattle and excrement runoff. But it was all about to change. 20 minutes paddling beyond Twin Bridges, the Big Hole River enters from river left. Behold, the formation of the Jefferson! Truly, one of the most beautiful paddling experiences I have ever had. If only the past week could have been so. The river, lined with forest, the water running deep and swift. Now this is a river journey. Alas, it was over all to quickly. In no time with a final hard push I approached the town of Three Forks. A few miles beyond the Madison joins the Jefferson from river right. A few minutes later, the Gallatin as well. A hundred feet beyond, a boat ramp and now this river which issued forth from a snow choked spring had finally become the mighty Missouri! The first, difficult, demanding and ultimately tiny stage of my river descent was complete. With a root beer in one hand and pizza in the other I was tired but happy. Time for a resupply and washing of muddy clothes. In a couple of days it is back on the water and to the sea I go. I am ready.

This is Mark Kalch just below Three Forks (photo by Norm Miller).  I think this looks like a fine place to start.  Yep.

Mark is paddling seven rivers on sever continents.  You can follow his adventure here:

Rod Wellington is also paddling seven rivers on seven continents.  You can follow him on his Facebook page here:

And, Bob Bellingham is paddling from Three Forks to St. Louis and will be passing through Cooper’s Landing in about a week.  You bet I’m going to pick his brain.  He knows.  You can follow his blog here:

Then again, Norm Miller got me thinking about a bike/hike to the town of Dillon, then put in.  I understand the Jefferson River below Twin Bridges is gorgeous.  sigh…

Always good to practice what you preach

Washington riverside education experience

Okay.  So, part of my expedition mission is to empower kids.  To persuade them that they can achieve goals that, at first glance, may not seem possible.  Ideally, they will learn how to put on an “I can do it” attitude despite circumstances that may cause them to want to give up.  They will look adversity in the eye and find solutions to keep moving forward.  Yes, that is my goal.  Of course, I need to practice what I preach, right?

Rio Oso – River Bear

Today, the challenge of this expedition reached a new dimension.  I know, already?  So, I just found out that my dog has a torn ACL in his right knee.  This calls for surgery that is rarely done for less than $1800.  How do I know?  He had his left ACL repaired last January.  After meds are prescribed, the procedure costs over $2000.  My poor Rio Oso.  And, woe is me.

Just so happens today is also my last full regular day in the University of Missouri Sustainability Office.  I will be starting my student teaching internship on Monday.  I decided, quite easily, that I would not work and student teach at the same time.  I want to give 100% to my students.  I want to devote my whole self to motivating them to love learning.

This is a non-paying internship.  However, generous scholarships from the College of Ed and student loan will pull me through the semester, and for that I am grateful.  My plan is to work part time from January through March, while earnestly pursuing a teaching job for the next school year, after which I will devote 100% to my expedition.  Of course, I will be contacting potential sponsors, pouring over maps, networking, cultivating my goals, and mapping out my course from here on out, as much as I can manage.

I decided to share the planning of this expedition on this blog.  Normally, I don’t care to seem complainy (I know, not a word, right?  I like it, though.) in public, but this will undoubtedly be the first of many challenges along the way.  I really do want to practice what I preach.  So, there you have it.  Let’s keep on movin’ on.  Solution-minded-always!

Oh, and any fundraising suggestions are very welcome.

Live fast ~ paddle slow

See you on the river (syotr)

MR340 photos courtesy of Dave Marner, a.k.a. Dave the River Slave

Dave Marner has very graciously given me permission to post his photos of the MR340 (Missouri River 340-mile race).  I have credited each photo to him per his request.  Thanks, Dave!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.  They are an outstanding documentation of this very unique and extreme paddling race that began Tuesday July 31 at 7:00 AM in Kansas City, Missouri, and ended Friday  August 3 at 11:00 PM in St. Charles, Missouri.  Every racer is a rock star!

I speak for many giving special thanks to Missouri River Relief and all of the safety boats watching out for all of the racers’ lives.  And, kudos to all ground crews, race personnel, volunteers, and supporters, on the river or at home.  Good job.

Gear & Sponsorship Considerations

Dave Miller’s book, The Complete Paddler, offers detailed planning information, which relieves me of unnecessary anxiety.  I am currently absorbed in the section entitled:  Clothing, Gear, Hardware, Water, Food, and Shelter.  Yep, that about covers my interests right now because I need to know what I need in order to compose and mail off my sponsorship requests.

Although I just purchased a sea kayak recently, I have my heart set on the Eddyline Shasta.  Andy Bugh paddled a Shasta on his Expedition4Educationtrek of the same route (all the way to the Gulf), and loved it.  Bob Bellingham is currently on the river in the same boat, and likes it as well.  Sea kayaks have a smaller cockpit and are quite confining.

Andy Bugh & his Shasta kayak
Expedition4Education – 2011

The Shasta is a tandem kayak that can be adapted to a single seat, converting the boat into a more spacious craft for a three month solo journey.  Eddyline is a family run outfit in Seattle.  They recycle their scrap plastic!  I am hoping they respond to my request.  In the meantime, I will need to mail many more letters to kayak companies who offer a similar design.

Aside from the clothing, i.e., paddling jacket, pants, shorts, sandals, hats, shirts, and under wear, etc., Dave offers a list of gear that is extensive, but essential.  From his list I will be able to direct my letters to specific potential sponsors requesting needed items for the expedition.  The list is long, but kind of interesting to look at, at least for me.

Camp gear:

  • Tent
  • Plastic tarp for use as inside tent liner
  • Bivy bag (optional)
  • Extra nylon parachute cord and tent stakes
  • Small tube of seam sealer
  • Sleeping bag
  • Lightweight fleece bag (to be used as a liner or alone on warm nights)
  • Self-inflating pad with repair kit
  • Stove fuel
  • Fuel bottles
  • Cook kit: nesting pots
  • Large spoon
  • Large pocketknife
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water purifier with extra filters
  • Small plastic shovel or toilet trowel
  • Small pruning shears or small machete
  • Clothespins and line
  • Water bags and bottles
  • Collapsible water bucket
  • Backpacker’s towel
  • Seasonings, pump-spray margarine, and small bottle of olive oil
  • Backpacker’s freeze-dried fare
  • Bag meats: tuna, chicken, salmon
  • Energy snacks, breakfast bars
  • Powdered drink mix coffee and/or tea, powdered milk/creamer/sweetener
  • Plastic tub of baby hand-wipes, toilet paper
  • Bathroom bags for areas where paddlers must manage their own waste

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Glasses (two pair), reading
  • Sunglasses (two pair)
  • Eyeglasses strap (
  • Map case for kayak deck
  • Waterproof watch with alarm
  • GPS unit with spare batteries
  • Marine band two-way radio with NOAA weather band (waterproof)
  • Dog tags with name, address, phone number, and blood type
  • Camera (water resistant/proof)
  • First-aid kit, snakebite kit
  • I am adding “bear spray”
  • Medications: antibiotics, ear drops, and eye drops
  • Cell phone in small dry box with charging equipment
  • I am adding “thin film solar panels”
  • Medium-sized dry box for odds and ends
  • Assortment of small and medium carabiner clips
  • Binoculars
  • Duct tape, tube of Goop, tube of marine hand-moldable epoxy, multipurpose tool
  • Dry bags for deck: light solid color, one with backpack straps
  • Small stainless steel thermos
  • Fishing pole and real, tackle including a small lure assortment, salt minnows
  • Extra lighters/fire starters
  • Life vest with compass, survival gear, small boat horn
  • Kayak with all the essentials: bilge pump, paddle float, sponge, bailer, throw line bag, flotation bags, and extra rope, bike cable and lock with extra keys.

Are you overwhelmed yet?  Yes, I will need a bigger boat.  🙂

MR340-race from KC to STL is all about the River

This is a good interview with race sponsor Missouri American Water’s Kim Hudson this morning in St. Charles:

This event, with over 500 racers this year, is about “thinking about the River and focusing on how important it is to us.”

Another newsclip from KCTV5 KC

River racers battle water, sweltering heat – KCTV 5#.UBqKh_uRN-U.facebook.

Here is a local article from the Columbia Daily Tribune.  Again, it’s all about the river.  We love our Big Muddy!