Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Glimpse in the Rearview Mirror: 2013 (But, keep an eye on the road ahead)

Arrival at the Gulf of Mexico on December 5, 2013.

Arrival at the Gulf of Mexico on December 5, 2013.

On April 14, 2013, I left Columbia, MO, and set out on an extraordinary solo kayak voyage down the 4th longest river system in the world, the 3,800-mile Missouri-Mississippi River System. Upon completing the expedition on December 5, 2013, I became the first American, and first woman, to traverse the entire river system from source to sea. 

Okay. One step at a time. Breathe...

Okay. One step at a time. Breathe…

Packed up and ready to go on April 14, 2013

Packed up and ready to go on April 14, 2013

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My mission began as an empowerment model for our nation’s youth, showing them that dreams can be achieved through decision, desire, and details (and hard work). The mission soon flourished into an empowerment model not only for youth, but for adult women and men as well. At 57 years old, I was living proof that neither gender nor age should prevent you from pursuing your dream. Not only that, the expedition embraced education and environmental stewardship by bringing awareness to Missouri River Relief, a not-for-profit river clean-up and education organization. Our hope is to bring the Missouri River into the classroom, and the classroom out to the river. Touching the river, knowing the river, and loving the river are key ingredients to sustaining the health and vitality of our planet’s veins and arteries. 

Welcoming party in Memphis, TN

Welcoming party in Memphis, TN

Bringing the classroom out to the river.

Bringing the classroom out to the river. Photo by Missouri River Relief

The next generation

The next generation-Photo by Missouri River Relief

The adventure began on April 24, 2013, when Norman Miller and I skied into the ultimate source of the Missouri River, Brower’s Spring, in southern Montana near West Yellowstone. We planned for 7 hours and finished in 31 hours, much to our surprise. We spent the night in the mountains with no sleeping gear, food, or fire. Let the adventure begin! 

After a 30-year absence I was delighted to be ski mountaineering again.

After a 30-year absence I was delighted to be ski mountaineering again.

Our shelter for the night and our celebratory beer now turned calorie provider.

Our impromptu shelter and our celebratory beer, now turned carbo provider.

Conditions could have been life-threatening with any kind of weather. As it was, we layed awake all night shivering.

Conditions could have been life-threatening with any kind of weather. As it was, we just layed awake all night shivering.

The next leg involved biking 100 miles through the Centennial Valley. This dirt road traversed Red Rock River to Clark Canyon Dam. The Red Rock River is not paddler friendly as it is full of man-made dams composed of barbed wire, wood, electrical wire, and corrugated sheet metal. I put my kayak in the Beaverhead River below Clark Canyon Dam on May 1, 2013. The Beaverhead eventually turns into the Jefferson River, which becomes the Missouri River about 200 miles downstream at Three Forks, MT.

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Any amount of rain would have rendered this road useless for travel, car OR bike, because of the mud. My expedition was blessed with ideal weather conditions.

Red Rock River obstruction

Red Rock River obstruction, one of dozens, making paddling slow, laborious, and dangerous.

My first day was a test of will as I became entangled in a tree strainer, spraining my hand and nearly dumping my boat. On day two, I put two holes in my boat, thankfully above water line, as the swift and narrow Beaverhead River made it difficult to avoid collisions with snags along shore. Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t fix! After 11 days of paddling I arrived at Three Forks, where I then regrouped at Norm Millers’ Base Camp International in Livingston, MT, patched the holes in my boat, and set off down the Missouri River at Three Forks on May 15, 2013. The rest, really, is history as I proceeded to live life on the river, with simplicity and joy, for the next seven months.

This photo, along with the sunset pic below, were the most popular expedition posts. Taken on the Beaverhead River, Day 1 on the water.

A bad omen? Perish the thought. Onward! On the Beaverhead River

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The Beaverhead River, where you can find a predicament around every corner.

First-time fiberglass patcher-two holes

First-time fiberglass patcher-two holes, no less.

On the Jefferson River. Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

On the Jefferson River (with duct tape patches). Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

I will cherish this expedition until the day I die.  I experienced challenging decision-making, marvelously mellow mornings, exasperating electrical storms, wild wind and waves, stunning sunsets, random acts of kindness, unforgettable human river angels, the wonders of wildlife, big huge barges, even bigger and huger freighters ;), and frightening fog. Last but not least I met a whole world of beautiful and extraordinary supporters up and down the river to whom I cannot give enough thanks, and whom I now consider river family.

Please enjoy a few expedition photos I picked out, in no logical order, but which are among some of my favorites. You may remember…

Friends from the first day to the last. Love my pelicans.

Friends from the first day to the last. Love my pelicans.

Hiking on windy Fort Peck Lake

Hiking on windy Fort Peck Lake

Have never seen another quite so stunning as this sunset

Have never seen another quite so stunning as this sunset

Well, it IS the Big Muddy!

Well, it IS the Big Muddy!

The morning after the worst electrical storm of the trip. Fort Peck Lake

The morning after the worst electrical storm of the trip. Fort Peck Lake

Nearing the Montana-North Dakota border

Below Fort Peck Lake, I think. Still muddy, but getting better.

Gates of the Rocky Mountains

Gates of the Rocky Mountains – Holter Lake, MT

Gates of the Rocky Mountains. Hard to leave this wondrous place

Gates of the Rocky Mountains. Hard to leave this wondrous place. Corps of Discovery camped right across the river.

The stoic bald eagle

The stoic bald eagle

Tow and barge on the Mississippi River

Tow and barge on the Mississippi River

A very special heart stone found just below the Ohio River confluence

A very special heart stone found just below the Ohio River confluence

New Orleans

New Orleans

Sharing the Mississippi River with tankers and freighters, always keeping one eye in front and one eye to the rear. They are quiet vessels.

Sharing the lower Mississippi River with tankers and freighters, always keeping one eye in front and one eye to the rear. They are quiet vessels.

My stellar support crew in the Gulf fog

My stellar Gulf support crew in the Gulf fog

The fog just lifted as we began crossing the Head of Passes. Nothing short of a miracle.

The fog just lifted as we began crossing the Head of Passes using a hand-held GPS device. This was a super exhilarating moment. Unforgettable. Even the ship pilot crossing the pass remembers the moment I came into view.

Yes, the pilot of this ship. Pilottown crew were stellar support on this stretch manning the radio communication.

Yes, the pilot of this ship. Pilottown crew provided much comfort on this stretch with their radio communication and hospitality. I am so thankful for them.

Grizzly bear track below Hell Roaring Canyon. Photo taken by my daughter Haley who was sleeping in a car with Jeannie, waiting for us to come out after a 24 hour delay.

Grizzly bear track below Hell Roaring Canyon. Photo taken by my daughter Haley who was sleeping in a car with Jeannie, waiting for us to come out after a 24 hour delay.

Buffalo skull next to my camp that speaks historical volumes

Buffalo skull found next to my camp below Fort Benton, MT, that speaks historical volumes.

Bridge City Marina, home of special river angels

Bridge City Marina in Mobridge, SD, home of very special river angel, Michael Norder and his lovely family.

Hole in the Wall, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Hole in the Wall, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT

Making camp

Making camp

Curious Pronghorn Deer

Curious pronghorn antelope in Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

Sweet heart blue hole on the Mississippi River

Sweet heart blue hole on the middle Mississippi River

The Natchez of New Orleans.

The Natchez of New Orleans.

Great Horned Owl Babies in Great Falls, MT

Great Horned Owl Babies in Great Falls, MT

One of several lone pelicans escorting me down the South Pass to bid me farewell, I think

One of several lone pelicans escorting me down the South Pass to bid me farewell. BFF

Please visit my sponsor page at the top of my site to see the wonderful companies that believed in me and helped me out in some way to ease the financial burden. Special thanks to Patagonia for their generous clothing sponsorship. Eddyline for their excellent service with my boat as well as donating the best paddle I could ever imaging taking, a Swift Paddle. Many heart-felt thanks to all of Columbia, Mo’s outdoor shops for donating items to LoveYourBigMuddy. Huge thanks especially to our Klunk Bikes for re’cycling’ me a bike, which I love very much to this day.

And to every person that was able to donate financially, I know who you are and you will NOT be forgotten. Particularly my local Riverbilly family and those contributing to the Blues Benefit. Click here to see who these tremendous supporters of LoveYourBigMuddy are. This was YOUR expedition! THANK YOU! If you see a photo you would like on this post and it is part of your donation reward, please email me and let me know. I will be posting more photos shortly.

For a comprehensive view of media articles and podcasts, click here to visit my media page, located at the top of the site.

Lastly, warm thoughts go out to the crew at Canoe and Kayak Magazine, and to all of the individuals who took a moment to vote LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition into the “Spirit of Adventure” Award arena for 2014. Certainly, the honor was all mine to receive the award in the midst of an incredible paddling family. YOU, too, can be a candidate for such a cool recognition. Just…

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Dave Shively, editor, and one of many very cool people who have created this outstanding paddling magazine and helped to create an international paddling family. Three cheers!!! Click here to visit the award ceremony.

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…remember to keep your eyes on the road ahead. Don’t quit your DayDream. And, dream BIG!

LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition on Facebook. see what’s up…

Oh, one last thing, a toast to LoveYourBigMuddy

Still reeling from the high

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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Missouri River 2013 - Mississippi River 2016 - Yukon River 2017

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