Education

Post-Expedition Update (July1-2014): Lower Brule Sioux Reservation, SD

Sunset on Lake Sharpe

Sunset on Lake Sharpe, SD

“So, Janet, what’s your next adventure?” A popular question about which I have been asked many times. For awhile there I began to believe I could go on another expedition. I began researching the Amazon River and contacted my friends on Facebook who have paddled it already, namely Mark Kalch and West Hanson. Man oh man, what an awesome adventure THAT would be! Not only do I have an interest in South America, but to paddle the second longest river in the world??? Solo?! We are talking real-deal adventure! Too bad about the Class V+ white water on that 500-mile section…hmmm, do I REALLY want to risk my life? How could I ever pay for such a thing? How long will it take? How DO those adventurers DO it???
Back to reality. Spending 7.5 months on an expedition is costly. I am so thankful for my supporters along the way who carried me through financially, but the money hole that awaited me post-expedition was, or is, enormous. I left on my expedition with pocket change, and came home with the same.
That said, I began researching an adventure that was drifting around in the back of my mind, something I have always been interested in and have wanted to learn more about. I needed to find an adventure during which I could work and make some money. To begin my inquiry I made the initial phone call to the Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation School in south-central South Dakota. I wondered if they needed any teachers. This could be a cultural journey for which I could get paid while immersed in it. I had started the ball rolling, one that is currently moving right along at a pretty good clip. In fact, I will be moving to South Dakota next month to teach 6th-grade at the Lower Brule Day school. Now, ask me what my next adventure is going to be!  🙂
This boat ramp was not on my map but a welcome sight since I did not have time to make it to Lower Brule this day.

Upriver from the town of Lower Brule, this boat ramp was not on my map but a welcome sight since I did not have time to make it to Lower Brule this day.

This boat ramp was so beautiful and a pleasant place to camp.

This boat ramp was so beautiful and a pleasant place to camp.

Not a whole lot to do once I set up camp at the Little Bend Boat Ramp, so I picked up trash.

Not a whole lot to do once I set up camp at the Little Bend Boat Ramp, so I picked up trash.

I had lots of company at the boat ramp camp

I had lots of company at the boat ramp camp

Busy boat ramp popular with the fishermen and families. Everyone was very friendly, that night and the next morning. The fishermen were there at the crack of dawn, as I recall.

Busy boat ramp popular with the fishermen and families. Everyone was very friendly, that night and the next morning. The fishermen were there at the crack of dawn, as I recall.

I visited Lower Brule Sioux reservation while on expedition. I landed in Chamberlain, South Dakota, on Thursday, August 9, 2013, which is downstream a few hours, below Big Bend Dam. My campsite was at the beautiful American Creek Campground located on the waterfront shore of Lake Francis Case. Jessica Giard was my river contact in Chamberlain, at that time the editor of the local town paper. We enjoyed each other’s company very much and made arrangements to drive to the Powwow at Lower Brule on Sunday, August 11, 2013.
A photo of me during expedition taken by fellow long-distance paddler David Forbes. We met at Big Bend Dam and paddled to Chamberlain together.

A photo of me during expedition taken by fellow long-distance paddler David Forbes. We met at Big Bend Dam and paddled to Chamberlain together.

David Forbes, me, and Jessica Andrews Giard enjoying dinner together at the Marina in Chamberlain, SD.

David Forbes, me, and Jessica Andrews Giard, Chamberlain River Angel, enjoying dinner together at the Marina in Chamberlain, SD.

I was intrigued with the Powwow event and the display of American Indian culture. Lower Brule reservation is located right on the shores of Lake Sharpe. I took lots of photos, met some unique and interesting individuals, and thoroughly enjoyed the regalia, dancing and music at the event, the latter of which consisted of many different drum circles. This was a highlight of my expedition.
My favorite photo of the journey, these American Indian girls smiled so big for the photo. They appear to be near the age I will be teaching this year, which is 6th grade.

My favorite photo of the journey, these American Indian girls smiled so big for the photo. They appear to be near the age I will be teaching this year, which is 6th grade.

I think this was the opening dance when all participate. Spectacular!

I think this was the opening dance when all participate. Spectacular!

The costume, drums and dance made for some spell-binding events

The regalia, drums and dance made for some spell-binding events.

One of the many drum circles competing at the Powwow

One of the many drum circles competing at the Powwow

Jessica Giard, Chamberlain river angel, asking a few questions for a write-up in the Chamberlain newspaper.

Jessica Andrews Giard, Chamberlain river angel, asking a few questions for a write-up in the Chamberlain newspaper.

I was awestruck at the traditional costumes on display this day.

I was awestruck at the traditional regalia on display this day.

Truth be known, this one melted my heart.

Truth be known, this one melted my heart.

Lower Brule is reorganizing its school system to achieve sustainable success. The Tribal Council is working with AIII (A-Triple i), the American Indian Institute for Innovation, making uplifting and relevant changes to achieve post-secondary attendance by graduating high school students who will, ultimately, return to the reservation with their education, leadership skills and innovative ideas. The schools are hoping to achieve an increase in performance standards. I believe the changes in-progress will manifest success and benefits to the Lower Brule community.
Preferring not to commute the 30 minutes to Chamberlain to live, leaving school at the bell and returning at 7:00 AM, I asked the consulting team leading the reorganization if they could find me housing on the reservation. Indeed, they DID find for me a modest inexpensive home to rent just a few blocks from the school. I felt this arrangement was important for immersion with the community and building relationships.
LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition was a life-changing journey like I never expected. After seven and one-half months living simply on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, I now know that my days will continue to be unique while trying to avoid ordinary affairs. Living life outside of the box is stimulating and rewarding. I refuse to melt into an armchair positioned in front of a television or a desk chair in front of a computer screen (well, maybe a little of the latter). Life is so short and at 57 years I can feel the pressure of time passing. So much to do and so little time!
I took this photo on glassy waters as I paddled past Lower Brule.

I took this photo on glassy waters as I paddled past Lower Brule.

A little northern squall heading right for me on Lake Sharpe near Lower Brule. After I hauled everything up out of the water and covered up with a tarp, the storm broke apart. That was good, I guess, even though I was prepared for it.

It did not take long for this northern squall to move in. Luckily it broke up over the river after I had moved my boat and gear and me away from the water.

The journey is not over until the mission bears fruit. The goals of LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition include 1) empowering youth (women and men) to confidently pursue their dreams and desires 2) conducting effective education in the natural environment, which includes bringing the Missouri River into the classroom and the classroom out to the river and 3) preparing the next generation for impactful stewardship of our nation’s waterways. Purposeful living embodies the spirit of adventure. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Coming out from under my tarp which I used to cover me in a squall. The rain never really came as the storm broke up over the river.

Coming out from under my tarp which I used to cover myself in a squall.

Do what you love, and love what you do!
See you on the river!! syotr
Sunrise on Lake Sharpe

Sunrise on Lake Sharpe

See You On The River!

See You On The River!

Categories: Education, Expedition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The White Cliffs in the Upper Missouri Breaks Nat’l Monument

Bub and Tinker with one of the St. Louis/Fort Collins' family members.

Bub and Tinker with one of the St. Louis/Fort Collins’ family members.

A busy morning at the Coal Banks Landing boat ramp once the storm left. The ramp was bustling with boats, paddlers, gear, and excitement. Special thanks again to Bub and Tinker Sandy for taking care of all of us wet river rats and opening up the visitor’s center to everyone for the lasts two days. I decided to hang back and wait for everyone to leave before I got ready to go. When I left, there was not a soul in sight. That’s the way I wanted it. I wanted to take it all in without a lot of external distractions. I had been waiting for this nearly a year.

The White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument evolves as you paddle in to this stretch of river. The anticipation keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will there be cliffs around the next bend? They show themselves gradually. And, before you know it, you are immersed in this fabulous wonderland of rock castles, spires, hoodoos, magnificent walls and lone sentinals.

Leaving Coal Banks I could detect something incredible geologically was going to unfold.

Leaving Coal Banks I could sense that something incredible, geologically, was going to unfold.

I barely got my camera out in time to snap this photo. This looks like an old homestead cabin. My imagination soars when I see structures like this. What must it have been like over a century ago settling in the wild west?

I barely got my camera out in time to snap this photo. This looks like an old homestead cabin. My imagination soars when I see structures like this. What must it have been like over a century ago settling in the wild west?

The cliffs gradually appeared in the riverside environment. It was somewhat like a geologic transformation.

The cliffs gradually appeared in the riverside environment. It was somewhat like a geologic transformation.

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

White Cliffs emerging

White Cliffs emerging

The Boy Scouts made camp early in a beautiful area that was wide open with smaller cliffs surrounding the area.

The Boy Scouts made camp early in a beautiful area that was wide open with smaller cliffs surrounding the area.

The surrounding area around the Boy Scouts first camp, just upriver from Eagle Creek camp. It was beginning to get interesting!

The surrounding area around the Boy Scouts first camp, just upriver from Eagle Creek camp. It was beginning to get interesting!

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Labarge Rock is the dark rock outcropping in the distance. The rock was named after Captain Joseph LaBarge, one of the most famous of steamship captains. He never had an accident in his career commanding ships up to Fort Benton. This is remarkable after seeing a million snags downriver waiting to take the ships down at any given minute.

Labarge Rock is the dark rock outcropping in the distance. The rock was named after Captain Joseph LaBarge, one of the most famous of steamship captains. He never had an accident in his career commanding ships up to Fort Benton. This is remarkable after seeing a million snags downriver waiting to take the ships down at any given minute.

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

LaBarge Rock is an instrusion of dark igneous shonkinite. That's about all I can tell you without getting technical and boring to the non-geologist.

LaBarge Rock is an instrusion of dark igneous shonkinite. That’s about all I can tell you without getting technical and boring to the non-geologist.

The Grand Natural Wall. This is an incredible sight to behold.

The Grand Natural Wall. This is an incredible sight to behold.

Grand Natural Wall

Grand Natural Wall

Cool looking, I think

Cool looking, I think. Now that’s a grand white cliff!

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

I arrived at Hole in the Wall thinking that everyone else would stay back at Eagle Creek, which is a popular camping area with great hiking and historical significance.  The environment around Hole in the Wall is grandiose and quite spectacular.  I was the only one there! I would have a wilderness experience in the midst of incredible beauty!! Well, not exactly. Withing an hour two paddlers arrived. Then, a party of seven or eight men showed up. Oh well, I can share. I will just set my tent off to the side and have my own wilderness experience.  I learned something this day. When you meet good-hearted people, nothing else is really more desirable. The benefits are great when you share a part of your lives together. The experience becomes unforgettable. This day I met Klaus and James. I am so happy that I did.

Klaus (L) and James

Klaus (L) and James

I loved meeting Klaus and James. Klaus came over and invited me to sit around the fire with them that night. They said it wouldn’t be a long fire because firewood was scarce. That sounded good to me. After a couple of hours we gathered for a fire. Klaus had cups and wine and we toasted to my expedition. Then we spent a couple hours just enjoying each others’ company and conversation. THAT beats a solitary wilderness experience, any day. I am thankful for the time we had together.

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The next day I met some of the others who had camped in the area. They were all very interesting gentlemen. One was from Bozeman, another from the Seattle area, and one also from San Diego, among others. The Bureau of Land Management officers showed up. They told us stories and were helpful in showing us good camping areas down river.  Apparently, James Kipp Recreation Area had opened back up, at least the roads leading into the area. Because of all the rain, though, we could expect a lot of mud downriver.  Oh well.

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I was excited to hike to the top of Hole in the Wall. I said good by to Klaus and James. They were going to camp at the Wall camping area. I did not know if I would stop there. We took pictures to make sure we didn’t miss out on that opportunity, and we exchanged addresses.

Klause James and myself. Hole in the Wall is in the background.

Klause James and myself. Hole in the Wall is in the background.

Incredible camp

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And, off I went to hike to the top of the Hole in the Wall. Wow, what a grand experience!! Unforgettable.

 

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I thoroughly enjoy my hike up to the top of Hole in the Wall. While I was standing up there looking around, I thought, I think I am experiencing breath-taking beauty. I had to stop and calm down I was so excited.

I paddled on and came to Klaus and James’ camp. It was getting late and they invited me over. I was happy to stop there. The camp was one of the best and most peaceful I have experienced thus far. Not to mention my new friends. We had another tremendous night telling stories, jokes, and laughing freely. When it was time for them to shove off the next day, I was truly sad. I’ve got their number. Happy about that.

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The Wall Camp, 7 miles  before Judith Landing

The Wall Camp, 7 miles before Judith Landing

Prairie dog town in back of the camping area. How cool is that!?

Prairie dog town in back of the camping area. How cool is that!?

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See ya, James!

See ya, James!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Do what you love and love what you do.

Janet

Categories: Education, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fort Benton to Coal Banks Landing-June 1-4

This trip is so fantastic, every day is a new adventure. However, the journey is so broad in scope that even I have to break it down into chunks, or categories, in order to write in my journal. Otherwise, I think to myself, where do I begin??

Some of the areas that this journey embraces are the wildlife, geology, geography, paddling, challenges, and social interactions (the awesome people I meet along the way).  Because I want to capture all of the various aspects of each and every bend in the river, I have accumulated numerous photos to help document my experiences. Here is just a taste of this short section of my trip.

On June 1, I took off from Fort Benton after an enjoyable stay. I knew it would be an easy paddle to Coal Banks Landing, a launching point into the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. As with any day, though, I’m not always sure where will campsite will be for the night.

My camp between Fort Benton and Coal Banks, which is the developed campground right before entering the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I had to find a spot in a hurry because it was getting late. A little muddy, on the upriver point of an island, but level.

My camp between Fort Benton and Coal Banks, which is the developed campground right before entering the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I had to find a spot in a hurry because it was getting late. A little muddy, on the upriver point of an island, but level.

Tim was surprised, and somewhat startled, to find this, umm, artifact imbedded in the beach.

I found this skull right at the point of the island by my camp. Kind of disturbing. Found out later it is a bison skull, the bison likely finished off with a blow to the head, which was a common tactic among Native Americans back in the day.

I found this skull right at the point of the island by my camp. Kind of disturbing. Found out later it is a bison skull, the bison likely finished off with a blow to the head, which was a common tactic among Native Americans back in the day.

I have fond memories of this campsite, despite the muddy beach, because of the 70’s music they were playing on the radio. Those were the days when the world open wide, and the anticipation of what could be was scintillating.

Further down I stopped at the Virgelle Ferry. An Indian man visiting America happened to be there and wanted to ride the ferry across and back. He asked me if I wanted to go, so I said, “sure”!

The gentleman from India and his son from Kansas City. The Indian man just wanted a ride, and asked me if I wanted to come along. Heck ya!

The gentleman from India and his son from Kansas City. The Indian man just wanted a ride, and asked me if I wanted to come along. Heck ya!

The Virgelle Ferry

The Virgelle Ferry

The cables of the cable ferry, only one of six functioning in the United States.

The cables of the cable ferry, only one of six functioning in the world.

Beautiful mountains and I'm not even in the Breaks, yet.

Beautiful mountains and I’m not even in the Breaks, yet.

I arrived in Coal Banks after just a few hours the next day. Dominique Liboiron was coming to visit me there, since the location was close to his home in Saskatchewan, Canada. Last year, Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan to New Orleans in honor of his uncle who died of heart disease age the early age of 42. Dom carried his ashes to disperse in New Orleans, a city his uncle fell in love with.

So great to see Dominique again. When he was paddling on his expedition, he stopped at Cooper's Landing, where we gained each others' friendship right away.

So great to see Dominique again. When he was paddling on his expedition, he stopped at Cooper’s Landing, where we gained each others’ friendship right away.

It poured rain while he was there. He stayed two nights. One day we worked on a plan to get his canoe in Canada so he could paddle with me in the Breaks. Unfortunately, logistics proved to be too complicated, especially since James Kipp Recreation Area closed down due to flooding. So we went to Virgelle Landing and Fort Benton to have fun.

The Virgelle Mercantile. They also have an extensive antique store and run river shuttle and catering.

The Virgelle Mercantile. They also have an extensive antique store and run river shuttle and catering.

Jim is one of the proprietors of Virgelle Mercantille and Antique and Canoe Service, along with Don/

Jim is one of the proprietors of Virgelle Mercantille and Antique and Canoe Service, along with Don. (Notice the bison skull in back on the shelf.)

Don, partners with Jim, runs the Virgelle machine. We enjoyed talking with them about a lot of things such as river trips, paddling, cameras, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and river clean-ups.

Don, partners with Jim, runs the Virgelle machine. We enjoyed talking with them about a lot of things such as river trips, paddling, cameras, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and river clean-ups.

Sandy cooks meals at the store and plays mom to all the men. She participated in a river clean up at Coal Banks, sponsored by Friends of the Breaks and Bureau of Land

Sandy cooks meals at the store and plays mom to all the men. She participated in a river clean up at Coal Banks, sponsored by Friends of the Breaks and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Once we determined that it was too difficult to organize a shuttle for Dominique, we decided to play tourist in Fort Benton. Dominique has wanted to go there for many years and, well, I was happy just to go with Dominique. He is such great company. We had a blast!

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Grand Union Hotel

Grand Union Hotel

Mural on the wall at the Grand Union

Mural on the wall at the Grand Union

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We stoped for lunch at the Palace Bar, where we met Sandy bartending. I dropped Dave Miller’s name,(the author of The Complete Paddler) and she remembered him, and apparently took good care of him. “I let him take a shower at my house.” When I mentioned that I hadn’t had a shower in a week, she insisted I go to her house and take one.  Thank you, Sandy! I will never forget your sweet heart.

Sweet Sandy at the Palace Bar

Sweet Sandy at the Palace Bar

After I went to Sandy’s house and took a shower, we stopped at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, they closed in five minutes, but I think we made the best of the situation.

There it is again. I left my skull in the river where I found it.  Seemed the appropriate thing to do.

There it is again. I left my skull in the river where I found it. Seemed the appropriate thing to do.

Outside the front of the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center

Outside the front of the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center

Dominique as Steamship Captain. Keep your eyes on the river, Captain, those snags will sink your ship!

Dominique as Steamship Captain. Keep your eyes on the river, Captain, those snags will sink your ship!

The wing span of a pelican. I have seen pelicans almost every day of my trip. They are a comfort, and good company.

The wing span of a pelican. I have seen pelicans almost every day of my trip. They are a comfort and good company.

Despite the rainy and wet conditions, we made a fire for warmth and comfort. Thanks to the campers next door who helped me haul their leftover wood over, chopped kindling, and wrapped paper up in plastic for me. And, gave me a lighter!  So nice!

Despite the rainy and wet conditions, we made a fire for warmth and comfort. Thanks to the campers next door who helped me haul their leftover wood over, chopped kindling, and wrapped paper up in plastic for me. And, gave me a lighter! So nice!

Before leaving the next morning, Dominique left me with some wisdom and tips for the challenges ahead. He has been a wonderful friend and I will miss him.

Before leaving the next morning, Dominique left me with some wisdom and tips for the challenges ahead. He has been a wonderful friend and I will miss him.

The senior Boy Scouts had come to camp during the rainstorm. The camp hosts, Bub and Tinker Sandy were incredibly accommodating for all of us, letting the boy scouts stay in the visitor’s center, and letting Dominique set up his tent on the porch. By the time the weather let up and we all were ready to launch, we had become friends. Finally, it was time to enter the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, a moment for which I had been waiting a long time.

Onward! Bub and me in excited anticipation for my journey ahead.

Onward! Bub and me in excited anticipation for my journey ahead.

 

Me and the some of the Boy Scouts, and their dads/leaders, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Great bunch of kids. They will achieve many things among them.

Me and the some of the Boy Scouts, and their dads/leaders, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Great bunch of kids. They will achieve many things among them.

 

Lots of excited paddlers ready to get on the water!

Lots of excited paddlers ready to get on the water!

Onward to the White Cliffs on June 4. I will try and have something posted in the next few days. I have a White Cliffs photo album posted on my Facebook Expedition page, if you want to check that out now.

I apologize for the delay in posts. I’m paddling a 178-mile lake right now, Lake Sakakawea, and a 230-mile lake coming up, Lake Oahe. I am currently at Dakota Waters Resort campground taking a refresh day (shower and laundry), and should be at the dam tomorrow or the next day.  Hurray!

Please see my Facebook page, LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition, for current photos and updates. You do not need to have an account to view the page, it is accessible to the public. I can upload straight from my iPhone and it is much easier, however, this blog helps to organize and document the journey. I have not forgotten you!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Do what you love, and love what you do.

You CAN do it!

Janet (July 7, 2013)

Categories: Education, Expedition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fort Benton-First Visit: Rain Layover-May 30 to June 1

I arrived at Fort Benton the same day that I left Great Falls. The paddle only took a few hours from Carter Ferry. I knew rain was forecasted, so I planned on staying in Fort Benton for a least a couple of days, which I would have done anyway. This post is a photo story post. I hope you enjoy it.

Carter Ferry is one of only six cable ferries in existence. Another cable ferry is in Virgelle, between Fort Benton and Coal Banks Landing. There are also two others in the area, making four out of the six ferries that are functioning located here in northern Montana.

Carter Ferry

Carter Ferry

I opted to try and set up camp at the boat ramp, rather than a mile downstream at the canoe camp. I was leary about it, but a cop was sitting there so I asked him and he said it would be fine. He said he and the night shift officer would keep an eye on me. Sweet!

I opted to try and set up camp at the boat ramp in Fort Benton, rather than a mile upstream at the canoe camp. I was leary about it, but a police officer was sitting there in the parking lot, so I asked him and he said it would be fine. He said he and the night shift officer would keep an eye on me. Sweet!

This is it, but the inside is cozy and dry. Well, except at 1:50 AM when the darn automatic sprinkler came on for 40 or so minutes. Geez. The last night there I took off the tarp because the storm had passed, but I forgot about the sprinkler. My tent fly got soaked after staying dry through the whole storm. Kinda funny.

This is it, but the inside is cozy and dry. Well, except at 1:50 AM when the darn automatic sprinkler comes on for 40 or so minutes every night. Geez. The last night there I took off the tarp because the storm had passed, but I forgot about the sprinkler. My tent fly got soaked after staying dry through the whole storm. Kinda funny.

Fort Benton's riverside walk is lined with historic information signs for a long ways. It is fun learning about the town's history while walking along the river, which is, of course, where most of the town's historic events took place. That is a walking bridge in the background and has benches and picnic tables on it.

Fort Benton’s riverside walk is lined with historic information signs for a long ways. It is fun learning about the town’s history while walking along the river, which is, of course, where most of the town’s historic events took place. That is a walking bridge in the background and has benches and picnic tables on it.

Here is a view of the riverfront levee from the walking bridge.

Here is a view of the riverfront levee from the walking bridge.

This sweet cafe was right across the street. The waitress was so nice, she let me stay there all day until closing at around 2:00. It was a nice rainy day hang.

This sweet cafe was right across the street. The waitress was so nice, she let me stay there all day until closing at around 2:00. I didn’t stay there all day every day. Just the first day. The other days I left before closing, and I went to the library, too. It was a nice rainy day hang.

The coffee was delicious and so were the breakfasts and lunches. I had an omelette two mornings in a row.

The coffee was delicious and so were the breakfasts and lunches. I had an omelette two mornings in a row.

This is Nikki, my very sweet waitress at the Wake Cup. I wanted a photo of her, for that reason. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was leaving that I learned she was the ranger in the Breaks National Monument for three years previous. It would have been nice to chat, but she was usually very busy. Very nice, though, and currently the volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Missouri River Breaks.

This is Nikki, my very sweet waitress at the Wake Cup. I wanted a photo of her, for that reason. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was leaving that I learned she was the ranger in the Breaks National Monument for three years previous. It would have been nice to chat, but she was usually very busy. Very nice, though, and currently the volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Missouri River Breaks.

River Break was the coolest little bookstore with all kinds of interesting books and used gear, rocks and stuff.

River Break was the coolest little bookstore with all kinds of interesting books and used gear, rocks and stuff.

Tom is the owner of River Breaks. He gave me a great deal on three books. What an interesting and knowledgeable guy. This is a must stop in Fort Benton. Please note, he does no have a hostel up and running, or showers, laundry and shuttle. These are part of his dream.

Tom is the owner of River Breaks. He gave me a great deal on three books. What an interesting and knowledgeable guy. This is a must stop in Fort Benton. Please note, he does no have a hostel up and running, or showers, laundry and shuttle. These are part of his dream. Go for it, Tom!

Side of the Upper Missouri River Museum building, located right next to my camp. Fort Benton was also next door.

Side of the Upper Missouri River Museum building, located right next to my camp. Fort Benton was also next door.

Outside of the Fort

Outside of the Fort

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The levee today with a view of the old bridge, which is now just for walking and sitting and contemplating.

The levee today with a view of the old bridge, which is now just for walking and sitting and contemplating.

The walking bridge

The walking bridge

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The "block" today

The “block” today

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Today

Today

This map shows my route coming up, all the way through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. (Coal Banks to James Kipp Recreation Area,)

This map shows my route coming up, all the way through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. (Coal Banks to James Kipp Recreation Area)

It rained and rained and rained. The rain stops eventually, and now it was time to move on down the river. Fort Benton is a town that will warm your heart, and get you interested in the Missouri River and its connection to our country's history and culture.

It rained and rained and rained. The rain stops eventually, and now it was time to move on down the river. Fort Benton is a town that will warm your heart, and get you interested in the Missouri River and its connection to our country’s history and culture.

It began raining again on June 2, the afternoon of the day I arrived at Coal Banks Landing. I have some interesting photos of the paddle down to Coal Banks, the paddlers laying over at Coal Banks, the proprietors of the Virgelle Mercantile Store, and my second visit to Fort Benton when I came with Dominique Liboiron, who came to visit me from Saskatchewan during this next rain delay before starting into the Breaks. Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan, Canada, to New Orleans last summer and winter, arriving just before Mardi Gras. We instantly became friends when he stopped over at Cooper’s Landing, my river hangout in Columbia, Missouri. My next post will share with you our visit together and some additional interesting things we discovered in Fort Benton.

Do what you love, and love what you do!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast (notice that is switching around a little. No, a lot.) 🙂

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Teach Your Children Well

NewStickers_crop

Yesterday, I passed out some expedition stickers to my 8th grade science students. Well, they are not mine literally, but I spent an entire semester at Jefferson Junior High School with many of them, ten weeks as a student teacher of 8th-grade social studies, and six weeks of 8th-grade science. I kind of consider them mine, at least figuratively.

jjhs

Jefferson Junior High School. Columbia, Missouri’s first high school in 1911.

I was substitute teaching yesterday for my science students and we watched a marvelous Planet Earth video called “Fresh Water.” I watched the movie five times as I had five classes to teach. Never was I bored with it, but with each viewing became totally immersed in the photography of the wildlife and the waterways highlighted in the movie.

GrandCanyon

Grand Canyon’s Colorado River

One river highlighted was the Amazon River in South America. The Amazon carries more water than the next top-ten biggest rivers combined. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean after meandering 4,000 miles eastward from its source in the Peruvian Andes.

The Amazon River

The Amazon River

The students enjoyed the video, too. We saw grizzly bears feeding on salmon in British Columbia, a team of smooth-coated otters harassing a 13-foot crocodile in an Indian River, eight-foot fresh water dolphins, Botos,

Fresh water dolphins of the Amazon River.

Fresh water dolphins of the Amazon River.

navigating by sonar in the murky waters of the Amazon River, the falling waters of Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the highest in the world, mating lake flies producing smoke-like columns extending hundreds of yards up in the sky on one of the world’s largest lakes in the East African Rift Valley, and a red-bellied piranha feeding frenzy in the underwater forests of Brazil’s Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland.

Angel Falls

Angel Falls

Lake Flies mating before dropping eggs on water and dying.

Lake Flies mating before dropping eggs on water and dying.

Honestly, I had not planned to give away my stickers and tell them about my expedition, but the opportunity presented itself perfectly after watching “Fresh Water.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen (the line I use to get their attention), I don’t know when I will be back in this classroom, so I have a small announcement to make:  I have been planning an expedition since last June. I will be leaving in 2 ½ months, on April 14th, to solo kayak the entire length of the Missouri River, which starts in Montana.  The Missouri River is the longest river in North America and the fourth longest in the world, and flows about 2600 miles from its ‘source’ in the Centennial Mountains to St. Louis.”

Missouririvermap

Their response:

WHAT are you doing? What’s a kayak? Where are you going to sleep? What will you do for food? Who is going with you? How long will it take you? You’ll have a motor, won’t you? Won’t you be scared? The river is dangerous. That’s crazy. I could never do that!  Good luck.

My response:

“This is one of my objectives: I want you, and kids like you, to know that “you can do anything”, if you have the desire, a positive attitude, and support to help you. I want to model that for you by doing this trip.”

Now, I would like to add:

So listen up:  chase negatives away, just like the smooth-coated otters did with the crocodile, and “Make It Happen,” no matter what the “It” may be. Got it, guys?

Teach Your Children Well

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The Inspiration of the Coppermine Expedition

Check out The COPPERMINE EXPEDITION 2012.  I can see a ton of parallels to my vision, which is on a smaller scale but same big idea:

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The Expedition

Statement of Objectives
The proposed expedition will take six participants from Yellowknife, N.W.T. to Kugluktuk, NU, by canoe and develop educational materials to bring the journey to Canadian classrooms. In pursuing this opportunity, expedition members wish to further develop their careers as educators in combination with a passion for outdoor and experiential education. In doing so, we hope to be able to contribute in a positive manner to the understanding and appreciation of Canadian history and geography through various forms of media. Our objective is to expand the geographic appreciation, and knowledge of this remote region of the Canadian wilderness, encouraging thoughtful debate and discussion on both environmental and
economic themes.

In support of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s mandate to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world, while on the expedition, we will be creating a series of interactive lesson plans for classrooms. We will be submitting these to the Canadian Council for Geographic Education, and upon completion of the trip, these lesson plans will be made available through this website. Students and teachers will be able to explore the route and find a range of materials appropriate to their grade level.

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From Canoe and Kayak Magazine:

Coppermine 2012

An ambitious 1,000-mile odyssey across the Canadian North

By: / Posted on June 18, 2012

Why is it important that young Canadians learn about this part of their country?
Stef Superina: Canada’s north, its rich history and diverse geography, are all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks. As a country that derives much of its wealth from natural resources, the Canadian north will play an important role in our country’s growth. Engaging our youth in discussion on economic and environmental themes is integral to the sustainable development of our country’s resource base, as they will ultimately become the decision makers of the future.

I think I said somewhere:  The Missouri River, its rich history and diverse geography, is all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks.  Well, maybe not those exact words, but in similar concept.

New Project 1 0023

How cool it would be to have support from a geographical society!?  But then, I’d need a crew.  Then, it would no longer be a solo trek.  Then, it would be an occupation, and I’d never make it to the classroom with the children.  Being in the classroom with the children is important, too.  I will just have to make do with less support, and more creativity, resourcefulness, and energy.  And, perhaps, a Coppermine will help.  (…and a really good camera!)

Coppermine_New Project 1 2418

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Riches Much Finer Than Gold

The most wonderful thing happened to me at the Missouri Environmental Education Association (MEEA) mini-conference yesterday.  I walked away from the event with the most amazing book; it is a compilation of educational lessons and activities about the Upper Mississippi River. Erin Hilligoss-Volkmann of the Army Corps of Engineers gave a presentation, and I was one of the lucky ones to receive one of three copies she brought along.  I asked her if I could post some things about the book on my blog, and she said, “Yes.”

Cover

This book is the manifestation in the physical realm of what I have been envisioning in my mind as it relates the Missouri River.  Only it goes way beyond what I imagined possible.  It is complete, thorough, comprehensive, beautifully illustrated, and bursting with amazing science and social studies lessons and activities.  I’d say the book is somewhat like a dream-come-true, and gives my trip a rich new perspective.

Well deserved kudos go out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) Cultural Resources and Stewardship Mitigation Team in La Crosse, WI, and design team led by Formations.

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Standards

This book is given to facilitators at a workshop in which they are trained to train teachers to teach students about the upper Mississippi River.  Here are the titles to the units:

Unit 1 Introduction to the Upper Mississippi River Watershed

Unit 2 Introduction to Upper Mississippi River Ecosystems

Unit 3 Introduction to Mississippi River History and Culture

Unit 4 Introduction to the Mississippi River at Work

Unit 5 Introduction to A Shared Resource – Our Mississippi River

Here’s a peak at some of the activities:

Watershed

RiverBirds

AncientCivilizations

BlancheLeathers

Navigate

SteamboatEra

ControllingtheRiver

WellRiverCheckUp

Content includes activities relating to river habitats, glacial history, plants, animals, and habitats of the Upper Miss, bird migration, endangered species, Mississippi’s ancient civilizations, Native Americans, settlement and transportation, Underground Railroad, watershed occupations, steam power, Mark Twain, Lewis and Clark, floods, locks, dams, water safety, and caring for the river, among many other subjects.  The book even includes profiles of people important to the river today, such as Michael Clark and his Big Muddy Adventures.

MichaelClark

Sustainability

To be honest, I am quite speechless as I look through this treasure chest of river education tools.  Seems reasonable and logical to have a complimentary Missouri River resource such as this, full of  riches much finer than gold.

Ahhh, the possibilities!

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Plenty of Food for Thought

Lake Oahe (photo by Bob Bellingham)

Every morning of every day I think about my trip with great anticipation and longing to get on the water.  I look forward to the solitude and the simplicity, waking in the morning near the water, starting the stove for coffee, searching for whatever wildlife will come my way, taking photos, reading, or writing in a journal.  Perhaps I have set up my tent facing the river so when I wake up I can lay in my sleeping bag gazing at the river and dream about the day ahead, or the day behind.  I have backpacked alone before.  I am comfortable in the wilderness.

Camping alone (1983) in the Mokelumne River Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Sheltered Bay on Lake Francis Case (photo by Bob Bellingham)

In three weeks I will have an education degree in social studies and science.  So, this morning I’m thinking about how I can make this trek and this degree work together.  I glance over at my NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) monthly newspaper I get in the mail.  I see a photo of a man on top of a snow-covered mountain.  The caption reads, “Minnesota high school science teacher…uses photographs taken during his world travels to stimulate inquiry in his classes.”  Sweet!  As I read the article, I learn that his photograph introduces a topic, prompts a story, generates student interest, provokes questions to which the students want answers, initiates a real life connection, brings the mountains into his Minnesota classroom, and creates a teachable moment.  BINGO!  I can do that!  My past experiences can provide lots of material.  My upcoming trip will create a file full of opportunities.

Windsurfing S.F. Bay. That’s me in the middle heading out towards the cruise ship from which my brother, Jim Sullens, took this picture. Certainly, a teachable moment somewhere in there.

As an example, on all of his experiences this teacher records basic weather data (temperature, precipitation, cloud coverage, wind speed and direction) which provides a transition into graphing and analyzing data.  Great idea!  Now I am thinking, hmmm, the ecology aspect of being on the river and the exposure to wildlife and, of course, environmental stewardship are teachable opportunities.  And the dams, the many dams, can provide ample high-powered subject matter.  How about the geology and geography between Montana and Missouri?  And, oooh, the moon phases and constellations?  Hey, what about bringing into the classroom the sights and scenery experienced by Lewis and Clark and their crew, and the Native Americans with whom they came in contact?  My head is spinning with possibilities!

Moonrise (photo by Dom Liboiron)

Gavin’s Point Dam (photo by Bob Bellingham)

This monument is on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and is dedicated to two missionaries who worked with the Lakota. It features Christian and Native cultural and religious symbols. The stones also had many fossils imbedded in them. (photo/caption by Dominique Liboiron)

So much food for thought!  If I am not able to have an outdoor classroom, I will strive to bring the outdoor classroom inside.

178-mile long Lake Sakakawea, held back by Garrison Dam, home to extremely high winds. (photo by Dominique Liboiron)

No, it is not the ocean. These are waves produced by winds on Lake Sharpe. (photo by Dom Liboiron)

Yes, I look forward to the solitude, but the simplicity may be more multifaceted than I thought.

If you are reading this, and you have some teachable moment ideas for me to think about on my trip, I encourage you to comment.  Thanks!

Live fast ~ paddle slow

I better get back to my homework.  🙂

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Wilderness Classroom…can you say, “Totally Awesome!”

Dave and Amy are on a three year kayak/canoe/dog-sledding expedition around North America, bringing the wilderness into the classrooms of 65,000 school children and 1900 teachers.

Currently delayed on their North American Odyssey, which they began on Earth Day in 2010, they were scheduled to present at the New Jersey Kayak shop right before Hurricane Sandy hit.  They presented to a small audience, and then got outta there.  The shop suffered damage, but their kayaks were waiting for them, tied up in front, when they returned from evacuation.  They are staying in New Jersey for awhile to assist with the hurricane relief before heading down the east coast to Key West.

Check out their introductory video here, their blog, and their Facebook page to see exactly what they are doing.

Very cool.  Enjoy!

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Big Muddy Adventures: an alternative way of teaching, from the river.

Mike Clark
Big Muddy Adventures, Proprietor
Big Muddy Mike“Big Muddy” Mike Clark is one of the most accomplished canoeists and guides in America.  He has over 10,000 miles of big river experience and has led thousands of people in large and small groups on guided river trips since 2001.  He has completed entire navigations of the Mississippi River (2001), Missouri River (2002, 2005-2006), Yellowstone River (2006), and Sunflower River (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008).  He is the founder of Big Muddy Adventures.  Michael is also a veteran elementary and middle school teacher and currently teaches computers, science and history part time at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy, MO.

Annually, Mike leads a live learning adventure expedition for school children across North America — connecting our youth with our rivers. Mike Clark is a youth leader and truly a Steward and Champion of America’s Rivers. He has won a number of awards, including the Pekatanoui Award for non-motorized River Cleanups and in March 2012 was recognized as a “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine for his work as a river steward and river guide.

I love what Big Muddy Adventures is all about.  You can learn more here.

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