Upper Missouri River Breaks-continued

I decided not to stop at Judith Landing, the approximate middle of the Breaks. I regret that move a little, but I was yearning to get in some solitary camping. I knew that all of the others on the river were getting out at Judith because of the James Kipp closing, so I kind of felt that I would have the lower section to myself. I saw James and Klaus loading up at the Judith Landing boat ramp, and we were able to wave and say our last good-byes.

I decided to camp at Gist Campground. I was right. No one was around beyond Judith Landing. The campground was located on a beautiful stretch of river with a steep rock wall that plunged straight down into the river. I knew then that I was going to like this place.

The wall across the river
The wall across the river from Gist Campground

The river banks were muddy because of the recent rains. I decided I could not avoid it no matter what, so I just took off my shoes and let it squish between my toes. The Big Muddy’s mud is actually soft and silky and washed off the skin quite easily. What are you gonna do?  You just have to deal with it. No sense in getting anxious and frustrated about it.

The mud at Gist Campground was extensive. The river had flooded during all of the rain, and now it was dropping leaving a lot of shoreline with mid-calf to knee-high mud.
The mud at Gist Campground was extensive. The river had flooded during all of the rain, and now the river was dropping leaving a lot of shoreline with mid-calf to knee-high mud.
My camp at Gist
My camp at Gist
This is the river as it runs down towards the front of Gist Campground. I was very much isolated in this area. However, in the evening just before dusk, a solo canoer paddled by quietly. It is amazing I happened to see him. Although, I always keep one eye on the river and can spot any living thing that is nearby. Had I been inside my tent for any reason, I may have missed him.
This is the river as it runs down towards the front of Gist Campground. I was very much isolated in this area. However, in the afternoon as I was leaving on another hike, I saw a solo canoer approaching. It is amazing I happened to see him. Although, I always keep one eye on the river and can spot any living thing that is nearby. Had I left a minute earlier, I may have missed seeing him upriver. I went ahead and took off on my hike. He was not there when I got back. He must have paddled on.
This is the view from the campsite looking inland downriver. I wanted to walk up to the lookout in which Lewis claimed he saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. I would have to walk a mile and a half in that direction. No problem.
This is the view from the campsite looking inland downriver. I wanted to walk up to the lookout in which Lewis claimed he saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. I would have to walk a mile and a half in that direction. No problem.
These are the Gist Homestead remnants just behind the campground. It was fascinating to see inside and imagine what life was like in the 1800s. I was electrified considering these things as I used to dream about being an early settler.
These are the Gist Homestead remnants just behind the campground. It was fascinating to see inside and imagine what life was like living out here in the 1800s. I was electrified considering these things as I used to dream about being an early settler.
When I walked the mile and one half down towards the lookout hiking area, this weather blew in and looked ominous. It proved to be nothing, but I canceled my hike to as to not get in thundersorm and hail trouble.
When I walked the mile and one half down towards the lookout hiking area, this weather blew in and looked ominous. It proved to be nothing, but I canceled my hike to the top so as to avoid thundersorm and hail trouble.

After staying for two nights and several small hikes later, I moved on. The river had dropped three or four feet since I had arrived. This beached my boat fairly high above the waterline, and you know what that means? It was time to get muddy again. Off came the shoes and I moved the boat up the river to where I was camped since there was no difference now in the mud situation. The riverbank was muddy everywhere. I would soon find out that the mud was prevalent for miles and miles to come. Finding campsites downriver would prove to be extremely challenging.

Yes, the river dropped. I knew it would, but never thought it would look like this.
Yes, the river dropped. I knew it would, but never thought it would look like this.
You can make up your own caption for this one.
You can make up your own caption for this one.

I learned about some historic events as I was actually paddling down the river. The Cow Creek Crossing was one such event. As I read about the Nez Perce Indians, led by Chief Joseph, marching towards Canada in order to escape confinement to a reservation, I was moved. 750 men, women and children, now refugees in their own country, trying to escape the American military and the inevitable tragedy that would follow. Unfortunately, they were close to Canada, but not close enough to escape. I followed their trail through this entire section and stopped every so often to just imagine where exactly they walked and what they must have looked like. I was filled with emotion.

A page from Otto Schumacher and Lee Woodword's Magnificent Journey, providing a little information about the Nez Perce Crossing of Cow Island.
A page from Otto Schumacher and Lee Woodword’s Magnificent Journey, providing a little information about the Nez Perce Crossing of Cow Island.

I paddled slowly past the Nez Perce National Historic Trail where, in 1877, approximately 750 men, women, and children of their “nontreaty” tribe tried to make their way to Canada to reach asylum.  I saw the many water crossings they likely took, and a narrow trail along the river on which they walked near Cow Island. They were so close to freedom before they were stopped and 200 Nez Perce braves fought to defend the fleeing tribe. My heart bleeds for them. This section proved to be very melancholy for me, and unforgettable.

The trail of the Nez Perce
The trail of the Nez Perce
The Nez Perce likely walked along this narrow shoreline. The geography of the river and mountains is still very similar, based on records of the route they walked.
The Nez Perce likely walked along this narrow shoreline and through that flat area on their way to the Cow Island Crossing. The geography of the river and mountains is still very similar, based on the map of the route they walked.
The Nez Perce Trail come this way from those mountains and their journey involved many river crossings. The trail seems to cross right at the most narrow spots, indicating the river must still be similar to what it was then.
The Nez Perce Trail comes this way from those mountains and their journey involved many river crossings. The trail seems to cross right at the most narrow spots, indicating the river must still be similar to what it was it was like then.
The Nez Perce crossed Cow Island and headed north towards Canada in attempt to acquire assylum from the American military.
The Nez Perce crossed Cow Island and headed north towards Canada in attempt to escape the American military.

My plan was to stop at the James Kipp Recreation Area. This is considered the end of the road for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I planned on refilling my water here, and camping the night. I had no idea the flooding wreaked such havok on the campground. Not only were the roads closed just a few days previous, but the electricity was still out and that meant the water pumps were not working. A fisherman took me around to find water to no avail. But in order for him to do that, I had to get up this boat ramp. “Apparently, they have not cleared the ramp yet.” I chided. That got a good laugh. The camp host eventually came to the ramp with a ten-gallon bottle of water and filled my five gallon bottles.

The James Kipp Campground boat ramp
The James Kipp Campground boat ramp
"What a bloody mess," as they would say in England.
“What a bloody mess,” as they would say in England.

It’s 4:00 PM and I’m outta here, I thought. I’ll just paddle on down the river and find myself a campsite. Oh dear. That turned out to be the greatest challenge of this trip. It took about 15 minutes for me to realize I better start looking hard. Four hours later there were still NO sites to be found, and I had stopped to investigate several areas. This was the first time I thought I might have to sleep in my kayak. OMG!

Just as dusk was falling on the land, I came around a bend and saw something unusual. Three men were walking, yes walking, on the riverbank. How are they doing that?! I exclaimed to my brain. Is it not muddy in that spot. I paddled in a straight line over to their boat, and them. I made friends fast. Actually, I had no intention of going any further. Thankfully, Eli, Brandon, and Travis turned out to be river angels, river angels from Roundup, Montana.

Eli, left, and Brandon on the riverbank. They had been paddlefish fishing there all day long. They stomped out a sizable trail down the riverbank. I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life!
Eli, left, and Brandon on the riverbank. They had been paddlefish fishing there all day long. They stomped out a sizable trail down the riverbank. I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life!
Travis, Brandon's older brother. These guys turned out to be so wonderful!  I'll never forget them.
Travis, Brandon’s older brother. These guys turned out to be so wonderful!
I’ll never forget them.

Soon, darkness was upon us, and Eli helped me carry my gear down the bank, through the willow forest, and up the hill where I set up my tent with a gorgeous view of the river. I went from rags to riches, and was thrilled. The boys ended up camping at their truck that night, which was located at the top of the hill, and we had a fire and passed around a bottle of JD (only a couple of times). When in Montana, you do as the Roundup Boys do. I was so happy! And, Brandon gave me his Leatherman to take with me. Now, THAT’S special!

Eli helped me carry my tent and gear down the bank, through the willows and up the hill where I set up my tent overlooking the river. I was so thankful.
Eli helped me carry my tent and gear down the bank, through the willows and up the hill where I set up my tent overlooking the river. I was so thankful. He also explained to me that the screaming animal I kept hearing during the evenings was merely a toad. Whew!

I had a long day of paddling the next day in order to get to Fort Peck Lake. I rose up at sunrise and was in my boat at 7:00 AM. I waved to Eli from the shore. I was sad to leave these river angels.

The RoundUp boys' fishing boat on the shore of my oasis.
The RoundUp boys’ fishing boat and Blue Moon on the shore of our oasis.

It is so easy to get attached to kindred spirits that share their life with the river. There is a bond that is undeniable. We share riverblood.

Beautiful coyote
Beautiful coyote

43 miles later this day, I arrived at Fort Peck Lake. I had had no internet service for nearly a week, and would not for almost another. I found myself immersed in mountainous wilderness. I was in heaven.

Prickly Pear Cactus blooming
Prickly Pear Cactus blooming

More to come.

Check in at LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition on Facebook for current events.

Do what you love, and love what you do. Peace out, Janet

Fort Peck Lake, June 10, 2013
Fort Peck Lake, June 10, 2013

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!

7-slowly

7-starting

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.

campatHoleintheWall

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.

BLMatHole holeinthewallpaddlers

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

cabinatHole

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

 

IMG_1695

10-trailontop

IMG_1697

IMG_1692

IMG_1687

5-spiresupholeinwall

9-behindholeinwall

6-upholeinwall

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.

IMG_1725

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!?

IMG_1722

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

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

IMG_1440

IMG_1448

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

IMG_1446

IMG_1447

The "block" today
The “block” today

IMG_1449

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.) 🙂

Paddling into Great Falls! Monday, May 27.

Thank You, John and Keely Schukei, for taking such good care of me the couple days I stayed in Great Falls. Your hospitality was heart warming. My stay with you, unforgettable. (I am loving my gloves and my pink crocs!)

I absolutely LOVE this photo of John, Keely and Hazel, the dog. I kinda like all of them alot!
I absolutely LOVE this photo of John, Keely and Hazel, the dog. I kinda like all of them alot!

When John, Sherri, and Bob came to paddle with me, John had offered me a place to stay and a ride around the dams. I phoned him shortly before I arrived and told him I would love to take him up on his offer. He said, “Great, I’ll be right there to pick you up.” Then, when I told him I could not get a clear visual in my mind about the Great Falls and what they look like, he drove straight over to the first two falls to take a look. This was a tremendous help. Plus, we saw some other really cool things, too, like Giant Spring and Great Horned Owl babies.

This is Black Eagle Falls, the uppermost falls of the five dams comprising the "Great Falls." The city of Great Falls is in the background.
This is Black Eagle Falls, the uppermost falls of the five dams comprising the “Great Falls.” The city of Great Falls is in the background.
This is the second from the top falls, Rainbow Falls. All of the water is diverted through the power house so no water runs through it except on weekends, when they let extra water out.
This is the second from the top falls, Rainbow Falls. All of the water is diverted through the power house so no water runs through it except on weekends, when they let extra water out.
Here is a view looking down stream from Rainbow Falls.
Here is a view looking down stream from Rainbow Falls.
This is Giant Spring located within Giant Spring State Park between Black Eagle and Rainbow Falls. It is the source of the shortest river in the country, the Rogue River. It empties into the Missouri River after about 100 yards or so.
This is Giant Spring located within Giant Spring State Park between Black Eagle and Rainbow Falls. It is the source of the shortest river in the country, the Rogue River. It empties into the Missouri River after about 100 yards or so.
Here is one of two places the spring empties into the Missouri River
Here is one of two places the spring empties into the Missouri River

 

Watercress growing in the spring. Look how clear that water is!
Watercress growing in the spring. Look how clear that water is!

 

This is a nest with three Great Horned Owl babies. If you don't know they are there, you probably won't see them. John knew where they were and we were fortunate to get a good clear sighting, let alone an awesome photos!
This is a nest with three Great Horned Owl babies. If you don’t know they are there, you probably won’t see them. John knew where they were and we were fortunate to get a good clear sighting, let alone an awesome photos!
This is John and Keely's back screened in porch which has a double bed. This was my bivy in Great Falls. Sweet, eh?
This is John and Keely’s back screened in porch which has a double bed. This was my bivy in Great Falls. Sweet, eh?

We enjoyed a fun evening eating pizza (YUM!) and Bob came over and joined us. He, along with John, gave me a lot of tips on paddling, particularly how to power stroke. “Why do you hold your paddle with you hands so close together? You look like you are dog paddling.” I don’t know. I’m just holding it. Well, they showed me how to hold my elbows at 90 degrees before grabbing the paddle, and then how to use your whole body to stroke strong and efficiently. WOW! (This was incredibly useful for me on Fort Peck Lake, a couple weeks later.) Bob also showed me some stretches. I told them my back was having a bit of difficulty, and he explained that it was more likely my hamstrings from sitting in the kayak. His doctor told him the same thing.

Here is a picture of Bob (right), and John and Sherri from when they came up and paddled with me a couple days previous.
Here is a picture of Bob (right), and John and Sherri from when they came up and paddled with me a couple days previous. They are part of a kayaking group that organizes fun kayaking events and races.

I was able to hang out at the house and update my blog while Keely and John went about their business. That was really nice, since blog posts take lots of time. I couldn’t help but notice, and love, this backyard spa (chuckle).

I love this. John and Keely's hot tub in the back yard. How cool is that?
I love this. John and Keely’s hot tub in the back yard. How cool is that?

During the afternoon, John took me to get some “must have” synthetic golfing gloves for paddling. We went to Meadow Lark Country Club where Michael very graciously gave me a pro deal on the gloves. They are great, both the Country Club and the gloves! John had so much great advice for me.  Then we went to his store, Bighorn Outdoor Specialists, that he owned for 38 years. The staff there were friendly and willing to offer a pro deal for the supplies I needed. If you are EVER in Great Falls, be sure to stop at this awesome sports store.

The staff at Bighorn Outdoor Specialists. They gave me a sweet pro deal on supplies I needed, like a water filter, Cliff Bars, stove fuel and new sunglasses. Thanks, guys!
The staff at Bighorn Outdoor Specialists. They gave me a sweet pro deal on supplies I needed, like a water filter, Cliff Bars, stove fuel and new sunglasses. Thanks, guys!

I headed to the put in the next day. It was quite a drive, and John was so nice to take care of me. Unfortunately, the road became so muddy we had to turn back and go all the way around town to Carter Ferry. This is often the case, but we thought we could make it. The area had seen a lot of rain recently.

The mud on the road to Widow Coulee prevented us from getting to this put in. We had to drive about 45 minutes back to Great Falls, and down the other side of the river to Carter Ferry. John was such an incredible host. I'm forevever grateful for all he did for me. He and Keely, both.
The mud on the road to Widow Coulee prevented us from getting to this put in. We had to drive about 45 minutes back to Great Falls, and down the other side of the river to Carter Ferry. This wasn’t even the steep part as you drive into the river canyon. We would have never made it.

Before we got to far, though, John stopped and let me photograph these historical information signs telling about the Corps of Discovery’s portage around the Great Falls.

You can find a series of educational signs way out in the middle of nowhere, but right in the vicinity that the Corps of Discovery staged their portage. No easy feat it was.
You can find a series of educational signs way out in the middle of nowhere, but right in the vicinity that the Corps of Discovery staged their portage. No easy feat it was.
Another historical information sign regarding the Corps of Discovery portage around the falls.
Another historical information sign regarding the Corps of Discovery portage around the falls.
Looking out over the area where the Corps of Discovery conducted their portage. That is the river valley.
Looking out over the area where the Corps of Discovery conducted their portage. That is the river valley.

And finally, John has such great ideas. He thought this would make a great photo opportunity. He was right. Enjoy:

John thought this would make a classic photo. I think he was right. Pretty funny.
John thought this would make a classic photo. I think he was right. Pretty funny. Problem here is, I’m going the other way!

Paddling from Canyon Ferry Lake to Lakeside on Hauser

Rainy weather is included in the expedition package. I am so happy I am outfitted with Kokatat gear. Warm and comfortable always.
Rainy weather is included in the expedition package. I am so happy To be outfitted with Kokatat gear. Warm and comfortable always.
Love my pelicans
Love my pelicans

Canyon Ferry is my first major lake of the journey. The lake approximately 25 miles long. Winds can kick up in minutes producing large and dangerous swells, so caution must be adhered to at all times. I entered into the lake under calm conditions with a low pressure blanketing the area. The entrance into the lake takes you through a channelized section that resembles a slow gradual sloping lazy waterway with waterfowl all around standing in shallow waters and singing songs and chattering amongst each other across this watered plains area. In the distance it seems as though you are looking down towards the lake. Then, before you know it, you are IN the lake and the three-mile paddle towards the western shore begins.

Channelized entrance inti Canyon Ferry Lake.
Channelized entrance into Canyon Ferry Lake.
I encountered some rollers due to a light wind in the afternoon, but nothing dangerous. I kept a very close eye out for whitecaps and stayed close to shore.
I encountered some rollers due to a light wind in the afternoon, but nothing dangerous. I kept a very close eye out for whitecaps and stayed close to shore.
Like being in "paradise."
Like being in “paradise.”
Love, love, love this place!
Love, love, love this place!
Good morning, World! A break in the clouds helped produce this view from my bed.
Good morning, World! A break in the clouds helped produce this view from my bed.

When paddling big lakes, you have to pick a point on the distant horizon, which is often miles away. Then you point your boat at that spot and just paddle, stroke after stroke after stroke. I fell in love with my Swift paddle even greater as its light weight and easy entry into the water made my paddling seem effortless. My paddle literally became my best friend.

I love my Shasta kayak and especially my Swift paddles.
I love my Shasta kayak and especially my Swift paddles.
Ron Lukenbill and me below the dam.
Ron Lukenbill and me below the dam.

Waiting for me at the dam was Ron Lukenbill, who generously had donated $100 to the expedition, paid for 30 triple-A batteries, bought me lunch, and helped with my portage around the dam. Ron is an educator and, as it turns out, grew up in Sacramento, CA, my home town! I swear there is an uncanny bond amongst Californians, strange as that may seem. Also helping me with the portage were Will Garvin and his lovely wife, Felomina. They have been so helpful in many ways, including feeding me dinner and allowing me to shower at their house last night (May 19).

image
Will and Felomina Garvin. Wonderful folks with lots of interesting life stories. Will paddled from Helena, MT, to Helena, AR.

Onward down Hauser Lake, leaving sunny skies that turned into a thunderhead with lightning and wind, forcing me to stop at Lakeview on Hauser Lake. What a fantastic stopover this has been! Conrad and Cheryl Hale own this very cool lakeside resort with a beautiful beach, cozy lawn to camp on, great bar overlooking the lake, and a lovely restaurant with great food and good people hanging around.

Lakeside on Hauser. Great place to camp. All I had to do was buy dinner and a glass of wine and camping was free!
Lakeside on Hauser. Great place to camp. All I had to do was buy dinner and a glass of wine and camping was free!
Beautiful spot on the lake. Can you hear Jimmy Buffet singing?
Beautiful spot on the lake. Can you hear Jimmy Buffet singing?
I met Lena and her dog, Ole, who is a Newfoundland, the same breed the Corps of Discovery took along on their expedition. Beautiful dog. And, Lena is pretty cute, too.
I met Lena and her dog, Ole, who is a Newfoundland, the same breed the Corps of Discovery took along on their expedition. Beautiful dog. And, Lena is pretty cute, too.
And, local Helena band, Quarry Road, delighted the crowd Saturday night with great music. See what I mean, great place to layover!
And, local Helena band, Quarry Road, delighted the crowd Saturday night with great music. See what I mean, great place to layover

Conrad and Cheryl Hanes are the owners of Lakeside on Hauser.  They are very hands on owners and run a very successful seasonal business as a result. Things are busy for them as they command this retirement project of theirs, but they have October to look forward to when they return to Billings for the winter.

Conrad and Cheryl Hale owners of Lakeside on Hauser.
Conrad and Cheryl Hale owners of Lakeside on Hauser.

I am so grateful for the Hale’s hospitality the last couple of days. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, big have invited me in for coffee and to work on this blog. Cheryl just fixed me yogurt, blueberries and toast, contributing to a very memorable layover and making it difficult to leave! Actually, the rain is also making it difficult to leave, and it has started raining again as I write this blog post. Perhaps there will be a break in the weather later today. In the meantime, I have a very comfortable place to hang out with great folks!

This is where I hung out most of yesterday while it rained. So lovely!
This is where I hung out most of yesterday while it rained. So lovely!

Finally, Will and some of his friends came to pick me up and take me into Helena so I could shower at Will and Felomina’s home. Because they are doing some remodeling, their washing machine is out of commission, so Joanne and Philip volunteered to do a load of laundry for me. How great is that!? I very much enjoyed their company during our brief time together. Joanne is a kayaking instructor and works on ski patrol. Philip is a singer songwriter guitar-playing blues musician. Wow, we sure have a lot in common!

Philip and Joanne from Helena, MT.
Philip and Joanne from Helena, MT.

Thanks to all of you great Helena folks, and your generous hospitality. Remember Robert, Donna and Paul from Beaverhead Rock? They are also from Helena. A great city providing quality Montanans.

I am finally caught up on my posts. This makes me feel good about moving ahead on my next leg of this journey. This adventure has been nothing short of phenomenal! And, who knows what the future will hold? Can it get any better than this? Wow, three more months can produce incredible experiences.

I hope you enjoy the ride!

Empowerment, education, and environmental stewardship. Think outside the boat!

Three Forks to Canyon Ferry Lake

Kristin cinching up her kayak.
Kristin cinching up her kayak before leaving Livingston.

I was thrilled to find out that Kristin was able to paddle out of Three Forks with me, and she was happy, too.  She was going to paddle her kayak after almost a year. Paddling with Norm is easily done in their canoe, so this day, May 15,  she would enjoy the independence of paddling her kayak solo. After a quick stop in Bozeman for a few supplies, we were on our way.

I thought I had lightened my load, but not sure.
I thought I had lightened my load, but not sure.
Getting ready to shove off at Three Forks, the Missouri River headwaters.
Getting ready to shove off at Three Forks, the Missouri River headwaters.
We enjoyed incredible scenery all along the way. We were happy girls!
We enjoyed incredible scenery all along the way. We were happy girls!
Beautiful cliffs
Beautiful cliffs
The train was fun to watch as it rolled right along lake's edge.
The train was fun to watch as it rolled right along lake’s edge.
My beloved pelicans bring me a peaceful easy feeling whenever they're around.
My beloved pelicans bring me a peaceful easy feeling whenever they’re around. We saw about six people silhouetted standing on top of one of these mountains. We imagined how intimidating the Blackfeet Indians must have been when lining the ridge tops.

Norm met us at the dam just as we pulled into the ramp. We loaded up the car with my stuff and the kayak and drove around the dam to the put in about a half mile away. It is there we said our good-byes and hugged one another. We are not sure when we will see each other again. The next day, Thursday, I took off for Canyon Ferry Lake and camped just short of entering the channels leading into the lake.

This campsite was on an island and was so green and lush. Of course, it rained most of the night.
This campsite was on an island and was so green and lush. Of course, it rained most of the night.
A ray of weather hope the next morning. The rain stopped for awhile.
A ray of weather hope as I peaked my head out of the tent. The rain stopped for awhile.

The next day I set out for Canyon Ferry Lake. The countryside and vistas and hospitality of the people continues to blow my mind!

More to come…taking advantage of a rain delay at Lakeside with wifi in my tent!

Live fast ~ Paddle slow (I may have to switch that around pretty soon. :))

Time to Rock and Roll. It is April 14.

The day has finally arrived.  I have been losing sleep for nine months since I made the decision to paddle down the Missouri.  Once I decided to take on this challenge, it was another month, or two or three, before I made the decision to start at the source.  I knew I would regret not making the extra 298 miles if I started at Three Forks instead of Brower’s Spring.

The base of the mountains Norm and I will be coming out of after our ski into Brower's Spring.  (Photo by Norm Miller)
The base of the mountains Norm and I will be coming out of
after our ski into Brower’s Spring.
(Photo by Norm Miller)

The time is 3:23 AM.  My alarm is set for 4:30 AM.  I feel like I have an extra hour so I’m trying to get in one last “quick” blog post before we take off.  Now, THAT’s a challenge!

The Columbia Daily Tribune, our local newspaper, is supposed to publish a story this morning.  I just checked on it.  Yep, it’s there.  Here is the link for “PRIMED TO PADDLE: Kayaker ready to tackle river’s entire length.”  I will post the story under my Media page once the article becomes NOT available online, unless you have a subscription.

Yesterday was a very busy day packing.  I actually spent two days hard at it.  Three and one half months requires thinking through all of your needs, and wants, then trying to downsize the load.  I’m not very good at that.  Thankfully, Haley arrived after lunch and really helped me accomplish this daunting task.  She is very organized and more rational than me when it comes to, “Is it really a need, or merely a want.”

IMG_2243

IMG_2250

We took a moment to take a picture with our matching “Say YES More” T-shirts.  ‘Say Yes More’ is Dave Cornthwaite’s campaign, of which I am an ambassador.  The first medium T-shirt was itty-bitty,  so I gave it to Haley and he sent me a larger one.  Find out more about Dave’s exciting adventures on his Website.

IMG_2257
T-shirts for Dave Cornthwaite’s “Say Yes More” ambassador program.

Last night we enjoyed spending time with my niece, Rene Freels, and her husband, Kyle, and son, Sam.  We enjoyed fabulous food (as usual) at El Maguey, not to mention their $1.25 margaritas.  This is my favorite restaurant in town.

We then enjoyed going down to the river to meet a lot of my river friends who were enjoying a campfire, pot luck barbeque, and acoustic guitar music.  We have access to a spot right next to Cooper’s Landing where we have get-togethers sometimes.  We also stopped by Cooper’s and I was able to introduce them to many more wonderful people in our river community.  We had a great evening.  I was happy to introduce them to a little slice of my world.  Unfortunately, no photos.

Once home again, I began to round up all of the little loose-end items such as dental floss, water bottles, hairbrush, shampoo and other things that I actually use until I leave.  I started a batch of strawberry/banana fruit roll-ups in the dehydrator, too.

This morning I will do one last batch of laundry, gather all of my food and try to sort some of it out into portions.  I need to make my custom trail mix as well.  Then, once light starts dawning on this part of the earth, the kayaks will go on the car, and I’ll pack the car with all of my stuff.  We just left everything on the porch since the weather is good and we have Minnie, our wonderful, and loud, watchdog.  No one can approach the house without her approval.

Minnie
Minnie

The weather looks rough for the next few days in this area, and on our drive up north.  It is my understanding that snow has been falling in Montana.  I try not to let the weather reports get me emotionally stirred up.  I am taking things one step at a time, and making decisions as opportunities present themselves.  You might say I am “Going with the Flow.”  Yes, I like the sound of that. Here is my awesome road crew, Haley, Jeannie Kuntz, and me.

Haley, Jeannie, and Me:  Hittin' the road this morning at 10:00.
Haley, Jeannie, and Me: Hittin’ the road this morning at 10:00.

My extra hour has turned into two after posting photos.  Still, not bad.  But, gotta go!

Cheers!  See you on the water!  Montana here we come!  YeeHaw!

Pelicans Dancing  (Photo by Norm Miller)
Pelicans Dancing (Photo by Norm Miller)

(One hour, 30-minute blog post!  That is a new personal record.  That is good, real good.)  🙂