Missouri River

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!

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Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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).

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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!

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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. :))

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | 4 Comments

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.”

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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.

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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.)  🙂

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

Part II: So, You Want to Paddle Down the Missouri River?

By Norm Miller, in his own words….continued from Part I

I recently followed a group of young guys paddling down the Mississippi. I don’t think they made it a week before the whole adventure fell apart. I’m not sure why as I don’t know the whole story, but I got the sense that there were many factors from personality conflicts, mental battles of the mind, and lack of “outdoor” experience. For the most part we have lost touch of our hunter gatherer traits. We in today’s society look at modern adventure as a novelty. When in fact just a 150-years ago it was a common thing. We hunted, worked the land, lived a more nomadic lifestyle, our entire day was survival or just getting by. The pioneers on the wagon trains, the early explorers and missionaries, etc., everything they did in the course of their day was what many now think of as hardship. We spend so little time now in the outdoors. If it rains or snows we seek the comforts of our houses never really experiencing nature and missing out on a lot of great things.

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (photo by James N. Perdue)

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
(photo by James N. Perdue)

PLANNING:

The internet has changed everything! There is so much information out now that it shortens the planning by weeks and months. When I began my planning for my 2004-Lewis & Clark redux the internet was fairly new. I spent about 5 -years planning. Now with the help of paddling website, Facebook (“Missouri River Paddlers” site), books and the speed of finding information one can get all they need quickly.

Google Earth 3-D map of Brower's Spring area. (photo by Janet)

Google Earth 3-D map of Brower’s Spring area. (photo by Janet)

For starters buy David Millers book; The Complete Paddler!!! It is the bible for Mo River paddlers….more information than you can absorb! The book is broken down into 3-parts: The upper, middle and lower river sections, which are basically three different trips in many ways. The book contains a wealth of logistical information including valuable phone numbers, re-supply points, drinking water locations, map info etc., etc. However last year the river experienced a huge flood which destroyed many locations that are mentioned in the book. So this Mo Paddlers FB page probably helps “update” some of that information, with recent paddlers in 2012 blogging about these changes, such as Bob Bellingham and Dom Liboiron, to name two.

 The Complete Paddler

Buying maps/charts should be one of the main priorities however in hind site I would feel confident paddling the entire route without a map or at least a Rand McNally road atlas would work. I know paddlers who only used such maps and they were fine. In 2004 I may have went overboard with maps. I used the Corp nautical charts for the lower river….they are awesome and show all 5000+ wing dikes and every mile in DETAIL…which is helpful when paddling upstream, but not as critical when paddling downstream.

Rand McNally Map of Upper Missouri River

Rand McNally Map of Upper Missouri River

Going upstream I had to stay very close to shore….so this is where the real hazards are located. So knowing all these wing dikes helped me. The Corp maps of the big lakes are good too. Those lakes are huge!!! You can get lost. Some of the bays open up to a 30-mile wide expanse of water and on a flat horizon it is almost impossible to tell where the hell you are at.

Army Corps of Engineers Map - Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

Army Corps of Engineers Map – Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

The Montana section is great…I made copies off of a map program. There are many bends and fast currents in Montana. The maps helped me find camping areas AWAY from people and or private property. I always preferred to stealth camp! During my 200-day trip I camped downtown in St. Charles, Washington, Kansas City, Ft. Yates and nobody knew I was ever there!!! The art of stealth camping is an art form for sure. After 12-17 hours of paddling I was not in the mood to be social most of the time. So being away from people allowed me to do what I needed to do and get the proper rest.

As far as travel speed goes…that depends on the weather and how much you want to paddle. It’s not a race, but some paddlers prefer long long hours and to cover many miles…which is my style. Others are so slow, I have to wonder if walking would not be faster. It’s all a personal issue. However ON AVERAGE…from Three Fork to St. Louis, those that have paddled down the last 8 years have done it in about 90-120 days! That’s a good average. I had a friend in 1981 go from Three Forks to St. Louis in about 30- days!!!! The state of Montana is a huge state with some big bodies of water…in particular Ft. Peck Res. I would allow about a month to get through Montana. The slower you go the better. Why? Montana is beautiful with so many interesting places to check out….why rush? We have the only mountains you will encounter! Montana is very scenic, lots of wildlife, historic unchanged river sections, interesting towns such as Ft. Benton too.

The Dakota’s can be a mental test. You have Lake Sakakawea and Oahe and, boy let me tell you, they can drain you mentally. Expect WIND and …more WIND….then a couple minutes of calm and then more WIND! It also blows in all directions…not just from west to east. The winds can change direction every hour. What I noticed in 2004 was the wind would really start to kick up about 8 am….die down a bit between 11 am and 2pm, then pick up hard from 2pm until the sun set. Once the sun set it is rather calm until morning…sometimes it is like glass on the water. A good time to make up lost miles is paddle in the dark under a full moon when the water is placid. During the day time hours you just have to keep moving whenever there is a break. Sometimes you may have to sit on shore 1/2 hour, 4-hours or all day….just be ready when it abates to jump in your boat and start paddling. I was wind bound 4-days on Oahe without moving an inch. The winds were 40-60 mph and the seas well over 10 feet high.

Lake Sakakawea video by Dom Liboiron

Lake Oahe (Photo by Dom Liboiron)

Lake Oahe
(Photo by Dom Liboiron)

During those wind bound moments I usually read a book, slept, ate, fixed or cleaned gear or hiked around. Sometimes I would walk the shore for an hour or so to see what I could find. Near Ft. Yates I found a human skull in the sand. It was most likely that of a Native American from centuries ago, which was a cool find.

The Lower River from Yankton to St. Louis is fast moving if you are going downstream. One can paddle 40-80 miles a day through there depending on your energy level and river flows. Watch out for the barges, especially from behind…they can sneak up when the winds blowing and you will never hear them. It’s good to tuck behind a wing dike and let them pass before proceeding on.

FOOD AND WATER:

Don’t expect to filter water!!!! For one thing, there is so much agricultural runoff that you won’t want to drink it for fear for getting sick. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and toxic pollutants are dumped or flushed into the river daily….my words of wisdom are…..DONT BOTHER. Why do a trip of a lifetime and get sick the first week? Every town, house, marina, store and campground has drinking water. (David Millers book mentions about every possible place to get drinking water.) It’s not a remote trip like it was for Lewis and Clark.

You will encounter plenty of places to obtain water. I carried 4 one-gallon jugs which I filled every couple of days….or whenever I saw a pump I would top them off. I filled water in bars, people’s houses and even the government office buildings attached to the State Capitol of Missouri. One thing to consider is early season such as March-May most campgrounds DO NOT HAVE their pumps working yet so you will have to rely on towns and houses to fill up.

In 2004- I did food drops at post offices. I researched which Post Offices were close to the water and had a box of food mailed there…General Delivery to me. I spent the previous winter dehydrating food and preparing meals so I did not have to always buy from stores. This saved me a lot of money! One thing to consider with the post office drop is the hours of operation for each office. You will have to plan on picking your box up when they are open and make sure you consider that they are closed on weekends and holidays. I ran into this issue in Yankton where my package did not arrive when I got there on Friday…I had to wait until Monday before it opened up.

Here is one of Norm Miller's re-supply packs from his trip UP the Missouri River.

Here is one of Norm Miller’s re-supply packs from his trip UP the Missouri River.

Many people purchase food along the way. There are plenty of places to do so. However the variety may not be what you want or need. I tell everyone they should carry about 2-weeks at a time. ESPECIALLY the section when leaving Ft. Benton….there is a big gap of NO stores until you get to Wolf Point or Culbertson Mt. The town of Ft. Peck is LIMITED….basically a party store is all you have. That’s fine for some, not for me.

Dom Liboiron resupplying food.

A grocery store in South Dakota – where shotgun shells are conviently located in the produce department.
(Photo from Dom Liboiron’s web site: http://www.canoetoneworleans.com/pictures-of-my-trip.html)

You will also have plenty of opportunities to get food at restaurants or from generous river angles. Just read Bob Bellingham’s blog and you will see that he ate well and drank plenty all from the great people he met along the way. I too had people buy me dinner or make me breakfast along the way.

CANOE OR KAYAK?

I’m not going to get too involved with this topic, but I will mention a few things.

The route has been done in aluminum Grumman Canoes, Home made dug out canoes, high tech kevlar canoes and kayak and everything in between… even a 1000 mile section on SUP boards.

I highly recommend something comfortable!! After all why be miserable sitting from 10-17 hour a day in for two months in something you are not comfortable in? I used a Sea Wind decked canoe built by canoe legend Verlen Kruger who holds many world records in distance paddling including the longest paddle trip ever by anyone…a 2 1/2 year 28,000 miles trip through N. America.

Norm's Kruger canoe

Norm’s Kruger canoe

His boats, in my opinion, are the best solo expedition canoes on the market, as mentioned above…these boats hold THE records of distance travelling. They are strong, comfortable to sit in and hold a lot of gear without having to cram gear into small hatches like you would have in a sea kayak. I am never cramped in my boat. I oft times sat in it for 17-hours without ever get out. I never need to get out and stretch like I have to in a sea kayak. I’m biased on my choice but just make sure you know your boat. COMFORT should be maybe your #1 feature. If you have questions about boats…send me a message and I will go into more detail.

Bob Bellingham in his Shasta, which is now my Shasta, and my ride down the river.

Bob Bellingham in his Shasta, which is now my Shasta,
and my ride down the river.

GEAR:

Have a good tent. It will most likely not be any good when you finish. I recommend a NEW one when you start…..not one that you have had for the last 5 years. Think about this, if you are out 90-days…that is like 45 weekends of camping….or nearly 4 summers of camping– ever weekend!!! I went through 2 tents….both were NO good when finished. One was destroyed by a tornado in the Dakotas…my second one…just plain wore out!!!

One TIP with any tent is also a large plastic tarp. I used the tarp almost everyday. I would put the tarp overtop my entire tent many times during a hard rain….to not only keep leaking water out but it kept me entire tent dry, so I never had to pack it away wet. This is very important because if you pack it away wet each day, it never dries out and begins to mold and decay!! A tarp will cover everything you have from getting wet….so always a dry packed boat every day!!

Norm's tent

Norm’s tent

GOOD rain gear is important and I now even bring an umbrella!!! They make great sails and you don’t have to get out of the boat to put rain gear on for a 10-minute rainstorm. Just pull out the umbrella….pop it open, stay dry and put away after the many short rain storms. They make great shade too when in the Dakotas if you happen to be sitting around waiting out the wind….just sit under and enjoy the shade. Believe me there are no trees to block the 100-degree heat in the Dakotas.

Bob Bellingham showing me his sail when laying over at Cooper's Landing.  The sail is now mine.

Bob Bellingham demonstrating his sail when taking a break at Cooper’s Landing. The sail is now mine.

Dom Liboiron using his sail.

Dom Liboiron using his sail.

One of the best things I brought was a pair of knee-high boots!!! Waterproof is a must. You will encounter a LOT of mud on the lower Mo and I hate wet feet!!! These boots kept me dry and from getting trench foot which can be common if your feet never dry out.

Clothing:

I personally hate to get sunburned. In fact I’ve been burned too many times and go to a dermatologist every 6-months to get pre cancer spots removed. Sun is very damaging, just look at what it does to your tent after a short time….now imagine what it does to your skin. If you plan to paddle or be out in the sun for 3-months then cover up!!! You will get plenty of sun even if you cover up. I hope we as humans have moved beyond the “tan look” vanity thing. The benefits of sun protection are—

You will be less dehydrated and your need to drink water will be less. Don’t forget even though you are on a river, the availability of clean drinking water is not that common. SO by covering your body, you won’t require as much water and you will be less fatigued. I am amazed how many people paddle with no hat, short sleeve shirts and shorts! A 100-day trip with 10 hours of sun exposure each day adds up to 1000 hours! If you were to take two apples, one whole, the other peeled, the one that is peeled will dry up 10-times faster than the one that is unpeeled. So think of your clothing as an apple peeling! One of the first rules in desert survival is to put cloths ON! You never see Middle Eastern cultures or people wearing shorts and t-shirts do you? They are sometimes covered head to toe, long shirts, pants, etc., etc. I wear long sleeves and long pants, a brimmed hat, a handkerchief around my neck and gloves to protect myself from the sun. I also use 75 to 100 SPF sunscreen at all times. It makes your paddling more comfortable when you are not fried!!

A TYPICAL DAY:

Not sure there is a typical day, but at times they can be very repetitive. You may awake before the sun and start paddling before the wind begins….say 6-8 a.m. each day…..so you at least get a couple hours of paddling in before the wind starts. I was so comfortable being in my boat that I would oft time be in it for as much as 17-hours without ever getting out…even to go to the bathroom….which I did in a pee-bottle! When I wanted to eat/snack I would just stop paddling and dig into my lunch/food bag that I kept close by. If I was wind bound I would try and find shade. Sometimes I set up my tent in order to have shade or use and umbrella. Other times I would walk around and explore the countryside or go into a town, grab a burger or even do laundry. Wind bound moments was when I would use my solar rechargers. I carried two solar panels for my satellite phone, camera and laptop, which I carried.

Your hot showers may be weeks apart, same with your laundry. I wore the same cloths almost everyday! You can periodically rinse them out in the river which also helps cool you down. A daily dip in the river is great for you.

Norm Miller Campsite from his Lewis and Clark Bicentennial paddle UP the Missouri River-2004

Norm Miller Campsite from his Lewis and Clark Bicentennial paddle UP the Missouri River-2004

Expect temperatures near 100F often through eastern Montana and the Dakotas. It’s very uncomfortable paddling, just keep plugging along! I would stop for the evening ONLY when the sun dropped below the horizon. I would then pull over right where I was at….and sometimes it was a stealth camp. Once the sun dropped below the horizon I would have about 1-hour before it was too dark to see. This hour of twilight allowed me to set up camp, cook, clean up, and update a blog….all without needing a head lamp. This method allowed me to go without a headlamp for all but about 2 hours in 6 months time! I was plenty tired after that and would fall immediately to sleep and usually not even wake the entire night. The following day was then repeated. Get use to being uncomfortable, hot, wet, smelly, soar, irritated, hungry, wind burned, and parched, yet happy as a clam!

Tom and Tyler from Great Falls, MT. Paddled from Great Falls to New Orleans.

Tom and Tyler from Great Falls, MT. Paddled from Great Falls to New Orleans.

I would typically look over my maps each night and try to imagine the next day’s terrain ahead. I would plan a “route” that took into consideration the wind directions I anticipated. Since I did not carry a weather radio I would often ask fishermen along the way if they heard of the weather forecast. When doing so, realize you will get 20-different answers for 20 different people. I would then compile all the info and then used deductive reasoning to come up with my own forecast. Same goes for “river conditions”!!!

Most people you meet will NOT BE CANOERS OR KAYAKERS, so they have NO clue as to what you require or your ability. TAKE ALL THEIR INFO with a grain of salt! Bob Bellingham told me he talked to some fishermen in North Dakota who told him upon he telling them that he was paddling to St. Louis….their response was, “YOU better check your maps, because this river doesn’t go to St. Louis!” Can you believe that!! I too had a similar situation whereas someone told me that Lewis & Clark didn’t pass through here. Writer Edward Abby is quoted as saying that “the reservoir fisherman is the lowest form of life on earth.” Well, I hate to say this but it sure is a different culture for sure.

SAFTEY: Be street smart and level headed. You are not in a race. It only takes one hair raising moment to put you in your place. Typically EVERY first time Thru-Paddler gets cocky and takes too big of risk especially at open water crossings….usually the first reservoir of Peck. You will get half way across and the wind will begin to blow and create huge waves. Be smart, not stupid!

Your biggest concern, besides the weather, is humans! The most dangerous thing you may encounter will be man. I prefer to camp away from people, away from campgrounds or anywhere where there is road access and potential for a lot of beer drinking. Dead end roads at the rivers edge are a mecca for high-school kids on Friday night to have huge parties. Find those little hide-a-ways tucked along the shores of the reservoirs or in the trees along the river. You will have plenty of social opportunities if you need that. I personally am more of an introvert and seek out the stealth and remote camps.

Norm Miller Stealth Camping

Norm Miller Stealth Camping

It’s good to check-in each night if you have a cell phone or SPOT beacon. This saves a lot of worrying on the home front. It also gives a reference point if you get hurt the following day as to where your last check-point was. Your friends and family back home will be concerned, so be considerate of them and let them know. There are some big gaps in cell-coverage especially in Montana. You may go a week or more. I don’t recommend Cellular One as a service. They suck!!! Mark Kalch had a C.O. phone and could not use it for almost 6 weeks! In 2004 I used a Satellite phone which has coverage anywhere.

As far as your personal safety, you have more of a worry if you are solo than if paddling with a partner. I recommend a can of Bear-Spray over a gun, but that is another topic I don’t care to get into. Just be smart and listen to your gut feelings. Be aware and observant.

I’m sure I forgot a lot but this will give you an idea what is involved in paddling from Montana to St. Louis. Everyone is different. It’s best to create your own experience using the skills and knowledge passed along by others. They have a lot of good information. I highly recommend contacting the Through-Paddlers on this face-book site and ask them as many questions as you can think of. I’m just 1-mans experience. The things that worked for me may not work for you and visa-versa. One thing that is very important is to be adaptive and able to adjust to your changing conditions…either daily or hourly.

Sunset on the Lower Missouri River (Photo by Jonathan Lauten)

Sunset on the Lower Missouri River (Photo by Jonathan Lauten)

Keep the round side down!

Cheers

Norm Miller

Livingston, Montana

Base Camp International

Categories: Missouri River, Reflection | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark

1WhiteCliffs-NormMiller

White Cliffs in Missouri River Breaks National Monument
(Photo by Norm Miller)

From The Journals of Lewis and Clark -edited by Bernard DeVoto

[Lewis] Friday May 31st 1805

“The hills and river Clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance…The earth on the top of these Clifts is a dark rich loam, which forming a graduly ascending plain extends back from ½ a mile to a mile where the hills commence and rise abruptly to a hight of about 300 feet more.

…in other places on a much nearer approach and with the help of less imagination we see the remains or ruins of elegant buildings; some columns standing and almost entire with their pedestals and capitals; others retaining their pedestals but deprived by time or accident of their capitals, some lying prostrate an broken othe[r]s in the form of vast pyramids of conic structure bearing a serees of other pyramids on their tops becoming less as they ascend and finally terminating in a sharp point.

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White Cliffs (Photo by Norm Miller)

Nitches and alcoves of various forms and sizes are seen at different hights as we pass…As we passed on it seemed as if those seens of visionary inchantment would never have and [an] end; for here it is too that nature presents to the view of the traveller vast ranges of walls of tolerable workmanship…These walls rise to the hight in many places of 100 feet, are perpendicular, with two regular faces and are from one to 12 feet thick, each wall retains the same thickness at top which it possesses at bottom.”

(Photos by Norm Miller)
White Cliffs in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT

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White Cliffs (Photo by Norm Miller)

I still have a lot to learn, but I cannot for the life of me think of a reason why anyone would NOT want The Missouri River Breaks National Monument preserved as a wilderness area for future generations.  Nope, cannot think of one reason.

Categories: Missouri River, The Route | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Cheers, Dominique! Victory in New Orleans!

Congratulations to DOMINIQUE LIBOIRON for his arrival in New Orleans after paddling – in a CANOE – from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan through 13 American states and along four major rivers, including the Missouri River and the Mighty Mississippi, over 3,000 miles.

Dominique endeared himself to those of us at Cooper’s Landing, MoRiv mile 170, where he spent a couple of days to rest up and elude a storm, just days before the holidays began.

2012_Dominique

Check out his web site at www.canoetoneworleans.com, or his FB site of the same name, to find out more about his mission, ambition, and victory! THREE CHEERS, DOMINIQUE!!! Well done, my friend! xoxo

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

Hermann Community Impromptu River Clean-Up Admirable

What if ALL Missouri River communities were so motivated?  Wow!  Impressive!

And, it was bitter cold yesterday…

“The fact that 16 volunteers made it to the clean-up with less than 36 hours notice on a holiday weekend is testimony to the commitment and enthusiasm these people have for the river. ”

For full story click HERE

HermannCleanUpDec29

Categories: Missouri River, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So, You Want to Paddle Down the Missouri River?

By Norm Miller, in his own words…

Norm Miller paddling UP the Missouri River in 2004, retracing the Lewis & Clark Trail: STL to the Pacific.

What does it take to paddle down the Mighty Missouri River from Montana to St. Louis?

I personally don’t think there is a formula as in hind sight, the experiences of others who have taken the challenge are all different. I think it maybe more of a personality type that can just go and take off for weeks or months…especially alone.

I am very comfortable being alone, which is not the same as being lonely. Some people are more secure with themselves than with a group of people. I’ve had friends tell me that they could never paddle and camp for weeks alone. When I hear this I get the sense that they don’t know themselves well enough. For me, it’s always been a way of life. I’ve been very independent all my life. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of friends to roam the neighborhood as a child, building forts, playing army, hiking and fishing and just plain escaping from our parents. I also spent many hours alone, comfortable being solo.

Norm’s expedition from St. Louis to Three Forks, MT, over the Rockies, and down to the Pacific Ocean took six months.

I often wondered that if everyone who has gone on a long paddle trip took the same personality profile, if we would all score the same rating? For the most part I am very shy, which some people find hard to believe. As a child I use to hide under my bed when relatives would come over, only to come out after they left. Now that I’m near 50-years old I feel more at ease around people, especially groups. But there are times when I must seek the shelter of my cave and go run off solo somewhere.

I personally feel more at ease when life is simple. I often feel I was born 200-years too late. I love to camp and enjoy the peace that I find along rivers or travelling abroad solo. I’m comfortable being in foreign countries and not knowing the language. I get by easily with sign language and drawing pictures to communicate to people.

To me if you can paddle all day, set up camp, cook your food, clean up your mess, go to bed, get up in the morning and repeat everything, then paddling two-three months is not that big a deal. It becomes far more of an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey than a physical one. My mind is always at battle wondering about things, my well being, what if’s, do’s and don’ts. In 2004 while paddling up the Missouri I was at a constant battle with myself. The main issue was the slow pace in which I moved. I could have easily walked much faster than I was paddling. In the strong currents of the lower river, 2-mph hour was my tops speed. So, living in the 20th century with all the high-speed fast paced lives we all lived, slowing down to a snail’s pace was very difficult. I had to concentrate on the small picture, never the final destination. My mantra was “one stroke at a time will get you to the ocean.” I had to stay focused on the bend ahead, the distant tree or bridge and never the Pacific! I would have gone insane had I not slowed my mind set. “River Time” is what many paddlers talk about; slowing down the pace of the world, the natural environment and not the speedy rate that most follow.

Being able to adapt to changing conditions is another factor that is helpful. On my first big paddle trip I started off very set in my beliefs as to how the day should go. I didn’t accept change very easy. Well, that only lasted about a week and I knew that nature dictated much more than I ever imagined. The weather was the biggest factor. Wind and storms will tell you when you can and cannot paddle. So get use to watching the sky, feeling the wind, observing the weather. It truly tells a lot. After a week or two you can get much better than the weatherman at determining what the forecast will be for the day. There will be times when you just have to wait it out. I’ve spent days wind-bound to a tent, waiting for a break to proceed onward. Don’t be in a hurry. Enjoy the storms, the hail, the tornados, the flooding, the snow, the lightning and the intense sun. Explore the surrounding shore, the distant hillsides. I’ve spent hours in N. Canada on a remote river on my knees looking at stones. I’ve found some amazing things while wandering around waiting for the wind to abate; from Inuit burial grounds, old buildings, rare animal sightings, hot springs, and even a family gathering with plenty of cold beer. Being stranded in the wind is also a good time to rest, to catch up on that needed sleep. I’ve come to love the wind! It has become my friend. I no longer curse it but enjoy its gifts and wonder.

Wind-bound on Canyon Ferry Reservoir

to be continued…

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Education, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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