Posts Tagged With: Big Muddy

Love Your River, for it is Truly Great

TO ALL OF MY LOVEYOURBIGMUDDY FOLLOWERS:

I have created a new blog site, 1Woman3Great Rivers Project @ 1woman3greatrivers.com, for my next adventure package. This new project will have me paddling from source to sea the three longest rivers on the continent: The Missouri River (done), The Mississippi River (2016), and The Yukon River (2017).

I am very excited about paddling these rivers and rigorous planning will begin soon. Actually, I’ve been working on it for several months. I do not want to lose you as followers, so please consider following my new blog site. I will try to arrange my new posts to copy over here, but I am still learning much about navigating between these two websites.

Here is a copy of my first and only post on my new site. Stay tuned for more to come.

Do what you love and love what you do!

Janet Moreland

1woman3greatrivers.com

 

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They don’t call it the “Big Muddy” for nothing, that’s for sure. Haha!

The Great Missouri River is referred to as the Big Muddy. But, hey, so is the Great Mississippi River. As numerous paddlers of both rivers know quite well, these two rivers can be, indeed, quite muddy. While paddling down the Missouri River on my LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition in 2013, I have to admit the mud was abundant on the upper stretches, but silky soft and rather clean. I know, right?! “That’s impossible,” you say. I actually found that going barefoot in this mire of mud was the best way to go. Once in the boat my feet washed off easily, and off I went. That’s not to say that I wasn’t glad when the earth hardened up. Joy filled my soul with the simple pleasure of dirt, rocks and sand replacing the squishy brown muck.

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In the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument following a multi-day rain deluge

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Ahhh, yes, the glorious sandy beaches of the lower Mississippi. Well, in 2013 they were glorious. 2015 was quite a different story with the river running flood stage all summer, and paddlers scrambling for dry land on which to sleep.

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A Mississippi Blue Hole is great for a refreshing swim and/or careful bath. Blue Holes are created when the main river drops below the level of the sand bar, losing its connection with the pool. What a sand bar!!

I will be heading north to Lake Itasca, MN, the source of the Mississippi “Big Muddy” River, this May to begin a source-to-sea paddle of this other great river as part of my 1Woman3GreatRivers Project. My goal is to solo paddle the three longest rivers in North America. The Missouri River is the longest river on the continent at 2,540 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), with the Mississippi coming in a close second at 2,320 miles (per Environmental Protection Agency-EPA). The third longest river is the Yukon River at 1,980 miles (per USGS), which I will attempt to paddle in 2017 from its source at Atlin Lake’s Llewellyn Glacier, to the Bering Sea. Yukon River means “Great River” in the Gwich’in language. “The Gwich’in are the northernmost Indian Nation living in fifteen small villages scattered across a vast area extending from northeast Alaska in the U.S. to the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada .” (http://ourarcticrefuge.org/about-the-gwichin/)  More about the Gwich’in Nation, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and my 2017 Yukon Pursuit later.

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Yukon River

I look forward to paddling the entire Mississippi River this trip so I can understand more about our nation’s historic and cultural monument, and to build upon that very magical and personal relationship we started in 2013. Here is a video snippet from LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition taken in early November on the Lower Mississippi.  Love Your Big Mississippi  🙂

Now that I am teaching full time, my challenge is to complete my adventure in 60 days (70 days, perhaps, if we have no snow days), during my summer break. I am confident that my outcome will be successful and full of celebration, but my tempo will be vastly different from my Missouri River expedition, being challenged in strength, both physical and mental, and in endurance and stamina. Dictionary.com defines endurance as: “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” 

I say, “Bring it on”!!!

I hope you will join me on this journey down our continent’s Great River to the Gulf.

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Peace and Love, Janet

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Know your river. Touch your river. Love your river.

Categories: Expedition, Mississippi River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Sunset on Lake Sharpe

Sunset on Lake Sharpe, SD

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had lots of company at the boat ramp camp

I had lots of company at the boat ramp camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the many drum circles competing at the Powwow

One of the many drum circles competing at the Powwow

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

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

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

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

Truth be known, this one melted my heart.

Truth be known, this one melted my heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunrise on Lake Sharpe

See You On The River!

See You On The River!

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

Flashback: Fort Peck Dam, MT, to Fort Union, ND-June 21-26

The Missouri River between Peck Lake Dam and Lake Sakakawea. The Montana and North Dakota border is at Fort Union, for those who remember from Facebook on June 26.

The Missouri River between Peck Lake Dam and Lake Sakakawea. The border of Montana and North Dakota is located right on the crease of the Road Atlas. I crossed the border at Fort Union on June 26.

 

On Monday, June 17, I paddled my final day on Fort Peck Lake. The winds were dead calm and the water so glassy I could see myself in the reflection. I owned the lake that day. I could go anywhere without fear of swamping. I felt I could cross to the opposite shore all morning long if I wanted, a feeling never before experienced on Fort Peck Lake. This lake is intimidating. We left with a mutual respect for each other. Yes, friends.

Sunrise on my last day on Fort Peck Lake

Sunrise on my last day on Fort Peck Lake

Nearing the end of my Fort Peck Lake journey

Nearing the end of my Fort Peck Lake journey

 

I knew from Dave Miller’s “The Complete Paddler” that the owner of the marina rented out some RVs with showers. I longed for the moment I could shower and relax. It had been a couple of weeks since I immersed myself in the luxury of running hot water. I did take a sponge bath the first day on the lake, but that was a looooong time ago. Immediately upon pulling in next to the ramp I headed for the office.

I asked for the owner, expecting an elderly lady who had been managing the resort for, well, at least ten years. I was surprised to find the owner to be a young woman.
“I am paddling the entire length of the Missouri River and I have not taken a shower in a couple of weeks. I really need a shower and a place to sleep and do laundry. Can you help me”? I asked with determination. “Please say ‘yes.’”

Michelle, the new owner, no longer provided the RVs to accommodate overnight visitors. She did have a house, however, in which she was not living. She and her daughter, and husband when he was here, stayed in a large recreational vehicle and used the house for storage, laundry, and showering. Her husband spent half his time working in nearby Sidney, a town near Williston that was also experiencing a massive oil and gas boom. The marina was a new purchase and investment for this young family. And, they relocated Michelle’s mom, DeeAnne, to live with them and help take care of their young daughter, Allison. I sure appreciated them letting me hang out for a day or two.

 

Me, Michelle, DeeAnne, and Allison

Me, Michelle, DeeAnne, and Allison

The house Michelle let me stay in. I helped out with cleaning, babysitting and laundry in return.

The house Michelle let me stay in. I helped out with cleaning, babysitting and laundry in return.

The wind blew hard the day after I arrived. I could have cared less... :)

The wind blew hard the day after I arrived. I could have cared less… 🙂

 

I enjoyed feeling safe and secure and out of the elements after the two long weeks on the lake and in the Breaks. However, by the third day I was ready to get going. I arrived at the marina on June 17. Today was June 19. An intense wind and electrical storm was forecasted to sweep through the area tonight, and I was strongly advised not to go until it passed. Jack, retired Air Force and new staff at the marina, helped me put my boat in their warehouse. Winds were forecasted to blow 75 mph that night. I survived the storm easily, but soon got word that campers at Eagle Creek in the Breaks did not fare so well. Their tents got ripped to shreds, and a paddler on the Marias River lost his canoe and all his gear, including a case of beer(!) when the wind swept it up and away. The owner neglected to tie his boat down, a first-time and devastating mistake. I never left Blue Moon unsecured after this night.

I was grateful for Jack as he took the time to show me around Fort Peck on Tuesday, June 18, and also took me to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center below the dam. It was here that I saw the most incredible dinosaur skeletons! Unfortunately, my phone ran out of juice and I couldn’t take any photos. Oh well. Today was Jack’s day off and I was happy he offered to show me around. He also agreed to drive me to the put in below the dam the next day, but this was delayed one day due to the big storm forecasted to hit our area, a perfect example of living on “river time.” You just go with the flow and try to stay flexible.

 

Jack Willis

Jack Willis

We arrived at the campground below the dam around 6:00 PM on Thursday, June 20. I planned to take off on the river early the next morning. I was getting very excited in anticipation. The thrill of adventure is intoxicating and addicting. But, the mosquitos were sobering and annoying. All part of the total experience. Jack and I sprayed Deet on ourselves and finished our beers sitting on the tailgate of his pickup truck. Hot summer fun! Next thing I knew I was being entertained by a local who had brought his new invention down to the beach to test the waters, so to speak…

My best friend on the Missouri River. Don't leave home without it.

My best friend on the Missouri River. Don’t leave home without it.

 

Local testing his new invention.

Local testing his new invention.

 

Seemed to work just fine.

Seemed to work just fine.

 

I left about 9:30 in the morning with sunny skies and glassy water, my favorite conditions. From my journal I wrote, “Good paddling today…The first day back on the water it seems like there are soooo many miles you just want to knock some out. Paddled all day. Saw lots of ship sinkers (my name for snags in the river with pointed ends facing down river) and two shipwrecks, one in the river on a sandbar, the other laying on shore…I paddled about 30-35 miles. The current is about 5 mph, so very quick. I found a decent sandy campsite with creamy mud at the shore. I guess that’s because of the Milk River, it is sooo creamy! Marginal cell, but got some postings up.”

I looked forward to passing the Milk River. One reason was because I had heard of the stark contrast in clear water of the MO and the milky water of the Milk. I also looked out for it because my friend, Dominique Liboiron, who had paddled a canoe down from Saskatchewan the summer before, had camped right on the point at the confluence. I remember he told me that he was so intimidated by the Missouri River that he camped for three days at the confluence before paddling on down. Of course, all of his fears disappeared once he started downstream and realized the Missouri River was actually just one big “lazy river.”

I call these snags "shipsinkers." 300 steamships met their demise because of the damage caused by these snags.

I call these snags “shipsinkers.” 300 steamships met their demise because of the damage caused by these snags.

 

Believed to be the remains of a steamship

Believed to be the remains of a steamship

 

Steamship that met its demise

Steamship that met its demise

 

Clear waters before the Milk River

Clear waters before the Milk River

 

Contrast in water after the Milk River enters the Missouri River

Contrast in water after the Milk River enters the Missouri River

 

Camp the first night back on the river

Camp the first night back on the river

 

Creamy mud

Creamy mud

 

I spent about a week or so paddling the stretch of river between Fort Peck Lake and Lake Sakakawea. I had heard a lot about Wolf Point on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, and that it was probably not best to stop there. Well, I passed by at 5:00 in the afternoon on Saturday with no real reason to stop. I did not see anyone around, either. Well, I saw one guy. He was in a big beautiful canoe paddling down the river. Wow! Who are you?? I asked , surprised to see another paddler of whom I was totally unaware.

“I’m Shawn Hollingsworth,” he replied.
“Where are you from, paddling from, and to where are you paddling?” I asked, standard questions asked of any paddler you meet on the river.
“I am from Virginia Beach, VA, I started at Three Forks, and I am paddling to the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Wow, all by yourself in that big canoe?”
“No, I’ve got a travelling companion.” He then told me about his little bird in a box inside his canoe. He picked up the injured bird while walking down the street in Fort Peck. “He has an injured wing, and his name is Bob (Bird On a Boat).”
He asked me if I was a school teacher. “Actually, I am. Umm, how did you know?”
“Ya, my mom is following you on Facebook.”
“Really? That is too funny!”

This was the beginning of a real sweet friendship. Shawn and I paddled off and on for the next week, until we were both situated on windy Lake Sakakawea. I remember Shawn telling me that Bob finally flew off when Shawn was behind me, paddling through the river-to-lake transition onto Lake Sakakawea on June 28. Most days we did not paddle much together since he was slower in the canoe, but he always seemed to make it to my camp in the evening, much to my delight. He was such good company and, at 23 years old, was on the adventure of his life.

Shawn Hollingsworth in his self-made canoe. Shawn was raising awareness for breast cancer.

Shawn Hollingsworth in his self-made canoe. Shawn was raising awareness for breast cancer.

Bob

Bob

 

I loved spending time with Shawn. I was so proud of him embarking on this adventure alone after his two buddies left him. One left him two weeks before leaving Virginia Beach, the other left him after a harrowing crossing of Fort Peck Lake. Shawn had never paddled before and now was left to skipper a three-man canoe, which he made all by himself. Plus, he was raising awareness for breast cancer.

The Pink Canoe

The Pink Canoe

 

I was happy to share with him some tips on reading the river and waiting patiently during high winds, the latter of which guys find most challenging. Paddling in extremely high winds on Fort Peck Lake nearly killed Shawn and his paddling partner. They ended up getting towed off the lake and his partner decided to call it quits. Another paddler had swamped a couple of weeks earlier in big swell generated by high winds. He lost his tent, sleeping bag, cell phone, and his adventurous spirit. He nearly died from hypothermia, and ended up leaving his partner as well. Waiting through big wind sessions on these big lakes is all part of the game. Impatience must be replaced with going for a walk, reading a good book, exploring the beaches and hills, or whatever else one does to entertain themselves. It is a matter of life and death on these big lakes.

Fort Peck Lake-Hiking the hills was a good way to wait out the wind.

Fort Peck Lake-Hiking the hills was a good way to wait out the wind.

Fort Peck Lake-Patience is a virtue, difficult to master at times, but necessary. Great hiking areas help.

Fort Peck Lake-Patience is a virtue, difficult to master at times, but necessary. Great hiking areas help.

On my second night of camping back on the river I saw the most exquisite sunset I had ever seen. I almost missed it while putting up my tent and battling the mosquitoes. I think this is the worst mosquito deluge of the whole trip. Thank God for my 98% Deet. And, for the stunning sunset that night. I think this photo generated more hits on Facebook than any other during my whole trip. Well, except for the skeleton plastered up against the snags on the Beaverhead River. That was a good one, too.

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

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

 

Sunset near Frazier, MT

Sunset near Frazier, MT

Here is a little video I shot just prior to taking this photo. After the little video, I began setting up my tent and packing everything in it. I just happened to turn around and noticed the sunset was in full swing. I grabbed my camera right away and got several good shots. I was stunned at the magnitude of colors displayed.

 

I made it to the Highway 16-Culbertson Bridge on June 24th. Situated just past the reservation, I decided to camp here after some locals said they thought it would be safe. Not long after I landed I met Glenn Stewart, who hollered down from atop the bridge. He was working on the road crew and, after talking to him, he immediately became interested in my journey. If you need to go into town and have breakfast or go to the grocery store, we’ll be here tomorrow and you can just take my car into town. Wow! A true river angel with a generous heart to help. Thanks, Glenn! Glenn and his son, Kelly, and his wife ended up following the rest of my trip on Facebook. Shawn showed up the next morning when I was getting ready to leave. Glenn offered him his car and he was able to make it into town, too. Shawn wanted to stay here and rest up. I did not know when I would see him again.

Highway 16 Culbertson Bridge camp

Highway 16 Culbertson Bridge camp

Kelly (left), Glenn and fellow road crew coworker

Kelly (left), Glenn and fellow road crew coworker. Good people!

 

Beautiful terrain around Culbertson, MT

Beautiful terrain around Culbertson, MT

I ended up going into town the next morning after a pretty good storm hit. Some kids came down to the bridge that night and played some decent country music and lit off fireworks. I almost got up to join them, but didn’t want to spoil their summertime river experience. I’m old, you know…LoL! It’s what memories are made of, right? I slept good after they left, woke up with sand in my tent, but forgot about any discomforts as I ate my ham and eggs breakfast at the Wild West Diner in town.

The day was cloudy and a bit windy from the west, which is not too bad. Once paddling, I got out my iPod and listened to music, which is so much fun, but I hesitated to do it too often. As I wrote in my journal, “I listened to more music, just for a little while. I don’t want to get lulled into complacency while on the water, too dangerous.”

I love listening to river songs while on the river. Too fun!

I loved singing along to river songs while on the river. Too fun!

Crocodile, hippo or snag?

Crocodile, hippo or snag?

I camped just a few hundred yards from the Montana/North Dakota border. Also situated at this location is Fort Union. Norm Miller encouraged me to bushwack into the fort, which I did, and had the pleasure of meeting Yellow Bird, an Arikara Native American working at the Fort. I spent an hour or two visiting with him. I enjoyed immersing myself in the history that surrounds this mighty Missouri River.

Yellow Bird of the Arikara Tribe. Yellow Bird holds two college degrees and is the father of five.

Yellow Bird of the Arikara Tribe. Yellow Bird holds two college degrees and is the father of five.

“The Grandest Fort on the Upper Missouri River
Between 1828 and 1867, Fort Union was the most important fur trade post on the Upper Missouri River. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Indian Tribes exchanged buffalo robes and smaller furs for goods from around the world, including cloth, guns, blankets, and beads. A bastion of peaceful coexistence, the post annually traded over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise.” -http://www.nps.gov/fous/index.htm

Fort Union looking easily accessible. It is an illusion. You cannot see the muddy water-swamped mosquito-infested slog that you will encounter if you start walking toward the fort. Poor Shawn. He was not a happy camper.

Fort Union looking easily accessible. It is an illusion. You cannot see the muddy water-swamped mosquito-infested slog that you will encounter if you start walking toward the fort. Poor Shawn. He was not a happy camper.

 

Norm had sent me aerial photos so I could find the easiest access to the Fort. After two attempts, I followed the deer trail up to the outskirts of the Fort property. Some water but not bad with boots.

Norm had sent me aerial photos so I could find the easiest access to the Fort. After two attempts, I followed the deer trail up to the outskirts of the Fort property. Some water but not bad with boots. This was 1/4 mile up river from the other photo.

 

 

Approaching Fort Union

Approaching Fort Union

A look from the inside

A look from the inside

 

An artist's rendition during the Fort's hayday

An artist’s rendition during the Fort’s hay day

 

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An underground resident enjoying the safety of a gated commune

An underground resident enjoying the safety of a gated community. Watch out, or someone might get your hide!

 

The confluence of the Yellowstone River is just a short paddle away. The staff at the Fort Buford Interpretive Center, located there, were kind enough to buy my camp site for me. I will continue my next blog post at the confluence. I will then be just a couple of days away from starting my trek across Lake Sakakawea. Shawn and I will meet up for the next few days, but then we begin our own journeys down the Mighty Missouri River. Sad parting with him, but not without a promise to reunite and share stories someday.

Good-bye Montana. Hello North Dakota!

Good-bye Montana. Hello North Dakota!

 

Live fast ~ Paddle slow

Hollow side up!

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

The Goal: The Gulf of Mexico…Check! December 5, 2013

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I finally did it! I made it all the way to the Gulf if Mexico, but not without some very harrowing and tense moments in the Southern Louisiana fog. Fog? Who knew? That was an oversight on my part. Forgot about the fog.

This is my amazing support crew that helped get me through the fog, through the Head of Passes, down South Pass to the Gulf, and back to Venice in a thick fog bank. What an epic finish to an unforgettable journey. Big THANKS to my support crew, the Bar Pilots and their crews in Venice and Pilottown, and to all of my supporters who cheered me on every single day!

My unforgettable crew and dear friends and daughter:

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L-R: Mark Dierking, Denise Goforth, Mwah, Jamie Stevenson, Haley Moreland (my sweet daughter), and Deb Miller. Extraordinary!!

And the stellar crew at Pilottown:

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Pilottown Crew to the rescue! L-R: Josh, Eric, Adam, Booher, Leon and Shawn. What a comfort these guys were after being in a very uncomfortable fog. Thank you, gentlemen! You are the best!

Pilots at Venice Bar Pilot’s Association:

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Bear (R) and Allen (L)

Our first attempt to make it to the Gulf was on December 4. We were doing pretty good on the East shore, although the fog was lingering on that side. By the time we passed Pilottown in the fog, we were engulfed. At one point we all heard a boat coming right toward us. I was out of the channel, and so was my support boat, but I didn’t know it. They were in only three feet of water. Hearing the boat coming closer and closer, but not seeing it, I was terrified they would be run down by a big fishing boat. I screamed at them to turn around. They appeared to be frozen staring into the fog. Oh. My. God. Will I witness their demise???? Thankfully, no. After the boat passed us by, we all knew we were finished for now. I got on the phone to Pilottown and asked them if we could come ashore.

“Of course, we will be expecting you,” they replied.

When we arrived 15 minutes later, they immediately took us under their wing, brought us inside, fed us from a smorgasborg outlay of food, shared their ‘mission control,’ and educated us on their system for bringing big ships up from the Gulf to New Orleans. Most importantly, they explained the Fog Predictor, which indicated a lift in the fog at 9:00AM until midnight tomorrow, December 5. We set our goal to the Gulf for tomorrow. They invited to breakfast, too. So nice and comforting, these river angels.

The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.

The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.

The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.

The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.

 

As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico
the next morning.

A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.

A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.

The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass.

The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass. South Pass is the route I had chosen to reach the Gulf.

On the final dash to the Gulf, my greatest concern was the fog in the Head of Passes. This is a wide open space from which three branches of channelized water run to the Gulf. The Southwest Pass is the shipping lane for tankers, freighters, and container ships, Loutre Pass is mainly small craft and fishing boats, and South Pass fishing craft. Tankers come up SW Pass and cross through the Head of Passes to the West Bank near Pilottown. As you can imagine, in the fog, this is a dangerous route through which to paddle.

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Just prior to leaving Pilottown, three Plaquemines Parish Marine Sheriffs pull up in their boat on their way down to Port Eads, located one mile upriver from the Gulf down South Pass. When I found this out, I somewhat pleaded with them to guide us through the fog through the Head of Passes with their radar. As you can see in this photo, I was gravely concerned. I could not get them to commit, for whatever reason, so we determined to just go for it with the support we had from the Pilottown crew, and the Venice pilots, who drive the ships up the Pass.

I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.

I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.

Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.

Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.

This photo I took during our attempt the day before. But, you get the picture. Tense moments to say the least.

I took this photo the day before. But, you get the picture.
Tense moments to say the least.

The Pilottown crew were phenomenal in communicating our whereabouts to the best of their ability. However, when they began asking the ship pilots if they had seen us, I knew we were on our own, so to speak. We had to navigate wisely through this stretch or catastrophe would be imminent. What we did know from my marine radio, was when a ship was coming up through the fog out of SW Pass, or down into the Head of Passes past Pilottown. Mark used his depth finder to try and avoid the channel, but at some point we had to cross.

Ship approaching in the fog.

Ship coming into view through the fog.

There was a moment when we were immersed in fog and very vulnerable. I began to paddle with my GPS as my guide, which is what the crew told us to do. How scary is that in the fog???? Very! As my heart began to sink further into my gut, I mustered everything I had to keep my composure, as we all were doing at that time. At that very moment, we heard a boat coming right for us. Oh my God! Will it see us in time to stop??? All we can do is wait as it gets closer. Then, appearing as though angels from the spiritual realm, the Sheriff’s boat appears and immediately they begin pointing out the channel light at South Pass.

Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemine Parish.

Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemines Parish. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Miraculously, the fog began lifting at that moment and we could then see all three passes! What a moment of joy and relief that was, never to be forgotten.

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Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!

Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!

I paddled harder than I had paddled on the entire journey, the 12-13 miles down South Pass. I took out my iPod and played river songs and sang at the top of my lungs, particularly Black Water by the Doobie Brothers. Playing music always gives me a much-needed boost of energy.

The highlight of my entire trip had to be when I saw my white pelican near the shore in South Pass. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He had come to see me through to the end, and provided that quiet comfort we both understood, that he had provided since day one of my paddling journey. I still shed a tear when I think about how perfect and complete this trip has been.

The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.

The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.

 

We had a clear shot to the Gulf, and most of the way back up the pass. We were not out of the woods yet. But we had made it to the Gulf of Mexico!

The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and take some photos of my arrival.

The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and
take some photos of my arrival.

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico

What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin.

What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin. I was thrilled.

Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were "outta there!"

Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were “outta there!”

We made it about 2/3 the way up South Pass when the fog settled in again. We were on a race against time and fog. We absolutely HAD to get back to Venice before dark. We moved as one with eyes and minds on high alert. As you can imagine, the victory was oh so sweet.

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We made it back to Venice safe and sound, just in the nick of time.
It was dark when we pulled up to the dock.

My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.

My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.

Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!

Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!

Jamie Stevenson, Denise's boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.

Jamie Stevenson, Denise’s boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.
(Inside, we were all feeling like he looks.)

Haley (L) and Denise (R) We were all so very happy to get back to Venice.

Haley (L) and Denise (R)
We were bonded and quite frankly, family, after these few days together. What an unforgettable experience!

Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends. Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!

Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends.
Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!

Our home away from home in Venice, Louisiana. The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas comped our villa for all but one night, the night that April donated to the expedition. Big thanks to April Durnin for donating to the expedition two free nights of lodging (one night for two rooms) at this fabulous hotel. We could not think of one single complaint. The villa was extraordinarily lovely.

The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!

The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!

I will be updating this blog in the days to come. That will help me sort through my photos and videos, and reminisce on the pleasures of this incredible journey. Then, of course, I will write a book, or books. I would like to write a memoir, a curriculum book with lesson plans and activities focused on the rivers and natural environment, and a coffee table book with some of my best photographs. Oh, and T-shirts. I want t-shirts made ASAP. Maybe a calendar right away. So much to do!

I will follow up this post with some videos as soon as possible. Until then, I hope you enjoyed the adventure of my final days.  I’ll be back to fill in the gap.

Shouting out a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who believed in me, the expedition, and who gave their heart and soul to support the journey.  MWAH!! Much love to all, Janet Moreland XOXO

Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. August 21, 2013

Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. Photo taken August 21, 2013

Do what you love and love what you do.

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

3,700 River Miles

April 24, 2013 – December 5, 2013

First American Source-to-Sea Missouri River

First Solo Woman Source-to-Sea Missouri River

The Missouri River is the Longest River in North America

The Missouri/Mississippi River System is the Fourth Longest in the World.

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

Dang, I am REALLY in the Wilderness! -Fort Peck Lake (June 10-17)

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I paddled ten hours and 48 miles to get around UL Bend on Fort Peck Lake. I woke in the middle of the night and took some Advil. My muscles were stiff. It hurt so good. I felt like I had accomplished a lot by travelling so far. Now I would have to deal with the lake that I had heard so much about, and had been warned about by so many, friends and strangers: “Be safe through Fort Peck!! No big crossings unless way before 8AM!  You need to take advantage of the lake telling you it’s safe to go…not when YOU say it’s safe to go. Watch for quicksand!!”  Or, “Fort Peck is a very dangerous lake. Motor boats get swamped out there. The waves can come up fast. Don’t get caught out in the middle of the lake. People die on this lake.”  Gee whiz, people.  I wish I could enjoy the ride more instead of worrying about making unsafe decisions or passages across the lake. My journal reads, “I need to stop wondering if I’m making the right decision and just trust my judgment. I can SO do this!”

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I was more concerned with the possibility that there might be mountain lions around.  I think I saw mountain lion tracks. Or, maybe they were coyote or wolf tracks, not sure. In hindsight, probably coyote, or racoon, or even badger. I had a little Montana Survival booklet with me. That was a really good purchase for five bucks. The nail imprints in the tracks indicated they were more likely the tracks of a badger, racoon or fox.

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At first, all I could think about was if this was a mountain lion track. I knew it was too small, but my mind was trying to justify it as such. Then, I took out my survival guide and saw that the nail prints indicated something different. Probably just a coyote or a desert fox.

At first, all I could think about was if this was a mountain lion track. I knew it was too small, but my mind was trying to justify it as such. Then, I took out my survival guide and saw that the nail prints indicated something different. Probably just a coyote or a desert fox.

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That very night, after I was zipped up in my tent, some animal made a loud noise right around dusk just outside my tent. Holy mackerel! It was a honk, cough, yell, growl, screech, or something, I don’t know what.  “Stay calm,” I told myself. “What do you need to do to survive?”  I took the safety off of my bear spray, got my buck knife out, grabbed my machete, and put my whistle around my neck.  I was hoping it was not a mountain lion. This area just seemed so mountain lion-ish with the desolation and rocky mountains all around. I also had my bottle of Advil next to me as I was preparing to down a couple to prevent stiff and sore muscles that night. I know, I’ll shake this bottle of pills and the animal outside will surely be startled, not having a clue what that noise is. I shook the bottle so it was loud and annoying. I heard the noise again, along with a couple of hoof stomps, and then it was quiet. My final deduction was that the animal was an elk. It was not a deer, but something similar that I was not familiar with. I’m sure it was an elk, or maybe an antelope. I was camped at their water hole, no doubt.

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AlpinGlow on the mountains. I love this rugged mountainous country!

AlpinGlow on the mountains. I love this rugged mountainous country!

I was ready to knock out another 10-hour day. The weather report was calling for NE/East winds and some weather rolling in from the Pacific Northwest. Darn! I was loving all that sunshine and glassy water. I traveled up the North-South arm and reached the East-West body of the lake. The winds were indeed blowing at me. I would have to wait. There were whitecaps everywhere. I decided to hike around and take some pictures. As it turned out, I set up my tent just before a thunderstorm rolled through. I would be here until tomorrow.

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I just love the desolation and beauty!

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Prickly Pear Cactus, IN BLOOM! So beautiful

Prickly Pear Cactus, IN BLOOM! So beautiful

Well, hello there! A young Timber Rattler

Well, hello there! A young Timber Rattler

An indication of the storm to come.

An indication of the storm to come. This is looking toward the direction I needed to go.

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From whence the storm would come

The storm kicked up some high winds and big waves. Yep, pretty happy I was not out on the lake.

The storm kicked up some high winds and big waves. Yep, pretty happy I was not out on the lake. But rather, I was drinking orange pekoe tea and eating dark chocolate. 🙂

I would not paddle any more big 10-hour days on Fort Peck Lake. Winds blew every day. I paddled some mornings, and even some afternoon and evenings. I was comfortable at one spot where I landed, mainly because there was no mud, but it was also a very beautiful cove, and I was ready to wait out a big electrical storm forecasted and coming my way. However, the winds layed down unexpectedly and the wind advisory got cancelled. I wanted to stay put but I knew if winds were calm I needed to paddle. I packed up.

So happy to not get out and step into mud

So happy to not get out and step into mud

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The water was getting more clear the further down the lake I went.

The lake water was almost as clear, before filtering, as my drinking water.

The lake water was almost as clear (bottle on right), before filtering, as my drinking water.

I made some progress, but was NOT pleased with my camp that night, the camp at which I was forced to ride out the predicted electrical storm, which was severe. I was exposed inside a bay that was treeless and low lying, and extremely muddy. This was, literally, the low point of my Fort Peck Lake experience.

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I ended up surviving the storm that packed a major north wind, ripping the tarp off of my tent. I reached out and caught a corner of it just in time to keep it from flying into the water.  The winds flattened the north side of my tent and ripped my tent stake out of the ground.  I had to get the stick four foot that was still on the bow of my boat.  I ran out of my tent and grabbed the stick off of my boat. Thankfully, I had not been struck my lightning.  I secured my fly with the stick stuck deep into the mud. What a relief to have my tent upright again.  Of course, I couldn’t help but think I had just inserted into the ground a lighting rod, which seemed to be the high point on shore, and right outside my shelter.  Oh well, there was nothing more I could do.  I had to wait out the storm, and I did it squatting with only my feet touching ground and my hand on my SPOT “SOS” button.  I thought if lightning struck me, my reflex would press the button.  When the storm ended, I was so thankful to be alive.  I did not concern myself with the two inches of rain that was falling outside.  I was dry inside, and alive.

Yuk

Yuk

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I got out of there at dawn the next morning. I wanted no part of this campsite any more.  I paddled several half-days and eventually made it to the Pines Recreation Area, a location in which Lewis and Clark wrote about as having the first pine trees they saw. I met a wonderful couple, Matt and Carol Williams, and their son and wife, Bill and Tammy. What friendly people. They first brought me watermelon, which was a delicious treat, then later invited me to their camp for steak dinner, wine, and a marshmallow roast. I was so happy to have met these people. They added a warm human social element to this desolated lake leg, and their company and generosity was comforting. I was amazed the next morning when they assembled a cold pack with fresh walleye fish and fruit salad for me to take to fix for dinner that night. We drank coffee together and shared stories before we all parted our ways.

L-R: Tammy, Bill, Carol and Matt, I believe they are all from Shelby, MT.

L-R: Tammy, Bill, Carol and Matt, from Shelby, MT.

I

I spent the windy hours hiking to the ridge tops. The views were always spectacular.

I spent the windy hours hiking to the ridge tops. The views were always spectacular.

I was able to get cell service, finally, but not internet. I called home. What fun it was talking to a dear friend after no internet service for two weeks. I was invigorated.

I was able to get cell service, finally, but not internet. I called home. What fun it was talking to a dear friend after no internet service for two weeks. I was invigorated.

This day was a Sunday, and the Williams family headed home. I ended up waiting out a big wind day just down the shoreline. I met a man while hanging out on the point who was looking around for a mountain lion as tracks had been spotted inside the recreation area. I knew it! This WAS mountain lion country! I was on guard after that, but I came back that night and camped at the same spot as the previous night. This was a first for me, to camp in the same spot two nights in a row. I did not worry too much as calm winds were forecasted for the morrow, and I was up before dawn to paddle my last day on the lake. I woke to a gorgeous orange cloudless sky and glass waters. These conditions would remain all day long. What a wonderful way to end this lake experience. I felt like I was leaving a good friend whom I had gotten to know personally, and for whom I had the utmost respect. Yes, that would be Fort Peck Lake.

So long, Fort Peck Lake. It has been a pleasure.

So long, Fort Peck Lake. It has been a pleasure.

Do what you love, and love what you do.

Love Your Big Muddy

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

Fort Peck Reservoir-Finally We Meet

Plenty of beavers in the refuge. And, they are BIG! They pretty much own that refuge.

Plenty of beavers in the refuge. And, they are BIG! They pretty much own that refuge.

 

A beaver swimming out to size me up. I'm ready for their water slaps these days. I've seen and heard many of them trying to warn me not to mess with them or their dens.

A beaver swimming out to size me up. I’m ready for their water slaps these days. I’ve seen and heard many of them trying to warn me not to mess with them or their dens.

I hated to leave the Roundup boys without saying good bye, but I had to get on the water early in order to make it through UL Bend on Fort Peck Reservoir, approximately 48 miles away. UL Bend is the river-to-lake transition area, and not without its challenges. I was packed and in my boat at 7:00 AM. As I was pushing off, Eli appeared on the shore. I was so happy because I got to say good bye. I also let him know that I left my card on the ice chest for him. It is always bittersweet leaving new friends and river brothers. These boys, young men, are my river brothers.

I packed up early and was on the water at 7:00. The air was still, but the banks were muddy for miles. I was extra thankful I had found the RoundUp Boys.

I packed up early and was on the water at 7:00. The air was still, but the banks were muddy for miles. I was extra thankful I had found the RoundUp Boys last night.

 

Nowhere to pull over for miles and miles.

Nowhere to pull over for miles and miles.

 

This was a typical site for many miles of the river below the Breaks, and in the refuge. There was nowhere to land the boat, let alone camp. Thankfully, the glassy conditions helped me to paddle 10.5 hours and 48 miles this day.

This was a typical site for many miles of the river below the Breaks, and in the refuge. There was nowhere to land the boat, let alone camp. Thankfully, the glassy conditions helped me to paddle 10.5 hours and 48 miles this day.

 

The relentless rain in the previous weeks had saturated the land. This big landslide had occured recently.

The relentless rain in the previous weeks had saturated the land. This big landslide had occured recently.

 

On the approach to the lake their were numerous springs flowing into the river.

On the approach to the lake their were numerous springs flowing into the river.

The Fort Peck Reservoir is 245,000 acres in size.  Extending up 125 miles from the Fort Peck Dam is the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife, which encompasses 1,100,000 acres and all of the Fort Peck Reservoir. The refuge contains a multitude of habitats which include native prairie, wooded coulees, wetlands, river bottoms and badlands.  “Given the size and remoteness of the Refuge, the area has changed very little from the historic voyage of the Lewis and Clark expedition…” [http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=61520]

I enjoyed a warm and beautiful day with glassy waters all day.

I enjoyed a warm and beautiful day with glassy waters all day.

This is a gorgeous Pronghorn deer buck, also known as an antelope (but there is some controversy about that). He had a herd of six females with him.

This is a gorgeous Pronghorn deer buck, also known as an antelope (but there is some controversy about that). He had a herd of six females with him. He was not comfortable with my presence.

 

Here is the buck's females (I assume they were all females). The buck was very protective of them and they were very obedient to his signals to stay clear of me. I was so happy to get pictures of these beautiful animals.

Here is the buck’s females (I assume they were all females). The buck was very protective of them and they were very obedient to his signals to stay clear of me. I was so happy to get pictures of these beautiful animals.

 

This smooth oval rock struck me as peculiar sitting at the base of a dark muddy-looking hillside.

This smooth oval rock struck me as peculiar sitting at the base of a dark muddy-looking hillside.

These river-to-lake transition areas are kind of spooky because the river shoreline slowly disappears into the water and before you know it, you are out in the middle of a lake. This can be daunting if the wind is blowing. Fort Peck Reservoir’s transition section also has shallow sand bars and mud to deal with. Thankfully, I was somewhat unaware of these things or else I would have been intimidated and  stressed. They say ignorance is bliss. In this case, this was true. It did not take long, however, before I realized I had to pay close attention so I would not get stuck on a sand/mud bar.

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These gulls were a good indication of shallow waters around me.

These pelicans were a good indication of shallow waters around me.

 

Pelican sitting on a sandbar that was just barely showing.

Pelican sitting on a sandbar that was just barely showing.

Once the shoreline has disappeared, it can be very difficult following the channel of the river, especially when the current is slowing down and spreading out, and the river transforms into a lake.  This pelican, I believed, helped to show me the way and I made it around the daunting UL Bend to a campsite.

This was my river angel. Once the shoreline disappeared, this guy led the way for me when I found myself in the middle of a lake with shallow sand/mud bars all around me. He was a guiding white light for me.

This was my river angel. Once the shoreline disappeared, this guy led the way for me when I found myself in the middle of a lake with shallow sand/mud bars all around me. He was a guiding white light for me, and one of the reasons I hold pelicans dear to my heart.

I made it to Fort Peck Reservoir!  I paddled 48 miles for 10.5 hours. This was a really productive paddling day and, boy, was I tired, but very very happy. I was especially joyful because my campsite was not muddy. Well, not too bad, anyway.

My first campsite on Fort Peck Reservoir, photo taken from my tent. I took a sponge bath here and washed some clothes. I was feeling really good.

My first campsite on Fort Peck Reservoir, photo taken from my tent. I took a sponge bath here and washed some clothes. I was feeling really good.

Later this evening I witnessed the power of a northerly squall line coming across the lake. I had been warned about sudden fierce winds coming out of nowhere. Thankfully, I was safe on shore with my tent and Blue Moon secure. At first it sounded like a motor boat across the lake, then it grew louder like a truck, then a train, and finally a jet plane. It was awesome to watch the wind line move rapidly over the water toward me. I knew what was happening, so I was intrigued, rather than fearful. Seeing this occur helped me to be cautious, aware, and respectful of the wind and water while on this lake.

A northerly wind appeared suddenly and engulfed the entire lake near me. Paddlers must keep one eye looking toward the north at all times.

A northerly wind appeared suddenly and engulfed the entire lake near me. Paddlers must keep one eye looking toward the north at all times.

I left the RoundUp boys on June 9 and made camp the same evening on the Fort Peck Reservoir 10.5 hours later. I would journey across this 135-mile lake for the next eight days. A lot can happen in eight days. I was immersed in wilderness and forced to use my own judgment and decision-making skills in order to progress safely to the dam. High winds, snakes, electrical storms, wildlife, zero cell service, hours of waiting out the wind, picturesque scenery, and the giving hearts of the few people I met would make this one of my most memorable experiences of my life. Stay tuned for part two, the next eight days to Fort Peck Dam, through some awesome and incredible wilderness.

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Do what you love, and love what you do.

You CAN do it.

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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

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

Snapshots of LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition

My dear friend, supporter and river brother from Columbia, Missouri, Jonathan Lauten, produced this slide show of my trip thus far. It is very special to me as the memories provoked are fond and special. I think it is kind of funny that the slideshow brings back so many memories of a trip of which I am still in the midst.

Please take a moment to enjoy these very unique and special moments from LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition 2013.

I will try to continue my documentation of my expedition on this blog as soon as I am able, likely as soon as I get across Lake Oahe, of which I am over half way on this 230 mile lake (as of July 25, 2013).

Click on the photo below to access the slideshow.  Thanks for your support!  -Janet

RAINBOWCAMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

White Cliffs emerging

White Cliffs emerging

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

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

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

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

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

Grand Natural Wall

Grand Natural Wall

Cool looking, I think

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

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

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

Klaus (L) and James

Klaus (L) and James

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

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.

 

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

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

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The Wall Camp, 7 miles  before Judith Landing

The Wall Camp, 7 miles before Judith Landing

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

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

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See ya, James!

See ya, James!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Do what you love and love what you do.

Janet

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

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

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

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

Carter Ferry

Carter Ferry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside of the Fort

Outside of the Fort

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

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

The walking bridge

The walking bridge

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The "block" today

The “block” today

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Today

Today

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

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

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

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

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

Do what you love, and love what you do!

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

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

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