Expect the unexpected. Changes come in all sizes and shapes. Our lives are dynamic, and so are our blogs…Since I imported all my content from 1Woman3GreatRivers last weekend, my blog appearance got knocked out of whack. Turns out this theme has been discontinued. I appreciate your patience while I play around with new themes and take on new changes.
A lot of chapters have opened up in my life since completing the three Great Rivers Expeditions. I’ve been teaching 7th grade Science, changing school districts, guiding on the Mississippi, participating in river cleanups, visiting friends and family in California, and suffering through four years of chronic back pain.
I’ve exported all of my posts from the other site, 1Woman3GreatRivers, back home to LoveYourBigMuddy. The last post I added on the other blog site was two years ago yesterday, April 27, 2017, when I left Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, for Atlin Lake and the Llewellyn Glacier, British Columbia, the Yukon River’s source. It was nearly impossible to post anything while on the Yukon because of its remoteness. Satellite posts were accomplished on my Expedition Facebook page, but I could not post photos unless I had WiFi, and that was a struggle to get access to as well. (You can visit that FB page and go to 2017, June through July, to follow that trip.) SO NOW, I am consolidating and going full-scale LoveYourBigMuddy blog again. It is hard enough maintaining one blog, but TWO? Impossible for me.
This summer I am going to start writing my book about the LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition. I’ll be recovering from back surgery beginning in two weeks, so the time is right. My brother, Jim Sullens, will help me with editing, and I’ve received a lot of good advice from author friends of mine. Also, sharing stories from the journey recently have made me realize that I HAVE A LOT of stories to tell. Then, there are the Mississippi AND the Yukon Rivers, too!
I’ll be in the river town of New Haven, MO, this weekend (May 4, 2019) for Miller Landing Days, a celebration of their historic culture and river history. I am listed as ‘story telling’ so that will be another avenue of review and preparation for writing. I’ll have t-shirts available to give away, or for a small donation.
I hope to share my progress on this LoveYourBigMuddy blog, hopefully getting it revved up again. I hope to post stories and photos to document further the adventure of it all. It may very well be that I have several chapters just on the first few days of the trip. I mean, a broken radiator, sleeping in our car at a truck stop in Wyoming after taking a wrong turn in a blizzard, a 6-hour ski into the source at the Continental Divide turned into 30 hours with no means for fire, food, or sleeping gear, day one on the water I nearly swamped my boat in a strainer and sprained my hand getting out of that mess, and the next day I ran into a shoreline snag on two different occasions, and popped TWO holes in my boat! SO MANY STORIES!
Welcome back to this LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition blog site. Please feel free to provide comments and ask questions. I will no longer be posting on 1Woman3GreatRivers, and will delete it soon. See You On The River!!!
Lots to do, lots to do. Last day of school was last Thursday, so there was only so much I could do while school was in session. Teaching is an overtime job, with barely enough hours in the day. I have been taking care of a few major planning details over the last month, though.
I have activated my Inreach-Garmin satellite communicator. I will have lots of time in the airports during layovers to fuss with it. My flight to Whitehorse is 19 hours on three planes, so I am looking at a lot of down time. I have sent a test message to my Facebook Page so I am on my way to being prepared.
I have spent time twice in the last month assembling the Klepper T9 foldable kayak. I have a pretty good handle on it now. Today I will assemble one last time before leaving on Tuesday. I need to pack all my gear in little dry bags and figure out how everything will fit into the bowels of the boat. There are a lot of ribs to work around, making packing and unpacking a challenge in and of itself.
Big thanks again to Cascade Designs for allowing me continued access to their PRO Discount for all of their gear companies: MSR (they make my tent and stove), Thermarest (the best sleeping pads), and Seal Line (source of my new dry bags).
I have been dehydrating vegetables, fruit and jerky 24-7 this past week. A drying session can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, so the assembly line must keep moving. I am trying to dry enough so that I can pack a bunch in my resupply box being mailed to the Yukon River Camp located where the Dalton Bridge crosses the river. I estimate it is a little under half way. Veggies, Knorr Sides, dry milk, coffee, dark chocolate are a few of the resupply items I’ll be mailing away.
EDDYLINE KAYAKS-I’m just saying, I wasn’t going to pursue corporate sponsorship for this expedition, but Eddyline Kayaks, they’ve supported me all the way. They are the sweet friendship every expeditioner should have with a company. We weren’t able to feasibly work out boat support, but paddles have been a key component of their contribution to my success. Carbon paddles are extremely important for me as the feather weight makes so much difference in my case (more about that at another time). I asked them for a new carbon paddle and, without hesitation, I was granted one.
Here is a map of two potential starting routes. I can paddle a loop (gold route) down to the glacier on Atlin Lake, or travel down behind Teresa Island (pink route) with maximum wind protection. I would backtrack to get out, so I’m partial to the loop (gold). The road goes right to Warren Bay and a campsite is located there. I will find someone in Whitehorse to shuttle my rental car back to town after dropping me off. I am welling up with excitement at the thought of this stunning section of the trip. Taking it slow and easy to absorb and enjoy the beauty will be my MO–method of operation. 🙂
Once I get back up to the top of Teresa Island, I will head down the Atlin River to begin the long journey to the Sea.
I have already had conversations with some Atlin locals. I intend to have more. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We’ve got ourselves an adventure here, folks! Climb aboard!
ONE MORE THING: My Atlin contact and now known as, Atlin Lake River Angel, Hans wrote in an email to me yesterday:
Good to hear from you!
Atlin Lake started opening up a few days ago – there is no longer ice from town all the way south as far as we can see. After next week it should be all melted and ready for any adventures.”
Music to my ears, Hans. Thanks so much!
ATLIN WEATHER FOR NEXT WEEK??? Sweet stuff…
Do what you love and love what you do. Until next time…
Don’t forget to follow along on my Facebook Page: LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition. And, I am going to try and post on Instagram, too, for my students who are following me. #loveyourbigmuddy
I am attempting to transition from LoveYourBigMuddy.com to my new site. Please visit and follow my new blogsite for the 1Woman3GreatRivers Project. I will be launching at the Mississippi River’s source, Lake Itasca, MN, on or about May 25. And, well, you know the routine…I will try and post more blog entries this trip along with my Facebook posts.
Expedition planning and spinning plates have a lot in common. Both are overwhelming, both require diligence and focus, and both will reward you with success and accomplishment, despite the intermingling with falls, drops and crashes. A plate spinner is persistent and does not ‘bag it’ when plates fall and shatter. An adventurer does not ‘bag it’ when planning confronts obstacles. Nope. They get back on the path called “onward” and forge ahead, come hell or high water! [idiom meaning “no matter what”]
Decision is the key! Decide to take a risk, and pursue an adventure. Decide to spin the plates, and keep picking them up, try again, spin ‘em, drop ‘em, try and try and try again. DECISION spawns DESIRE. This is the dynamic duo one needs to accomplish grandiose goals, pursue the unattainable, and conquer the impossible! Yes, spin plates and dance at the same time…
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.
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.
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.
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: “theabilityorstrengthtocontinueorlast, especiallydespitefatigue,stress,orother adverseconditions.”
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
Know your river. Touch your river. Love your river.
On April 14, 2013, I left Columbia, MO, and set out on an extraordinary solo kayak voyage down the 4th longest river system in the world, the 3,800-mile Missouri-Mississippi River System. Upon completing the expedition on December 5, 2013, I became the first American, and first woman, to traverse the entire river system from source to sea.
My mission began as an empowerment model for our nation’s youth, showing them that dreams can be achieved through decision, desire, and details (and hard work). The mission soon flourished into an empowerment model not only for youth, but for adult women and men as well. At 57 years old, I was living proof that neither gender nor age should prevent you from pursuing your dream. Not only that, the expedition embraced education and environmental stewardship by bringing awareness to Missouri River Relief, a not-for-profit river clean-up and education organization. Our hope is to bring the Missouri River into the classroom, and the classroom out to the river. Touching the river, knowing the river, and loving the river are key ingredients to sustaining the health and vitality of our planet’s veins and arteries.
The adventure began on April 24, 2013, when Norman Miller and I skied into the ultimate source of the Missouri River, Brower’s Spring, in southern Montana near West Yellowstone. We planned for 7 hours and finished in 31 hours, much to our surprise. We spent the night in the mountains with no sleeping gear, food, or fire. Let the adventure begin!
The next leg involved biking 100 miles through the Centennial Valley. This dirt road traversed Red Rock River to Clark Canyon Dam. The Red Rock River is not paddler friendly as it is full of man-made dams composed of barbed wire, wood, electrical wire, and corrugated sheet metal. I put my kayak in the Beaverhead River below Clark Canyon Dam on May 1, 2013. The Beaverhead eventually turns into the Jefferson River, which becomes the Missouri River about 200 miles downstream at Three Forks, MT.
My first day was a test of will as I became entangled in a tree strainer, spraining my hand and nearly dumping my boat. On day two, I put two holes in my boat, thankfully above water line, as the swift and narrow Beaverhead River made it difficult to avoid collisions with snags along shore. Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t fix! After 11 days of paddling I arrived at Three Forks, where I then regrouped at Norm Millers’ Base Camp International in Livingston, MT, patched the holes in my boat, and set off down the Missouri River at Three Forks on May 15, 2013. The rest, really, is history as I proceeded to live life on the river, with simplicity and joy, for the next seven months.
I will cherish this expedition until the day I die. I experienced challenging decision-making, marvelously mellow mornings, exasperating electrical storms, wild wind and waves, stunning sunsets, random acts of kindness, unforgettable human river angels, the wonders of wildlife, big huge barges, even bigger and huger freighters ;), and frightening fog. Last but not least I met a whole world of beautiful and extraordinary supporters up and down the river to whom I cannot give enough thanks, and whom I now consider river family.
Please enjoy a few expedition photos I picked out, in no logical order, but which are among some of my favorites. You may remember…
Please visit my sponsor page at the top of my site to see the wonderful companies that believed in me and helped me out in some way to ease the financial burden. Special thanks to Patagonia for their generous clothing sponsorship. Eddyline for their excellent service with my boat as well as donating the best paddle I could ever imaging taking, a Swift Paddle. Many heart-felt thanks to all of Columbia, Mo’s outdoor shops for donating items to LoveYourBigMuddy. Huge thanks especially to our Klunk Bikes for re’cycling’ me a bike, which I love very much to this day.
And to every person that was able to donate financially, I know who you are and you will NOT be forgotten. Particularly my local Riverbilly family and those contributing to the Blues Benefit. Click here to see who these tremendous supporters of LoveYourBigMuddy are. This was YOUR expedition! THANK YOU! If you see a photo you would like on this post and it is part of your donation reward, please email me and let me know. I will be posting more photos shortly.
For a comprehensive view of media articles and podcasts, click here to visit my media page, located at the top of the site.
Lastly, warm thoughts go out to the crew at Canoe and Kayak Magazine, and to all of the individuals who took a moment to vote LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition into the “Spirit of Adventure” Award arena for 2014. Certainly, the honor was all mine to receive the award in the midst of an incredible paddling family. YOU, too, can be a candidate for such a cool recognition. Just…
…remember to keep your eyes on the road ahead. Don’t quit your DayDream. And, dream BIG!
LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition on Facebook. see what’s up…
“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! 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.