I am laying in my tent listening to the chirp chirp of the bird and the pitter patter of sprinkling rain on the fly. Rivertime. Oh, rivertime.
I have never had a schedule until now, now that I have a week left to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Friends and family are flying and driving in to accompany me by boat to the FINISH. Rain just gets in the way. HOWEVER, I am playing with my WordPress App because I have the time. How wonderful it will be to post to my blog from my tent in the rain on the Mississippi River! I claim this rain delay as an efficient use of time!
I just left Baton Rouge yesterday and I am making my way down ever so much closer to New Orleans, then Venice, where the pavement ends at Mile 10, then down further to Mile 0 at Grand Pass and finally, the final 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
I do not know what photos of the Mississippi to post. As you can imagine, my quiver of photos is massive in size. I am not even sure I know how to post photos with this app, or even post, period. Perhaps, I should post one from every hundred miles. That’s about 11 photos. Or, only sunrises and sunsets. Maybe just great campsites, or river angels or special moments??? I will just wing it and pick some that I like. Let’s see what happens. Hope you enjoy ‘Janet’s Picks.’
This is way too cool! Nice App, WordPress.
I hope to be back soon. Thanks again for your patience. As the end draws near, I hope this is just the beginning of something really beautiful. Peace out!
Do what you love, and love what you do!
(Well, this is the photo I accidentally deleted, instead of the duplicate. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get rid of that code. Too scared to mess with it. Still, a somewhat successful first attempt.)
I had a fantastic welcoming when I arrived in Memphis.
I am laying over at Dale and Meriam’s beautiful home in Memphis.
I went on a great overnight camp/guide party with Wolf River Conservancy, on the Wolf River.
The rest of us had a great time hanging out around the fire, and spent a leisurely morning breaking camp. What fun it was paddling through the swamps of Ghost River and into Spirit Lake, where Cypress trees make up 65% of the forest, and Tupelo Gum trees the other 35%. Just incredible scenery!
And, tomorrow I fly to Bend, Oregon to co-present at the Conservation Lands Foundation Friends Rendezvous for the entire weekend. WOW! From solitude on the Mississippi to LOTS going on.
I will try and post some Mississippi River photos from the last few weeks. What a fantastic river to paddle, and a whole new adventure. I probably won’t be going back to post the Missouri until after the expedition is over, which I anticipate will be close to the first of December.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And, off I went to hike to the top of the Hole in the Wall. Wow, what a grand experience!! Unforgettable.
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.
This trip is so fantastic, every day is a new adventure. However, the journey is so broad in scope that even I have to break it down into chunks, or categories, in order to write in my journal. Otherwise, I think to myself, where do I begin??
Some of the areas that this journey embraces are the wildlife, geology, geography, paddling, challenges, and social interactions (the awesome people I meet along the way). Because I want to capture all of the various aspects of each and every bend in the river, I have accumulated numerous photos to help document my experiences. Here is just a taste of this short section of my trip.
On June 1, I took off from Fort Benton after an enjoyable stay. I knew it would be an easy paddle to Coal Banks Landing, a launching point into the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. As with any day, though, I’m not always sure where will campsite will be for the night.
Tim was surprised, and somewhat startled, to find this, umm, artifact imbedded in the beach.
I have fond memories of this campsite, despite the muddy beach, because of the 70’s music they were playing on the radio. Those were the days when the world open wide, and the anticipation of what could be was scintillating.
Further down I stopped at the Virgelle Ferry. An Indian man visiting America happened to be there and wanted to ride the ferry across and back. He asked me if I wanted to go, so I said, “sure”!
I arrived in Coal Banks after just a few hours the next day. Dominique Liboiron was coming to visit me there, since the location was close to his home in Saskatchewan, Canada. Last year, Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan to New Orleans in honor of his uncle who died of heart disease age the early age of 42. Dom carried his ashes to disperse in New Orleans, a city his uncle fell in love with.
It poured rain while he was there. He stayed two nights. One day we worked on a plan to get his canoe in Canada so he could paddle with me in the Breaks. Unfortunately, logistics proved to be too complicated, especially since James Kipp Recreation Area closed down due to flooding. So we went to Virgelle Landing and Fort Benton to have fun.
Once we determined that it was too difficult to organize a shuttle for Dominique, we decided to play tourist in Fort Benton. Dominique has wanted to go there for many years and, well, I was happy just to go with Dominique. He is such great company. We had a blast!
We stoped for lunch at the Palace Bar, where we met Sandy bartending. I dropped Dave Miller’s name,(the author of The Complete Paddler) and she remembered him, and apparently took good care of him. “I let him take a shower at my house.” When I mentioned that I hadn’t had a shower in a week, she insisted I go to her house and take one. Thank you, Sandy! I will never forget your sweet heart.
After I went to Sandy’s house and took a shower, we stopped at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, they closed in five minutes, but I think we made the best of the situation.
The senior Boy Scouts had come to camp during the rainstorm. The camp hosts, Bub and Tinker Sandy were incredibly accommodating for all of us, letting the boy scouts stay in the visitor’s center, and letting Dominique set up his tent on the porch. By the time the weather let up and we all were ready to launch, we had become friends. Finally, it was time to enter the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, a moment for which I had been waiting a long time.
Onward to the White Cliffs on June 4. I will try and have something posted in the next few days. I have a White Cliffs photo album posted on my Facebook Expedition page, if you want to check that out now.
I apologize for the delay in posts. I’m paddling a 178-mile lake right now, Lake Sakakawea, and a 230-mile lake coming up, Lake Oahe. I am currently at Dakota Waters Resort campground taking a refresh day (shower and laundry), and should be at the dam tomorrow or the next day. Hurray!
Please see my Facebook page, LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition, for current photos and updates. You do not need to have an account to view the page, it is accessible to the public. I can upload straight from my iPhone and it is much easier, however, this blog helps to organize and document the journey. I have not forgotten you!
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.
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.) 🙂
We were getting tired by the afternoon and frustrated with the terrain traps we encountered, which kept adding miles on to our trip. Here is a short clip Norm took after my, umm, classic faceplant.
Shortly after the faceplant, we realized we were not going to make it out. Fortunately, our walkie-talkies were able to reach Haley and Jeannie just for a moment, and we notified them we would be staying overnight. We tried not to seem alarmed so they would not worry. That worked. We did the same for ourselves, and just tried to make the best of the situation.
I think this post will be more of a photo post. I have captioned all of my photos and they will walk you through this stretch and phase of my adventure. Enjoy!
The Gates of the Rocky Mountains are on Holter Lake. I left the Gates and paddled almost to the dam. I camped before entering the last big stretch so I would not be exposed to potential storm winds. Rain fell that night, but enough sun shone the next morning that I could dry things out. My camp was on a pretty point, but the real estate was owned by a heard of black cows. It seemed I was camping in their watering hole. Luckily, I found a big enough patch of grass free of, well, you know, to pitch my tent. Some camps are better than others.
I hope you enjoyed this stretch of my journey as much as I did. Great Falls is deserving of its own post. I was able to paddle from there to Fort Benton in just a few hours, and here I sit in the Grand Union Hotel trying to finish this post. I feel good about this accomplishment and so, if the rain stops tomorrow, I will hit the river again. Fair warning, it may be awhile before I can post again as I am heading into some incredible wilderness area, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Be patient, and be sure and visit my Facebook page if you are able.