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.) 🙂
The day has finally arrived. I have been losing sleep for nine months since I made the decision to paddle down the Missouri. Once I decided to take on this challenge, it was another month, or two or three, before I made the decision to start at the source. I knew I would regret not making the extra 298 miles if I started at Three Forks instead of Brower’s Spring.
The time is 3:23 AM. My alarm is set for 4:30 AM. I feel like I have an extra hour so I’m trying to get in one last “quick” blog post before we take off. Now, THAT’s a challenge!
The Columbia Daily Tribune, our local newspaper, is supposed to publish a story this morning. I just checked on it. Yep, it’s there. Here is the link for “PRIMED TO PADDLE: Kayaker ready to tackle river’s entire length.” I will post the story under my Media page once the article becomes NOT available online, unless you have a subscription.
Yesterday was a very busy day packing. I actually spent two days hard at it. Three and one half months requires thinking through all of your needs, and wants, then trying to downsize the load. I’m not very good at that. Thankfully, Haley arrived after lunch and really helped me accomplish this daunting task. She is very organized and more rational than me when it comes to, “Is it really a need, or merely a want.”
We took a moment to take a picture with our matching “Say YES More” T-shirts. ‘Say Yes More’ is Dave Cornthwaite’s campaign, of which I am an ambassador. The first medium T-shirt was itty-bitty, so I gave it to Haley and he sent me a larger one. Find out more about Dave’s exciting adventures on his Website.
Last night we enjoyed spending time with my niece, Rene Freels, and her husband, Kyle, and son, Sam. We enjoyed fabulous food (as usual) at El Maguey, not to mention their $1.25 margaritas. This is my favorite restaurant in town.
We then enjoyed going down to the river to meet a lot of my river friends who were enjoying a campfire, pot luck barbeque, and acoustic guitar music. We have access to a spot right next to Cooper’s Landing where we have get-togethers sometimes. We also stopped by Cooper’s and I was able to introduce them to many more wonderful people in our river community. We had a great evening. I was happy to introduce them to a little slice of my world. Unfortunately, no photos.
Once home again, I began to round up all of the little loose-end items such as dental floss, water bottles, hairbrush, shampoo and other things that I actually use until I leave. I started a batch of strawberry/banana fruit roll-ups in the dehydrator, too.
This morning I will do one last batch of laundry, gather all of my food and try to sort some of it out into portions. I need to make my custom trail mix as well. Then, once light starts dawning on this part of the earth, the kayaks will go on the car, and I’ll pack the car with all of my stuff. We just left everything on the porch since the weather is good and we have Minnie, our wonderful, and loud, watchdog. No one can approach the house without her approval.
The weather looks rough for the next few days in this area, and on our drive up north. It is my understanding that snow has been falling in Montana. I try not to let the weather reports get me emotionally stirred up. I am taking things one step at a time, and making decisions as opportunities present themselves. You might say I am “Going with the Flow.” Yes, I like the sound of that. Here is my awesome road crew, Haley, Jeannie Kuntz, and me.
My extra hour has turned into two after posting photos. Still, not bad. But, gotta go!
Cheers! See you on the water! Montana here we come! YeeHaw!
(One hour, 30-minute blog post! That is a new personal record. That is good, real good.) 🙂
“For thousands of years, we have gone to sea. We have crafted vessels to carry us and we have called them by name. These ships will nurture and care for us through perilous seas, and so we affectionately call them “she.” To them we toast, and ask to celebrate “BLUE MOON.” Then everybody raises their glass filled with champagne or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage and shouts, “TO THE SAILORS OF OLD…TO BLUE MOON.” Everybody takes a sip.
That is the start of the script for the christening ceremony. Tomorrow, a.k.a., Easter Sunday, Blue Moon will take her first ride in the Missouri River as the Blue Moon. For those of you who are not aware, Bob Bellingham of Australia paddled down the Missouri River last summer in the same boat, which was then the Barbara May. In the spirit of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” I have purchased Bob’s boat for my expedition, and she is no stranger to the river.
The Barbara May brought Bob down the river, from Three Forks to St. Louis, in 89 days. Ideally, Blue Moon will replicate that schedule so that I arrive in St. Louis on August 1st (give or take a couple of days). Tomorrow, I will conduct a short ceremony in order to loosely hold on to the tradition of renaming and/or christening a boat. Those paddling with me, and anyone else interested, are invited to take part.
Today, I hope to apply this blog site address onto the sides of Blue Moon.
Things are really revving up, gear-wise. Packages are showing up on my porch, such as the lettering for my web address, my solar panel, compression dry sacks, my sleeping bag, a camera, cleaner for the boat deck, etc.
I spent 3 hours in Batteries + yesterday trying to assemble an appropriate electronic system to charge my laptop from the roll-up solar panel. Solar panels do not advertise laptop charging. Normally, they are geared for only the smaller electronic appliances, i.e., iPhone, iPad, camera, or GPS. After yesterday, I’m ready to teach a Physics lesson for sure.
I had to get a 12V battery, which I learned, come in a wide variety of sizes and corresponding weights. I need a battery that will not be too big, but that will charge my laptop up in a reasonable amount of time and/or charging sessions. I won’t go into any details because my brain is still tired from yesterday’s numerous calculations. Big thanks to Herb for patiently assisting me in assembling a system! And thanks to Chad, Batteries+ store owner, who gave me a business account, which results in a small discount on all of the accessories I bought…
for my roll-up solar charger. Big thanks to Julia at PowerFilmSolar for the discount, too.
One of the employees at Batteries+ suggested a wind turbine for the boat. Holy cow, that’s brilliant! I’m sure I’ll be thinking a lot about that on those windy days on the lakes!
I have been dehydrating lots of food and vacuum sealing small packages. Why have I not been doing this for the last 30 years? The beef jerky is out of this world! And, the bananas, green apples, pineapple, etc. are all soooo delicious! I’ve also dried tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and spaghetti sauce. Yep, spaghetti sauce. Starting on broccoli today. These veggies will be wonderful to throw into my side dish pasta meals.
I now have my tent, sleeping bag, stove, Thermarest, paddling gear, under layers, neoprene boots and shoes, Teva sandals, portable hard drive, three cameras, an iPhone, a laptop (which I’ve owned for a long time and hope it performs), maps, drybags, compression dry bags, compass, whistle, wheeleez for portaging, and a lot of little items that I had to pick up as I walked through Walt’s Wilderness store. Little things like a first-aid kit, meal kit, coffee french-press with cup set, moleskin, caribiners, and a wide-mouth water bottle for my alfalfa sprouts. I even picked up my one and only packaged freeze-dried meal: camp eggs! I love eggs and will need to cook up this package for some special occasion, which could be anything, like one full day with zero wind!! I may be missing my eggs on this trip.
I will test my gear this week-end when I go to Missouri River Relief’s MO River clean-up in St. Charles. Seven years have passed since I started back to school and have not had an opportunity to go to a river clean-up since. These clean-up events are a must-do activity for everyone, ESPECIALLY, river communities. The sense of accomplishment, camaraderie, and contribution to society cannot be fully appreciated until you take part in one. I am so looking forward to being with fellow river stewards, cleaning up the trash, and trying out the gear that I will become one with for the next 3 and 1/2 months. I definitely have to make sure that French Press works. Gotta have my cup of Joe to get my day on track!
Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I will share with you the red-hot heart-warming LoveYourBigMuddy Blues Benefit from last Wednesday, March 27.
I am totally immersed in preparations for the trip while still trying to substitute teach enough days to ‘pay the rent,’ so to speak. Spring Break comes next week so I will not be able to work. This will be a good time to tie up a lot of loose ends.
We brought my Eddyline Shasta kayak into the house the other day because I needed to apply a keel strip for protection and the weather has been too cold. The temperature needs to be at least 70 degrees, so into the house it came. I went ahead and applied the new boat name letters, too. I am very pleased with the outcome. Next, I will apply this blog’s web address on the side along with some of my sponsorship decals. Isn’t it pretty? Handsome?
Alpine Shop in Columbia is sponsoring me with some significant gear items. Thank you, Brennan! He has donated a camp stove-MSR Reactor system (yes!), a Thermarest mattress (3 in thick. excellent!), and a Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner. They will also communicate my links and updates on their social media sites and to their email recipients. You should stop by the shop and check out their new expanded paddling section. They are becoming a premier paddling retailer in mid-MO.
I ordered my tent, a Hubba Hubba 2P tent from Walt’s Bike & Wilderness Shop. Besides a Patagonia balaklava, polarized sunglasses and SealSkinz paddling gloves, they were able to give me a 10% discount on my tent. Every little bit helps. Thanks, Sarah.
After four of my emails were ignored by PowerFilmsSolar, I talked to Julie on the phone, mainly because I needed to purchase my solar charging system and a friend, Barb Giles, offered to donate funds to purchase it. We weren’t sure what exactly what I needed, so when I talked to Julie, she ended up apologizing for them ignoring me, and offered me a pro-discount on a 14R roll up solar charger. Thanks, Julie! And, THANK YOU, BARB!
I’ll order my sleeping bag today, and a GoPro camera. GoPro has not responded to my sponsorship proposal, nor has Cascade Designs for a sleeping bag. That’s okay, though. I am content with all the things I have been given. Oh, and I will probably purchase a GPS device, but not sure yet. Norm Miller will have one we can use to get to Brower’s Spring.
My Kokatat gear should be arriving any day. That will complete my paddling gear. I’m excited about looking it all over. Once I have all of my gear, I will need to start puzzle piecing everything into the boat. That will be the biggest challenge. I normally carry everything but the kitchen sink with me, everywhere I go. My first backpacking trip, when I was 16-years old, was unforgettable because I was ribbed extensively due to all the stuff I had to unload out of my pack. I cannot remember details, but somewhat recall a big tube of Crest toothpaste being the brunt of long-lasting jokes. Hey, one has got to keep their teeth brushed, right?
Veteran paddlers have offered a lot of good advice about food to bring. I posted a request for their thoughts on the “Missouri River Paddlers” Facebook Group as well as the “Expedition Canoe and Kayakers” Facebook Group. I received a lot of great ideas, a few of which I have included here:
Dale Sanders: Tortillas – most any eatable food can be roled into them, very satisfying meal and they have long “shelf life” and available at most grocery stores. Try Nutella rolled in – delicious.
West Hansen Keep it simple: instant oatmeal with Starbucks Via for breakfast. Mid morning sip 1200 calorie bike bottle of SPIZ (half vanilla/half chocolate). Lunch: can of tuna with Cholula sauce and some dehydrated fruits. Mid afternoon – same SPIZ drink. Supper, dehydrated meal with some canned meat mixed in for calories. When racing, I up my SPIZ mix with some extra maltodextrin electrolytes. Sometimes I add a Starbucks Via to the SPIZ. Then we call it SPAZ.
Kathy Norpell Kurzhals: Tuna, tortillas wraps ( cheese sticks, pb&honey, foil chicken breast), brown minute rice with any seasonings, chicken helpers and tuna helpers, pita bread with pepperoni and squeeze tomato paste and cheese-pizza!, polenta, quinoa, even mac’n cheese…….
Marin Medak: Beef jerky is one of my favorites. Then mini Snickers, and also some fruits – bananas, oranges, apples.
I will include other “good advice” contributions in an upcoming post. I learned a lot from all of these experienced paddlers. As a result of the good advice, I have purchased a dehydrator and seal-a-meal machine to vacuum seal the food. So far I have dried beef, apples, bananas, pineapple, and blueberries. Next, I will dry vegetables, more beef, some fruit roll-ups, and some sauces. Yes, you can dry spaghetti sauce like a fruit roll up, and just add water bring it back to sauce. Cool, eh?
I have just started throwing interesting food items in my basket when I come across them. Mostly, they are side-dish pastas and rice, which will be wonderful to have after long days of paddling. I will also make my own trail mix.
I am going to buy some Tanka Bars, too, made and sold by the Oglala Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The bars, and bites, are made with buffalo and cranberries, and are all natural (and delicious, too). Check out a location that sells them near you and HELP SUPPORT the Pine Ridge Reservation Oglala Lakotas! The Tonka Bars will serve as my energy protein bars. I’ve never been ‘into’ Cliff Bars or other types of energy bars.
Fundraising continues with the hope that I can be financial sustained during my 3 1/2 month excursion. I am looking forward to the Love Your Big Muddy Blues Benefit on Wednesday, March 27. The event will be held at a local pub, MoJoe’s (THANK YOU, MOJOE’S!!), on a full-moon night with some of the best blues musicians in Columbia, MO. It is a jam, so musicians can step up to the stage and contribute their talents.
The host musicians include John D’Agostino, Dennis Ternamian, Alan Loshbaugh, and Charlie Waddell. Other musicians playing music are Scott McCullough, Zed Zardoz, and Debbie D’Agostino, John’s sister. The D’Agostino family have been blessed with beautiful voices. Johnny D will be taking names for the jam. Naked Dave will be MC for the event (Go Dave!), so YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS EVENT! Free appetizers made with tender loving local care will be provided. And, buy lots of raffle tickets because you get to choose your own reward! The more tickets, the more chances to win a great prize! Big thanks to the committee, headed by Heidi Brunaugh. Love you guys!
It has been a couple of weeks since I started removing the old name and website from the Shasta. Slight delay because of a heap of snow dumped on us over the course of two weeks. It has been cold and the snow still covers the majority of ground. This photo is from BEFORE the first storm, which dumped around 8-10 inches on February 21.
And after February 21…
And after another 5 or more inches, which fell on February 26:
But, speaking of snow, I talked to the person in charge of the gate to the road up Sawtelle Peak. Because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an Air Traffic radar tower at the top, the road is gated to keep cars off the mountain when snow is present.
However, they plow the road for the employees, although 4-wheel drive is often necessary. The gentleman I spoke with was very favorable to helping us access the mountain road. He will get us past the gate so that we can ski to Brower’s from the switchback located in the upper right of this photo, below “Sawtelle Peak.”
Here is a photo of Sawtelle Peak:
And, a 3-D version from Google Earth, with switchback on far right straight across from Brower’s Spring (the green dot is the radar):
Next month I will be sipping from the waters of
Brower’s Spring, the ultimate source of the Missouri River near the Continental Divide! Of course, we will be digging through many feet of snow, no doubt. Norm Miller and I will be packing shovels.
So, that is great news!
I picked up my on/off road bike that Carl and Josh at Klunk Bicycle and Repair built for my stretch in the beginning when the waterway is frozen over. It is anticipated that this will be the case in the Centennial Valley, which is where we will come out of the mountains. There is a gravel road that follows right along the creeks and rivers and through the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
I may have to ride my bike as far as 80 miles to Clark Canyon Reservoir. Good to be prepared for any situation.
Carl has offered to loan me the bike with the option to buy it. I became a bit attached after just a few loops around the parking lot. I am hoping to purchase it at some point. I look forward to riding it until I leave. Must practice, right? Here is a photo of the bike and crew:
We had a great meeting last week to discuss fundraising. What a wonderful group of supporters: Heidi Branaugh, Steve Schnarr, Melanie Cheney, Suzanne Cooper, Dory Colbert, Roger and Barb Giles, Jeff Barrow, and Ginger Masters. We agreed that a Love Your Big Muddy Blues Benefit would be great, particularly because Columbia, Missouri, is a mecca for musicians. We have a whole bunch of great musical artists, so we hope to have a dynamite show. We would like to hold the event at a local club, MoJo’s, on Wednesday, March 27, during happy hours: 5:00 to 8:30. We’ll provide appetizers and lots of stuff to raffle away. This is the same day that my expedition story will be featured in the Columbia Missourian. Should be a good day. Still waiting for confirmation on the location.
The outpouring of financial contributions is humbling. I am very grateful for my friends and their desire to help. Without their contributions, the expedition would still go on, but the financial burden would be difficult. Thank you to all who are able and willing to donate their precious moneys. I am very grateful. If you would like to donate, you may do so here on my Donations Opportunities Page, or go to my GoFundMe page at LoveYourBigMuddyExpedition 4 Education.
I am currently focusing on foods to take. I looked at dehydrators today and will likely purchase one to make jerky and dried vegetables. I have received a fantastic response to my request for food ideas on the Facebook Paddlers Pages that I am a part of. This has been very helpful, and relieves quite a bit of anxiety as to what I will be packing for food.
That’s it for now. Things are getting busy, sleep is difficult, writing blog posts takes time. I appreciate all of you who are following me. Thank you. Still trying to figure out the tweeting thing on Twitter.
By Norm Miller, in his own words….continued from Part I
I recently followed a group of young guys paddling down the Mississippi. I don’t think they made it a week before the whole adventure fell apart. I’m not sure why as I don’t know the whole story, but I got the sense that there were many factors from personality conflicts, mental battles of the mind, and lack of “outdoor” experience. For the most part we have lost touch of our hunter gatherer traits. We in today’s society look at modern adventure as a novelty. When in fact just a 150-years ago it was a common thing. We hunted, worked the land, lived a more nomadic lifestyle, our entire day was survival or just getting by. The pioneers on the wagon trains, the early explorers and missionaries, etc., everything they did in the course of their day was what many now think of as hardship. We spend so little time now in the outdoors. If it rains or snows we seek the comforts of our houses never really experiencing nature and missing out on a lot of great things.
The internet has changed everything! There is so much information out now that it shortens the planning by weeks and months. When I began my planning for my 2004-Lewis & Clark redux the internet was fairly new. I spent about 5 -years planning. Now with the help of paddling website, Facebook (“Missouri River Paddlers” site), books and the speed of finding information one can get all they need quickly.
For starters buy David Millers book; The Complete Paddler!!! It is the bible for Mo River paddlers….more information than you can absorb! The book is broken down into 3-parts: The upper, middle and lower river sections, which are basically three different trips in many ways. The book contains a wealth of logistical information including valuable phone numbers, re-supply points, drinking water locations, map info etc., etc. However last year the river experienced a huge flood which destroyed many locations that are mentioned in the book. So this Mo Paddlers FB page probably helps “update” some of that information, with recent paddlers in 2012 blogging about these changes, such as Bob Bellingham and Dom Liboiron, to name two.
Buying maps/charts should be one of the main priorities however in hind site I would feel confident paddling the entire route without a map or at least a Rand McNally road atlas would work. I know paddlers who only used such maps and they were fine. In 2004 I may have went overboard with maps. I used the Corp nautical charts for the lower river….they are awesome and show all 5000+ wing dikes and every mile in DETAIL…which is helpful when paddling upstream, but not as critical when paddling downstream.
Going upstream I had to stay very close to shore….so this is where the real hazards are located. So knowing all these wing dikes helped me. The Corp maps of the big lakes are good too. Those lakes are huge!!! You can get lost. Some of the bays open up to a 30-mile wide expanse of water and on a flat horizon it is almost impossible to tell where the hell you are at.
The Montana section is great…I made copies off of a map program. There are many bends and fast currents in Montana. The maps helped me find camping areas AWAY from people and or private property. I always preferred to stealth camp! During my 200-day trip I camped downtown in St. Charles, Washington, Kansas City, Ft. Yates and nobody knew I was ever there!!! The art of stealth camping is an art form for sure. After 12-17 hours of paddling I was not in the mood to be social most of the time. So being away from people allowed me to do what I needed to do and get the proper rest.
As far as travel speed goes…that depends on the weather and how much you want to paddle. It’s not a race, but some paddlers prefer long long hours and to cover many miles…which is my style. Others are so slow, I have to wonder if walking would not be faster. It’s all a personal issue. However ON AVERAGE…from Three Fork to St. Louis, those that have paddled down the last 8 years have done it in about 90-120 days! That’s a good average. I had a friend in 1981 go from Three Forks to St. Louis in about 30- days!!!! The state of Montana is a huge state with some big bodies of water…in particular Ft. Peck Res. I would allow about a month to get through Montana. The slower you go the better. Why? Montana is beautiful with so many interesting places to check out….why rush? We have the only mountains you will encounter! Montana is very scenic, lots of wildlife, historic unchanged river sections, interesting towns such as Ft. Benton too.
The Dakota’s can be a mental test. You have Lake Sakakawea and Oahe and, boy let me tell you, they can drain you mentally. Expect WIND and …more WIND….then a couple minutes of calm and then more WIND! It also blows in all directions…not just from west to east. The winds can change direction every hour. What I noticed in 2004 was the wind would really start to kick up about 8 am….die down a bit between 11 am and 2pm, then pick up hard from 2pm until the sun set. Once the sun set it is rather calm until morning…sometimes it is like glass on the water. A good time to make up lost miles is paddle in the dark under a full moon when the water is placid. During the day time hours you just have to keep moving whenever there is a break. Sometimes you may have to sit on shore 1/2 hour, 4-hours or all day….just be ready when it abates to jump in your boat and start paddling. I was wind bound 4-days on Oahe without moving an inch. The winds were 40-60 mph and the seas well over 10 feet high.
Lake Sakakawea video by Dom Liboiron
During those wind bound moments I usually read a book, slept, ate, fixed or cleaned gear or hiked around. Sometimes I would walk the shore for an hour or so to see what I could find. Near Ft. Yates I found a human skull in the sand. It was most likely that of a Native American from centuries ago, which was a cool find.
The Lower River from Yankton to St. Louis is fast moving if you are going downstream. One can paddle 40-80 miles a day through there depending on your energy level and river flows. Watch out for the barges, especially from behind…they can sneak up when the winds blowing and you will never hear them. It’s good to tuck behind a wing dike and let them pass before proceeding on.
FOOD AND WATER:
Don’t expect to filter water!!!! For one thing, there is so much agricultural runoff that you won’t want to drink it for fear for getting sick. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and toxic pollutants are dumped or flushed into the river daily….my words of wisdom are…..DONT BOTHER. Why do a trip of a lifetime and get sick the first week? Every town, house, marina, store and campground has drinking water. (David Millers book mentions about every possible place to get drinking water.) It’s not a remote trip like it was for Lewis and Clark.
You will encounter plenty of places to obtain water. I carried 4 one-gallon jugs which I filled every couple of days….or whenever I saw a pump I would top them off. I filled water in bars, people’s houses and even the government office buildings attached to the State Capitol of Missouri. One thing to consider is early season such as March-May most campgrounds DO NOT HAVE their pumps working yet so you will have to rely on towns and houses to fill up.
In 2004- I did food drops at post offices. I researched which Post Offices were close to the water and had a box of food mailed there…General Delivery to me. I spent the previous winter dehydrating food and preparing meals so I did not have to always buy from stores. This saved me a lot of money! One thing to consider with the post office drop is the hours of operation for each office. You will have to plan on picking your box up when they are open and make sure you consider that they are closed on weekends and holidays. I ran into this issue in Yankton where my package did not arrive when I got there on Friday…I had to wait until Monday before it opened up.
Many people purchase food along the way. There are plenty of places to do so. However the variety may not be what you want or need. I tell everyone they should carry about 2-weeks at a time. ESPECIALLY the section when leaving Ft. Benton….there is a big gap of NO stores until you get to Wolf Point or Culbertson Mt. The town of Ft. Peck is LIMITED….basically a party store is all you have. That’s fine for some, not for me.
You will also have plenty of opportunities to get food at restaurants or from generous river angles. Just read Bob Bellingham’s blog and you will see that he ate well and drank plenty all from the great people he met along the way. I too had people buy me dinner or make me breakfast along the way.
CANOE OR KAYAK?
I’m not going to get too involved with this topic, but I will mention a few things.
The route has been done in aluminum Grumman Canoes, Home made dug out canoes, high tech kevlar canoes and kayak and everything in between… even a 1000 mile section on SUP boards.
I highly recommend something comfortable!! After all why be miserable sitting from 10-17 hour a day in for two months in something you are not comfortable in? I used a Sea Wind decked canoe built by canoe legend Verlen Kruger who holds many world records in distance paddling including the longest paddle trip ever by anyone…a 2 1/2 year 28,000 miles trip through N. America.
His boats, in my opinion, are the best solo expedition canoes on the market, as mentioned above…these boats hold THE records of distance travelling. They are strong, comfortable to sit in and hold a lot of gear without having to cram gear into small hatches like you would have in a sea kayak. I am never cramped in my boat. I oft times sat in it for 17-hours without ever get out. I never need to get out and stretch like I have to in a sea kayak. I’m biased on my choice but just make sure you know your boat. COMFORT should be maybe your #1 feature. If you have questions about boats…send me a message and I will go into more detail.
Have a good tent. It will most likely not be any good when you finish. I recommend a NEW one when you start…..not one that you have had for the last 5 years. Think about this, if you are out 90-days…that is like 45 weekends of camping….or nearly 4 summers of camping– ever weekend!!! I went through 2 tents….both were NO good when finished. One was destroyed by a tornado in the Dakotas…my second one…just plain wore out!!!
One TIP with any tent is also a large plastic tarp. I used the tarp almost everyday. I would put the tarp overtop my entire tent many times during a hard rain….to not only keep leaking water out but it kept me entire tent dry, so I never had to pack it away wet. This is very important because if you pack it away wet each day, it never dries out and begins to mold and decay!! A tarp will cover everything you have from getting wet….so always a dry packed boat every day!!
GOOD rain gear is important and I now even bring an umbrella!!! They make great sails and you don’t have to get out of the boat to put rain gear on for a 10-minute rainstorm. Just pull out the umbrella….pop it open, stay dry and put away after the many short rain storms. They make great shade too when in the Dakotas if you happen to be sitting around waiting out the wind….just sit under and enjoy the shade. Believe me there are no trees to block the 100-degree heat in the Dakotas.
One of the best things I brought was a pair of knee-high boots!!! Waterproof is a must. You will encounter a LOT of mud on the lower Mo and I hate wet feet!!! These boots kept me dry and from getting trench foot which can be common if your feet never dry out.
I personally hate to get sunburned. In fact I’ve been burned too many times and go to a dermatologist every 6-months to get pre cancer spots removed. Sun is very damaging, just look at what it does to your tent after a short time….now imagine what it does to your skin. If you plan to paddle or be out in the sun for 3-months then cover up!!! You will get plenty of sun even if you cover up. I hope we as humans have moved beyond the “tan look” vanity thing. The benefits of sun protection are—
You will be less dehydrated and your need to drink water will be less. Don’t forget even though you are on a river, the availability of clean drinking water is not that common. SO by covering your body, you won’t require as much water and you will be less fatigued. I am amazed how many people paddle with no hat, short sleeve shirts and shorts! A 100-day trip with 10 hours of sun exposure each day adds up to 1000 hours! If you were to take two apples, one whole, the other peeled, the one that is peeled will dry up 10-times faster than the one that is unpeeled. So think of your clothing as an apple peeling! One of the first rules in desert survival is to put cloths ON! You never see Middle Eastern cultures or people wearing shorts and t-shirts do you? They are sometimes covered head to toe, long shirts, pants, etc., etc. I wear long sleeves and long pants, a brimmed hat, a handkerchief around my neck and gloves to protect myself from the sun. I also use 75 to 100 SPF sunscreen at all times. It makes your paddling more comfortable when you are not fried!!
A TYPICAL DAY:
Not sure there is a typical day, but at times they can be very repetitive. You may awake before the sun and start paddling before the wind begins….say 6-8 a.m. each day…..so you at least get a couple hours of paddling in before the wind starts. I was so comfortable being in my boat that I would oft time be in it for as much as 17-hours without ever getting out…even to go to the bathroom….which I did in a pee-bottle! When I wanted to eat/snack I would just stop paddling and dig into my lunch/food bag that I kept close by. If I was wind bound I would try and find shade. Sometimes I set up my tent in order to have shade or use and umbrella. Other times I would walk around and explore the countryside or go into a town, grab a burger or even do laundry. Wind bound moments was when I would use my solar rechargers. I carried two solar panels for my satellite phone, camera and laptop, which I carried.
Your hot showers may be weeks apart, same with your laundry. I wore the same cloths almost everyday! You can periodically rinse them out in the river which also helps cool you down. A daily dip in the river is great for you.
Expect temperatures near 100F often through eastern Montana and the Dakotas. It’s very uncomfortable paddling, just keep plugging along! I would stop for the evening ONLY when the sun dropped below the horizon. I would then pull over right where I was at….and sometimes it was a stealth camp. Once the sun dropped below the horizon I would have about 1-hour before it was too dark to see. This hour of twilight allowed me to set up camp, cook, clean up, and update a blog….all without needing a head lamp. This method allowed me to go without a headlamp for all but about 2 hours in 6 months time! I was plenty tired after that and would fall immediately to sleep and usually not even wake the entire night. The following day was then repeated. Get use to being uncomfortable, hot, wet, smelly, soar, irritated, hungry, wind burned, and parched, yet happy as a clam!
I would typically look over my maps each night and try to imagine the next day’s terrain ahead. I would plan a “route” that took into consideration the wind directions I anticipated. Since I did not carry a weather radio I would often ask fishermen along the way if they heard of the weather forecast. When doing so, realize you will get 20-different answers for 20 different people. I would then compile all the info and then used deductive reasoning to come up with my own forecast. Same goes for “river conditions”!!!
Most people you meet will NOT BE CANOERS OR KAYAKERS, so they have NO clue as to what you require or your ability. TAKE ALL THEIR INFO with a grain of salt! Bob Bellingham told me he talked to some fishermen in North Dakota who told him upon he telling them that he was paddling to St. Louis….their response was, “YOU better check your maps, because this river doesn’t go to St. Louis!” Can you believe that!! I too had a similar situation whereas someone told me that Lewis & Clark didn’t pass through here. Writer Edward Abby is quoted as saying that “the reservoir fisherman is the lowest form of life on earth.” Well, I hate to say this but it sure is a different culture for sure.
SAFTEY: Be street smart and level headed. You are not in a race. It only takes one hair raising moment to put you in your place. Typically EVERY first time Thru-Paddler gets cocky and takes too big of risk especially at open water crossings….usually the first reservoir of Peck. You will get half way across and the wind will begin to blow and create huge waves. Be smart, not stupid!
Your biggest concern, besides the weather, is humans! The most dangerous thing you may encounter will be man. I prefer to camp away from people, away from campgrounds or anywhere where there is road access and potential for a lot of beer drinking. Dead end roads at the rivers edge are a mecca for high-school kids on Friday night to have huge parties. Find those little hide-a-ways tucked along the shores of the reservoirs or in the trees along the river. You will have plenty of social opportunities if you need that. I personally am more of an introvert and seek out the stealth and remote camps.
It’s good to check-in each night if you have a cell phone or SPOT beacon. This saves a lot of worrying on the home front. It also gives a reference point if you get hurt the following day as to where your last check-point was. Your friends and family back home will be concerned, so be considerate of them and let them know. There are some big gaps in cell-coverage especially in Montana. You may go a week or more. I don’t recommend Cellular One as a service. They suck!!! Mark Kalch had a C.O. phone and could not use it for almost 6 weeks! In 2004 I used a Satellite phone which has coverage anywhere.
As far as your personal safety, you have more of a worry if you are solo than if paddling with a partner. I recommend a can of Bear-Spray over a gun, but that is another topic I don’t care to get into. Just be smart and listen to your gut feelings. Be aware and observant.
I’m sure I forgot a lot but this will give you an idea what is involved in paddling from Montana to St. Louis. Everyone is different. It’s best to create your own experience using the skills and knowledge passed along by others. They have a lot of good information. I highly recommend contacting the Through-Paddlers on this face-book site and ask them as many questions as you can think of. I’m just 1-mans experience. The things that worked for me may not work for you and visa-versa. One thing that is very important is to be adaptive and able to adjust to your changing conditions…either daily or hourly.