Posts Tagged With: gear

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

Paddling into Great Falls! Monday, May 27.

Thank You, John and Keely Schukei, for taking such good care of me the couple days I stayed in Great Falls. Your hospitality was heart warming. My stay with you, unforgettable. (I am loving my gloves and my pink crocs!)

I absolutely LOVE this photo of John, Keely and Hazel, the dog. I kinda like all of them alot!

I absolutely LOVE this photo of John, Keely and Hazel, the dog. I kinda like all of them alot!

When John, Sherri, and Bob came to paddle with me, John had offered me a place to stay and a ride around the dams. I phoned him shortly before I arrived and told him I would love to take him up on his offer. He said, “Great, I’ll be right there to pick you up.” Then, when I told him I could not get a clear visual in my mind about the Great Falls and what they look like, he drove straight over to the first two falls to take a look. This was a tremendous help. Plus, we saw some other really cool things, too, like Giant Spring and Great Horned Owl babies.

This is Black Eagle Falls, the uppermost falls of the five dams comprising the "Great Falls." The city of Great Falls is in the background.

This is Black Eagle Falls, the uppermost falls of the five dams comprising the “Great Falls.” The city of Great Falls is in the background.

This is the second from the top falls, Rainbow Falls. All of the water is diverted through the power house so no water runs through it except on weekends, when they let extra water out.

This is the second from the top falls, Rainbow Falls. All of the water is diverted through the power house so no water runs through it except on weekends, when they let extra water out.

Here is a view looking down stream from Rainbow Falls.

Here is a view looking down stream from Rainbow Falls.

This is Giant Spring located within Giant Spring State Park between Black Eagle and Rainbow Falls. It is the source of the shortest river in the country, the Rogue River. It empties into the Missouri River after about 100 yards or so.

This is Giant Spring located within Giant Spring State Park between Black Eagle and Rainbow Falls. It is the source of the shortest river in the country, the Rogue River. It empties into the Missouri River after about 100 yards or so.

Here is one of two places the spring empties into the Missouri River

Here is one of two places the spring empties into the Missouri River

 

Watercress growing in the spring. Look how clear that water is!

Watercress growing in the spring. Look how clear that water is!

 

This is a nest with three Great Horned Owl babies. If you don't know they are there, you probably won't see them. John knew where they were and we were fortunate to get a good clear sighting, let alone an awesome photos!

This is a nest with three Great Horned Owl babies. If you don’t know they are there, you probably won’t see them. John knew where they were and we were fortunate to get a good clear sighting, let alone an awesome photos!

This is John and Keely's back screened in porch which has a double bed. This was my bivy in Great Falls. Sweet, eh?

This is John and Keely’s back screened in porch which has a double bed. This was my bivy in Great Falls. Sweet, eh?

We enjoyed a fun evening eating pizza (YUM!) and Bob came over and joined us. He, along with John, gave me a lot of tips on paddling, particularly how to power stroke. “Why do you hold your paddle with you hands so close together? You look like you are dog paddling.” I don’t know. I’m just holding it. Well, they showed me how to hold my elbows at 90 degrees before grabbing the paddle, and then how to use your whole body to stroke strong and efficiently. WOW! (This was incredibly useful for me on Fort Peck Lake, a couple weeks later.) Bob also showed me some stretches. I told them my back was having a bit of difficulty, and he explained that it was more likely my hamstrings from sitting in the kayak. His doctor told him the same thing.

Here is a picture of Bob (right), and John and Sherri from when they came up and paddled with me a couple days previous.

Here is a picture of Bob (right), and John and Sherri from when they came up and paddled with me a couple days previous. They are part of a kayaking group that organizes fun kayaking events and races.

I was able to hang out at the house and update my blog while Keely and John went about their business. That was really nice, since blog posts take lots of time. I couldn’t help but notice, and love, this backyard spa (chuckle).

I love this. John and Keely's hot tub in the back yard. How cool is that?

I love this. John and Keely’s hot tub in the back yard. How cool is that?

During the afternoon, John took me to get some “must have” synthetic golfing gloves for paddling. We went to Meadow Lark Country Club where Michael very graciously gave me a pro deal on the gloves. They are great, both the Country Club and the gloves! John had so much great advice for me.  Then we went to his store, Bighorn Outdoor Specialists, that he owned for 38 years. The staff there were friendly and willing to offer a pro deal for the supplies I needed. If you are EVER in Great Falls, be sure to stop at this awesome sports store.

The staff at Bighorn Outdoor Specialists. They gave me a sweet pro deal on supplies I needed, like a water filter, Cliff Bars, stove fuel and new sunglasses. Thanks, guys!

The staff at Bighorn Outdoor Specialists. They gave me a sweet pro deal on supplies I needed, like a water filter, Cliff Bars, stove fuel and new sunglasses. Thanks, guys!

I headed to the put in the next day. It was quite a drive, and John was so nice to take care of me. Unfortunately, the road became so muddy we had to turn back and go all the way around town to Carter Ferry. This is often the case, but we thought we could make it. The area had seen a lot of rain recently.

The mud on the road to Widow Coulee prevented us from getting to this put in. We had to drive about 45 minutes back to Great Falls, and down the other side of the river to Carter Ferry. John was such an incredible host. I'm forevever grateful for all he did for me. He and Keely, both.

The mud on the road to Widow Coulee prevented us from getting to this put in. We had to drive about 45 minutes back to Great Falls, and down the other side of the river to Carter Ferry. This wasn’t even the steep part as you drive into the river canyon. We would have never made it.

Before we got to far, though, John stopped and let me photograph these historical information signs telling about the Corps of Discovery’s portage around the Great Falls.

You can find a series of educational signs way out in the middle of nowhere, but right in the vicinity that the Corps of Discovery staged their portage. No easy feat it was.

You can find a series of educational signs way out in the middle of nowhere, but right in the vicinity that the Corps of Discovery staged their portage. No easy feat it was.

Another historical information sign regarding the Corps of Discovery portage around the falls.

Another historical information sign regarding the Corps of Discovery portage around the falls.

Looking out over the area where the Corps of Discovery conducted their portage. That is the river valley.

Looking out over the area where the Corps of Discovery conducted their portage. That is the river valley.

And finally, John has such great ideas. He thought this would make a great photo opportunity. He was right. Enjoy:

John thought this would make a classic photo. I think he was right. Pretty funny.

John thought this would make a classic photo. I think he was right. Pretty funny. Problem here is, I’m going the other way!

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

Paddling from Canyon Ferry Lake to Lakeside on Hauser

Rainy weather is included in the expedition package. I am so happy I am outfitted with Kokatat gear. Warm and comfortable always.

Rainy weather is included in the expedition package. I am so happy To be outfitted with Kokatat gear. Warm and comfortable always.

Love my pelicans

Love my pelicans

Canyon Ferry is my first major lake of the journey. The lake approximately 25 miles long. Winds can kick up in minutes producing large and dangerous swells, so caution must be adhered to at all times. I entered into the lake under calm conditions with a low pressure blanketing the area. The entrance into the lake takes you through a channelized section that resembles a slow gradual sloping lazy waterway with waterfowl all around standing in shallow waters and singing songs and chattering amongst each other across this watered plains area. In the distance it seems as though you are looking down towards the lake. Then, before you know it, you are IN the lake and the three-mile paddle towards the western shore begins.

Channelized entrance inti Canyon Ferry Lake.

Channelized entrance into Canyon Ferry Lake.

I encountered some rollers due to a light wind in the afternoon, but nothing dangerous. I kept a very close eye out for whitecaps and stayed close to shore.

I encountered some rollers due to a light wind in the afternoon, but nothing dangerous. I kept a very close eye out for whitecaps and stayed close to shore.

Like being in "paradise."

Like being in “paradise.”

Love, love, love this place!

Love, love, love this place!

Good morning, World! A break in the clouds helped produce this view from my bed.

Good morning, World! A break in the clouds helped produce this view from my bed.

When paddling big lakes, you have to pick a point on the distant horizon, which is often miles away. Then you point your boat at that spot and just paddle, stroke after stroke after stroke. I fell in love with my Swift paddle even greater as its light weight and easy entry into the water made my paddling seem effortless. My paddle literally became my best friend.

I love my Shasta kayak and especially my Swift paddles.

I love my Shasta kayak and especially my Swift paddles.

Ron Lukenbill and me below the dam.

Ron Lukenbill and me below the dam.

Waiting for me at the dam was Ron Lukenbill, who generously had donated $100 to the expedition, paid for 30 triple-A batteries, bought me lunch, and helped with my portage around the dam. Ron is an educator and, as it turns out, grew up in Sacramento, CA, my home town! I swear there is an uncanny bond amongst Californians, strange as that may seem. Also helping me with the portage were Will Garvin and his lovely wife, Felomina. They have been so helpful in many ways, including feeding me dinner and allowing me to shower at their house last night (May 19).

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Will and Felomina Garvin. Wonderful folks with lots of interesting life stories. Will paddled from Helena, MT, to Helena, AR.

Onward down Hauser Lake, leaving sunny skies that turned into a thunderhead with lightning and wind, forcing me to stop at Lakeview on Hauser Lake. What a fantastic stopover this has been! Conrad and Cheryl Hale own this very cool lakeside resort with a beautiful beach, cozy lawn to camp on, great bar overlooking the lake, and a lovely restaurant with great food and good people hanging around.

Lakeside on Hauser. Great place to camp. All I had to do was buy dinner and a glass of wine and camping was free!

Lakeside on Hauser. Great place to camp. All I had to do was buy dinner and a glass of wine and camping was free!

Beautiful spot on the lake. Can you hear Jimmy Buffet singing?

Beautiful spot on the lake. Can you hear Jimmy Buffet singing?

I met Lena and her dog, Ole, who is a Newfoundland, the same breed the Corps of Discovery took along on their expedition. Beautiful dog. And, Lena is pretty cute, too.

I met Lena and her dog, Ole, who is a Newfoundland, the same breed the Corps of Discovery took along on their expedition. Beautiful dog. And, Lena is pretty cute, too.

And, local Helena band, Quarry Road, delighted the crowd Saturday night with great music. See what I mean, great place to layover!

And, local Helena band, Quarry Road, delighted the crowd Saturday night with great music. See what I mean, great place to layover

Conrad and Cheryl Hanes are the owners of Lakeside on Hauser.  They are very hands on owners and run a very successful seasonal business as a result. Things are busy for them as they command this retirement project of theirs, but they have October to look forward to when they return to Billings for the winter.

Conrad and Cheryl Hale owners of Lakeside on Hauser.

Conrad and Cheryl Hale owners of Lakeside on Hauser.

I am so grateful for the Hale’s hospitality the last couple of days. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, big have invited me in for coffee and to work on this blog. Cheryl just fixed me yogurt, blueberries and toast, contributing to a very memorable layover and making it difficult to leave! Actually, the rain is also making it difficult to leave, and it has started raining again as I write this blog post. Perhaps there will be a break in the weather later today. In the meantime, I have a very comfortable place to hang out with great folks!

This is where I hung out most of yesterday while it rained. So lovely!

This is where I hung out most of yesterday while it rained. So lovely!

Finally, Will and some of his friends came to pick me up and take me into Helena so I could shower at Will and Felomina’s home. Because they are doing some remodeling, their washing machine is out of commission, so Joanne and Philip volunteered to do a load of laundry for me. How great is that!? I very much enjoyed their company during our brief time together. Joanne is a kayaking instructor and works on ski patrol. Philip is a singer songwriter guitar-playing blues musician. Wow, we sure have a lot in common!

Philip and Joanne from Helena, MT.

Philip and Joanne from Helena, MT.

Thanks to all of you great Helena folks, and your generous hospitality. Remember Robert, Donna and Paul from Beaverhead Rock? They are also from Helena. A great city providing quality Montanans.

I am finally caught up on my posts. This makes me feel good about moving ahead on my next leg of this journey. This adventure has been nothing short of phenomenal! And, who knows what the future will hold? Can it get any better than this? Wow, three more months can produce incredible experiences.

I hope you enjoy the ride!

Empowerment, education, and environmental stewardship. Think outside the boat!

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

Biking and, finally, paddling

The base of Hell Roaring Canyon, and on down the creek of the same name.

The base of Hell Roaring Canyon, and on down the creek of the same name.

I am sitting in the Shack in Twin Bridges on Tuesday, May 7, a layover day for me after 6 days on the Beaverhead River. I really want to post some photos for my blog followers before I head down the Jefferson River tomorrow. I am running short on time so I will do the best I can here. Of course, my Facebook page contains much more frequent updates. Please like the page if you can. Thanks, all! I appreciate your interest in my adventure!

Long stretches of exquisite beauty. And, a little bit of push.

Long stretches of exquisite beauty. And, a little bit of push, as in stamina.

Starting at the base of Hell Roaring Canyon, and on down Hell Roaring Creek.

Starting at the base of Hell Roaring Canyon, and on down Hell Roaring Creek.

Beautiful vistas

Beautiful vistas

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What an incredible bike ride! Just breathtaking!

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Long gorgeous and gradual downhills.

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Our stop at the end of the first day. Red Rock Creek below the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

 

The start of the second day began with a, yes, flat tire out in the middle of NOwhere! We got 'er done, though. Survival of the fittest.

The start of the second day began with a, yes, flat tire out in the middle of NOwhere! We got ‘er done, though. Survival of the fittest.

 

Long stretches of exquisite beauty. And, a little bit of push, as in stamina.

Long stretches of exquisite beauty. And, a little bit of push, as in stamina.

Finally made it to Lima Dam. Still, onward to the town of Lima.

Finally made it to Lima Dam. Still, onward to the town of Lima.

Lima Dam

Lima Dam

The windy, as in lots of turns, Red Rock River.

The windy, as in lots of turns, Red Rock River.

From the town of Lima I followed the old Highway 191 all but seven miles of the 31 mile stretch. Very peaceful. My support crew followed me closely.

From the town of Lima I followed the old Highway 191 all but seven miles of the 31 mile stretch to Clark Canyon Dam. Very peaceful. My support crew followed me closely.

Two bison mommas and their babies. They had their eye on my from afar.

Two bison mommas and their babies. They had their eye on my from afar.

Finally, after 90-somethin' miles, we made it to Clark Canyon Reservoir and Dam.

Finally, after 90-somethin’ miles, we made it to Clark Canyon Reservoir and Dam in 3 days.

Clark Canyon Reservoir

Clark Canyon Reservoir

Finally, on Wednesday, May 1st, I started paddling. The Beaverhead River was quite a challenge. It is shallow with tight turns and lots of brush producing strainers in which to get entangled if not careful. I came close to dumping my first day, but was saved by the wheel of my wheeleez, my portaging device. I may have sprained my hand in the entanglement, but still paddling. I was worn out for the first three days trying to save Blue Moon from sheer destruction. I have two holes from the second day just above waterline. Duct tape is the miracle cure!

After 3 days of hard paddling, on Saturday I had 25 mph headwinds challenging me. I stayed strong and true to course, though, and after a 9 and a half hour paddle, and close to Beaverhead Rock, I finally found an island to camp on.  Turns out that Robert and Donna were out cruizing around on Robert’s property and they ended up inviting me up for cocktails and chicken dinner. And, a shower, laundry, and place to sleep on their couch!  What a wonderful miracle! Strangers are TRULY an opportunity to make friends. What a great visit we had, which included Paul, too. The three of them are long-time friends from Helena.

My first night out. Cozy camp!

My first night out. Cozy camp!

My first rapids. I skipped the upper and paddled through the lower parts of this.

My first rapids. I skipped the upper and paddled through the lower parts of this.

Strainer, Grrrr! They can flip you over, swamp your boat, punch holes in your ship, and twist your hands and arms. I am happy to be through this challenging part of the Beaverhead River.

Strainers, Grrrr! They can flip you over, swamp your boat, punch holes in your ship, and twist your hands and arms. I am happy to be through this challenging part of the Beaverhead River.

My pelican friends followed me all day Saturday, and after many bends, they finally decided I was okay. They stayed put until I got this photo. Then, they split for the day. Good companions they were.

My pelican friends followed me all day Saturday, and after many bends, they finally decided I was okay. They stayed put until I got this photo. Then, they split for the day. Good companions they were.

Good bye, my friends.

Good bye, my friends.

Diversion dams force me to unload, carry stuff to the other side, place my boat on my wheeleez, pull it over, reload stuff, and take off again.  This particular easy portage took me an hour and a half.

Diversion dams force me to unload, carry stuff to the other side, place my boat on my wheeleez, pull it over, reload stuff, and take off again. This particular easy portage took me an hour and a half.

AFter a long day of paddling on Saturday against 25 mph winds, Robert and Donna happen to be cruizing Robert's property adjacent to Beaverhead Rock. After seeing their Private Propertay signs, with notice that the property was patrolled, I was concerned and so immediately set off to do some peace talking. Turned out they invited me up for cocktails, dinner, laundry, shower, couch, and steak and eggs for dinner. What a wonderful find these folks were, however it happened. L-R, Robert, Donna, and Paul.

AFter a long day of paddling on Saturday against 25 mph winds, Robert and Donna happen to be cruizing Robert’s property adjacent to Beaverhead Rock when I found an island to camp on. After seeing their Private Property signs, with notice that the property was patrolled, I was concerned and so immediately set off to do some peace talking. Turned out they invited me up for cocktails, dinner, laundry, shower, couch, and steak and eggs for breakfast. What a wonderful find these folks were, however it happened. L-R, Robert, Donna, and Paul.

View of Beaverhead Rock from Robert's "cabin"

View of Beaverhead Rock from Robert’s “cabin”

And, another view from the cabin.

And, another view from the cabin.

Not sure what's up with this rancher. Makin' life difficult.

Not sure what’s up with this rancher. Makin’ life difficult.

Besides the pelicans, the muskrats, and sometimes beavers, are my favorite companions. The muskrats are the dolphins of the river. They lead you around the bends. I adore them!

Besides the pelicans, the muskrats, and sometimes beavers, are my favorite companions. The muskrats are the dolphins of the river. They lead you around the bends. I adore them!

Onward towards Twin Bridges. Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 8, I head out on the Jefferson River, my long awaited premium stretch of river.

Onward towards Twin Bridges. Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 8, I head out on the Jefferson River, my long awaited premium stretch of river.

Finally, I have successfully updated this blog. You are a concern of mine, and I want to keep you posted. It is getting dark now. I have finished most of my pizza, a couple of glasses of wine, had a shower earlier today, and have a nice cozy tent to sleep in tonight. I look forward to resuming paddling on the Jefferson River tomorrow. Twin Bridges is an awesome small town of 400. Come and stay if you ever have the chance. I understand the fishing cannot be beat!

My camp at this very cool Bike Park on the waterfront in Twin Bridges, MT. Loved my stay here. Hope to come back. Plus, Mayor Tom is totally laid back, hence the mellow river community of 400 people. Love it!

My camp at this very cool Bike Park on the waterfront in Twin Bridges, MT. Loved my stay here. Hope to come back. Plus, Mayor Tom is totally laid back, hence the mellow river community of 400 people. Love it!

I hope you are enjoying my adventure. I am comforted knowing you are following me and interested in my journey. It has truly turned out to be an epic adventure, and it has only just begun.

Live fast ~ Paddle slow. Be safe and cherish the moment!

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Drivers, Are You Ready? Start Your Engines!

On Sunday, April 14, we enjoyed the warmth of our river community as they sent us on our way from Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River. I find it intriguing that I will be paddling down the entire length of the river for the next 3.5 months beginning in Montana. I have been dreaming about this journey for over seven years. The time had actually come.

Last minute detail: loading the boat, with Dave Bandy.

We have been on the road for nine days. The trip thus far has been fantastic. We have driven on two-lane highways nearly 98% of the trip. Before we actually got out of town, Haley decorated the van.  “I got this, Mom, I used to be a cheerleader.” IMG_0155 We drove through some gorgeous countryside in northern Kansas and southeaster Nebraska.

Gorgeous country. Beautiful Haley.

Gorgeous country. Beautiful Haley.

In Phillipsburg, KS, we had a radiator leak which appeared to be a major obstacle.  The only radiator repair shop in town was completely booked for two days.  I had to drive over and talk to the owner, and tried to convince him that WE REALLY NEEDED HELP.  But, he just could not take us in, and so referred us to Wick’s Muffler and Auto Repair. What a wonderful referral THAT was! IMG_0166 Galen Wickham and his son Gabe got right on it!  Galen brought the car in the shop immediately to try and find the leak. The two of them traced it back to a pinhole leak in a steel hose off of the water pump.  A call was made to Hays, NE, 60 miles to the south.  We crossed our fingers…

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Galen Wickham, left, and son Gabe. Thanks again guys!

Yes, they had the part but all deliveries had already left town.  The best estimate for departure after car work would be about 5:30 that evening. However, I offered to drive to Hays myself and, as it turned out, that is what happened.  Galen loaned me his truck so I could pick up the part. Galen estimated a possible 1:00 departure as a result.  WOW!  Ending up at Galen’s shop was just short of a miracle!  We were back on the road by 2:00. Not only that, he was so intrigued by our expedition, he told his mom and dad and brother about it, and they all chipped in to pay for the repair.  Now, when does THAT ever happen?? Thanks again, Wickham family.  You guys ROCK! I will be telling this story for years. Ron from the local paper, The Advocate of Phillips County, stopped by to ask a few questions about the expedition. Off we went and arrived in Scottsbluff, NE, that night. We got a lovely room and Holiday Inn Express, and enjoyed a hot tub, swim, and had pizza delivered.  The next morning we watched the weather channel very closely while sitting in the breakfast nook at the hotel.  A winter storm was coming up through the panhandle of NE starting today, Tuesday, which is right where we were.  We debated for a couple hours, literally, whether to try and outrun the storm going north, as some guests had already left for Casper, WY.  Eventually, we decided to go for it. Turns out the storm would envelope the entire southeastern portion of WY, and over a foot of snow fell.  We ended up making it as far as Orin Junction, WY, and the roads all around us began to close.  We were 60 miles short of our Casper, WY, destination.  Fortunately, there was a small truck stop at the junction, and we immediately settled in once we knew forward progress was no longer available.

Sinclair Truck Stop at Orin Junction, WY

Sinclair Truck Stop at Orin Junction, WY

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The glorious Teton Mountain Range!

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The Grand Teton

We thoroughly enjoyed our layover at the truck stop, despite the fact we had to sleep in the car that night.  The truck stop closed at 10:00 and reopened at 5:00 AM.  We spent seven hours in the car as the snow fell all around us. The car turned into a makeshift igloo, it appeared, and we stayed warm and cozy wrapped in down sleeping bags, jackets, and a comforter.  What an adventure! image image Strangers are just an opportunity to make friends, and that’s what we all did at the truck stop.  We were thankful that we had such a pleasant and cozy place to hang out, and the food was to beat all. IMG_0201 IMG_0227 IMG_0230 IMG_0237 IMG_0245 Finally on Wednesday the road opened up to Douglas, which was 12 miles up the road.  We opted to make the drive and get a hotel.  Being able to sleep on a bed was nice, but the hotel was less than desirable.  We got out of there first thing in the morning and drove all the way to Jackson, Wyoming.  Our progress was somewhat slowed because of the photo opportunities along the way.  We found it difficult to pass up such beautiful countryside without stopping to take pictures.  I am sure we will not regret the many stops we made. IMG_0251 IMG_0262 IMG_0269 Jackson was a significant destination that we were all looking forward to, and very excited about.  We were finally in some serious mountain country! We were grateful for the chance to view the Teton Mountain Range, which appeared through the clouds majestically and with great grandeur! IMG_0272IMG_0288 IMG_0276 IMG_0306   We loved our stay in Jackson, and our accommodations at the Parkway Inn.  Because this time of year is considered the off-season, we were able to get discounted rates at the hotel.  We loved it!  We stayed two nights and refreshed ourselves by going for a walk, swimming, sitting in the hot tub, and doing laundry. IMG_0331 IMG_0345 IMG_0333 Saturday morning we embarked upon a full ‘day of travel.  We drove north up to Sawtelle Peak so I could check out the conditions of the road we plan on driving up to begin our ski into Brower’s Spring.  We then started driving down Red Rock Road towards Red Rock Pass, which is very close to the exit point of our ski.  Since it was 1:30 PM and temperatures were mild, we opted to stop short of the pass because of the mud.  We stopped and walked down the road and enjoyed a snack lunch while viewing the awesome mountains around which we were surrounded.

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We will be skiing in to Brower’s Spring from Sawtelle Peak tomorrow morning! The spring is behind the mts on the right.

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This was spotted out my car window in Idaho.

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The muddy road into Centennial Valley, where our ski trip will end at Hell Roaring Creek.

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Mountains are everywhere in Montana! Madison Range

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Jefferson River

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Beaver head River at Three Forks

We then drove up towards the Beaverhead and Jefferson River so I could take a look at the rivers I will be paddling within a week, or so.  This was a chance for me to connect with my route and visualize the environment of which I would soon become a part. Finally, we arrived at Base Camp International, Norm Miller and Kristen Walker’s house in Livingston, MT, where all paddlers of the Missouri River, or any river, are welcome to stop and regroup before setting out on the river.

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Norm and I have been in email and phone contact since I decided to embark upon this adventure, so despite the fact we had never met, I felt like we were good friends already.  Our stay here has been nothing less that warm and cozy.  We immediately felt like family, and have enjoyed each others’ company immensely.

Tomorrow we begin our journey into Brower’s Spring. Then, the bike ride to Clark Canyon Dam and finally, Blue Moon hits the water.

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Sponsorship – Near and Far

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Again, I would like to thank Eddyline Kayaks-Swift Paddles, SPOT  and Patagonia for their in-kind donations to LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition.  And, thanks to Black Truck Pictures and Jim Karpowicz for producing the promo video for my GoFundMe page.

I have not yet had a chance to write about the companies who have recently begun sponsoring my expedition.  I will admit that I began to give up on some of the larger companies because they were not responding to my emails.  Companies such as Cascade Designs regarding MSR & Thermarest, Kokatat, PowerFilms, Garmin, and GoPro, to name a few.

Patience is a must as I realize they have hundreds of requests just like mine.  So, I  nudge them, but try not to annoy.  Kokatat, however, has recently brought me on board with sponsorship.  Kokatat is important to me not only because of their high quality gear, but because their home base is in Arcata, a small town on the north coast of California, and home to the first college I attended fresh out of high school (yes, that would be in 1974).

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In the meantime, I determined to stop by and speak to the owners and/or managers of our local outdoor sports businesses to see if they would share in the wisdom that my proposal for support is a win-win deal for both of us.

I am happy to announce that all of our home-town businesses have come on board with in-kind donations, although I have not yet met with Alpine Shop.  We have an appointment to meet next week.

Having support from local businesses is important to me.  We should all be supporting each other at the grass-roots level.

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Carl Kimbel of Klunk Bicycles, and his assistant Josh, is constructing a used road (on & off) bike for me to use in the event I will be riding alongside frozen waterways, which is anticipated.  From the Tribune article (click on photo above), Kimbel said the shop’s main appeal is its selection of used bikes. “We bring old bikes back to life,” he said.

I am very grateful for Carl’s bike (loan) donation, and I love his “grass-roots” business.

So, three cheers to Walt’s

Copy of waltlogowebidea23

CycleXtreme

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Tryathletics

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and Klunk Bicycles !!!

Kokatat, premier technical paddling apparel and accessories, is offering me their sponsorship deal of 30% off wholesale.  I have been waiting “patiently” for their response as I really wanted their gear for my trip.  I will purchase, using my grassroots sponsorship donations (thank you all!), dry suit bibs with socks, a paddling jacket-shirt-pants-shorts, neoprene mitts and gloves and shoes.  Oh, and a personal flotation device (PFD).  My paddling clothing supply should be complete, except for some knee high neoprene boots, ideal for hopping out in swift water sharp turns obstructed by barbed-wire or sheet metal fencing.  That is, only if this section on The Red Rock River is not frozen over.

(Photo courtesy of Rod Wellington at www.ZeroEmissionsExpeditions.com)

Red Rock River
(Photo courtesy of Rod Wellington at http://www.zeroemissionsexpeditions.com/

I am now looking at acquiring essentials such as a tent (MSR 2P Hubba Hubba), down sleeping bag, stove, Thermarest pad, GPS device, roll-up solar charger,  TEVA sandals, and a GoPro camera.

And, for documenting my trip in preparation for books and video documentary publishing, I have one significant wish-list item:  a MacBookPro laptop.

Patience is a virtue.

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Bob Bellingham’s MSR Hubba Hubba tent, complete with
gorgeous sunset on Oahe Lake.
Hey, is that sunset included?  I’ll take two, please!

If you would like to donate to my expedition, please visit my Donations Opportunities page on this blog, or my GoFundMe page online at

LoveYourBigMuddyExpedition 4 Education

Your support is sincerely and greatly appreciated.

Live fast ~ Paddle slow

See you on the river.

Love your Big Muddy!

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Categories: Sponsorship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

PLANNING:

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

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

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

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

 The Complete Paddler

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

Rand McNally Map of Upper Missouri River

Rand McNally Map of Upper Missouri River

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

Army Corps of Engineers Map - Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

Army Corps of Engineers Map – Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

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

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

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

Lake Sakakawea video by Dom Liboiron

Lake Oahe (Photo by Dom Liboiron)

Lake Oahe
(Photo by Dom Liboiron)

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

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

FOOD AND WATER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dom Liboiron resupplying food.

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

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

CANOE OR KAYAK?

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

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

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

Norm's Kruger canoe

Norm’s Kruger canoe

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

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

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

GEAR:

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

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

Norm's tent

Norm’s tent

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

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

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

Dom Liboiron using his sail.

Dom Liboiron using his sail.

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

Clothing:

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

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

A TYPICAL DAY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norm Miller Stealth Camping

Norm Miller Stealth Camping

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the round side down!

Cheers

Norm Miller

Livingston, Montana

Base Camp International

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

Updates on Sponsorship, Funding, Promotion, & Preparation

I spent nearly all day on the computer yesterday.  I find that easy to do these days.  Writing a single letter of request for a donation takes a lot of time.  I try and carefully consider what I am writing to each company.   Much time is taken just to research company websites, find a product that best meets my needs, search out a place to apply for sponsorship/product donation for that company, and/or find a marketing manager’s name to address on a letter.  Then, a clear and concise letter of request is composed (and they are all different) to personally address that company and their product.

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These days gear companies are pretty organized with their online sponsorship request systems (sign of the times).  Some companies will let you know that if your purpose does not fall into their provided categories, don’t even bother to apply (like REI and North Face).  Others will let you know that they will try and respond within 48 hours, five to ten business days, or within four months.  I realize that it is important to apply to several companies, however, you have to plan for many hours in order to search for sponsorships.

I found out pretty early on that some companies won’t bother with you if you are not a “celebrity” athlete.  I understand that.  That is why the companies that have chosen to help me out are incredibly special and I hope to reward them with ample promotion.  I am determined that my partnership with them will be a win-win situation.  Thanks again to big company in-kind donations from Eddyline Kayaks/Swift Paddles, SPOT, title nine, and Patagonia for supporting my expedition.

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So, yesterday I requested donations from Katadyn Group (Optimus stove and freeze-dried/dehydrated foods), Sea to Summit (sleeping bag and dry sacks), GoPro (camera), and Smith Optics (sunglasses).  I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a Marketing Manager for Apple to request a Mac Book Pro.  I know, what are the chances?  But, if you don’t ask, you don’t even get a shot.  I will have to send them a snail mail letter, pretty sure, and that doesn’t mean it will get read.  I will also ask Sprint if they will give me six months of all-data service for an I-Phone that I can’t buy yet.  A long-shot but, again, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Think BIG!

Other companies I have sent requests to are Garmin (GPS), Marmot (sleeping bag), InReach (denied because I’m not a celebrity adventurer), Cascade Designs (tent, stove, Thermarest pad), PowerFilm, Inc. (solar-powered roll-up panel), Kokatat (paddling clothes), and KC Paddlers.  Still waiting for a response from these folks.  Others yet to contact are Seal Line (dry bags, PFD (life jacket)), Teva (sandals), other tent and sleeping bag companies, and a backpack company.  I will need to find more paddling companies to research for gear.

I have not asked any companies for money.  I think they like to see some successful accomplishments before they sponsor an expedition with cash.  Hopefully, someone will connect with what I am doing and jump on board…soon.

Even more special are some of my dear friends who have donated financially.  Thank you Bill and Anne Diehl, and Karen and Ric McCann – good friends from Bear Valley days.  Also,  my dear friend Deb Miller and best friend, Dave Bandy.  You are the first.  Thank you so much!!!

I am beginning to try some foods to bring along.  I have a few Knorr side dishes to try at $1 a pop, which include mashed potatoes, rice dishes, and pasta, of course.  I want to make sure I have plenty of comfort foods.  I will try and contact some companies for food donations.  Not sure who yet.

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So, this is the bulk of the work I have to do.  Hopefully, I will not have to purchase a tent and sleeping bag.  After five months of not working due to student teaching, and substituting part time for $70/day, I will soon need to take out a loan, or launch into a fundraising campaign, or both.  I’d like to avoid another loan.  My student loans are enough to keep me occupied.

My boat is all set except to remove the old keel protection strip and apply a new one, which Eddyline has provided.  I need to sand some scratches and fill them up.  And, I need to set up my rudder.  Oh, I have to rechristen the boat with the new name:  Blue Moon.

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I have ordered 200 more stickers after giving away the first 100.  The blog address will be larger on the new ones.

L-R, Dave Cornthwaite, Rod Wellington, Dale Sanders

L-R, Dave Cornthwaite, Rod Wellington, Dale Sanders

I  also designed a new business card last night because the first batch did not turn out visually as nice as it appeared on the computer screen.  No surprise.  You get what you pay for and they were cheap.  Here is a picture (a little fuzzy) of my new design I created with MOO.  They should arrive in about a week.

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The promo video will be ready in a week or so.  Thank you Jim Karpowicz and Tom Newcomb of Black Truck Pictures.  I hope to start an organized fundraising campaign then, perhaps with GoFundMe, or something of that nature.  You can visit my Donation Opportunities page, which I have set up with tier-level rewards for financial donations.  Please consider donating financially to help with the success of the expedition.

This sign points to Red Rock Mountain and Mount Jefferson, situated on the Continental Divide. This sign is visible here at the entrance to Alaska Basin in Montana. Looking east.

This sign points to Red Rock Mountain and Mount Jefferson, situated on the Continental Divide. Sawtelle Peak is behind and to the right and will be our entry into Brower’s Spring.

Norm Miller will be skiing into Brower’s Spring with me and has tracked down a pair of skis and boots from his friend who is loaning them to me.  I am thankful for that.  I may try and find a bike donation, or just bring my own.  It is nothing special, and pretty heavy, but it is a comfortable ride.  Someone may have to talk some sense into me to try and get a good bike to ride the sixty or more miles from the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to Clark Canyon Reservoir where I am planning to put in a boat.

Pronghorn and calf

Pronghorn and calf at wildlife refuge

The Red Rock River on that stretch is complicated by private land with barbed-wire fences crossing through the river, electrical fencing doing the same, corrugated sheet-metal dams, and snag piles forcing numerous portages and body submerges.  The road follows that stretch on which I will ride my bike.

Hell Roaring Canyon and Creek, exiting the mountains. (Nemesis Mt. to the left of canyon.)

Hell Roaring Canyon and Creek, exiting the mountains. (Nemesis Mt. to the left of canyon.)  This is where we will come out of the canyon.  Our route heads back and winds way up to the left.

Finally, I spend a fair amount of time on my blog posts.  I try to make them interesting with good visual accompaniments.  They take much longer, sometimes hours, than my more spontaneous updates on my Facebook page:  Love Your Big Muddy Expedition.  If you have not, please like my FB page.  Sponsors like to see lots of page “likes.”  Of course, I like to see the support.  You actually are supporting my expedition indirectly by liking and following my pages and blog.  THANK YOU!

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

So, if you are wondering when this epic adventure begins, it already has.  I will be leaving for Montana with my daughter and a friend on the morning of April 14, the day after my Science Teacher Certification Exam.  I hope to start the trek with my ski into Brower’s Spring on or near April 20th.  Maybe I will find myself at Three Forks on May 1st.  That would be ideal.   I cannot wait to see the mountains and begin the adventure of my lifetime.  Or, perhaps the first of many.  Cheers!

Winter view of the Centennials here. Wind blows frequently to obscure the road completely with snow in February.

Winter view of the Centennials here. Wind blows frequently to obscure the road completely with snow in February (hopefully, not April!).

Categories: Planning, Sponsorship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A New Chapter Begins

I sold my 1982 diesel VW Vanagon pop-up camper today for much more than I could have wished for (eBay, where have you been all my life).  Thanks for all the good times, SloPoke!  Buyer and Seller both happy with the deal.  This money will help pay for the boat/gear and/or Rio’s surgery.  Who, by the way, is doing great, considering…

He loves the river, along with his sister, Sapphire…

It was a very good day.  The trek is coming into view more and more each day, especially now that I have a boat and much gear.   Special thanks to Michael Clark for allowing me to store the boat and gear at his place over the winter.  And, today is also the first official day of my early retirement from the University of Missouri.  Woo hoo!  Let the new chapter begin!!!

Categories: Planning | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Boat…CHECK!

I am buying Bob Bellingham’s Shasta and all his gear for $1800.

“Thank you, Bob, if you ever read this, as I am grateful that you accepted (not without a fair amount of ribbing) my much-reduced-offer from your original request.  I will conduct a proper ceremony for the rechristening and name change of the Barbara May, per our discussion at Cooper’s.  And, you can count on me drinking a beer in your honor regularly along the way.  Although, probably not as frequently as you were given the opportunity to knock one back on your journey.”  😉  Cheers!

I have posted my 1982 diesel VW Camper Van on eBay to, hopefully, get enough money to pay for the boat and gear.  And, I posted my Prijon Seayak ($1500 (obo)) on CraigsList and eBay with the hope I can get Rio Oso’s ACL surgery scheduled.

Rio Oso, my river bear.

Categories: Planning | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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