Adventure Kayak Magazine Interview-February 20, 2014

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I just received an email from Virginia Marshall today letting me know that they had published our Q & A interview conducted last month. I like it. Hope you do to.

Also, look for another expedition post soon about the Missouri River stretch between Fort Peck Dam and Fort Union (at the Montana-North Dakota Border).  Still going through lots and lots of photos and videos. Oh, and I made my first iMovie video short. I’ll post that once I figure out how to do it.

Cheers! Hope you enjoy the interview…

On the Jefferson River. Photo courtesy of Norm Miller
On the Jefferson River. Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

Q&A with Big Muddy Paddler

  • Janet Moreland paddled 3,800 miles down the Missouri River. She’s just getting started.

Janet Moreland believes it is never too late to pursue your passions. The 56-year-old mother from Columbia, Missouri, graduated from university with a degree in education in December 2012. Less than four months later, she set out in Blue Moon, her 17-foot Eddyline Shasta tandem kayak, on a 3,800-mile expedition from the headwaters of the Missouri River at Brower’s Spring, Montana, to the Gulf of Mexico. On December 5, 2013, she became the first woman to complete a solo, source-to-sea descent of the Missouri/Mississippi River system, the fourth longest river in the world.

Who is Janet Moreland?

I love the outdoors and strive to immerse myself in the natural environment whenever possible. I spent much of my youth in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains ski mountaineering, and windsurfing the northern California rivers, bays and waves. I began canoeing rivers when I moved to Missouri in 1994, and started kayaking the Missouri River in 2001 after moving to Columbia, MO, in 1996.

You can often find me three miles down the road from my house on or near the Missouri River at Mile 170, Cooper’s Landing, where I spend much of my time walking my dog, paddling, or enjoying the company of our large river community.

 

Do you remember the moment you decided to walk out your door to take on a solo Missouri River source to sea? What was the biggest factor that motivated you?

One of the biggest motivating factors was the notion that I would be the first woman to paddle the entire length of the Missouri River solo. This turned out to be very inspiring for many women, students, and men, following my expedition. Later, I realized I would also become the first American to journey from source to sea.

 

You write on your blog that your mission for this trip included empowerment, education and environmental stewardship. How do you meet these lofty goals and paddle 3,800 miles?

Well, the journey is not over until the mission bears fruit. I am still actively working on realizing these goals. The first step in my trip was to complete the paddle successfully. Many who followed my trip on Facebook or on my blog were very inspired that a 56-year-old woman was attempting such a grand and challenging expedition. Also, I wanted to model for school-age children that they can overcome challenging obstacles and be successful in achieving their goals. Many of my students from last year were excited about my attempt, and followed me on social media.

Regarding education, I tried to share as much of my experience on the river as I could, including some cultural and historical information. I wanted to increase awareness of Missouri River Relief, a dynamic non-profit organization dedicated to the stewardship of the Missouri River, as well as educating our youth and communities about the river, on the river. While I was on my expedition, River Relief was conducting river cleanup events on the river from St. Louis to Washington to Kansas City to Omaha.

Who are your paddling heroes, who inspired you and who continues to?

Well, Norman Miller was my go-to guy when deciding and planning this expedition. He was a motivating factor as well. He paddled up the Missouri River in 2004 for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration. He followed their route up the river, over the Rocky Mountains, and back on the water to the Pacific Ocean.

I made a point of meeting all of the 2012 long-distance paddlers (LDPs) on the Missouri River when they passed by Cooper’s Landing. I enjoyed talking to all of them about their journey and took mental notes. So, some heroes include Dave Miller, author of The Complete Paddler, and the one who planted the seed in 2005 when he passed through Cooper’s Landing (Norman Miller watered that seed last summer), Bob Bellingham, Mark Kalch, Dave Cornthwaite (swimmer), Rod Wellington, and Dominique Liboiron. The LDPs I paddled with this year, Reed and Josh, Shawn Hollingsworth, and Scott Mestrezat are also my heroes, and I consider them my river brothers.

The MR340 paddlers are also my heroes. Anyone who immerses themselves in a 340-mile race across the state, on the Missouri River, is inspiring to me and a hero in my book. Stand-up paddle boarder, Shane Perrin, is my hero in this regard.

 

What kayak did you use to take on the Beaverhead, Jefferson, Missouri and Mississippi rivers during your Source to Sea expedition, and why?

I paddled an Eddyline Shasta kayak on my journey. Paddlers Andy Bugh, 2011, and Bob Bellingham, 2012, paddled the same kayak. In fact, I bought Bob’s kayak from him before he flew home to Australia. The boat is a 17’ tandem open cockpit carbonlite kayak and very stable. And, the open cockpit makes it more roomy that the standard plastic mold sea kayak. I did not want to be cramped inside a tight cockpit. I love my boat. We could go anywhere in extreme conditions and I never felt nervous about capsizing.

The Shasta was challenging on the Beaverhead because the river is narrow, windy, swift and shallow. I had a 12.5’ plastic kayak with me, but my support crew needed to head back to Missouri so I just put in with Blue Moon, my Shasta, and went for it. I put two holes in it on the second day. Oh well, they were above water line and duct tape fixed it until I stopped over at Norman Miller’s house near Three Forks and I fiberglass patched the holes.

Photo courtesy of Norm Miller
Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

What were the highlights of this journey? Was there anywhere along the route that you would highly recommend to paddlers that they might not know about?

There are so many highlights of the journey that I cannot name them all. I will say that the ski in to Brower’s Spring at the source was a highlight. We planned on a seven-hour ski, but it took us 31 hours. We were totally unprepared to spend the night, but we managed. The Jefferson River in Montana was a beautiful stretch of river. Fort Peck Lake was some serious wilderness paddling. I had already gone two weeks without internet in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument, and then another two weeks on Fort Peck Lake. I felt very isolated and exposed to wilderness. I loved it. I have had wilderness yearnings all my life, and that experience fulfilled them. And, the Mississippi River turned out to be a wonderful romantic experience. I fell in love with the sandbars, the tow and barges, the freighters, the wildlife, and the river. My Mississippi River experience far surpassed my expectations.

 

Favorite location you pitched your tent? Least favorite?

Numerous favorite locations I called home for a night, or two. One that sticks out was on the Mississippi River just below the Arkansas River confluence across from the Chicot City navigation light. I camped on a sandbar shelf, which positioned me up, and looking out, over a narrow bend in the river. I was protected from the north by a long hedge of willow trees. I love being up high, and I love having the tow and barges passing close by. The tow and barges have a romantic feel to me because I believe the pilots of these boats would be navigating the river in steamboats if they were living in that era. The river is their life, so I felt at home navigating amongst them. The fog on the river the next morning was exquisite and I managed to capture the moment with photography.

Least favorite camp was on Fort Peck Lake in a low-lying cove with no trees and covered with mud. It was here that I experienced one of the several severe electrical storms on my trip. I bolted out of this site first thing in the morning, wallowing in mud. Ugh.

 

Reading your blog, one is struck by the many helpful, hospitable folks you met along your journey. Can you tell us about a few who stand out most in your mind?

This is a very difficult question to answer. There are sooooo many river angels. People up and down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were very supportive and wanted to be a part of my success. People were constantly asking me if I needed anything, offering food and a place to sleep, gear needs, coming out to paddle with me, picking me up off the river and taking me into their homes, sharing their lives and families with me. Some were strangers who just gave me cash because that was the only way they had to support me and help me. It was unbelievable. The people who cared about me and my success are the greatest memories of this expedition.

 

Did you ever come across people who just didn’t get what you were doing, or told you it was dangerous or foolish?

On the drive up to Montana we had to replace a windshield wiper and the manager of the store, upon explaining to him what I was doing responded by saying, “Well, THAT seems like a big waste of time. Why would you want to do THAT?” Then, his employee came out and replaced the wiper, and offered kind words of encouragement. I learned early on that such an expedition is not for everybody.

All of us LDPs this year can tell the same story of people warning us about Fort Peck Lake and how people die on that lake. They all told us the same warnings: winds come out of nowhere and huge swells and waves will swamp you and people drown on the lake all the time. Very discouraging messages, and taken with an element of caution. Fort Peck Lake made us all stronger and wiser for Lake Sakakawea, 178 miles long, and Oahe Lake, 230 miles long, the two huge lakes still ahead on our journeys.

 

Was there ever a point you would rather have been doing something else, or a place you just couldn’t wait to escape due to unhappy circumstances?

I never experienced unhappy circumstances that discouraged me. I never felt that I would not complete this expedition, or that it was a burden. I loved every minute of this journey and was very sad when the river ran out and I had no more paddling to do. I can never duplicate this journey. It is over. I want to share it, though, in presentations and writing, and will get a book out there in due time.

 

What advice would you offer to anyone contemplating a long trip or solo journey?

Do what you love and love what you do. If there is any doubt as to the journey you are embarking on, and whether you will be content or successful, take some time to consider if you are doing the right thing.  Consider your reasons for doing it. Your mission is an important motivator.  If you are inspiring others, you will likely succeed and be fulfilled while doing it.

 

What’s next for you?

I have lots of things I am thinking about, including writing a book, teaching school full time, and presenting my experience around the country. That said, I am scheduled to be the featured speaker at the Quiet Water Symposium on March 1, 2014, in East Lansing, Michigan. I also have [another] major river expedition I have begun researching.

As told to Virginia Marshall

To see the story online, click here

Do what you love and love what you do.

Live fast and paddle slow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I just love the desolation and beauty!

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Prickly Pear Cactus, IN BLOOM! So beautiful
Prickly Pear Cactus, IN BLOOM! So beautiful
Well, hello there! A young Timber Rattler
Well, hello there! A young Timber Rattler
An indication of the storm to come.
An indication of the storm to come. This is looking toward the direction I needed to go.
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From whence the storm would come
The storm kicked up some high winds and big waves. Yep, pretty happy I was not out on the lake.
The storm kicked up some high winds and big waves. Yep, pretty happy I was not out on the lake. But rather, I was drinking orange pekoe tea and eating dark chocolate. 🙂

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

So happy to not get out and step into mud
So happy to not get out and step into mud

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The water was getting more clear the further down the lake I went.
The lake water was almost as clear, before filtering, as my drinking water.
The lake water was almost as clear (bottle on right), before filtering, as my drinking water.

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

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

Yuk
Yuk

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

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

I

I spent the windy hours hiking to the ridge tops. The views were always spectacular.
I spent the windy hours hiking to the ridge tops. The views were always spectacular.
I was able to get cell service, finally, but not internet. I called home. What fun it was talking to a dear friend after no internet service for two weeks. I was invigorated.
I was able to get cell service, finally, but not internet. I called home. What fun it was talking to a dear friend after no internet service for two weeks. I was invigorated.

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

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

Do what you love, and love what you do.

Love Your Big Muddy

Fort Peck Reservoir-Finally We Meet

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

 

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

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

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

 

Nowhere to pull over for miles and miles.
Nowhere to pull over for miles and miles.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

I enjoyed a warm and beautiful day with glassy waters all day.
I enjoyed a warm and beautiful day with glassy waters all day.
This is a gorgeous Pronghorn deer buck, also known as an antelope (but there is some controversy about that). He had a herd of six females with him.
This is a gorgeous Pronghorn deer buck, also known as an antelope (but there is some controversy about that). He had a herd of six females with him. He was not comfortable with my presence.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Pelican sitting on a sandbar that was just barely showing.
Pelican sitting on a sandbar that was just barely showing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do what you love, and love what you do.

You CAN do it.

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

Snapshots of LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition

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

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

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

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

RAINBOWCAMP

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=619718804729649

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

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

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

Carter Ferry
Carter Ferry
I opted to try and set up camp at the boat ramp, rather than a mile downstream at the canoe camp. I was leary about it, but a cop was sitting there so I asked him and he said it would be fine. He said he and the night shift officer would keep an eye on me. Sweet!
I opted to try and set up camp at the boat ramp in Fort Benton, rather than a mile upstream at the canoe camp. I was leary about it, but a police officer was sitting there in the parking lot, so I asked him and he said it would be fine. He said he and the night shift officer would keep an eye on me. Sweet!
This is it, but the inside is cozy and dry. Well, except at 1:50 AM when the darn automatic sprinkler came on for 40 or so minutes. Geez. The last night there I took off the tarp because the storm had passed, but I forgot about the sprinkler. My tent fly got soaked after staying dry through the whole storm. Kinda funny.
This is it, but the inside is cozy and dry. Well, except at 1:50 AM when the darn automatic sprinkler comes on for 40 or so minutes every night. Geez. The last night there I took off the tarp because the storm had passed, but I forgot about the sprinkler. My tent fly got soaked after staying dry through the whole storm. Kinda funny.
Fort Benton's riverside walk is lined with historic information signs for a long ways. It is fun learning about the town's history while walking along the river, which is, of course, where most of the town's historic events took place. That is a walking bridge in the background and has benches and picnic tables on it.
Fort Benton’s riverside walk is lined with historic information signs for a long ways. It is fun learning about the town’s history while walking along the river, which is, of course, where most of the town’s historic events took place. That is a walking bridge in the background and has benches and picnic tables on it.
Here is a view of the riverfront levee from the walking bridge.
Here is a view of the riverfront levee from the walking bridge.
This sweet cafe was right across the street. The waitress was so nice, she let me stay there all day until closing at around 2:00. It was a nice rainy day hang.
This sweet cafe was right across the street. The waitress was so nice, she let me stay there all day until closing at around 2:00. I didn’t stay there all day every day. Just the first day. The other days I left before closing, and I went to the library, too. It was a nice rainy day hang.
The coffee was delicious and so were the breakfasts and lunches. I had an omelette two mornings in a row.
The coffee was delicious and so were the breakfasts and lunches. I had an omelette two mornings in a row.
This is Nikki, my very sweet waitress at the Wake Cup. I wanted a photo of her, for that reason. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was leaving that I learned she was the ranger in the Breaks National Monument for three years previous. It would have been nice to chat, but she was usually very busy. Very nice, though, and currently the volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Missouri River Breaks.
This is Nikki, my very sweet waitress at the Wake Cup. I wanted a photo of her, for that reason. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was leaving that I learned she was the ranger in the Breaks National Monument for three years previous. It would have been nice to chat, but she was usually very busy. Very nice, though, and currently the volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Missouri River Breaks.
River Break was the coolest little bookstore with all kinds of interesting books and used gear, rocks and stuff.
River Break was the coolest little bookstore with all kinds of interesting books and used gear, rocks and stuff.
Tom is the owner of River Breaks. He gave me a great deal on three books. What an interesting and knowledgeable guy. This is a must stop in Fort Benton. Please note, he does no have a hostel up and running, or showers, laundry and shuttle. These are part of his dream.
Tom is the owner of River Breaks. He gave me a great deal on three books. What an interesting and knowledgeable guy. This is a must stop in Fort Benton. Please note, he does no have a hostel up and running, or showers, laundry and shuttle. These are part of his dream. Go for it, Tom!
Side of the Upper Missouri River Museum building, located right next to my camp. Fort Benton was also next door.
Side of the Upper Missouri River Museum building, located right next to my camp. Fort Benton was also next door.
Outside of the Fort
Outside of the Fort

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

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The "block" today
The “block” today

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Today
Today
This map shows my route coming up, all the way through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. (Coal Banks to James Kipp Recreation Area,)
This map shows my route coming up, all the way through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. (Coal Banks to James Kipp Recreation Area)
It rained and rained and rained. The rain stops eventually, and now it was time to move on down the river. Fort Benton is a town that will warm your heart, and get you interested in the Missouri River and its connection to our country's history and culture.
It rained and rained and rained. The rain stops eventually, and now it was time to move on down the river. Fort Benton is a town that will warm your heart, and get you interested in the Missouri River and its connection to our country’s history and culture.

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

Do what you love, and love what you do!

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

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!