From The Journals of Lewis and Clark -edited by Bernard DeVoto
[Lewis] Friday May 31st 1805
“The hills and river Clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance…The earth on the top of these Clifts is a dark rich loam, which forming a graduly ascending plain extends back from ½ a mile to a mile where the hills commence and rise abruptly to a hight of about 300 feet more.
…in other places on a much nearer approach and with the help of less imagination we see the remains or ruins of elegant buildings; some columns standing and almost entire with their pedestals and capitals; others retaining their pedestals but deprived by time or accident of their capitals, some lying prostrate an broken othe[r]s in the form of vast pyramids of conic structure bearing a serees of other pyramids on their tops becoming less as they ascend and finally terminating in a sharp point.
Nitches and alcoves of various forms and sizes are seen at different hights as we pass…As we passed on it seemed as if those seens of visionary inchantment would never have and [an] end; for here it is too that nature presents to the view of the traveller vast ranges of walls of tolerable workmanship…These walls rise to the hight in many places of 100 feet, are perpendicular, with two regular faces and are from one to 12 feet thick, each wall retains the same thickness at top which it possesses at bottom.”
(Photos by Norm Miller)
White Cliffs in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT
I still have a lot to learn, but I cannot for the life of me think of a reason why anyone would NOT want The Missouri River Breaks National Monument preserved as a wilderness area for future generations. Nope, cannot think of one reason.
It was with great pleasure and gratitude that I spent yesterday morning at the river with my daughter, Haley Moreland, Jim Karpowicz, and Tom Newcomb. Jim and Tom volunteered their time, expertise, and film equipment to shoot a promotional video for the expedition. Haley agreed to interview for the clip, and she helped by photographing the occasion. The purpose for the video is to utilize one of the online fundraising programs, such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe, with the video. Ideally, the donations generated will help pay for the trip and, ultimately, get a book started. Getting the trip accomplished will be the first step in getting a book started.
Jim and Tom are long-time colleagues creating films for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), among other things. They have recently been assigned a project with the MDC focused on Missouri mountain lions. I know, right?! Mountain lions! Good luck, guys. Be careful out there.
Tom is a cameraman for CBS in STL, Jim has done work for The Documentary Group, and you can find other projects by going to Tom’s website at www.blacktruckpictures.com. Among a host of other undertakings by them, you can find a fascinating video about Lewis and Clark from the website here.
Although the morning was quite cold and crisp, I enjoyed getting in the kayak and paddling around a bit for the shoot. And, the guys setting up the interviewing studio at the end of a wing dike was particularly intriguing, if not a little intimidating (they ran an extension cord all the way out there!). We built a nice fire in Cooper’s bonfire ring, so the warmth from the fire made the experience quite comfortable and especially pleasant. Although, that could be a result of the warm-hearted individuals present. (That includes you, J.W., thanks for building the fire!)
Interviewing on film is not one of my strengths. Jim and Tom will need to work their magic. They assured me not to worry. Really, I am just humbled by the experience, and extremely grateful for our Missouri River community and the support I am receiving for the expedition. Not to mention the support I am receiving from my friends, some old, some new, some near and some far! I may have to post a happy dance similar to Rod Wellington’s portage dances :).
I love this quote from Lewis and Clark’s journals, as highlighted in Tom’s Lewis and Clark video. Over and over again, despite the circumstances, they continued to write: “We proceeded on.” I’m going to remember that one.
What does it take to paddle down the Mighty Missouri River from Montana to St. Louis?
I personally don’t think there is a formula as in hind sight, the experiences of others who have taken the challenge are all different. I think it maybe more of a personality type that can just go and take off for weeks or months…especially alone.
I am very comfortable being alone, which is not the same as being lonely. Some people are more secure with themselves than with a group of people. I’ve had friends tell me that they could never paddle and camp for weeks alone. When I hear this I get the sense that they don’t know themselves well enough. For me, it’s always been a way of life. I’ve been very independent all my life. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of friends to roam the neighborhood as a child, building forts, playing army, hiking and fishing and just plain escaping from our parents. I also spent many hours alone, comfortable being solo.
I often wondered that if everyone who has gone on a long paddle trip took the same personality profile, if we would all score the same rating? For the most part I am very shy, which some people find hard to believe. As a child I use to hide under my bed when relatives would come over, only to come out after they left. Now that I’m near 50-years old I feel more at ease around people, especially groups. But there are times when I must seek the shelter of my cave and go run off solo somewhere.
I personally feel more at ease when life is simple. I often feel I was born 200-years too late. I love to camp and enjoy the peace that I find along rivers or travelling abroad solo. I’m comfortable being in foreign countries and not knowing the language. I get by easily with sign language and drawing pictures to communicate to people.
To me if you can paddle all day, set up camp, cook your food, clean up your mess, go to bed, get up in the morning and repeat everything, then paddling two-three months is not that big a deal. It becomes far more of an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey than a physical one. My mind is always at battle wondering about things, my well being, what if’s, do’s and don’ts. In 2004 while paddling up the Missouri I was at a constant battle with myself. The main issue was the slow pace in which I moved. I could have easily walked much faster than I was paddling. In the strong currents of the lower river, 2-mph hour was my tops speed. So, living in the 20th century with all the high-speed fast paced lives we all lived, slowing down to a snail’s pace was very difficult. I had to concentrate on the small picture, never the final destination. My mantra was “one stroke at a time will get you to the ocean.” I had to stay focused on the bend ahead, the distant tree or bridge and never the Pacific! I would have gone insane had I not slowed my mind set. “River Time” is what many paddlers talk about; slowing down the pace of the world, the natural environment and not the speedy rate that most follow.
Being able to adapt to changing conditions is another factor that is helpful. On my first big paddle trip I started off very set in my beliefs as to how the day should go. I didn’t accept change very easy. Well, that only lasted about a week and I knew that nature dictated much more than I ever imagined. The weather was the biggest factor. Wind and storms will tell you when you can and cannot paddle. So get use to watching the sky, feeling the wind, observing the weather. It truly tells a lot. After a week or two you can get much better than the weatherman at determining what the forecast will be for the day. There will be times when you just have to wait it out. I’ve spent days wind-bound to a tent, waiting for a break to proceed onward. Don’t be in a hurry. Enjoy the storms, the hail, the tornados, the flooding, the snow, the lightning and the intense sun. Explore the surrounding shore, the distant hillsides. I’ve spent hours in N. Canada on a remote river on my knees looking at stones. I’ve found some amazing things while wandering around waiting for the wind to abate; from Inuit burial grounds, old buildings, rare animal sightings, hot springs, and even a family gathering with plenty of cold beer. Being stranded in the wind is also a good time to rest, to catch up on that needed sleep. I’ve come to love the wind! It has become my friend. I no longer curse it but enjoy its gifts and wonder.