Posts Tagged With: Missouri Breaks

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

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

Fort Benton to Coal Banks Landing-June 1-4

This trip is so fantastic, every day is a new adventure. However, the journey is so broad in scope that even I have to break it down into chunks, or categories, in order to write in my journal. Otherwise, I think to myself, where do I begin??

Some of the areas that this journey embraces are the wildlife, geology, geography, paddling, challenges, and social interactions (the awesome people I meet along the way).  Because I want to capture all of the various aspects of each and every bend in the river, I have accumulated numerous photos to help document my experiences. Here is just a taste of this short section of my trip.

On June 1, I took off from Fort Benton after an enjoyable stay. I knew it would be an easy paddle to Coal Banks Landing, a launching point into the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. As with any day, though, I’m not always sure where will campsite will be for the night.

My camp between Fort Benton and Coal Banks, which is the developed campground right before entering the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I had to find a spot in a hurry because it was getting late. A little muddy, on the upriver point of an island, but level.

My camp between Fort Benton and Coal Banks, which is the developed campground right before entering the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I had to find a spot in a hurry because it was getting late. A little muddy, on the upriver point of an island, but level.

Tim was surprised, and somewhat startled, to find this, umm, artifact imbedded in the beach.

I found this skull right at the point of the island by my camp. Kind of disturbing. Found out later it is a bison skull, the bison likely finished off with a blow to the head, which was a common tactic among Native Americans back in the day.

I found this skull right at the point of the island by my camp. Kind of disturbing. Found out later it is a bison skull, the bison likely finished off with a blow to the head, which was a common tactic among Native Americans back in the day.

I have fond memories of this campsite, despite the muddy beach, because of the 70’s music they were playing on the radio. Those were the days when the world open wide, and the anticipation of what could be was scintillating.

Further down I stopped at the Virgelle Ferry. An Indian man visiting America happened to be there and wanted to ride the ferry across and back. He asked me if I wanted to go, so I said, “sure”!

The gentleman from India and his son from Kansas City. The Indian man just wanted a ride, and asked me if I wanted to come along. Heck ya!

The gentleman from India and his son from Kansas City. The Indian man just wanted a ride, and asked me if I wanted to come along. Heck ya!

The Virgelle Ferry

The Virgelle Ferry

The cables of the cable ferry, only one of six functioning in the United States.

The cables of the cable ferry, only one of six functioning in the world.

Beautiful mountains and I'm not even in the Breaks, yet.

Beautiful mountains and I’m not even in the Breaks, yet.

I arrived in Coal Banks after just a few hours the next day. Dominique Liboiron was coming to visit me there, since the location was close to his home in Saskatchewan, Canada. Last year, Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan to New Orleans in honor of his uncle who died of heart disease age the early age of 42. Dom carried his ashes to disperse in New Orleans, a city his uncle fell in love with.

So great to see Dominique again. When he was paddling on his expedition, he stopped at Cooper's Landing, where we gained each others' friendship right away.

So great to see Dominique again. When he was paddling on his expedition, he stopped at Cooper’s Landing, where we gained each others’ friendship right away.

It poured rain while he was there. He stayed two nights. One day we worked on a plan to get his canoe in Canada so he could paddle with me in the Breaks. Unfortunately, logistics proved to be too complicated, especially since James Kipp Recreation Area closed down due to flooding. So we went to Virgelle Landing and Fort Benton to have fun.

The Virgelle Mercantile. They also have an extensive antique store and run river shuttle and catering.

The Virgelle Mercantile. They also have an extensive antique store and run river shuttle and catering.

Jim is one of the proprietors of Virgelle Mercantille and Antique and Canoe Service, along with Don/

Jim is one of the proprietors of Virgelle Mercantille and Antique and Canoe Service, along with Don. (Notice the bison skull in back on the shelf.)

Don, partners with Jim, runs the Virgelle machine. We enjoyed talking with them about a lot of things such as river trips, paddling, cameras, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and river clean-ups.

Don, partners with Jim, runs the Virgelle machine. We enjoyed talking with them about a lot of things such as river trips, paddling, cameras, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and river clean-ups.

Sandy cooks meals at the store and plays mom to all the men. She participated in a river clean up at Coal Banks, sponsored by Friends of the Breaks and Bureau of Land

Sandy cooks meals at the store and plays mom to all the men. She participated in a river clean up at Coal Banks, sponsored by Friends of the Breaks and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Once we determined that it was too difficult to organize a shuttle for Dominique, we decided to play tourist in Fort Benton. Dominique has wanted to go there for many years and, well, I was happy just to go with Dominique. He is such great company. We had a blast!

IMG_1555

Grand Union Hotel

Grand Union Hotel

Mural on the wall at the Grand Union

Mural on the wall at the Grand Union

IMG_1591

IMG_1590

IMG_1589

We stoped for lunch at the Palace Bar, where we met Sandy bartending. I dropped Dave Miller’s name,(the author of The Complete Paddler) and she remembered him, and apparently took good care of him. “I let him take a shower at my house.” When I mentioned that I hadn’t had a shower in a week, she insisted I go to her house and take one.  Thank you, Sandy! I will never forget your sweet heart.

Sweet Sandy at the Palace Bar

Sweet Sandy at the Palace Bar

After I went to Sandy’s house and took a shower, we stopped at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, they closed in five minutes, but I think we made the best of the situation.

There it is again. I left my skull in the river where I found it.  Seemed the appropriate thing to do.

There it is again. I left my skull in the river where I found it. Seemed the appropriate thing to do.

Outside the front of the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center

Outside the front of the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center

Dominique as Steamship Captain. Keep your eyes on the river, Captain, those snags will sink your ship!

Dominique as Steamship Captain. Keep your eyes on the river, Captain, those snags will sink your ship!

The wing span of a pelican. I have seen pelicans almost every day of my trip. They are a comfort, and good company.

The wing span of a pelican. I have seen pelicans almost every day of my trip. They are a comfort and good company.

Despite the rainy and wet conditions, we made a fire for warmth and comfort. Thanks to the campers next door who helped me haul their leftover wood over, chopped kindling, and wrapped paper up in plastic for me. And, gave me a lighter!  So nice!

Despite the rainy and wet conditions, we made a fire for warmth and comfort. Thanks to the campers next door who helped me haul their leftover wood over, chopped kindling, and wrapped paper up in plastic for me. And, gave me a lighter! So nice!

Before leaving the next morning, Dominique left me with some wisdom and tips for the challenges ahead. He has been a wonderful friend and I will miss him.

Before leaving the next morning, Dominique left me with some wisdom and tips for the challenges ahead. He has been a wonderful friend and I will miss him.

The senior Boy Scouts had come to camp during the rainstorm. The camp hosts, Bub and Tinker Sandy were incredibly accommodating for all of us, letting the boy scouts stay in the visitor’s center, and letting Dominique set up his tent on the porch. By the time the weather let up and we all were ready to launch, we had become friends. Finally, it was time to enter the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, a moment for which I had been waiting a long time.

Onward! Bub and me in excited anticipation for my journey ahead.

Onward! Bub and me in excited anticipation for my journey ahead.

 

Me and the some of the Boy Scouts, and their dads/leaders, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Great bunch of kids. They will achieve many things among them.

Me and the some of the Boy Scouts, and their dads/leaders, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Great bunch of kids. They will achieve many things among them.

 

Lots of excited paddlers ready to get on the water!

Lots of excited paddlers ready to get on the water!

Onward to the White Cliffs on June 4. I will try and have something posted in the next few days. I have a White Cliffs photo album posted on my Facebook Expedition page, if you want to check that out now.

I apologize for the delay in posts. I’m paddling a 178-mile lake right now, Lake Sakakawea, and a 230-mile lake coming up, Lake Oahe. I am currently at Dakota Waters Resort campground taking a refresh day (shower and laundry), and should be at the dam tomorrow or the next day.  Hurray!

Please see my Facebook page, LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition, for current photos and updates. You do not need to have an account to view the page, it is accessible to the public. I can upload straight from my iPhone and it is much easier, however, this blog helps to organize and document the journey. I have not forgotten you!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Do what you love, and love what you do.

You CAN do it!

Janet (July 7, 2013)

Categories: Education, Expedition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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