The Goal: The Gulf of Mexico…Check! December 5, 2013

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I finally did it! I made it all the way to the Gulf if Mexico, but not without some very harrowing and tense moments in the Southern Louisiana fog. Fog? Who knew? That was an oversight on my part. Forgot about the fog.

This is my amazing support crew that helped get me through the fog, through the Head of Passes, down South Pass to the Gulf, and back to Venice in a thick fog bank. What an epic finish to an unforgettable journey. Big THANKS to my support crew, the Bar Pilots and their crews in Venice and Pilottown, and to all of my supporters who cheered me on every single day!

My unforgettable crew and dear friends and daughter:

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L-R: Mark Dierking, Denise Goforth, Mwah, Jamie Stevenson, Haley Moreland (my sweet daughter), and Deb Miller. Extraordinary!!

And the stellar crew at Pilottown:

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Pilottown Crew to the rescue! L-R: Josh, Eric, Adam, Booher, Leon and Shawn. What a comfort these guys were after being in a very uncomfortable fog. Thank you, gentlemen! You are the best!

Pilots at Venice Bar Pilot’s Association:

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Bear (R) and Allen (L)

Our first attempt to make it to the Gulf was on December 4. We were doing pretty good on the East shore, although the fog was lingering on that side. By the time we passed Pilottown in the fog, we were engulfed. At one point we all heard a boat coming right toward us. I was out of the channel, and so was my support boat, but I didn’t know it. They were in only three feet of water. Hearing the boat coming closer and closer, but not seeing it, I was terrified they would be run down by a big fishing boat. I screamed at them to turn around. They appeared to be frozen staring into the fog. Oh. My. God. Will I witness their demise???? Thankfully, no. After the boat passed us by, we all knew we were finished for now. I got on the phone to Pilottown and asked them if we could come ashore.

“Of course, we will be expecting you,” they replied.

When we arrived 15 minutes later, they immediately took us under their wing, brought us inside, fed us from a smorgasborg outlay of food, shared their ‘mission control,’ and educated us on their system for bringing big ships up from the Gulf to New Orleans. Most importantly, they explained the Fog Predictor, which indicated a lift in the fog at 9:00AM until midnight tomorrow, December 5. We set our goal to the Gulf for tomorrow. They invited to breakfast, too. So nice and comforting, these river angels.

The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.
The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.
The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.
The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.

 

As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico
the next morning.
A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.
A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.
The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass.
The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass. South Pass is the route I had chosen to reach the Gulf.

On the final dash to the Gulf, my greatest concern was the fog in the Head of Passes. This is a wide open space from which three branches of channelized water run to the Gulf. The Southwest Pass is the shipping lane for tankers, freighters, and container ships, Loutre Pass is mainly small craft and fishing boats, and South Pass fishing craft. Tankers come up SW Pass and cross through the Head of Passes to the West Bank near Pilottown. As you can imagine, in the fog, this is a dangerous route through which to paddle.

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Just prior to leaving Pilottown, three Plaquemines Parish Marine Sheriffs pull up in their boat on their way down to Port Eads, located one mile upriver from the Gulf down South Pass. When I found this out, I somewhat pleaded with them to guide us through the fog through the Head of Passes with their radar. As you can see in this photo, I was gravely concerned. I could not get them to commit, for whatever reason, so we determined to just go for it with the support we had from the Pilottown crew, and the Venice pilots, who drive the ships up the Pass.

I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.
I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.
Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.
Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.
This photo I took during our attempt the day before. But, you get the picture. Tense moments to say the least.
I took this photo the day before. But, you get the picture.
Tense moments to say the least.

The Pilottown crew were phenomenal in communicating our whereabouts to the best of their ability. However, when they began asking the ship pilots if they had seen us, I knew we were on our own, so to speak. We had to navigate wisely through this stretch or catastrophe would be imminent. What we did know from my marine radio, was when a ship was coming up through the fog out of SW Pass, or down into the Head of Passes past Pilottown. Mark used his depth finder to try and avoid the channel, but at some point we had to cross.

Ship approaching in the fog.
Ship coming into view through the fog.

There was a moment when we were immersed in fog and very vulnerable. I began to paddle with my GPS as my guide, which is what the crew told us to do. How scary is that in the fog???? Very! As my heart began to sink further into my gut, I mustered everything I had to keep my composure, as we all were doing at that time. At that very moment, we heard a boat coming right for us. Oh my God! Will it see us in time to stop??? All we can do is wait as it gets closer. Then, appearing as though angels from the spiritual realm, the Sheriff’s boat appears and immediately they begin pointing out the channel light at South Pass.

Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemine Parish.
Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemines Parish. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Miraculously, the fog began lifting at that moment and we could then see all three passes! What a moment of joy and relief that was, never to be forgotten.

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Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!
Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!

I paddled harder than I had paddled on the entire journey, the 12-13 miles down South Pass. I took out my iPod and played river songs and sang at the top of my lungs, particularly Black Water by the Doobie Brothers. Playing music always gives me a much-needed boost of energy.

The highlight of my entire trip had to be when I saw my white pelican near the shore in South Pass. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He had come to see me through to the end, and provided that quiet comfort we both understood, that he had provided since day one of my paddling journey. I still shed a tear when I think about how perfect and complete this trip has been.

The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.
The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.

 

We had a clear shot to the Gulf, and most of the way back up the pass. We were not out of the woods yet. But we had made it to the Gulf of Mexico!

The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and take some photos of my arrival.
The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and
take some photos of my arrival.
The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico
What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin.
What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin. I was thrilled.
Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were "outta there!"
Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were “outta there!”

We made it about 2/3 the way up South Pass when the fog settled in again. We were on a race against time and fog. We absolutely HAD to get back to Venice before dark. We moved as one with eyes and minds on high alert. As you can imagine, the victory was oh so sweet.

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We made it back to Venice safe and sound, just in the nick of time.
It was dark when we pulled up to the dock.
My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.
My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.
Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!
Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!
Jamie Stevenson, Denise's boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.
Jamie Stevenson, Denise’s boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.
(Inside, we were all feeling like he looks.)
Haley (L) and Denise (R) We were all so very happy to get back to Venice.
Haley (L) and Denise (R)
We were bonded and quite frankly, family, after these few days together. What an unforgettable experience!
Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends. Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!
Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends.
Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!

Our home away from home in Venice, Louisiana. The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas comped our villa for all but one night, the night that April donated to the expedition. Big thanks to April Durnin for donating to the expedition two free nights of lodging (one night for two rooms) at this fabulous hotel. We could not think of one single complaint. The villa was extraordinarily lovely.

The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!
The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!

I will be updating this blog in the days to come. That will help me sort through my photos and videos, and reminisce on the pleasures of this incredible journey. Then, of course, I will write a book, or books. I would like to write a memoir, a curriculum book with lesson plans and activities focused on the rivers and natural environment, and a coffee table book with some of my best photographs. Oh, and T-shirts. I want t-shirts made ASAP. Maybe a calendar right away. So much to do!

I will follow up this post with some videos as soon as possible. Until then, I hope you enjoyed the adventure of my final days.  I’ll be back to fill in the gap.

Shouting out a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who believed in me, the expedition, and who gave their heart and soul to support the journey.  MWAH!! Much love to all, Janet Moreland XOXO

Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. August 21, 2013
Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. Photo taken August 21, 2013

Do what you love and love what you do.

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

3,700 River Miles

April 24, 2013 – December 5, 2013

First American Source-to-Sea Missouri River

First Solo Woman Source-to-Sea Missouri River

The Missouri River is the Longest River in North America

The Missouri/Mississippi River System is the Fourth Longest in the World.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Loveyourbigmuddy

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.

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.) 🙂

From Holter Lake to Just Before Great Falls

Once back on the river, I continued to be amazed by the rock cliffs and mountains.
Once back on the river, I continued to be amazed by the rock cliffs and mountains.

I think this post will be more of a photo post. I have captioned all of my photos and they will walk you through this stretch and phase of my adventure. Enjoy!

The Gates of the Rocky Mountains are on Holter Lake. I left the Gates and paddled almost to the dam. I camped before entering the last big stretch so I would not be exposed to potential storm winds. Rain fell that night, but enough sun shone the next morning that I could dry things out. My camp was on a pretty point, but the real estate was owned by a heard of black cows. It seemed I was camping in their watering hole. Luckily, I found a big enough patch of grass free of, well,  you know, to pitch my tent. Some camps are better than others.

The watering hole.
The watering hole.
My buddies with whom I shared, sort of, my camp.
My buddies with whom I shared, sort of, my camp.
Tim works for Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL), and was more than happy to help me portage around Holter Dam. Dave's (Dave from Hauser Dam) uncle was off work that day.
Tim works for Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL), and was more than happy to help me portage around Holter Dam. Dave’s (Dave from Hauser Dam) uncle was off work that day.
This sign was hanging at the Holter Dam portage take out.
This sign was hanging at the Holter Dam portage take out.
My best friends forever!
My best friends forever!
WOW! A PBR hanging from a bridge! Somebody pinch my. I must be dreaming! I got! I got it!
WOW! A PBR hanging from a bridge! Somebody pinch me. I must be dreaming! I got! I got it!
Sometimes a beer tastes really, really good. This was one of those times!
Sometimes a beer tastes really, really good. This was one of those times!
PBRs don't hang from bridges without a support crew. These two, Will and Ron, are likely suspects. They told me they were going fishing. They say they're just a couple of local dudes trolling for chicks. PBR was good bait,and they got me!
PBRs don’t hang from bridges without a support crew. These two, Will and Ron, are likely suspects. They told me they were going fishing. They say they’re just a couple of local dudes trolling for chicks. PBR was good bait,and they got me!
I paddled hard just to get to the Dearborn Country Inn that Dave Miller wrote, in The Compete Paddler, is a must stop. Well, it is now a private fishing lodge: The Lodge at Eagle Rock. However, Courtney, who is appropriately charged with lodge hospitality, took very good care of me. She is a river, lakes, mountain loving gal. Thank again, Courtney!
I paddled hard just to get to the Dearborn Country Inn that Dave Miller wrote, in The Compete Paddler, is a must stop. Well, it is now a private fishing lodge: The Lodge at Eagle Rock. However, Courtney, who is appropriately charged with lodge hospitality, took very good care of me. She is a river, lakes, mountain loving gal. Thanks again, Courtney!
Courtney and 5-star chef Jeffrey took great care of me while I was camped down by the river under the willow tree. The BEST corn chowder, buttered bread and Montana beers! I will never forget their kindness.
Courtney and 5-star chef Jeffrey took great care of me while I was camped down by the river under the willow tree. The BEST corn chowder, buttered bread and Montana beers! I will never forget their kindness.
The Corps of Discovery camped just upstream from the Lodge, and Lewis wrote this entry in his journal on Thursday, July 18, 1805: "previous to our departure saw a large her of the Bighorned anamals on the immensely high and nearly perpendicular clift opposite to us; on the fase of this clift they walked about and bounded from rock to rock with apparent unconcern where it appared to me that no quadruped could have stood, and from which had they made one false step they must have precipitated at least 500 feet. This anamal appears to frequent such precipes and clifts where in fact they are perfectly secure from the pursuit of the wolf, bear, or even man himself."
The Corps of Discovery camped just upstream from the Lodge, and Lewis wrote this entry in his journal on Thursday, July 18, 1805: “previous to our departure saw a large her of the Bighorned anamals on the immensely high and nearly perpendicular clift opposite to us; on the fase of this clift they walked about and bounded from rock to rock with apparent unconcern where it appared to me that no quadruped could have stood, and from which had they made one false step they must have precipitated at least 500 feet. This anamal appears to frequent such precipes and clifts where in fact they are perfectly secure from the pursuit of the wolf, bear, or even man himself.”

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I was so grateful for the opportunity to take a shower at the Lodge. And what beats all is the fact that it was the most wonderful outdoor shower with steamy hot water. What a blessing this magical place was!
I was so grateful for the opportunity to take a shower at the Lodge. And what beats all is the fact that it was the most wonderful outdoor shower with steamy hot water. What a blessing this magical place was!
Then, sweet Courtney brought me breakfast the next morning. I wish you the best, dear. I hope your life brings you great joy! Do what you love, and love what you do!
Then, sweet Courtney brought me breakfast the next morning. I wish you the best, dear. I hope your life brings you great joy! Do what you love, and love what you do!
The next morning at the Lodge, I had the pleasure of meeting more staff: Monica (I hope that is correct), Heli, and Kat, shown here. Kat was enthusiastically interested in my adventure and had only been working at the Lodge for 13 days. She is from the Midwest ;).
The next morning at the Lodge, I had the pleasure of meeting more staff: Monica (I hope that is correct), Heli, and Kat, shown here. Kat was enthusiastically interested in my adventure and had only been working at the Lodge for 13 days. She is from the Midwest ;).

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Kat showed me this monument that they had found buried in the river when renovating the Lodge. They dug it out of the sand and placed it above their fireplace.
Kat showed me this monument that they had found buried in the river when renovating the Lodge. They dug it out of the sand and placed it above their fireplace. It has the same journal entry that I had posted on Facebook earlier that day.
Before I left the lodge, a couple of Great Falls paddlers stopped by to say hi. Bob (r) and Mark.
Before I left the lodge, a couple of Great Falls paddlers stopped by to say hi. Bob (r) and Mark. Nice kayaks, guys!
Beautiful glassy waters were a much appreciated condition on the river.
Beautiful glassy waters were a much appreciated condition on the river.
Not sure if these are cormorants or cranes. I think the former.
Not sure if these are cormorants or cranes. I think the former.
This little white calf caught my attention because all of the others were black. Makes one think about genetics and chromosomes, a little middle-school science.
This little white calf caught my attention because all of the others were black. Makes one think about genetics and chromosomes, a little middle-school science.
Weather is always something to keep an eye on.
Weather is always something to keep an eye on.
As evening came on, that special light appeared. Taking photos was pure joy. I like starting later in the morning and paddling later in the evening.
As evening came on, that special light appeared. Taking photos was pure joy. I like starting later in the morning and paddling later in the evening.
This is one of my favorites from that 'special light' evening.
This is one of my favorites from that ‘special light’ evening.
And, as the sun begins to set, the sky becomes painted with brush stroked of color.
And, as the sun begins to set, the sky becomes painted with brush stroked of color.
Stunningly gorgeous evening.
Stunningly gorgeous evening.
The natural bird sanctuary across the way.
The natural bird sanctuary across the way.
Friday (May 24) night's camp, and the grand finale of photo opportunities. Breathtaking sunset.
Friday (May 24) night’s camp, and the grand finale of photo opportunities. Breathtaking sunset.
John from Great Falls happened to call me on the phone as I came out of the canyon and there were ample cell towers. He and a couple of paddlers wanted to meet up and paddle with me. Great! I always welcome paddle companions. L-R: Sherri, John and Bob and, they DID find me thanks to my SPOT Tracker.
John from Great Falls happened to call me on the phone as I came out of the canyon and there were ample cell towers. He and a couple of paddlers wanted to meet up and paddle with me. Great! I always welcome paddle companions. L-R: Sherri, John and Bob and, they DID find me thanks to my SPOT Tracker.
That night I tried to paddle to the Corp of Discovery Canoe Camp. Turns out it was covered with homes. That is okay, I found a spot at dark and slept on a bed of mint. Soggy but no Mosquitos, and rather fragrant.
That night I tried to paddle to the Corp of Discovery Canoe Camp. Turns out it was covered with homes. That is okay, I found a spot at dark and slept on a bed of mint. Soggy but no Mosquitos, and rather fragrant.
I will leave you with one of my favorite photos. In the midst of premier fishing country, I realized fishing is definitely a family affair.
I will leave you with one of my favorite photos. In the midst of premier fishing country, I realized fishing is definitely a family affair.

I hope you enjoyed this stretch of my journey as much as I did. Great Falls is deserving of its own post. I was able to paddle from there to Fort Benton in just a few hours, and here I sit in the Grand Union Hotel trying to finish this post. I feel good about this accomplishment and so, if the rain stops tomorrow, I will hit the river again. Fair warning, it may be awhile before I can post again as I am heading into some incredible wilderness area, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Be patient, and be sure and visit my Facebook page if you are able.

See you again soon!

Love your Big Muddy!

Warm regards, Janet

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!

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!