On Sunday, April 14, we enjoyed the warmth of our river community as they sent us on our way from Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River. I find it intriguing that I will be paddling down the entire length of the river for the next 3.5 months beginning in Montana. I have been dreaming about this journey for over seven years. The time had actually come.
We have been on the road for nine days. The trip thus far has been fantastic. We have driven on two-lane highways nearly 98% of the trip. Before we actually got out of town, Haley decorated the van. “I got this, Mom, I used to be a cheerleader.” We drove through some gorgeous countryside in northern Kansas and southeaster Nebraska.
In Phillipsburg, KS, we had a radiator leak which appeared to be a major obstacle. The only radiator repair shop in town was completely booked for two days. I had to drive over and talk to the owner, and tried to convince him that WE REALLY NEEDED HELP. But, he just could not take us in, and so referred us to Wick’s Muffler and Auto Repair. What a wonderful referral THAT was! Galen Wickham and his son Gabe got right on it! Galen brought the car in the shop immediately to try and find the leak. The two of them traced it back to a pinhole leak in a steel hose off of the water pump. A call was made to Hays, NE, 60 miles to the south. We crossed our fingers…
Yes, they had the part but all deliveries had already left town. The best estimate for departure after car work would be about 5:30 that evening. However, I offered to drive to Hays myself and, as it turned out, that is what happened. Galen loaned me his truck so I could pick up the part. Galen estimated a possible 1:00 departure as a result. WOW! Ending up at Galen’s shop was just short of a miracle! We were back on the road by 2:00. Not only that, he was so intrigued by our expedition, he told his mom and dad and brother about it, and they all chipped in to pay for the repair. Now, when does THAT ever happen?? Thanks again, Wickham family. You guys ROCK! I will be telling this story for years. Ron from the local paper, The Advocate of Phillips County, stopped by to ask a few questions about the expedition. Off we went and arrived in Scottsbluff, NE, that night. We got a lovely room and Holiday Inn Express, and enjoyed a hot tub, swim, and had pizza delivered. The next morning we watched the weather channel very closely while sitting in the breakfast nook at the hotel. A winter storm was coming up through the panhandle of NE starting today, Tuesday, which is right where we were. We debated for a couple hours, literally, whether to try and outrun the storm going north, as some guests had already left for Casper, WY. Eventually, we decided to go for it. Turns out the storm would envelope the entire southeastern portion of WY, and over a foot of snow fell. We ended up making it as far as Orin Junction, WY, and the roads all around us began to close. We were 60 miles short of our Casper, WY, destination. Fortunately, there was a small truck stop at the junction, and we immediately settled in once we knew forward progress was no longer available.
We thoroughly enjoyed our layover at the truck stop, despite the fact we had to sleep in the car that night. The truck stop closed at 10:00 and reopened at 5:00 AM. We spent seven hours in the car as the snow fell all around us. The car turned into a makeshift igloo, it appeared, and we stayed warm and cozy wrapped in down sleeping bags, jackets, and a comforter. What an adventure! Strangers are just an opportunity to make friends, and that’s what we all did at the truck stop. We were thankful that we had such a pleasant and cozy place to hang out, and the food was to beat all. Finally on Wednesday the road opened up to Douglas, which was 12 miles up the road. We opted to make the drive and get a hotel. Being able to sleep on a bed was nice, but the hotel was less than desirable. We got out of there first thing in the morning and drove all the way to Jackson, Wyoming. Our progress was somewhat slowed because of the photo opportunities along the way. We found it difficult to pass up such beautiful countryside without stopping to take pictures. I am sure we will not regret the many stops we made. Jackson was a significant destination that we were all looking forward to, and very excited about. We were finally in some serious mountain country! We were grateful for the chance to view the Teton Mountain Range, which appeared through the clouds majestically and with great grandeur! We loved our stay in Jackson, and our accommodations at the Parkway Inn. Because this time of year is considered the off-season, we were able to get discounted rates at the hotel. We loved it! We stayed two nights and refreshed ourselves by going for a walk, swimming, sitting in the hot tub, and doing laundry. Saturday morning we embarked upon a full ‘day of travel. We drove north up to Sawtelle Peak so I could check out the conditions of the road we plan on driving up to begin our ski into Brower’s Spring. We then started driving down Red Rock Road towards Red Rock Pass, which is very close to the exit point of our ski. Since it was 1:30 PM and temperatures were mild, we opted to stop short of the pass because of the mud. We stopped and walked down the road and enjoyed a snack lunch while viewing the awesome mountains around which we were surrounded.
We then drove up towards the Beaverhead and Jefferson River so I could take a look at the rivers I will be paddling within a week, or so. This was a chance for me to connect with my route and visualize the environment of which I would soon become a part. Finally, we arrived at Base Camp International, Norm Miller and Kristen Walker’s house in Livingston, MT, where all paddlers of the Missouri River, or any river, are welcome to stop and regroup before setting out on the river.
Norm and I have been in email and phone contact since I decided to embark upon this adventure, so despite the fact we had never met, I felt like we were good friends already. Our stay here has been nothing less that warm and cozy. We immediately felt like family, and have enjoyed each others’ company immensely.
Tomorrow we begin our journey into Brower’s Spring. Then, the bike ride to Clark Canyon Dam and finally, Blue Moon hits the water.