Posts Tagged With: Reflection

A Glimpse in the Rearview Mirror: 2013 (But, keep an eye on the road ahead)

Arrival at the Gulf of Mexico on December 5, 2013.

Arrival at the Gulf of Mexico on December 5, 2013.

On April 14, 2013, I left Columbia, MO, and set out on an extraordinary solo kayak voyage down the 4th longest river system in the world, the 3,800-mile Missouri-Mississippi River System. Upon completing the expedition on December 5, 2013, I became the first American, and first woman, to traverse the entire river system from source to sea. 

Okay. One step at a time. Breathe...

Okay. One step at a time. Breathe…

Packed up and ready to go on April 14, 2013

Packed up and ready to go on April 14, 2013

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My mission began as an empowerment model for our nation’s youth, showing them that dreams can be achieved through decision, desire, and details (and hard work). The mission soon flourished into an empowerment model not only for youth, but for adult women and men as well. At 57 years old, I was living proof that neither gender nor age should prevent you from pursuing your dream. Not only that, the expedition embraced education and environmental stewardship by bringing awareness to Missouri River Relief, a not-for-profit river clean-up and education organization. Our hope is to bring the Missouri River into the classroom, and the classroom out to the river. Touching the river, knowing the river, and loving the river are key ingredients to sustaining the health and vitality of our planet’s veins and arteries. 

Welcoming party in Memphis, TN

Welcoming party in Memphis, TN

Bringing the classroom out to the river.

Bringing the classroom out to the river. Photo by Missouri River Relief

The next generation

The next generation-Photo by Missouri River Relief

The adventure began on April 24, 2013, when Norman Miller and I skied into the ultimate source of the Missouri River, Brower’s Spring, in southern Montana near West Yellowstone. We planned for 7 hours and finished in 31 hours, much to our surprise. We spent the night in the mountains with no sleeping gear, food, or fire. Let the adventure begin! 

After a 30-year absence I was delighted to be ski mountaineering again.

After a 30-year absence I was delighted to be ski mountaineering again.

Our shelter for the night and our celebratory beer now turned calorie provider.

Our impromptu shelter and our celebratory beer, now turned carbo provider.

Conditions could have been life-threatening with any kind of weather. As it was, we layed awake all night shivering.

Conditions could have been life-threatening with any kind of weather. As it was, we just layed awake all night shivering.

The next leg involved biking 100 miles through the Centennial Valley. This dirt road traversed Red Rock River to Clark Canyon Dam. The Red Rock River is not paddler friendly as it is full of man-made dams composed of barbed wire, wood, electrical wire, and corrugated sheet metal. I put my kayak in the Beaverhead River below Clark Canyon Dam on May 1, 2013. The Beaverhead eventually turns into the Jefferson River, which becomes the Missouri River about 200 miles downstream at Three Forks, MT.

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Any amount of rain would have rendered this road useless for travel, car OR bike, because of the mud. My expedition was blessed with ideal weather conditions.

Red Rock River obstruction

Red Rock River obstruction, one of dozens, making paddling slow, laborious, and dangerous.

My first day was a test of will as I became entangled in a tree strainer, spraining my hand and nearly dumping my boat. On day two, I put two holes in my boat, thankfully above water line, as the swift and narrow Beaverhead River made it difficult to avoid collisions with snags along shore. Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t fix! After 11 days of paddling I arrived at Three Forks, where I then regrouped at Norm Millers’ Base Camp International in Livingston, MT, patched the holes in my boat, and set off down the Missouri River at Three Forks on May 15, 2013. The rest, really, is history as I proceeded to live life on the river, with simplicity and joy, for the next seven months.

This photo, along with the sunset pic below, were the most popular expedition posts. Taken on the Beaverhead River, Day 1 on the water.

A bad omen? Perish the thought. Onward! On the Beaverhead River

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The Beaverhead River, where you can find a predicament around every corner.

First-time fiberglass patcher-two holes

First-time fiberglass patcher-two holes, no less.

On the Jefferson River. Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

On the Jefferson River (with duct tape patches). Photo courtesy of Norm Miller

I will cherish this expedition until the day I die.  I experienced challenging decision-making, marvelously mellow mornings, exasperating electrical storms, wild wind and waves, stunning sunsets, random acts of kindness, unforgettable human river angels, the wonders of wildlife, big huge barges, even bigger and huger freighters ;), and frightening fog. Last but not least I met a whole world of beautiful and extraordinary supporters up and down the river to whom I cannot give enough thanks, and whom I now consider river family.

Please enjoy a few expedition photos I picked out, in no logical order, but which are among some of my favorites. You may remember…

Friends from the first day to the last. Love my pelicans.

Friends from the first day to the last. Love my pelicans.

Hiking on windy Fort Peck Lake

Hiking on windy Fort Peck Lake

Have never seen another quite so stunning as this sunset

Have never seen another quite so stunning as this sunset

Well, it IS the Big Muddy!

Well, it IS the Big Muddy!

The morning after the worst electrical storm of the trip. Fort Peck Lake

The morning after the worst electrical storm of the trip. Fort Peck Lake

Nearing the Montana-North Dakota border

Below Fort Peck Lake, I think. Still muddy, but getting better.

Gates of the Rocky Mountains

Gates of the Rocky Mountains – Holter Lake, MT

Gates of the Rocky Mountains. Hard to leave this wondrous place

Gates of the Rocky Mountains. Hard to leave this wondrous place. Corps of Discovery camped right across the river.

The stoic bald eagle

The stoic bald eagle

Tow and barge on the Mississippi River

Tow and barge on the Mississippi River

A very special heart stone found just below the Ohio River confluence

A very special heart stone found just below the Ohio River confluence

New Orleans

New Orleans

Sharing the Mississippi River with tankers and freighters, always keeping one eye in front and one eye to the rear. They are quiet vessels.

Sharing the lower Mississippi River with tankers and freighters, always keeping one eye in front and one eye to the rear. They are quiet vessels.

My stellar support crew in the Gulf fog

My stellar Gulf support crew in the Gulf fog

The fog just lifted as we began crossing the Head of Passes. Nothing short of a miracle.

The fog just lifted as we began crossing the Head of Passes using a hand-held GPS device. This was a super exhilarating moment. Unforgettable. Even the ship pilot crossing the pass remembers the moment I came into view.

Yes, the pilot of this ship. Pilottown crew were stellar support on this stretch manning the radio communication.

Yes, the pilot of this ship. Pilottown crew provided much comfort on this stretch with their radio communication and hospitality. I am so thankful for them.

Grizzly bear track below Hell Roaring Canyon. Photo taken by my daughter Haley who was sleeping in a car with Jeannie, waiting for us to come out after a 24 hour delay.

Grizzly bear track below Hell Roaring Canyon. Photo taken by my daughter Haley who was sleeping in a car with Jeannie, waiting for us to come out after a 24 hour delay.

Buffalo skull next to my camp that speaks historical volumes

Buffalo skull found next to my camp below Fort Benton, MT, that speaks historical volumes.

Bridge City Marina, home of special river angels

Bridge City Marina in Mobridge, SD, home of very special river angel, Michael Norder and his lovely family.

Hole in the Wall, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Hole in the Wall, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT

Making camp

Making camp

Curious Pronghorn Deer

Curious pronghorn antelope in Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

Sweet heart blue hole on the Mississippi River

Sweet heart blue hole on the middle Mississippi River

The Natchez of New Orleans.

The Natchez of New Orleans.

Great Horned Owl Babies in Great Falls, MT

Great Horned Owl Babies in Great Falls, MT

One of several lone pelicans escorting me down the South Pass to bid me farewell, I think

One of several lone pelicans escorting me down the South Pass to bid me farewell. BFF

Please visit my sponsor page at the top of my site to see the wonderful companies that believed in me and helped me out in some way to ease the financial burden. Special thanks to Patagonia for their generous clothing sponsorship. Eddyline for their excellent service with my boat as well as donating the best paddle I could ever imaging taking, a Swift Paddle. Many heart-felt thanks to all of Columbia, Mo’s outdoor shops for donating items to LoveYourBigMuddy. Huge thanks especially to our Klunk Bikes for re’cycling’ me a bike, which I love very much to this day.

And to every person that was able to donate financially, I know who you are and you will NOT be forgotten. Particularly my local Riverbilly family and those contributing to the Blues Benefit. Click here to see who these tremendous supporters of LoveYourBigMuddy are. This was YOUR expedition! THANK YOU! If you see a photo you would like on this post and it is part of your donation reward, please email me and let me know. I will be posting more photos shortly.

For a comprehensive view of media articles and podcasts, click here to visit my media page, located at the top of the site.

Lastly, warm thoughts go out to the crew at Canoe and Kayak Magazine, and to all of the individuals who took a moment to vote LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition into the “Spirit of Adventure” Award arena for 2014. Certainly, the honor was all mine to receive the award in the midst of an incredible paddling family. YOU, too, can be a candidate for such a cool recognition. Just…

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Dave Shively, editor, and one of many very cool people who have created this outstanding paddling magazine and helped to create an international paddling family. Three cheers!!! Click here to visit the award ceremony.

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…remember to keep your eyes on the road ahead. Don’t quit your DayDream. And, dream BIG!

LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition on Facebook. see what’s up…

Oh, one last thing, a toast to LoveYourBigMuddy

Still reeling from the high

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

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

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

The White Cliffs in the Upper Missouri Breaks Nat’l Monument

Bub and Tinker with one of the St. Louis/Fort Collins' family members.

Bub and Tinker with one of the St. Louis/Fort Collins’ family members.

A busy morning at the Coal Banks Landing boat ramp once the storm left. The ramp was bustling with boats, paddlers, gear, and excitement. Special thanks again to Bub and Tinker Sandy for taking care of all of us wet river rats and opening up the visitor’s center to everyone for the lasts two days. I decided to hang back and wait for everyone to leave before I got ready to go. When I left, there was not a soul in sight. That’s the way I wanted it. I wanted to take it all in without a lot of external distractions. I had been waiting for this nearly a year.

The White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument evolves as you paddle in to this stretch of river. The anticipation keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will there be cliffs around the next bend? They show themselves gradually. And, before you know it, you are immersed in this fabulous wonderland of rock castles, spires, hoodoos, magnificent walls and lone sentinals.

Leaving Coal Banks I could detect something incredible geologically was going to unfold.

Leaving Coal Banks I could sense that something incredible, geologically, was going to unfold.

I barely got my camera out in time to snap this photo. This looks like an old homestead cabin. My imagination soars when I see structures like this. What must it have been like over a century ago settling in the wild west?

I barely got my camera out in time to snap this photo. This looks like an old homestead cabin. My imagination soars when I see structures like this. What must it have been like over a century ago settling in the wild west?

The cliffs gradually appeared in the riverside environment. It was somewhat like a geologic transformation.

The cliffs gradually appeared in the riverside environment. It was somewhat like a geologic transformation.

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

Some of the first signs of white cliffs

White Cliffs emerging

White Cliffs emerging

The Boy Scouts made camp early in a beautiful area that was wide open with smaller cliffs surrounding the area.

The Boy Scouts made camp early in a beautiful area that was wide open with smaller cliffs surrounding the area.

The surrounding area around the Boy Scouts first camp, just upriver from Eagle Creek camp. It was beginning to get interesting!

The surrounding area around the Boy Scouts first camp, just upriver from Eagle Creek camp. It was beginning to get interesting!

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Labarge Rock is the dark rock outcropping in the distance. The rock was named after Captain Joseph LaBarge, one of the most famous of steamship captains. He never had an accident in his career commanding ships up to Fort Benton. This is remarkable after seeing a million snags downriver waiting to take the ships down at any given minute.

Labarge Rock is the dark rock outcropping in the distance. The rock was named after Captain Joseph LaBarge, one of the most famous of steamship captains. He never had an accident in his career commanding ships up to Fort Benton. This is remarkable after seeing a million snags downriver waiting to take the ships down at any given minute.

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Classic white cliffs with LaBarge Rock in the distance.

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

Beautiful white cliffs, like a fortress or castle

LaBarge Rock is an instrusion of dark igneous shonkinite. That's about all I can tell you without getting technical and boring to the non-geologist.

LaBarge Rock is an instrusion of dark igneous shonkinite. That’s about all I can tell you without getting technical and boring to the non-geologist.

The Grand Natural Wall. This is an incredible sight to behold.

The Grand Natural Wall. This is an incredible sight to behold.

Grand Natural Wall

Grand Natural Wall

Cool looking, I think

Cool looking, I think. Now that’s a grand white cliff!

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

Eagles at Eagle Rock?

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

And, my best friends, the pelicans.

I arrived at Hole in the Wall thinking that everyone else would stay back at Eagle Creek, which is a popular camping area with great hiking and historical significance.  The environment around Hole in the Wall is grandiose and quite spectacular.  I was the only one there! I would have a wilderness experience in the midst of incredible beauty!! Well, not exactly. Withing an hour two paddlers arrived. Then, a party of seven or eight men showed up. Oh well, I can share. I will just set my tent off to the side and have my own wilderness experience.  I learned something this day. When you meet good-hearted people, nothing else is really more desirable. The benefits are great when you share a part of your lives together. The experience becomes unforgettable. This day I met Klaus and James. I am so happy that I did.

Klaus (L) and James

Klaus (L) and James

I loved meeting Klaus and James. Klaus came over and invited me to sit around the fire with them that night. They said it wouldn’t be a long fire because firewood was scarce. That sounded good to me. After a couple of hours we gathered for a fire. Klaus had cups and wine and we toasted to my expedition. Then we spent a couple hours just enjoying each others’ company and conversation. THAT beats a solitary wilderness experience, any day. I am thankful for the time we had together.

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The next day I met some of the others who had camped in the area. They were all very interesting gentlemen. One was from Bozeman, another from the Seattle area, and one also from San Diego, among others. The Bureau of Land Management officers showed up. They told us stories and were helpful in showing us good camping areas down river.  Apparently, James Kipp Recreation Area had opened back up, at least the roads leading into the area. Because of all the rain, though, we could expect a lot of mud downriver.  Oh well.

BLMatHole holeinthewallpaddlers

I was excited to hike to the top of Hole in the Wall. I said good by to Klaus and James. They were going to camp at the Wall camping area. I did not know if I would stop there. We took pictures to make sure we didn’t miss out on that opportunity, and we exchanged addresses.

Klause James and myself. Hole in the Wall is in the background.

Klause James and myself. Hole in the Wall is in the background.

Incredible camp

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And, off I went to hike to the top of the Hole in the Wall. Wow, what a grand experience!! Unforgettable.

 

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I thoroughly enjoy my hike up to the top of Hole in the Wall. While I was standing up there looking around, I thought, I think I am experiencing breath-taking beauty. I had to stop and calm down I was so excited.

I paddled on and came to Klaus and James’ camp. It was getting late and they invited me over. I was happy to stop there. The camp was one of the best and most peaceful I have experienced thus far. Not to mention my new friends. We had another tremendous night telling stories, jokes, and laughing freely. When it was time for them to shove off the next day, I was truly sad. I’ve got their number. Happy about that.

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The Wall Camp, 7 miles  before Judith Landing

The Wall Camp, 7 miles before Judith Landing

Prairie dog town in back of the camping area. How cool is that!?

Prairie dog town in back of the camping area. How cool is that!?

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See ya, James!

See ya, James!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, Klaus!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

See ya, everyone! Fair sailing to all!

Live slow ~ Paddle fast

Do what you love and love what you do.

Janet

Categories: Education, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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!

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Approaching a Major Confluence

meandwingdike

Often in life we start new chapters.  These milestones are times of exhilaration and anticipation of experiences in which we are not necessarily in control.  “Positive believing equals positive receiving” has always been my mantra.

In two days I will have achieved a milestone in my life.  A goal always present, always on hold, since the day I dropped out of college at Humboldt State University in 1974.  It was the first day of my third quarter of college when I called my mom and told her I was moving to Montana with three of my friends.  As it turned out, we decided if we could move to Montana, we might as well move to Hawaii! So we did!  My mother let me keep the $250 check she mailed to me for books a few days before.  I told her, “Experience is the best teacher,  I will finish college later.”  In two days I will fulfill that promise to my mother, and to myself.

I have been busy student teaching as part of my internship for the last 16 weeks.  For ten weeks I taught 8th grade Social Studies, and for six weeks I have been teaching 8th grade Science.  This coming Friday is my last day.  I have been an apprentice working with masters of the trade at Jefferson Junior High School:  Mrs. Tracy Worthington (Social Studies) and Mrs. Jennifer Szydlowski (Science).  To these two women I am forever grateful for their expertise, patience, graciousness, and support.  This experience is one I will never forget.  I love teaching, and they have contributed to this passion.

I share all of this here because I have had to suspend much of my expedition planning.  I contacted a few potential sponsors over Thanksgiving break (I had five days off) only to be informed by one that, “Once you get this initial trip under your belt and begin to cultivate a sizable following on your blog, social media pages (you would need to have your own), aggregate additional sponsors, and generate significant media attention (both for yourself and your cause), we would be more than happy to revisit a sponsorship with you for future expeditions or projects of this type.”  This response was from DeLorme inReach with regard to their satellite tracking and communication device and sponsorship I requested from them.  I know that I need to start small and local, but I was thinking more “priority first.”  A satellite tracking and navigation device is high priority for my trip.

Fair enough.  I have not had time to promote myself, which does not come naturally to me anyway.  However,  after Friday I am free from school and work obligations until January 2.

I have reached a major confluence in life where my life lived thus far will join with my future, bright and mysterious.

Saturday I am attending a Missouri Environmental Education Association conference held at the University of Missouri.  I hope to get ideas and network with potential innovators regarding education.  I was honored to attend Missouri River Relief’s Education Committee meeting the other night.  Great things are happening with their organization’s  river education component.  I am proud to know them and help promote their mission and vision.

One other thing:  my expedition story will be published any day on the University of Missouri’s home page as a banner story, written by Nancy Moen, who is retired from MU Publications and now a free-lance writer.  I will be posting on this blog when that happens.  MU’s chief photographer, Shane Epping, shot some photos of me on the river a while back to accompany the story.  We were blessed with phenomenal lighting just before sunset.  Shane is also best friends with our beloved river rat Beatriz Jean Wallace who has begun a new chapter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently.  The Missouri River is all about relationships and community and family.

Anyway, I write this because I can’t sleep at night knowing about all of the things I have to do, people I have to contact, knowledge I must learn, and information I want to share as I begin some serious planning for this epic journey down the Big Muddy.  I feel I have reached a confluence if life, the merging of my life thus far and the bright and mysterious future ahead.  I have so many things racing through my head.

(Oh, and I also talked to journalism student, Tina Casagrand, and ex-President of Sustain Mizzou, a student environmental org, and she has offered to produce a Kick-Start video for me and help me include a PayPal link on this blog site.)

With all that said, life is good.  Thanks for listening.  Sweet sleep to all, and to all a good night.  (Oh, and I can’t wait to finally make it to Montana!) 🙂

Categories: Planning, Reflection | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So, You Want to Paddle Down the Missouri River?

By Norm Miller, in his own words…

Norm Miller paddling UP the Missouri River in 2004, retracing the Lewis & Clark Trail: STL to the Pacific.

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.

Norm’s expedition from St. Louis to Three Forks, MT, over the Rockies, and down to the Pacific Ocean took six months.

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.

Wind-bound on Canyon Ferry Reservoir

to be continued…

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self-efficacy: A Blessing or a Burden?

Below Fort Benton. Photo by Norm Miller.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my trip down the Missouri River.  Most days, I long for the start day to arrive, even though I still have much preparation left to do.  I think about some of my conversations with Missouri River paddlers, as we visited on their stops at Cooper’s Landing, and the advice to “just go put your kayak in the river and go.”  This simple advice helps me keep the trip in perspective:  just enjoy the paddle and the “country”side.  Of course, there is the challenge, too.  My self-efficacious nature says, “bring it on”!  I absorb every piece of information and all video clips I can find on our Facebook Paddlers pages.  I make note of much advice from Norm Miller, my go-to expert.  I read about paddling expeditions, or expeditions in general, to learn about experiences requiring mental durability, physical stamina, and personal validation for embarking on extraordinary missions.

Thomas Walker, Tyler Ranes and Bob Bellingham passing through Cooper’s and sharing their stories.

Enjoying Mark Kalch’s enthusiasm at Cooper’s during his stop-over.

Expeditions are not for everyone.  But for some, the need to set goals beyond the borders of your box and the zones of your comfort are always within mental range.  In my twenties living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, my peers and I were always pushing the limits of security by skiing where most people don’t, high up on the mountain tops or across the mountain range.  In my thirties, my peers and I on the coast endeavored to break through windsurfing securities by attempting to sail the uncompromising waves at Ocean Beach and, of course, at the mouth of San Francisco Bay (you DON’T want to break down with an outgoing tide, just sayin’.)  Perhaps it is a matter of insecurity, always striving for the satisfaction of defying your personal limits.  I don’t know.  Perhaps it is growing up with two older brothers and always believing I could do ANYthing they could do.  I once climbed out on a limb of a tree when I was five years old, my brothers watching, undoubtedly on a dare.  The challenge ended with a fall and a mild concussion (maybe that’s it!).  Perhaps it is a love for the wilderness and the need to get access to it.  Part of it HAS to be the challenge.

Mt. Williamson group from Bear Valley in early 80s. Took two days, half of us made it to the summit. Glad we made it safely up, then down.

Chute skiing in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite (before road opening).

S.F. Bay-sailing with the big dogs.

Self-efficacy:

“People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided.”
–Albert Bandura

Looking down at the Brower’s Spring drainage (in the middle) from Sawtelle Peak. Photo by Norm Miller.

My mental challenge right now, which I have been confronted with since I committed to this expedition:  where do I start?  Do I make it a river “source” start, which adds 300 miles, two weeks, major expedition conditions (skiing in to Brower’s Spring at 8,800 ft in April?), and access to some incredibly beautiful wilderness, including a wildlife refuge?  Or, do I just put my kayak in the river at the mouth of the Missouri and start paddling?

Hell Roaring Creek below Brower’s Spring. This would be a ski or snowshoe stretch (I think 7 miles in and 7 out), not to be paddled.

Norm Miller (left) and Mark Kalch (right) at Hell Roaring Creek below Brower’s Spring, which is back up in the mountains behind them.

Watch Norm Miller’s video of Mark Kalch sharing his experience as he made his way down the stretch from the “source” to the “headwaters” of the Missouri River.  Much of this section leaves little to be desired…  Click here

Mark heading off just below Three Forks. Plenty of incredible wilderness to behold. Photo by Norm Miller.

I can’t help but think I would regret not starting at the ultimate source at Brower’s Spring, being soooo close.  However, the thought of just putting in at Three Forks gives me a more peaceful easy feeling as well as an assurance of some incredibly beautiful wilderness, without the expedition extremes.  Oh, the burden of a self-efficacious nature!  🙂

Categories: Expedition, The Route | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Dreaming of days, and nights, on the river

I lay here watching the lightning and listening to the thunder outside.  I have just put down Dave Miller’s “The Complete Paddler.”  I am trying to imagine laying in my bed on the banks of the river, in the midst of wilderness, perhaps a storm outside my tent, and wondering if I’ll be imagining this very night in which I’m dreaming of my 3-month trek down the Missouri River.  I am safe and warm and dry right now.  Will this be something I long for then, just as I am longing for the isolation and adventure now?  (photo by Norm Miller)

Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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Missouri River 2013 - Mississippi River 2016 - Yukon River 2017

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