We were getting tired by the afternoon and frustrated with the terrain traps we encountered, which kept adding miles on to our trip. Here is a short clip Norm took after my, umm, classic faceplant.
Shortly after the faceplant, we realized we were not going to make it out. Fortunately, our walkie-talkies were able to reach Haley and Jeannie just for a moment, and we notified them we would be staying overnight. We tried not to seem alarmed so they would not worry. That worked. We did the same for ourselves, and just tried to make the best of the situation.
The first thing we needed to do to get the Brower’s Spring was to get throught the Federal Aviation Administration gate that guards the road up Sawtelle Peak. We needed to ske from one of the switchbacks over to Jefferson Peak and up and over the Continental Divide into the Hell Roaring Creek Drainage where the spring is located.
This is the top of Mount Jefferson which stands at 10,200 ft. We traversed the top of the bowl and dropped into the Hell Roaring Creek drainage off to the left. This was a spectacular moment in the ski.
GPS showed me I was soooooo close to the spring. The surroundings indicated to me that I was likely standing on or near the spring. I could feel it in my heart and soul. My heart was racing and I was excited.
I skied out of those trees where I am sure I was on or near the spring. Rod Wellington, who has also been there, confirmed that the area looked familiar to him.
We assumed that the trip would entail an easy seven-mile ski out of Hell Roaring Canyon. We were mistaken. Because of the snow cover, we needed to be cautious of avalanche danger, and often fell prey to terrain traps, which produced steep drop-offs, false canyons, and unskiable gulleys. Because of this, we were destined to stay over night, which neither of us prepared for. In fact, we absent-mindedly left the car with no means of fire or sleeping gear. We were both tense until we gave in to the fact we were staying the night. Then, our priority switched to surviving the night. We never doubted our ability to do so.
I shivered uncontrollably all night. I was only able to sleep for about five minutes. Norm was the same way. Somehow, the hours past and it was time to go. I am thankful to have survived and avoided hypothermia. I had trailmix to eat and a granola bar which we split. I had to eat one of the granola bars for calories just after going to bed. Perhaps, it helped, I could not tell.
Next came the bike ride, 90-some miles from the base of Hell Roaring Canyon to Clark Canyon Dam. The ride took three days. The ride of all rides, the vistas were spectacular.
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.
It has been a couple of weeks since I started removing the old name and website from the Shasta. Slight delay because of a heap of snow dumped on us over the course of two weeks. It has been cold and the snow still covers the majority of ground. This photo is from BEFORE the first storm, which dumped around 8-10 inches on February 21.
And after February 21…
And after another 5 or more inches, which fell on February 26:
But, speaking of snow, I talked to the person in charge of the gate to the road up Sawtelle Peak. Because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an Air Traffic radar tower at the top, the road is gated to keep cars off the mountain when snow is present.
However, they plow the road for the employees, although 4-wheel drive is often necessary. The gentleman I spoke with was very favorable to helping us access the mountain road. He will get us past the gate so that we can ski to Brower’s from the switchback located in the upper right of this photo, below “Sawtelle Peak.”
Here is a photo of Sawtelle Peak:
And, a 3-D version from Google Earth, with switchback on far right straight across from Brower’s Spring (the green dot is the radar):
Next month I will be sipping from the waters of
Brower’s Spring, the ultimate source of the Missouri River near the Continental Divide! Of course, we will be digging through many feet of snow, no doubt. Norm Miller and I will be packing shovels.
So, that is great news!
I picked up my on/off road bike that Carl and Josh at Klunk Bicycle and Repair built for my stretch in the beginning when the waterway is frozen over. It is anticipated that this will be the case in the Centennial Valley, which is where we will come out of the mountains. There is a gravel road that follows right along the creeks and rivers and through the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
I may have to ride my bike as far as 80 miles to Clark Canyon Reservoir. Good to be prepared for any situation.
Carl has offered to loan me the bike with the option to buy it. I became a bit attached after just a few loops around the parking lot. I am hoping to purchase it at some point. I look forward to riding it until I leave. Must practice, right? Here is a photo of the bike and crew:
We had a great meeting last week to discuss fundraising. What a wonderful group of supporters: Heidi Branaugh, Steve Schnarr, Melanie Cheney, Suzanne Cooper, Dory Colbert, Roger and Barb Giles, Jeff Barrow, and Ginger Masters. We agreed that a Love Your Big Muddy Blues Benefit would be great, particularly because Columbia, Missouri, is a mecca for musicians. We have a whole bunch of great musical artists, so we hope to have a dynamite show. We would like to hold the event at a local club, MoJo’s, on Wednesday, March 27, during happy hours: 5:00 to 8:30. We’ll provide appetizers and lots of stuff to raffle away. This is the same day that my expedition story will be featured in the Columbia Missourian. Should be a good day. Still waiting for confirmation on the location.
The outpouring of financial contributions is humbling. I am very grateful for my friends and their desire to help. Without their contributions, the expedition would still go on, but the financial burden would be difficult. Thank you to all who are able and willing to donate their precious moneys. I am very grateful. If you would like to donate, you may do so here on my Donations Opportunities Page, or go to my GoFundMe page at LoveYourBigMuddyExpedition 4 Education.
I am currently focusing on foods to take. I looked at dehydrators today and will likely purchase one to make jerky and dried vegetables. I have received a fantastic response to my request for food ideas on the Facebook Paddlers Pages that I am a part of. This has been very helpful, and relieves quite a bit of anxiety as to what I will be packing for food.
That’s it for now. Things are getting busy, sleep is difficult, writing blog posts takes time. I appreciate all of you who are following me. Thank you. Still trying to figure out the tweeting thing on Twitter.
Enjoying four days off from substitute teaching this week-end. Friday was a teacher work day and Monday is Presidents’ Day, a holiday. Lots to do, lots to do. First thing to tend to is my boat.
The old keel strip has been removed. I just need to wipe it down and get all the goo off of it. Eddyline Kayaks will walk me through applying the new strip. It is a protective strip that keeps the bottom from getting too banged up when exiting the water onto shore. Hopefully, rocks will not be too big an issue on the trip.
I will also get the rudder hooked up with the cables, remove the old name, “Barbara May” and change to “Blue Moon.” I mean, how often does a trip like this cross your path? You got it: once in a blue moon. The next blue moon is in 2015, I believe. Anyway, I will also remove Bob Bellingham’s web site address, steadypaddling.com, and apply my own, http://www.loveyourbigmuddy.com. I think I will be ready for my maiden cruise after that.
The video is ready except for one last little edit. I may be able to post it here by the time I’m finished writing this post. Facebook is very easy to post things on quickly, but my blog is like home base. We’ve been together for quite a while now, growing together, so I’d like to post the video here first. It is short and sweet.
I will be starting a fundraising page with GoFundMe. I have been fighting the idea in my mind, whether or not to go “commercial.” I guess I will go for it, since I really do need the financial support. Substitute teaching is wonderful, but the pay is meager. I love the fact that many of my friends are donating on my “Donation Opportunities” blog page. Warms my heart and builds me up.
I will soon start my food supply list, get detailed on what clothing items I will bring, and take another day to invite companies to donate items. I feel as though the bigger companies are not interested since this is my first expedition. I am trying not to depend on their support. If fundraising goes well, I will purchase the items I need such as a tent, down sleeping bag, stove, GPS device, etc.
I visited with our local sport shop businesses in Columbia last week. The effort is proving to be beneficial. Walt’s Bicycle Fitness Wilderness will be donating a couple of items from my wish list. And, I am pretty sure Klunk Bicycles is donating a used mountain bike for the portion of my trip requiring a bike ride due to frozen waterways. Once officially donated, I will make an announcement. I really want to help promote our local businesses if I can.
I am watching the snow depth level at Lakeview very closely now. The first stretch of my trip will be determined by the winter conditions such as snow and ice-covered lakes and rivers. This link gives historic as well as daily snow levels and water input into the Red Rock River.
I am determined to get to Brower’s Spring no matter how much snow has fallen. I will have to rely on my ski mountaineering experience from my years living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Staying strong and healthy until April is very important. I am running two miles every other day, rowing on the rowing machine, taking walks, and will soon start riding my mountain bike substantial distances. I always try to eat good and wholesome foods. Basically, high fiber and low fat is my norm. I have made the switch to 100% whole wheat breads and pasta, and I eat a green salad just about every night. I will miss having a glass of Chardonnay with dinner while on my trip. Maybe I can stowaway a bottle now and then.
I have topped the 200 “likes” number on my Facebook page. YaY! If you have not liked the page, please do so. As I mentioned before, I am able to post to FB much more than I do blog posts. These posts take time and careful consideration, which I am finding harder to do now that I am substitute teaching most days.
The Columbia Missourian, University of Missouri’s Journalism School newspaper, interviewed me last week and we will meet soon for a photo shoot. The Missourian produced the first piece of media about my trip way back last August (or September?), with Bob Bellingham’s paddle down the Missouri River being the main feature. You can find that article on my “Media” page. Now, my trip will be a feature article. I am happy about having our local press support my trip. Here is Ciera, the journalism student who interviewed me. She is just delightful.
I started a Twitter account, @MoRivExpedition, so that I can utilize all the social media tools. I really don’t know much about Twitter. I am learning as I go. I am following a lot of cool adventure people, but only have two followers. That’s okay, though. I have no idea how to accumulate followers. I will just tweet little tweets now and then, and see how things progress. Once I get started on my trip, I cannot imagine having time to keep up with all the social media anyway. I will have to save my writing for the rainy days…or, snowy days…or, windy days.
Or, maybe on an occasional lovely day, I will take a break and hang out.
The seed displays are out at the stores, and that can mean only one thing: SPRING is right around the corner!! So, WOW, it will be time to go soon. Am I nervous? Sometimes yes, and sometimes yes.
And, speaking of seeds, I have a crazy idea to grow some leafy greens on the trip. I mean, 3 ½ months on the river? Some leafy greens would be nice. That said, the planting season in Montana doesn’t start until the first two weeks in June. My little portable terrarium might be ideal for some early planting! I have been brainstorming the perfect container for such a thing and currently have narrowed the choices down to a couple of good ones. Any suggestions out there? I’ll take them.
Today, I am going to build a “kayanoe” cradle for my kayak. The design is Michael Clark’s of Big Muddy Adventures. I took a picture while there so that I could build a set just like his. Once complete, I can lay my boat in it and get started removing the keel strip that needs replacing, and install the rudder. Eddyline Kayaks gave me a new strip to apply, and I am to call them when ready to put it on. Today is supposed to be 70 degrees, so I have picked up the lumber and will begin cutting wood this afternoon.
Thanks to Steve Schnarr and Melanie Cheney, my new neighbors and humble managers of Missouri River Relief, for the use of their large detached garage and electrical power. Another HUGE THANKS to them for giving me a dry bag. And Maryellen Self, THANK YOU, GIRL, for purchasing a new large dry bag for me from Sea to Summit. I am very grateful for all of your generosity.
Bill West of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Centennial Valley just below Hell Roaring Canyon (the route to Brower’s Spring), sent me a link in which one can look up current snow depth Lakeview Ridge Snowtel Site as well as historical data from years past (also mentioned in a previous post). This will help me determine how much snow is in the area, and if we can drive up to the base of Hell Roaring Canyon, where it appears as though we will have to ski in the seven miles to Brower’s Spring, and out again.
The lookout road on Sawtelle Peak will undoubtedly be snow-covered and we have no way of getting up the switchbacks in order to ski over to Brower’s Spring. [Unless someone out there has snowmobile contacts in Montana, Idaho, or Yellowstone…?? Helicopter ride? Of course, it would have to be an in-kind donation :)]
These photos of Sawtelle Peak were taken from the website SummitPost.org
The following photos are taken from the Refuge Virtual Tour site that is not yet official. Bill Smith provided me with this link as well. You really should check it out. James Perdue has some gorgeous photos on that site.
Down in the Centennial Valley, the upper and lower lakes in the refuge will more than likely be frozen until May, so I am planning on riding a bike from Hell Roaring Canyon down to Clark Canyon Reservoir. The road follows right alongside the waterway. The ride will be approximately 80 miles. Praying that the road into that area is free of SNOW and not muddy sloshy. Plus, we REALLY need to be able to drive up to the base of Hell Roaring Canyon. The snow data link that Bill sent me is my life-line to the start of my expedition. In 2012 on April 20, the area had 11 inches of snow. In 2011 on April 20, the area had 47 inches of snow, nearly four feet! What will 2013 have in store for us???
My new motto for the expedition: GO WITH THE FLOW!
A draft of the promotion video will be sent to me on Friday. My new expedition cards came in last week, and I have a new batch of stickers with a larger web address for bumpers. Did I tell you about my terrarium? Crazy, I know. However, having something that is alive to take care of may be good for the soul. We’ll see. Nothing is set in stone. Heck, I may not have room. I am just going to GO WITH THE FLOW! 🙂
Based on my camping experience in Missouri, I know that the threat of cold weather is present in mid-Missouri until AT LEAST after Mother’s Day, which is usually end of May (last hard frost date is late April). So, starting my trip in mid-April in the Montana Centennial Mountains at the Continental Divide pretty much necessitates winter conditions planning. Okay, got that. However, I did not really consider the Centennial Valley being covered with snow down to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
I received an email response from Bill Smith, project leader at the Wildlife Refuge, which is located down the Centennial Valley from where I’ll exit the mountains after skiing to Brower’s Spring. He writes: The refuge is not closed in April, it is just closed to boating. In addition, the two big wetland lakes (Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes) are still frozen until about May 1st. I suggest you snowshoe to Brower Spring from the Centennial Valley floor. Then you could cross country ski down the valley if there is still snow available. No refuge restrictions on ski travel.
(Norm Miller and I are planning to ski in to Brower’s Spring from Sawtelle Peak, a two-mile ski to the spring, and seven miles down to the valley floor.)
SO, the good news is: The refuge is not closed to paddlers in April, only motorized boats. Yay!
And, the not necessarily bad news: The entire valley MAY be covered in snow and the lakes covered with ice until May 1st. Dang, this is starting to become quite the adventure. And, I like it!
Bill sent me some valuable links that are critical to my planning of this upper upper portion of the expedition. Here is what he wrote:
I’ve attached two web sites. The Lakeview Ridge Snowtel site will allow you to look at graphs and charts of average snow depth during the annual cycle here. Look at historical April. It will also give you the current year.
The 2nd link is to the water gauge on Red Rock Creek. It will give you historical and real time measurements of stream flow in the creek. The gauge is on the Creek at the very Eastern boundary of the refuge.
NRCS is upgrading this website this weekend so it may not work well until Monday.
Virtual tour!!? How awesome is that! I hit every spot on the tour, and let me just say this, “It IS the next best thing to being there!” When you click on the link, the map on the left has a white dotted line sweeping along the bottom and then up towards Henry Lake. That dotted line is the Continental Divide, and Brower’s Spring is inside the lower right-hand u-turn area where the white line starts to head north. On the right side of the page, the names of the mountains will show up when you scroll over them. You can sweep 360 degrees! Enjoy! It is a fantastic site. Big huge thanks to Bill West and his willingness to help me out. We will talk by phone soon.
All photos on this post are taken from the virtual tour site.