Can You Spin Plates AND Dance? -Planning an Expedition

Change is Good
Change is Good [Logo design by Jonathan Lauten]

Expedition planning and spinning plates have a lot in common. Both are overwhelming, both require diligence and focus, and both will reward you with success and accomplishment, despite the intermingling with falls, drops and crashes. A plate spinner is persistent and does not ‘bag it’ when plates fall and shatter. An adventurer does not ‘bag it’ when planning confronts obstacles. Nope. They get back on the path called “onward” and forge ahead, come hell or high water! [idiom meaning “no matter what”]

Decision is the key! Decide to take a risk, and pursue an adventure. Decide to spin the plates, and keep picking them up, try again, spin ‘em, drop ‘em, try and try and try again. DECISION spawns DESIRE. This is the dynamic duo one needs to accomplish grandiose goals, pursue the unattainable, and conquer the impossible! Yes, spin plates and dance at the same time.

A gift from our Natchez River Family
A gift Tee from our Natchez, Mississippi River Family

Rarely does one embark upon an expedition without some hesitation at first. Do I have the time? Do I have the money? Do I have the strength? Do I have obligations? Do I have the courage? Some, perhaps, may have organized their life in such a way that everything is under control, including time and financial needs. That may take a lifetime of planning. Most of us river rats do not fall into that category. More often than not we feel the appeal, then become compelled to begin the pursuit. Granted, it takes time to actually say, “YES, I’m doing it!” But, once the urge becomes a “decision,” priorities begin to shift, creativity soars, goals appear, and your life transforms.

I was meant to do this. I was born to do this. Everything in my life, the experiences, the challenges, the stumbles, the victories, have led me to this project. The time is now, as I cannot pretend I am still a youth. Well, at heart of course. I did run a trail yesterday and felt just as good as when I WAS a youth. However, taking on two expeditions in planning, yes, both the Miss and Yukon as they cannot be separated, AND teaching 7th grade Science has its overwhelmingments (I just made up that word, ha!).

The Great Mississippi River-2016
The Great Mississippi River-2016
The Great Yukon River-2017
The Great Yukon River-2017
IMG_1588
M&Ms Lab was a big hit

This idea to paddle the three longest rivers in North America blossomed early last fall. As I tossed it around for several months, thinking mostly about the Yukon River paddle, the more I wanted to do it, and believed I could do it. However, the logistical details of paddling the Yukon this summer spun around in my mind and led to more and more sleepless nights. I realized I could not plan a Yukon paddle and teach full time with peace of mind. So, I rearranged the rivers and placed the Mississippi River on this summer’s calendar and things began to fall into place. I am looking forward to connecting the upper Mississippi to the magical lower Mississippi with a ride down the river’s full length.

Since my February 1 official announcement, I have been busy, but mostly focused on teaching, which is my priority. This website was an early expedition priority, a ‘must have’ in order to make an announcement by February 1. I managed to get it started just in time (hurray, a plate was spinning) but, seriously, I had to wait two months until this 5-day Spring Break before I could make a new post. So, call me crazy. I am calling on all strengths and fortitudes to conquer this 1Woman3GreatRivers goal. 

While planning for the imminent Mississippi River plunge on May 25 at Lake Itasca, MN, which will be here before we know it, I am working diligently to craft my mission for the Yukon River. I want to help bring awareness to the Arctic indigenous Gwich’in Nation’s plight to acquire permanent wilderness designation for the Coastal Plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This will help protect the birthing and nursing habitat of the Porcupine Caribou, a creature that is closely connected to the Gwich’in people’s culture, heritage, sustenance, and future survival. The Coastal Plains are still vulnerable to oil and gas industry drilling. I am currently awaiting contact from them before I forge ahead with this mission in mind. 

“The Arctic Refuge coastal plain encompasses approximately 1.2 million acres and serves as the biological heart of the entire refuge. Polar and brown bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and muskox are just a few of the more than 250 animal species that depend on the coastal plain. Millions of birds, representing some 125 species, migrate to the coastal plain to nest, rear their young and feed. The coastal plain is not only one of the most significant onshore polar bear denning habitats in the United States but also the most important habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd.”  [http://refugeassociation.org/advocacy/refuge-issues/arctic/]

Photo Credit: Florian Schulz [ourarcticrefuge.org]
Photo Credit: Florian Schulz [ourarcticrefuge.org]

In the meantime I am currently spinning more and more plates, and learning how to dance at the same time.

Many adventurers and explorers have numerous preparations and planning tasks, but these are a few of mine:

Contacting companies for sponsorship or gear support

LoveYourBigMuddy Presentations

Establishing communication with the Gwich’in Steering Committee

Applying for a National Geographic Explorers Grant

Applying for a Timmissartok Foundation Grant

Preparing Blue Moon for expedition

Reserving an educational activity booth at the St. Louis Earth Day Event on April 24

Finding a reasonably priced rental vehicle to travel to the Mississippi source, Lake Itasca. 

Establishing my solar charging/storage system

Dehydrating vegetables and jerky

Developing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) for grants

Applying for a Passport

Getting my taxes done

Having bumper stickers made

Designing a 1Woman3GreatRivers Project poster

Checking airfare to and from Alaska and British Columbia

Developing a budget

Submitting photos for The Mississippi River Photo Shoot Out

Printing photos for signature and sending to LoveYourBigMuddy supporters 

Starting a physical fitness program: Trail running, bike riding, dog walking, and paddling 

Brainstorming a custom sprayskirt design for Blue Moon

Posting blog updates

Learning how to use Garmin GPS device

Learning how to use GoPro camera

Eat, sleep, planning for and going to work

Finding pink crocs! Help! 🙂

My new expedition cards with John Ruskey's Rivergator Map on the back. Rivergator is an online paddler's guide for the Middle/Lower Mississippi River. Visit at Rivergator.org
My new expedition cards with John Ruskey’s Mississippi River Map on the back. Rivergator is an online paddler’s guide for the Middle/Lower Mississippi River. For more information and maps, visit Rivergator.org

All THAT said, as river time approaches, my soul begins to be reminded of the peace of mind and joyful heart that comes with slipping away from the river shore, gently rocking on the water, contemplating life and its wonderments, making decisions only by me, anticipating what’s around the next bend, bonding with the good people of the river, living without excess, simply, with the stars and the moon and, yes, the mosquitos. Life is short. Find your pleasure. And, if you cannot seem to get the plates to spin, just dance, dance, dance.

Much love-

IMG_4226

Peace out

IMG_1797
The Great Missouri River near Columbia, MO, Cooper’s Landing, Plowboy Bend, Rivermile 170

 

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.” – Waite Phillips

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

IMG_0157

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.

image
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
IMG_5736
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…

IMG_2643
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.

IMG_2672

…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

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!

Trimming the Boat Before Take Off

 

Fitting the puzzle pieces together.
Fitting the puzzle pieces together.

 

Compact fit. Of course, ther is a lot of stuff in the hatches, too.
Compact fit. Of course, ther is a lot of stuff in the hatches, too.

We practiced packing the boat yesterday. Thanks to Norm Miller, I’ll be running a pretty tight ship. At least it looks pretty trim.

Norm demonstrating how to get out of the spray skirt should The boat tumble over.
Norm demonstrating how to get out of the spray skirt should The boat tumble over.

 

Sail simulation.
Sail simulation.

we are heading to Sawtelle Peak for the ski in to the Missouri River’s ultimate source, Brower’s Spring. We will be skiing, and not paddling. The spring is just below the Continental Divide.

Our visit with Norm and his girlfriend, Kris Walker, has been heartwarming and incredibly fun. We will take away some very memorable moments lasting a lifetime!

Please be patient with me as I transition my computer tool from a laptop with Vista Business to an iPad. It is my first Mac experience aside from an iPhone I’ve only owned for two months. I hope to be able to keep you better updated.

Off we go!

image

image

Drivers, Are You Ready? Start Your Engines!

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.

Last minute detail: loading the boat, with Dave Bandy.

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.” IMG_0155 We drove through some gorgeous countryside in northern Kansas and southeaster Nebraska.

Gorgeous country. Beautiful Haley.
Gorgeous country. Beautiful Haley.

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! IMG_0166 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…

IMG_0165
Galen Wickham, left, and son Gabe. Thanks again guys!

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.

Sinclair Truck Stop at Orin Junction, WY
Sinclair Truck Stop at Orin Junction, WY
IMG_0296
The glorious Teton Mountain Range!
IMG_0316
The Grand Teton

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! image image 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. IMG_0201 IMG_0227 IMG_0230 IMG_0237 IMG_0245 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. IMG_0251 IMG_0262 IMG_0269 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! IMG_0272IMG_0288 IMG_0276 IMG_0306   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. IMG_0331 IMG_0345 IMG_0333 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.

IMG_0394
We will be skiing in to Brower’s Spring from Sawtelle Peak tomorrow morning! The spring is behind the mts on the right.
IMG_0415
This was spotted out my car window in Idaho.
IMG_0398
The muddy road into Centennial Valley, where our ski trip will end at Hell Roaring Creek.
IMG_0421
Mountains are everywhere in Montana! Madison Range
IMG_0445
Jefferson River
IMG_0439
Beaver head River at Three Forks

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.

image image image image image image

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.

image

Preparations: Gear, Food, and Fundraising

I am totally immersed in preparations for the trip while still trying to substitute teach enough days to ‘pay the rent,’ so to speak.  Spring Break comes next week so I will not be able to work.  This will be a good time to tie up a lot of loose ends.

NewBlueMoon
My beautiful Eddyline Shasta

We brought my Eddyline Shasta kayak into the house the other day because I needed to apply a keel strip for protection and the weather has been too cold.  The temperature needs to be at least 70 degrees, so into the house it came.  I went ahead and applied the new boat name letters, too.  I am very pleased with the outcome.  Next, I will apply this blog’s web address on the side along with some of my sponsorship decals.  Isn’t it pretty?  Handsome?

Alpine Shop in Columbia is sponsoring me with some significant gear items.  Thank you, Brennan!  He has donated a camp stove-MSR Reactor system (yes!), a Thermarest mattress (3 in thick. excellent!), and a Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner.  They will also communicate my links and updates on their social media sites and to their email recipients.  You should stop by the shop and check out their new expanded paddling section.  They are becoming a premier paddling retailer in mid-MO.

AlpineShop_logo

I ordered my tent, a Hubba Hubba 2P tent from Walt’s Bike & Wilderness Shop.  Besides a Patagonia balaklava, polarized sunglasses and SealSkinz paddling gloves, they were able to give me a 10% discount on my tent.  Every little bit helps.  Thanks, Sarah.

Copy of waltlogowebidea23

After four of my emails were ignored by PowerFilmsSolar, I talked to Julie on the phone, mainly because I needed to purchase my solar charging system and a friend, Barb Giles, offered to donate funds to purchase it.  We weren’t sure what exactly what I needed, so when I talked to Julie, she ended up apologizing for them ignoring me, and offered me a pro-discount on a 14R roll up solar charger.  Thanks, Julie! And, THANK YOU, BARB!

PowerFilmSolar_r14a

I’ll order my sleeping bag today, and a GoPro camera.  GoPro has not responded to my sponsorship proposal, nor has Cascade Designs for a sleeping bag.  That’s okay, though.  I am content with all the things I have been given.  Oh, and I will probably purchase a GPS device, but not sure yet.  Norm Miller will have one we can use to get to Brower’s Spring.

My Kokatat gear should be arriving any day.  That will complete my paddling gear.  I’m excited about looking it all over.  Once I have all of my gear, I will need to start puzzle piecing everything into the boat.  That will be the biggest challenge.  I normally carry everything but the kitchen sink with me, everywhere I go.  My first backpacking trip, when I was 16-years old, was unforgettable because I was ribbed extensively due to all the stuff I had to unload out of my pack. I cannot remember details, but somewhat recall a big tube of Crest toothpaste being the brunt of long-lasting jokes.  Hey, one has got to keep their teeth brushed, right?

Veteran paddlers have offered a lot of good advice about food to bring.  I posted a request for their thoughts on the “Missouri River Paddlers” Facebook Group as well as the “Expedition Canoe and Kayakers” Facebook Group.  I received a lot of great ideas, a few of which I have included here:

Dale Sanders:  Tortillas – most any eatable food can be roled into them, very satisfying meal and they have long “shelf life” and available at most grocery stores. Try Nutella rolled in – delicious.

West Hansen Keep it simple: instant oatmeal with Starbucks Via for breakfast. Mid morning sip 1200 calorie bike bottle of SPIZ (half vanilla/half chocolate). Lunch: can of tuna with Cholula sauce and some dehydrated fruits. Mid afternoon – same SPIZ drink. Supper, dehydrated meal with some canned meat mixed in for calories. When racing, I up my SPIZ mix with some extra maltodextrin electrolytes. Sometimes I add a Starbucks Via to the SPIZ. Then we call it SPAZ.

Kathy Norpell Kurzhals: Tuna, tortillas wraps ( cheese sticks, pb&honey, foil chicken breast), brown minute rice with any seasonings, chicken helpers and tuna helpers, pita bread with pepperoni and squeeze tomato paste and cheese-pizza!, polenta, quinoa, even mac’n cheese…….

Marin Medak:   Beef jerky is one of my favorites. Then mini Snickers, and also some fruits – bananas, oranges, apples.

I will include other “good advice” contributions in an upcoming post.  I learned a lot from all of these experienced paddlers.  As a result of the good advice, I have purchased a dehydrator and seal-a-meal machine to vacuum seal the food.  So far I have dried beef, apples, bananas, pineapple, and blueberries.  Next, I will dry vegetables, more beef, some fruit roll-ups, and some sauces.  Yes, you can dry spaghetti sauce like a fruit roll up, and just add water bring it back to sauce.  Cool, eh?

 

Samplings of my first round of drying foods.
Samplings of my first round of drying foods.
Apples, beef jerky, pineapple, bananas and blueberries.

I have just started throwing interesting food items in my basket when I come across them.  Mostly, they are side-dish pastas and rice, which will be wonderful to have after long days of paddling.  I will also make my own trail mix.

Some of the food items I have begun collecting.  I will make my own trail mix.
Some of the food items I have begun collecting. I will make my own trail mix.

I am going to buy some Tanka Bars, too, made and sold by the Oglala Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The bars, and bites, are made with buffalo and cranberries, and are all natural (and delicious, too).  Check out a location that sells them near you and HELP SUPPORT the Pine Ridge Reservation Oglala Lakotas!  The Tonka Bars will serve as my energy protein bars.  I’ve never been ‘into’ Cliff Bars or other types of energy bars.

55-34-9-13-4-112-000920804-TankaBarforfrontpg

Fundraising continues with the hope that I can be financial sustained during my 3 1/2 month excursion.  I am looking forward to the Love Your Big Muddy Blues Benefit on Wednesday, March 27.  The event will be held at a local pub, MoJoe’s (THANK YOU, MOJOE’S!!), on a full-moon night with some of the best blues musicians in Columbia, MO.  It is a jam, so musicians can step up to the stage and contribute their talents.

Poster

The host musicians include John D’Agostino, Dennis Ternamian, Alan Loshbaugh, and Charlie Waddell. Other musicians playing music are Scott McCullough, Zed Zardoz, and Debbie D’Agostino, John’s sister. The D’Agostino family have been blessed with beautiful voices.  Johnny D will be taking names for the jam.  Naked Dave will be MC for the event (Go Dave!), so YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS EVENT!  Free appetizers made with tender loving local care will be provided.  And, buy lots of raffle tickets because you get to choose your own reward!  The more tickets, the more chances to win a great prize!  Big thanks to the committee, headed by Heidi Brunaugh.  Love you guys!

If you would like to sponsor me with a financial donation, please visit my “Donation Opportunities” page, or my GoFundMe page on the web.  To see who has contributed thus far, visit my “Financial Contributors” page on this blog.

Thank you for your support! You are making this happen!

Live fast ~ Paddle slow

See you on the river!!!

Planning: Boat, Blog, Brower’s, Businesses and Press

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.

shastaonStand

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.

GoodBy-BarbaraMay
Time for a name change.

 

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.

Making the video.  (Photo by Dennis Dye)
Making the video. (Photo by Dennis Dye)

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.

Here is one of Norm Miller's re-supply packs from his trip UP the Missouri River.
Here is one of Norm Miller’s re-supply packs from his trip
UP the Missouri River in 2004.

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.

Copy of waltlogowebidea23

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.

South Valley road in winter is often only passable using a snowmobile. This is looking east into the refuge. Lakeview is in the distance. (photo by James N. Perdue)
South Valley road in winter is often only passable using a snowmobile. This is looking east into the refuge. Lakeview is in the distance.
Photo taken in Feb., 2011 (I think).
(photo by James N. Perdue)

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.

Ciera-MissourianInterview_2-6-13-autocorrect

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.

Photo by Norm Miller
Photo by Norm Miller
1Camp_NormMiller
Photo by Norm Miller

Live fast ~ Paddle slow