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Month: April 2016 (Page 3 of 10)

Thunderbolts and Lightning

The sound of a strong wind woke me up at about 4 AM. There was a mysterious flash of light. I watched and there was another and another and another. A thunderstorm was rolling my way from the north. There was a flash of lightning perhaps every second or two or three, but I could hear no thunder.

Surprisingly, I could see well enough to get my shelter organized so that nothing was near the edges of the fly where it might get dripped on.

After a while I could hear the first rumbles of thunder, and then more and more as the wind continued to shake my tent. Rain began pattering on my tent, now coming down harder and harder. It was quite a racket with the thunder and the wind and the roaring of the rain on the shelter fly. It was good soil so I knew my tent stakes would stay in place and there was good drainage. What wasn’t ideal is that I was camped along a ridgetop. I peeked under the tent fly and watched as the lightning flashed. Lots of big oaks along this ridgetop so it wasn’t too bad of a spot, with all those objects much taller than myself. If I was camping onan open ridge I would be packing up to leave.

I fell back to sleep for a while and when I woke up once again the rain was diminishing and the lightning was moving away towards the south. In a lull in the rain I began packing quickly, and soon was all packed up and heading down the hill to the road.

There was a town about 10 miles away, a town called Missouri Valley, where I was going to get my next food supply. I decided to walk it straight through without a sitdown break.

Just as I entered town there was a restaurant but it was closed. A train, with flashing red lights at the crossing, was blocking my way. I had to walk to the next crossing, in the wrong direction unfortunately.

Two girls were playing on a porch. “Hi!” one of the yelled.
“Hi. Is there restaurant on this street?”
“Yes. See that stop light? There’s one right there.”

I wanted to sit down. Unfortunately that restaurant was closed. I wandered around for a few blocks until I finally found a place called Papa Joe’s that was open. It was a bar but they had pizza so that would work for me.

The pizza was actually surprisingly good. When I arrived there was just a cheerful bartender and an older fellow drinking a beer. More people wandered in is I waited for my pizza. The older fellow wanted to know what I was doing.

“But why would you want to do something like that? Are you a millionaire or something. What’s the point?” Talk of adventure, challenge, history meant little to him.

The rest of the small crowd was more understanding, but their faces clearly showed no interest in tackling something like this themselves, which is perfectly understandable.

I headed north out of town. I was noticing that the trees still are only about two thirds leafed-out which is surprising, because they were already leafing out in St. Louis one month ago today. I suppose I have come nearly 200 miles farther north though, so that makes some difference.

The weather forecast was showing thunderstorms tonight starting at about 4 PM including the possibility of some severe storms. That immediately planted the idea of looking for another good concrete bridge to camp under into my head.

I found a nearly perfect bridge before the storm hit. The storm didn’t amount to much until just before sunset when it hit in earnest, the sky a strange color, the rain hammering down, the wind howling amidst relentless thunder and lightning. By midnight it had passed.


July the 28th, Satturday 1804…G Drewyer brought in a Missourie Indian which he met with hunting in the Prarie This Indian is one of the fiew remaining of that nation, & lives with the Otteauz, his Camp about 4 miles from the river, he informs that the great gangue of the nation were hunting the Buffalow in the Plains.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Council Bluffs

Even at night it was beautiful in my camp, high on the narrow grassy ridge among the cedars. The big, bright moon slowly arced overhead to the west.

I slept great.  I drank the last of my water in sips as I packed in the morning. I could get more water in 6 miles, earlier if necessary.  It was a steep descent through sometimes thick brush to the road. Traffic was light on this Saturday morning.  There was a giant complex of greenhouses on the right, they were working today with people already arriving.

Soon my route turned off on the Wabash Trace Trail, another rails-to-trails project.  It was nice to see  a few runners and walkers and bicyclists out enjoying this nice trail. I followed it for quite some distance before turning off on another bike route that went around the beautiful campus of the Iowa School for the Deaf.

Wabash Trace

    Wabash Trace

There were several signs there telling the  story of the Mormon migration through this area.  They wintered in the Council Bluffs and Omaha area before moving on to Utah.

Morman Trail

Morman Trail

I was looking for five things in Council Bluffs: breakfast, water, a place to recharge my electronics, food for the next section of trail, and a bandanna to use for a sun shield for my ears and neck, to replace the one that I lost.

I walked through a giant, largely vacated mall where incredibly I couldn’t find a place to buy a bandanna.

McDonald’s took care of the breakfast, the recharge, and the water, as well as a large cup of coffee as a bonus.

I walked a couple blocks to a large somewhat groovy grocery store and when I was checking out the cashier said:

“And what are you going to be doing on this beautiful day?” I told her what I was up to and at first she thought I just meant the Wabash Trace, but I said all the way to the Pacific. When I was walking away I heard the bag boy saying: “Oh my gosh…”

Later, walking through town, I passed a sporting good store and went in to ask if they had bandannas,  but no luck. A few blocks later here was a Walgreens and I asked an employee and she took me directly to a rack with a nice selection of bandannas. Yes!

Council Bluffs is another nice town, full of old houses with shaded porches and mature trees.  Shortly before leaving I ran across an ice cream place and enjoyed a large cone in the shade, as it had become quite warm.

The route again paralleled the Loess Hills, and now there were occasional motorcyclists enjoying the unique scenery of this back road.

I stopped at Henry’s Diner in the little town of Crescent and ordered a full meal, which included two porkchops, bread, fries, a nice big salad, and veggies.  It was delucious it and so much I had to take the fries to go.

Even with all the goofing off and eating and shopping and whatnot I managed to put in about 23 miles today.  Once again I climbed quite some distance up a hill, and found another beautiful camp spot on a grassy ridgetop, this time among big oak trees.


July 22nd, Sunday 1804

This being a good Situation and much nearer the Otteaus town than the Mouth of the Platt, we concluded to delay at this place a fiew days and Send for Some of the Chiefs of that nation to let them Know of the Change of Government, The wishes of our Government to Cultivate friendship with them, the Objects of our journy and to present them with a flag and Some Small presents Some of our Provisions in the French Perogue being wet it became necessary to Dry them a fiew days—

26th of July Thursday 1804 the wind blustering and hard from the South all day which blowed the Clouds of Sand in Such a manner that I could not complete my pan in the tent, the Boat roled in Such a manner that I could do nothing in that, I was Compessed to go to the woods and Combat with the Musqutors, I opened the Turner of a man on the left breast, which discharged half a point. five Beever Cought near this Camp the flesh of which we made use of-This evening we found verry pleasent—

Lewis, July 27, 1804

Camped in a bend to the L. S. in Some wood, I took R. Fields & walked on Shore & Killed a Deer, and did not get to the Boat untile after night a butifull Breeze from the N W. this evening which would have been verry agreeable, had the Misquiters been tolerably Pacifick, but thy were rageing all night, Some about the Sise of house flais

Trip overview and route map with position updates:








More Loess Hills

I woke up early in my camp along the Missouri River, quickly packed up and headed out to the road.

View from my tent door

View from my tent door

This was a beautiful day for hiking, mild, with only a light wind in my face. Yesterday there was often a strong wind directly in my face so this was a pleasant change. It was a good day for animals. I saw many cottontail rabbits, heard countless thousands of frogs, saw wild turkeys and many bluewing teal and mallards.

For a long way the route paralleled the interstate at a reasonable distance. but much of the of the day the road I hiked closely followed the edge of the Loess Hills. Perhaps for the first time on this trip I got a glimpse of what appeared to be the American West, with some open hilltops covered by cedar trees in places, where it would seem mule deer would live rather than whitetails.

The air was often heavy with the smell of sweet blossoms including fruit trees and various other bushes and trees that I can’t identify.

In Pacific Junction there was quite a bit going on but the place I was hoping to get a burger was closed and when I asked there was no store, no gas station that sold food, or any other place to buy something to eat. That was OK, I had some of my own food left. Just then a bicycle with panniers came by. I have been watching for fellow travelers of the Lewis and Clark Trail so I yelled to him:
“Are you biking the Lewis and Clark Trail?” He appeared not to hear me and kept going. He stopped a short distance away. I went over there and asked again.

“Yes, if you can call it that,” he said. “They never mentioned the gravel on that last section. Do you know where the trail turns off here?”

I quickly glanced at my phone to verify. “See where that white truck is turning? It should be on that street.” He walked across the street and talked to a lady for a while to ask her the same thing. When he came back he said
“I don’t know any more than when I first talked to her. Maybe the post office will know.”

Well, actually I knew myself, and I had told him, but that seemed to have no effect, nor did he seem to have any interest when I told him that I was traveling the Trail myself.

He wasn’t having fun on his adventure, and unless I miss my guess, he won’t be having any fun until his attitude changes.

It definitely wasn’t the excited conversation of comeraderie I had expected when I first met my fellow travelers of the Lewis and Clark Trail!

Many miles later I was walking down the road enjoying the hills and the frogs and the blossoms and the scenery when I glanced down and saw a full giant jar of olives lying alongside the road. I was about ready to take a break so I found a nice shady spot and carried my prize over there. I was going to eat my fill of olives! When I opened the jar, though, the seal was broken. I’m sure they were fine, but I wasn’t starving so I sadly dumped them out. Some raccoon or possum was going to have a feast.




In late afternoon I walked between a huge seed oil plant, some kind of Google installation, and on the other side the Loess Hills. I walked a few more miles until I found some nice forested country in the Hills. I started looking for a flat place to camp, kept climbing and climbing until finally I got to the main ridge.

I’m camped at the most beautiful campsite of the entire trip, pictured above. I can see to Omaha and far into Nebraska. My tent is set up on a narrow ridgeline barely wide enough to be safe. There are native grasses here, having never been plowed, and it’s all cedar trees. It looks just like a campsite out West, until I look out onto the flats and then it looks like farm country of the Midwest. Tomorrow I’ll pass through Council Bluffs.


July 21st Satturday…at about 7 oClock the wind Seased and it Commenced raining passed many Sand bars opposit or in the Mouth of the Great River Plate…a great number of wolves about us all night R. Fields killed a Deer hard wind N. W. cold


21st July from the experiments and observations we were enabled to make with rispect to the comparative velocities of the courants of the rivers Mississippi Missouri and Plat it results that a vessel will float in the Mississippi below the entrance of the Missouri at the rate of four miles an hour. in the Missouri from it’s junction with the Mississsippi to the entrance of the Osage river from 51/ 2 to 6 from thence to the mouth of the Kanzas from 61/ 2 to 7. from thence to the Platte 51/ 2 while the Plat is at least 8.—The Missouri above the junction of the river plat is equal to about 31/ 2 miles an hour

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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