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Month: May 2016 (Page 1 of 11)

Wind and Current

May 31, Day 69

I was mighty tempted to stay in my comfortable camp today.  Winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour were predicted. It didn’t seem too bad at 5 AM however, so I decided  to break camp to see what I could do. 

I paddled for about an hour and made a few miles before the wind started to come up. I stopped for a break and explored for a campsite. There was a nice spot but it had just been trashed over Memorial Day weekend. It’s amazing how some people feel it’s OK to walk away from a pile of their trash. 

I paddled on. It was the wind and the current that stopped me. I fought my way over to the wind-protected side of the river but there the current was extremely strong. When I tried to go out to the middle of the river to escape the current the wind hit me and I found that I was barely moving despite paddling hard.  On one bank was a steep bluff extending well up river and on the other side was nothing but sandbars. I swung the boat around and headed down river looking for the first reasonable site. 

I hoped for a camp in the cottonwoods but I found a flat spot slightly tucked away in the edge of some brush. There was some poison ivy around but I would avoid it as much as I could. 

I made a comfortable camp, unloaded the boat and carried it up to serve as a partial wind break. 

It’s amazing how quickly conditions change. At times the wind be howling and it was clear I had made a great choice.  Then the wind would die briefly and the sun would come out and I would think I could be paddling. There was considerable rain today, however, and the wind got even worse and now in the early evening it’s blowing hard so was a good decision quitting early. Tomorrow looks to be just as windy but if it’s fairly calm at dawn I’ll start paddling and see what happens. Colter

Clark: 23rd of October Tuesday 1804 a cloudy morning Some Snow Set out early pass five Lodges which was Diserted, the fires yet burning we Suppose those were the Indians who robed the 2 french Trappers a fiew days ago those 2 men are now with us going up with a view to get their property from the Indians thro us. cold & Cloudy…

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Upstream Paddle

The river was down at least a foot this morning so perhaps the Garrison Dam water release schedule would help me on the morning’s paddle.

It was definitely easier paddling first thing this morning although I think it was primarily because the river widened out for a bit. At other times, primarily when the river narrowed, I had to work hard to make decent progress. Occasionally I would stop paddling completely to take a look at the foam and the current to try to find the slowest water. Sometimes I would hit shallow spots and have to get out and drag. 


Somehow I don’t think I ever noticed before this trip, that in shallow water, say less than a foot deep but still floatable, it’s much harder to paddle than in deeper water. 

Perhaps my early start put me north of the Bismarck boating crowd, or perhaps it was simply less people on the river today, but I didn’t see a single party boat. All of the few boats I saw today were fishermen.

All at once, starting yesterday, I’m starting to see a lot of young geese.  It’s interesting that they can be as large as a mallard and still be all downy. There was a merganser and about seven very small chicks, all paddling madly up the river to stay ahead of me. One by one they jumped up on their mom’s back for a free ride, the last one frantically trying to catch up. It looked like he finally succeeded. 

Towards the end of my paddling day I came upon a side channel with almost no current. What a luxury it was. I thought it likely that I might hit a dead end but I thought it was worth the risk. Well I did hit a dead end, and it wasn’t worth the risk. When I got to where there was enough water to paddle it was a long way to deep water again making a portage impractical so I simply backtracked. 

A thunderstorm was looming and it was predicted to potentially get very windy and rainy and possibly hail. Rather than continuing on I decided to camp in the nearby cottonwoods. 

Listening to the weather once more, and hearing about potentially high winds, I looked above my tent and saw some dead branches. I decided to take the time to move my tent. I’m near a power line where they had cut a bunch of cottonwood trees. I’ve got my tent tucked in next to the woodpile as a wind break. I quit very early today and paddled maybe only 15 miles or so. An indication of how tired I was though from the last days is that I dozed off at least three times while blowing up my air mattress, which only takes a few minutes. 

It’s raining and thundering now although the wind hasn’t hit, but when it does I should be in good shape. It’s supposed to be very windy tomorrow so it might be “wind day.” Colter

Clark: 22nd October Monday 1804 last night at 1 oClock I was violently and Suddinly attacked with the Rhumitism in the neck which was So violent I could not move Capt. applied a hot Stone raped in flannel, which gave me some temporry ease,-. we Set out early, the morning Cold at 7 oClock we Came too at a Camp of Teton Seaux on the L. S. those people 12 in number were naikd and had the appearanc of war, we have every reason to believ that they are going or have been to Steel horses from the Mandins, they tell two Stories, we gave them nothing after takeing brackfast proceeded on—my Neck is yet verry painfull at times Spasms. 

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Peaceful morning, Road Warrior Afternoon

May 29, Day 67

I got a very early start. The winds were calm, the river foggy and peaceful, and the world slept.

Although there was current I made good progress upstream, dodging sunken logs and switching from bank to bank when it seemed appropriate to minimize the current, much like Lewis and Clark. There wasn’t another boat on the river and for a pleasant while almost no development.

I came around one corner to see the first houses of Bismarck. Fine, beautiful houses, well manicured yards, the bank carefully riprapped.

a fishing boat appeared, and another one and another one. These were the most serious fisherman, out early.

My first goal was for Abraham Lincoln State Park. It’d been many days since my last shower, shocking in the conventional world, standard procedure in the adventuring world.

At the park, people were calmly enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. Incredibly, the bathroom and shower house was empty. How that was possible with a campground with few if any empty spaces is beyond me.

I took a wonderful hot shower then gathered my dirty clothes, dumped some laundry detergent on them and then squished them in hot water in the sink until they were considerably cleaner than before. A campground volunteer came in and I asked if a mop was handy. We teamed up to mop the shower house which seemed only fair because I had just taken a free shower and scattered my share of sand around.

Many more boats had appeared while I was taking a shower and doing laundry. I paddled up to the first bridge where the Broken Oar bar is, landing my kayak in the back of the bar in the corner of the marina.

I hid my paddle, gathered my small valuables to take with me, and walked up to the road. A beautiful bike path crossed the bridge. I looked down the river to see a madhouse of power boats. I felt like a German soldier looking out over the Allied armada on D-Day.

The bikepath went past a beautiful golf course,  loaded with big shady trees and beautiful green grass. It seems strange to be in what felt like a forest again.

I stopped at McDonald’s, sorry you health food enthusiasts. When they ran my credit card their system failed, which apparently had been plaguing them. Luckily I had cash or I would’ve been very sad.

After chowing down I walked over to the sporting goods store. They had agreed to receive my new kayak seat back.  I had tracking confirmation that it was there but I always feel slightly uneasy receiving packages on the road because fiascoes are so common.

They seemed to know who I was and a fellow went off to get the package. The first box was the wrong package and I waited around as they tried to locate it. They could not have been nicer but the fellow who knew where it was was gone for the weekend. I went grocery shopping to get something done while I waited and when I got back the seat back was still missing. I picked up a couple of items I needed and went outside and ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s hoping my phone would ring with good news as I ate. It did not. The ice cream was delicious however.

Back at the kayak I loaded the boat with my groceries. A party boat next to me was having a  raucous time which would’ve been annoying but there were several bikini-clad women dancing on the boat roof. The people in the marina were having a great time, socializing, at least some of them partying quite seriously, and wearing a minimum amount of clothing.  I on the other hand was wearing my long khaki pants, my long sleeve green shirt, and my hat with the wrap-around sunshade. I was the Amish farm boy at spring break.

I was hoping my phone would ring before I left town with the news my kayak seat had been found but no dice. Maybe I can have them forward the seat up the river to another town, if they can find it, or maybe a River Angel can meet me and hand it over. One way or another it’ll work out.

Getting back out on the river wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,  it was much worse. There was much more current and wind to deal with and many, many, more boats. The standard speed seem to be top speed and the amount of consideration for paddlers seemed to be virtually nonexistent. Twice I had to cross through the main stream of boats and I was like a possum crossing a freeway.  Even though I was trying to square my boat to the waves at their worst, one big, powerful boat passing at high-speed close to me hit me with a wave so big that water sloshed in my kayak.

I paddled for a long time fighting serious current and trying not to get swamped. When I started to get away from the populated area I looked for a place to land and camp but almost all of it was steep banks on each side and any landable spot had a boat there. I was getting tired but if I stopped paddling I would get swept downstream.

At last I found a spot, kind of a steep bank but good enough. I almost started setting up in the willows right next to the river but spotted some cottonwood trees a hundred yards away across the sand. There I set up in the shade of some cottonwood trees on a nice flat spot on the leaves. Additionally it had the big bonus of being away from the chaos of the river.

This might be a pipe dream but I’m hoping in the morning the current will be slower. It seemed slower this morning and I suspect it came up when they started releasing more water at the next dam during the day. It must be 50 miles away though so I’m not sure if that timing makes sense. Regardless there’ll be far less boats and it should be more pleasant paddling in the morning. I do know for sure that this is a very comfortable campsite. I am dry, warm, well fed, well watered, and relaxed. Colter

Clark: …20th of October 1804… Saw an old Village of the Mandans… the Countrey thro which I passed this day is Delightfull, Timber in the bottoms, Saw great nos. of Buffalow Elk Goats & Deer as we were in want of them I Killed 3 Deer, our hunters 10 Deer and wounded a white Bear, I Saw Several fresh tracks of that animal double the Sise of the largest track I ever Saw, great numbers numbers of wolves, those animals follow the buffalow and devour, those that die or are Killed, and those too fat or pore to Keep up with the gangue

Lewis: 20th October Peter Crusat this day shot at a white bear he wounded him, but being alarmed at the formidable appearance of the bear he left his tomahalk and gun; but shortly after returned and found that the bear had taken the oposite rout.—soon after he shot a buffaloe cow broke her thy, the cow pursued him he concealed himself in a small raviene.-

Clark: 21st October Sunday 1804 a verry Cold night wind hard from the N. E Some rain in the night which frosed up it fell at Day light it began to Snow and Continud all the fore part of the Day passed just above our Camp (1) a Small river… this River is Situated a Stone which the Indians have great fath in & Say they See painted on the Stone, “all the Calemites & good fortune to hapin the nation & partes who visit it”—a tree (an oak) which Stands alone near this place about 2 miles off in the open prarie which has with Stood the fire they pay Great respect to, make Holes and tie Strings thro the Skins of their necks … a butifull &extensive plain—at this time Covered with Buffalow—a Cloudy afternoon, I killed a fine Buffalow, we Camped on the L. S. verry Cold ground Covered with Snow. 
Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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