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Month: May 2016 (Page 2 of 11)

Two Worlds

May 28, Day 66

It was a quiet, calm, foggy morning. I had left my tent doors wide open (with the screen door shut of course) to maximize ventilation and reduce condensation, but under these conditions dew lay heavy on the grass and on the inside of my shelter fly.

I put on my wet pants and wet shoes but under these mild temperatures it’s only a minor discomfort, they soon warmed up.

It was nice to be on the river again and off that big, wild, windy lake. Route finding seems as if it would be ridiculously easy but it can actually be challenging. If I were in a powerboat I would probably be following the most current to stay in the deepest water. Instead I wanted to find the slowest current that will still float my kayak. Many potential channels were dead ends. Several times I had to get out and pull my kayak over into deeper water.

The shore was now often lined with cottonwood trees, likely looking, in the wilder stretches, much as it looked to Lewis and Clark.

My calm riverbottom experience changed dramatically for one stretch however. On one bank was a campground, packed with memorial day weekend campers. Some people had tents set up on the shore just inches above the water. They had far too much faith that the river wouldn’t rise.   In the vicinity were many powerboaters, as often as not rushing up and down the river in a rooster tail off speed.

Then, on the other shore, appeared a scene from Mad Max. Dirt bikes gunned it, rushing up and down the beach, disappearing in the cottonwood trees and then dashing out over sand dunes. Not to be outdone, they were joined by four-wheelers and dune buggies. Many fishermen lined the shore, seemingly oblivious to the clouds of sand being kicked up and the cacophony of loud engines. A boat with a waterskier roared up and down the river, blasting music  like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.

It was a relief to escape the area.  A rain cell was coming through and suddenly the wind hit. I landed on a sandy island tied my boat off in retreated into the willows. I covered my head with my rain jacket and it sprinkled just a bit as I had a nice little nap.

The river had more current now and I paid more and more attention to find the easiest paddling. Usually I paddled the inside bends.

I saw in my walk Several remarkable high Conocal hills, one 90 feet, one 60… Clark October 19, 1804

About 5:30 the sky to the north grew very dark and lightning begin flashing.  I was coming up to a nice point of cottonwood trees and I was past time for my break. I landed to explore for possible campsites. The storm’s wind hit and made the decision for me. I got a comfortable camp set up in plenty of time for the rain.

Tomorrow I should make Bismarck. Colter

Clark: 19th of October Friday 1804. Set out early under a gentle Breeze from the S. E. more timber than Common in the bottoms… observed great numbers of Buffalows, I counted in view at one time 52 gangues of Buffalow & 3 of Elk, besides Deer & goats &c… I also Saw an old Village fortified Situated on the top of a high Point, which the Ricarra Chief tels me were Mandans, we Camped on the L. S. I Killed a Deer & Saw Swans &c. our hunters Killed 4 Elk and 6 Deer to Day

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Cannon Ball

When I woke up I was still tired from the hard paddling of yesterday, so today I got a more relaxed start, still puttering around camp as the sun came up. I put out the solar charger to take advantage of the beautiful morning sun but soon fog rolled in over the river. There has been almost no fog since I started paddling.

I would’ve been more anxious to get on the river to take advantage of this morning calm, but light winds were predicted for the entire day.

When I started paddling though, a quartering headwind had arisen. This variable headwind stuck with me most of the day but it was light enough that I was still able to make good progress. There will be much tougher paddling ahead.

There were a few fishing boats out. There have been days where I’ve seen few if any fisherman and other stretches, for example south of Mobridge, where I saw many of them. What I haven’t been seeing is fellow paddlers. In nearly 500 paddling miles I’ve seen exactly one, a kayaker in the side channel at Pierre, whom I didn’t even get to talk to.

When I reached the mouth of the Cannonball River which Clark had described in his journals I landed to look for the round stones he had described. I found them, likely some of the very same stones the men of the Corps of Discovery saw.

Missouri River at mouth of Cannonball River

Missouri River at mouth of Cannonball River

Clark: 18th of October Thursday 1804… passed the mouth of… Cannon Ball River… Great numbers of Stone… which resemble Cannon Balls… 

I also saw a very large non-venomous snake, five feet long I would guesstimate, and by that I mean five feet and not 3 1/2 feet exaggerated to five feet.  

As the day progressed the wind slackened and so I made better time. I was putting in an hour of good paddling at a go and then finding a suitable rest stop to stretch my legs. Each time I gained about four more miles. 

Large tree trunks stuck out of the water in places now and there were much more flooded trees in general. There was a stretch of perhaps 2 miles where the shore was blocked by flooded brush and floating debris. I finally had to thread my way through it to take a break. 

A light current now swirled around the base of the flooded trees. I had certainly been dealing with plenty of wind and waves but this is the first river current I’d seen in many days. 

Two young fisherman were on the shore. 

“What are you fishing for?” I asked. 

“Walleye. Where are you headed?” one said. 

“The Pacific. I’m trying to follow the entire Lewis and Clark Trail.”

“Are you serious? Oh man. I’m a kayaker. Paddling the Lewis and Clark Trail is a dream of mine. Dude, you are my hero.”

Those kind of encounters are always fun. 

The endless reservoir of Oahe Lake was turning into a real river again. I have maps on my smart phone and I have the guidebook maps as well. The guidebook maps for the section are satellite photos taken at fairly low water. My smart phone satellite photos are taken at higher water.   

Looking ahead I saw the opportunity for a significant shortcut. At least it would be if the water were high enough. Is the water high enough? That was the question. I went with the principal that “the shortest route is the route you know” and followed the main channel of the river. That proved to be a wise decision. As I paddled along the main channel I found that my shortcut would’ve ended on what is now dry land, and would have resulted in either a portage or a very long backtrack. 

It was now nearly calm and in places the current was significant. It had been a good day. I had put in over 25 miles. Time to find a camping spot. 

I was paddling through a long stretch of marshy country. Yellow headed blackbirds, geese and mallards ruled the area. I like high ground and avoiding unpleasant surprises of rising water in the dark. Finally I began seeing a few trees ahead. On one side there was a steep bank but in a few hundred yards I saw what looked to be a good landing area on the other side. When I got there though it look like it was probably knee-deep mud but I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped out and found fairly firm footing. 

I set up my tent behind a windscreen of willows, then dragged my kayak up the sandy shore where I tied it to a tree. This evening I heard the winnowing sound of diving Wilson’s snipe, a sound I associate with falling asleep at 2 AM after a long shift on  many an Alaska wildfire. It is hard to believe I will never have that experience again as a smokejumper, but now this is another great adventure. Colter

Clark: 15th of October Rained all last night, passed a Ricara hunting camp on the S.S. & halted at another on the L.S, Several from the 1t Camp visited us and gave meat as also those of the Camp we halted at, we gave them fish hooks Some beeds &c. as we proceeded on we Saw a number of Indians on both Sides all day, Saw L. S some Curious Nnobs high and much the resemblance of a hiped rough house, we halted at a Camp of 10 Lodges of Ricaras on the S. S., we visited thier Lodges & were friendly recved by all—their women fond of our men—& c.

Clark: 16th of October Tuesday 1804… passed an old Shyenne Village, which appears to have been Serounded with a wall of earth; this is the retreat & first Stand of this nation after being reduced by the Sioux and drove from their Countrey on the heads of red River of L Winipic where they Cultivated the lands… Saw great numbers of goats or Antelope on Shore, Capt Lewis one man & the Ricara Chief walked on Shore 

Clark: 17th of October 1804 Wind S. W. I walked on Shore with the Ricara Chief and an Inteprieter, they told me maney extroadenary Stories, I Killed 3 Dear & a Elk, the Chief Killed a Deer and our hunters Killed 4 Deer, in my absenc the wind rose So high that the Boat lay too all Day; Latd 46 ° 23′ 57″ N, I caught a Small uncommon whiperwill we observe emence herds of Goats, or Antelopes flocking down from the N E Side & Swiming the River, the Chief tels me those animals winter in the Black Mountain, and in the fall return to those mounts from every quarter, and in the Spring disperse in the planes, those emence herds we See all of which is on the N E Side of the River is on their way to the mountain, and in the Spring they will be as noumeroes on their return (some ganges winter on the Missouri)…

Clark: 18th of October Thursday 1804… We met 2 french men in a perogue Desending from hunting, & complained of the Mandans robing them of 4 Traps ther fur & Seeveral othr articles Those men were in the imploy of our Ricaree interpeter Mr. Gravelin they turned & followered us. Saw Great numbers of Goats on the S. S. Comeing to the river our hunters Killed 4 of them… we Saw a Gangue of Buffalow bulls which we did not think worth while to kill-our hunters Killd. 4 Goats 6 Deer 4 Elk & a pelican & informs that they Saw in one Gang 248 Elk

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

North Dakota!

May 26, Day 64

It was a nice morning. It seemed a little darker though, waking up underneath the trees. 

I paddled for about two hours before taking my first break. When I got out of the kayak I looked down and found a fossil of some kind of ancient mullusc  about as big as my fist. 

Later as I paddled past the green prairie I saw a couple of animals running towards the river: is that coyotes?  No, smaller and closer.  Prairie dogs! A small village of them. Later I spotted another village. 

I was supposed to be paddling on the protected shore but instead I had a significant quartering tailwind. That’s not as good of a deal as one might think because it’s difficult to keep the boat going straight in the waves, at least it is for me. 

A boat sped  across the river maybe 3 miles ahead. I noticed it’s wake appeared to be hidden behind the curvature of the earth. 

When I got to Fort Yates I was looking forward to getting out of the boat and walking into town and to get a hot meal. But when I drew even with Main Street riprap covered the shore, riprap washed by waves. It wasn’t practical to land by the time there was a beach, by then it was a long walk back so I sadly gave up my plan. 

A brisk wind had sprung up from the south west and  I had to cross a side bay. Waves started to build so I turned around and waited for a while. The wind finally died down some and I paddled quickly to the opposite shore which I followed, now with a nice tailwind. 

I cut the corner of another bay and when I got to the other side I saw that I was looking at an island not the other shore.  A large number of blue herons and geese flew up. When I got out of the kayak to verify that I was in fact on an island I noticed a dozen or more nests full of big eggs. It was clear from the behavior of the blue herons that it was their nests. I think I could’ve picked up a 5 gallon bucket full of eggs. I took a quick photo and left. 

I always like to get across the side bays as quickly as possible, so now I launched on my fourth “sprint” in fairly rapid succession. I was starting to get tired.  I landed for a break. I thought that I had paddled close to 35 miles but the maps said it was more like 32 river miles. With all my shore hugging during the day I likely had paddled a few extra miles. Regardless, I was getting tired and needed to call it a day. 

There are trees on this stretch here and there, in drainages primarily. I actually set up on a gravel bar mostly protected from west wind. Just this moment two last year’s whitetail fawns were playing just outside the tent!

As I set up the tent something much more remarkable happened. I heard what I thought was a pheasant in the brush. There was the flapping of big wings and a wild turkey flew by, but what was really amazing is it had an egg in its beak! It dropped the egg onto the rocky shore where it shattered,  the hen landing next to the water. It walked down for a drink, wading out to its belly in the water. 

I suspect it was an egg from the nest that wasn’t developing so it was getting rid of it. I saw that in one or more blue heron nests too, at least that’s what I had theorized. 

At some point this morning I crossed into North Dakota, another big milestone! Colter

Clark: 11th of October Thursday 1804… met the 1s Chief in Council, he Thanked us for what we had given him & his people promised to attend to our advise, and Said the road was open for us and no one Dare Shut it &c. &. we took him and one Chief on board and Set out, on our way took in the 2d Chief at the mo of a Small Creek… Those people gave us to eat Corn & Beans, a large well flavoured Been which they rob the Mice of in the Plains and is verry nurishing-all tranquillity
Clark: 12th of October Friday after Brackfast we joined the Chiefs & Indians on the bank who wer waiting for us…requested us to take a Chief of their nation and make a good peace with the Mandan for them, that they Knew that they were the Cause of the war by Killing the 2 Mandan Chiefs… he gave us 10 bushels of Corn, Some Beens & Simmins… we gave them Some Sugar Salt and a Sun Glass each, and after eating a little they returned on Shore leaveing one to accompany us to the Mandans… The Ricaras Are about 500 men Mr. Taboe say 600 able to bear arms, and the remains of ten different tribes of Panias reduced by the Small Pox & wares with the Sioux, they are tall Stout men corsily featured, their womin Small & industerous raise great quantites of corn beans &c also Tobacco… Their language is So corrupted that many lodges of the Same village with dificuelty under Stand all that each other Say—They are Dirty, Kind, pore, & extravegent; possessing natural pride, no begers, rcive what is given them with pleasure, Thier houses are close together & Towns inclosed with Pickets, thier Lodges are 30 to 40 feet in Diamuter Covered with earth … Small Willow & grass is put across to Support the earth

Lewis and Clark, October 13, 1804: 

the Court martial convened this day for the trial of John Newman, charged with “having uttered repeated expressions of a highly criminal and mutinous nature; the same having a tendency not only to distroy every principle of military discipline, but also to alienate the affections of the individuals composing this Detachment to their officers, and disaffect them to the service for which they have been so sacredly and solemnly engaged.”—The Prisonar plead not guilty… The court… are unanimously of opinion that the prisonar John Newman is guilty… and do sentence him agreeably to the rules and articles of war, to receive seventy five lashes on his bear back, and to be henceforth discarded from the perminent party engaged for North Western discovery… he shall be exposed to such drudgeries as they may think proper to direct from time to time with a view to the general relief of the detachment.-

Clark: 14th of October Sunday 1804… halted on a Sand bar and had the punishmt inflicted on Newmon, which caused the indian Chieif to cry untill the thing was explained to him Camped opposit an antient fortification which is on the L. S, when I explained to the Chief the Cause of whipping N—he observed that examples were necessary & that he himself had made them by Death, but his nation never whiped even from their bearth.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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