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Month: July 2016 (Page 1 of 9)

The Final Thousand Miles

July 31, Day 130, Mile 2343

I’ve been thinking about that saying “Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” On the Lewis and Clark Trail, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a journey of 2,300 miles!

Jim and I arrived at Three Forks at 6:30. After a few photos we said our goodbyes and I headed down a bicycle trail towards Three Forks. 

It was cool and pleasant and green with beautiful morning light. Two horses walked over to the fence to greet me. Bobwhite quail ran across the road. 

In Three Forks I happened to walk past a grocery store. While on adventures like this grocery stores and restaurants are hard to pass up. Although I already had breakfast two hours ago I ate a quart of strawberry yogurt.

Just short of the first bridge across the Jefferson was the Druilliard fishing access. The most successful hunter on the Lewis and Clark expedition, he came up to the Three Forks area several years later to  guide and trap and was killed and mutilated by Blackfeet, but not before killing two Blackfeet himself. 

Later I walked somewhere near the place where, in 1809, my namesake John Colter and another member of the Lewis and Clark expedition named John Potts, were surrounded by a large group of Blackfeet. Blackfeet grabbed Potts’ rifle but Colter grabbed it back and handed it to Potts.  Ordered to come ashore, Potts refused and was shot and wounded. He shot a threatening Blackfoot dead, at which point Potts was riddled with bullets and arrows, then hacked to pieces.
Colter was stripped naked and told to run for his life. After a short head-start the young braves took off after him. One by one he outdistanced them until a lone warrior was behind him.  The Indian tried to spear Colter but Colter wrested it away from him and drove the spear through him and into the ground. He grabbed the Indians blanket and the now half spear and outran the other Blackfeet until he got to the Madison River, where he hid in a log jam while the Indians searched for him. At one point they were standing right above him. The next day he started a 200-300 mile walk alone to Fort Raymond. That was just one of his many adventures in the Rockies. 

Colters’s run sign

Back in the present, the day grew increasingly warm and although the scenery was spectacular: mountains, the Jefferson River, fields; the lack of shade made for some hot walking. There was also a moderate amount of traffic and narrow shoulders so I had to repeatedly step off the road for safety reasons. 

I spotted a fly box along the road. I opened it up and it was full of high-quality fishing flies, valuable to a fly fisherman like me! There was a phone number inside the box offering a reward if found. I would’ve rather had the flies but obviously I was going to give the box back if I knew who owned it. I gave the guy a call and told him where I was. 

“Tell you what, rather than a reward why don’t you buy me a big bottle of cold Pepsi.”

An hour later he tracked me down along the road. He was delighted to get his box full of hand-tied flies back and I was just as happy to get a large cold Pepsi and a large bottle of cold water and a great Wheat Montana turkey sandwich. Win-win!

I walked a couple more miles then sat out the heat for a long break, resting in the shade of an Ennis/Yellowstone Park/Lewis and Clark Caverns sign. 

My shady sign

I’m going to post this now because I expect to lose coverage as I head into the canyon along the Jefferson River where I’ll camp. The traffic should drop off when 287 splits off from Hwy 2 in 30o yards. Colter

Lewis: Tuesday July 30th 1805. Capt. Clark being much better this morning and having completed my observations we reloaded our canoes and set out, ascending Jeffersons river. Sharbono, his woman two invalleds and myself walked through the bottom on the Lard. side of the river about 41/ 2 miles when we again struck it at the place the woman informed us that she was taken prisoner. here we halted untill Capt. Clark arrived… [Lewis was scouting and got separated from the Corps] I found a parsel of drift wood at the head of the little Island on which I was and immediately set it on fire and collected some willow brush to lye on. I cooked my duck which I found very good and after eating it layed down and should have had a comfortable nights lodge but for the musquetoes which infested me all night. late at night I was awakened by the nois of some animal runing over the stoney bar on which I lay but did not see it; from the weight with which it ran I supposed it to be either an Elk or a brown bear. the latter are very abundant in this neighbourhood. the night was cool but I felt very little inconvenience from it as I had a large fire all night.

Lewis, July 31, 1805…This morning I waited at my camp very impatiently for the arrival of Capt. Clark and party; I observed by my watch that it was 7 A.M. and they had not come in sight. I now became very uneasy and determined to wait until 8 and if they did not arrive by that time to proceed on up the river taking it as a fact that they had passed my camp some miles last evening. just as I set out to pursue my plan I discovered Charbono walking up shore some distance below me… 

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Rest, Repair and Resupply in Whitehall

Drying and sorting at Jim’s house

July 29-30

Check out photos and videos of my arrival at Three Forks on my Facebook page where you can scroll down to see them all:

It was a luxury having two full days to take care of “town chores” which left some time to relax.

It was wonderful to take a hot shower and do laundry. I used a clippers to cut off my white beard. Really gives me a different look!

I laid out all my gear to dry, then sorted out my kayaking gear and the backpacking gear I’d mailed here from Yankton.

Jim gave me a hand touching up kayak and paddle dings with epoxy. They should be in good shape to make the final water leg of the trip in a month or so.

I drove into Butte to buy supplies. Now that I think of it I don’t think I’d driven since Yankton, nearly three months ago.

Jim kept us well fed and it was nice spending a couple of mornings putting on dry clean clothes and drinking hot coffee.

Tomorrow Jim will drive me back to Three Forks and I’ll start walking again. It will be a good change of pace. I love Montana. Colter

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Headwaters of the Missouri

July 28, Day 127, Mile 2321

Today was a landmark day, the day I reached the headwaters of the Missouri and the end of my long journey upstream along this longest river in America. 

In the morning I was on my last map page of “The Complete Paddler,” the guidebook nearly all Missouri Paddlers carry. 

Like many prior days, fast stretches of current alternating with paddleable water had me crawling in and out of the boat many times. 

Mink romped along the shore occasionally, swimming across the river as the mood struck them. One stick floating down the river turned out to be a young mink, who suddenly dove on my approach. Blue herons waded the waters and two sandhill cranes fed in the grass. Three big whitetail bucks walked a gravel bar into the willows. 

The remaining miles counted down: 12, 8, 3.  Limestone cliffs towered over the river. 

Ahead I could see a lone person with a black lab. That would be my smokejumper buddy Jim Griffin. I lifted my paddle in triumph and he raised his arms with a yell. 

“How does it feel?” He said. 

“It feels great!”

First stop at Three Forks

I wanted to paddle up a little farther, to the the confluence of the Madison, so Griff drove upriver.  

Another person sat on a rock outcropping ahead. I knew that would be Norman Miller. He congratulated me on completing my long journey up the Missouri, pointing out the final landing just past a stand of cottonwoods ahead. 

Last upriver paddling, Photo by Norm

For one last stretch I pulled and paddled until Griff and Norman stood on the shore. 

I pulled the kayak the last few feet and my upstream kayak trip was over, I was here at Three Forks. There were handshakes and congratulations. 

Congrats by Norm

Norm had brought me an usually good sub sandwich, and a tub of berries and fruit. He also brought a Budweiser beer, in honor of St. Louis where the Missouri runs into the Mississippi. 

We got my kayak strapped onto Griff’s pick up and all my gear loaded up and we bid farewell to Norm. Thanks to Norm for all the support and all the good food and in sharing the adventure. 

Griffin drove us to his beautiful mountain home near Whitehall, our base for many other expeditions. Griff made us a fine meal of elk steaks and salad and potatoes. As we ate outside a small bird landed on the railing eyeing the potatoes. It was so tame it allowed me to touch it before it flew away. 

If you can access the Facebook “Missouri River Paddlers” group Norman Miller has posted photos and video of my finish. 

I will likely spend two days here in Whitehall to rest, repair and resupply, then I will continue on the route over Lemhi Pass and onto Orofino where I plan to relaunch after about 500 miles and a month of hiking.  The final segment will be 500 more miles to the Pacific. Colter

Lewis: Saturday July 27th 1805. We set out at an early hour and proceeded on but slowly the current still so rapid that the men are in a continual state of their utmost exertion to get on, and they begin to weaken fast from this continual state of violent exertion. at the distance of 13/ 4 miles the river was again closely hemned in by high Clifts of a solid limestone rock… we arrived at 9 A.M. at the junction of the S. E. fork of the Missouri and the country opens suddonly to extensive and beatifull plains and meadows which appear to be surrounded in every direction with distant and lofty mountains; supposing this to be the three forks of the Missouri I halted the party on the Lard. shore for breakfast… Capt. Clark… would rejoin me at this place provided he did not fall in with any fresh sighn of Indians, in which case he intended to pursue untill he over took them calculating on my taking the S. W. fork, which I most certainly prefer as it’s direction is much more promising than any other. beleiving this to be an essential point in the geography of this western part of the Continent I determined to remain at all events untill I obtained the necessary data for fixing it’s latitude Longitude…

Lewis: Sunday July 28th 1805… we called the S. W. fork, that which we meant to ascend, Jefferson’s River in honor of Thomas Jefferson. the Middle fork we called Madison’s River in honor of James Madison, and the S. E. Fork we called Gallitin’s River in honor of Albert Gallitin… Our present camp is precisely on the spot that the Snake Indians were encamped at the time the Minnetares of the Knife R. first came in sight of them five years since. from hence they retreated about three miles up Jeffersons river and concealed themselves in the woods, the Minnetares pursued, attacked them, killed 4 men 4 women a number of boys, and mad prisoners of all the females and four boys, Sah-cah-gar-we-ah or Indian woman was one of the female prisoners taken at that time; tho I cannot discover that she shews any immotion of sorrow in recollecting this event, or of joy in being again restored to her native country…

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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