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Day: July 12, 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Rest and Repair in Ft. Benton

July 12, Day 111

It was a pleasant mild day. I walked the 1.5 miles or so to the cafe for another big breakfast where I got partially caught up posting some of my journal days.

A barber pole was spinning a few blocks away so I stopped for a haircut and beard trim. The haircut made a big difference but the beard trim is hardly noticeable.

A book store sign drew me to browse and I bought a book about the Indians before Lewis and Clark.

Back at camp I used a special fiberglass/resin repair kit to reinforce the edges of my paddle blades. It will definitely work dramatically better than duct tape but beyond that I’m not sure.

I replaced a duct tape patch on my pants with a clear patch, and made a quality duct tape repair to my shoes which should last until I get new shoes in Great Falls.

In the afternoon I walked to the library and looked at an atlas of Lewis and Clark maps. Later I ate a big meal of Surf and Turf, followed up a few blocks away by a banana split at the ice cream place.

There are dozens of interesting historical signs and statues and whatnot here. This was the highest point of steamboat traffic, accessible only during the highest water. It was a wild town and the hub of the region at one time.

Fort Benton Corps of Discovery Statue

There are less than 250 miles left to Three Forks, the start of the Missouri River proper. I will probably start hiking again there.

My morale and health is good. The next big challenges will be the fast water between here and Great Falls and the big portage there. Colter

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Swamp Crossing, Narrow River

Note: This posts covers two more days when I had no coverage. I also posted for two other days today…

June 28:

July 11:

June 29-30, Days 98-99

June 29

I woke up during the night with an itchy back. My arms and sides were also itchy in places. Some mysterious bug bites. Not mosquitos I think, as they rarely raise welts on me and because of the spotty locations.

I had a tailwind at first and deployed my sail, wishing I’d used it earlier. I was cruising about 3 to 4.5 miles an hour. After a half hour it got too windy. I stowed the sail and paddled hard to keep the kayak straight and to round the corner where I landed and took a break. The wind let up.

My body has mostly adapted to the kayak with the help of the higher seat back and seat I modified with padding. A huge difference in comfort.

It was a three mile beeline to the next point. I saw a nice gentle ridge 200 feet up to a high point. Hoping to send out my journal entries I climbed it. No coverage at the top, but a great view of the UL Bend country. I could see most of the bend and for many miles all around. An old cabin stood in the distance. Must have been a lonely place a hundred years ago, because it would be today.

On the way down I spotted a large shed snake skin. Later I saw a whitetail and then a mule deer, I think.

A quartering headwind sprang up which I couldn’t escape on either shore. I landed for a break, sinking in mud to my ankles. I scooped up some silty water and climbed the hill a way to cook a lunch of instant potatoes out of the wind, moving over to the shade of a pine to relax.

Later when the river/lake turned west I heard voices along the south shore. Paddlers? I couldn’t see them. I hugged the north shore for wind protection. Willows encroached in this delta area. Soon I’d have current. I paddled for about two miles before my channel became noticeably shallower. I began weaving around willows.

Ducks were everywhere. I followed a faint channel towards the other bank. Finding grass sticking out of the water I landed to explore.

I stuck my paddle vertically as a marker and took a GPS fix. This would be a very easy place to lose my kayak. I walked straight towards the other shore, in 2″ to 6″ of water, often sinking into mud and having to push through high grass and willows. After 20 minutes or so I found the main channel.

Luckily I relocated my boat. What do I do now, paddle back a couple of miles? Look for a channel leading over to the main one? I elected to take the shortest, horrible route I knew.

I tied my bowline to half of my paddle and started pulling. The shallow water helped a lot. The toughest spots were the willows and shallowest areas. Biting flies and mosquitoes swarmed me. It was a good time to be alone. There would likely have been lots of complaining and possibly weeping otherwise.

Swamp Slog

It wasn’t easy but it worked out well. I walked out into knee deep mud and water to launch the boat into a light current. I’d done nearly 30 miles. The next camp spot was mine.

A nice pine stand was on my left. The only place to land was mud and willows. The worst mosquitos since the Yellowstone met me. I scouted the area. I’d have to climb to a bench, aka flat spot, in the pines. With the kayak secured I carried everything I needed in my pack and hands in one trip.

It was a steep climb but this camp had a wonderful feel to it, the opposite of the muddy, buggy swamp. It was shady, high, dry and breezy, a camp in the pine straw with a beautiful view. Colter

Camp, June 29

Lewis: Thursday May 16th… by 4 oClock in the evening our Instruments, Medicine, merchandize provision &c, were perfectly dryed, repacked and put on board the perogue. the loss we sustained was not so great as we had at first apprehended; our medicine sustained the greatest injury, several articles of which were intirely spoiled, and many others considerably injured… the Indian woman to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and resolution, with any person onboard at the time of the accedent, caught and preserved most of the light articles which were washed overboard

Lewis: May 17 Capt Clark saw an Indian fortifyed camp this evening, which appeared to have been recently occupyed, from which we concluded it was probable that it had been formed by a war party of the Menetares who left their vilage in March last with a view to attack the blackfoot Indians in consequence of their having killed some of their principal warriors the previous autumn. we were roused late at night by the Sergt. of the guard, and warned of the danger we were in from a large tree that had taken fire and which leant immediately over our lodge. we had the loge removed, and a few minutes after a large proportion of the top of the tree fell on the place the lodge had stood; had we been a few minutes later we should have been crushed to attoms.

June 30

It was a beautiful, calm morning. At first the current was light and the water glassy. The river was relatively straight and narrow.

Morning Calm

After a while I was surprised to see three canoes. They greeted me with the standard “You’re going the wrong way!” They were a cheerful group, out for about three days and having fun. They were amazed when they asked where I was headed.
This stretch of river is the narrowest I’ve seen. There are places where someone with a good arm could throw a rock across.


Later a log cabin and campsite appeared on the left bank. On a steep, outside bend it was very difficult to land. I checked out the careful notching of the cabin. These old cabins are rapidly disappearing. A smaller cabin featured prickly pear cactus on the roof.

I studied the map. My right arm was a bit sore. James Kipp landing was about 40 miles away. I’d do two 20-milers and get there tomorrow afternoon.

Goldfinches flitted near a bluebird. Both beautiful birds. Paddling near shore I saw a carp with its head out of the water eating something on some roots! 20 seconds later a second carp was doing the same thing.

I checked out a primitive camp on another bend. Again a landing was very difficult on the steep outside bend. The tree leaves were being eaten by some kind of caterpillars. I didn’t like the feel of the place. I got back in my boat with care. The bank was very slippery with a steep drop-off. People must often fall in here trying to launch canoes.

Eventually I found a tolerable landing spot in another mile. I climbed a bank and walked through the thistles and willows and made an early camp in the shade of cottonwoods. I spent over two hours catching up on my journaling. Thunder rumbled but the storm didn’t reach me. Colter

Clark: May 23rd Thursday 1805… I walked on Shore and killed 4 deer & an Elk, & a beaver in the evening we killed a large fat Bear, which we unfortunately lost in the river, after being Shot took the water & was Carried under a drift… The after part of this day was worm & the Misquitors troublesome. Saw but five Buffalow a number of Elk & Deer & 5 bear & 2 Antilopes to day. the river beginning to rise, and Current more rapid than yesterday, in maney places I saw Spruces on the hills Sides Stard. this evening.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

40 Mile Day

This is a post from when I had no coverage. I just made a post for July 11 as well

June 28

I slept great. Only natural sounds surrounded me: frogs, crickets, a mule deer bounding.
I repacked the kayak with a great deal more care, storing food and water I won’t need the next few days in the bow and stern, and things I’ll need today in handy places.

My goal was more big miles. I wanted to get this last big Missouri lake behind me while the weather held.

I barely spotted two people in sculling boats along the opposite shore. I’d hoped to talk to them. Shortly thereafter I saw two tents in the pines. I stopped. It was Mike and Dillon and Cookie the dog, headed to St Louis. It was fun talking to fellow paddlers. Their weather report said big winds coming up today. I headed back out to put in more miles if their report was right.

Several fisherman asked where I was headed and seemed either amazed or incredulous.
Two animals were feeding near shore. Bighorns! Two young rams. It was fun to see another large mammal species. I didn’t realize there were any around here.

Bighorn Rams

Bighorn Rams

A paddlefish leapt out of the water, his big paddle nose leading the way, landing with a huge splash. Later there was another. A thousand miles of paddling and I finally got a couple of good looks at them.

As I neared 40 miles of paddling I watched for campsites. The distant shore had pines. When I checked out a possible site on this shore it was best described as creepy. The water was full of silt and weeds, the shore muddy, the bluff susceptible to landslides and the ground covered with thistles. The next spot was similar. The third was much improved. Good thing because I was tired. Colter

Lewis: Saturday May 11th 1805… the courant strong; and river very crooked; the banks are falling in very fast; I sometimes wonder that some of our canoes or perogues are not swallowed up by means of these immence masses of earth which are eternally precipitating themselves into the river; we have had many hair breadth escapes from them… my attention was struck by one of the Party runing at a distance towards us and making signs and hollowing as if in distress… he informed me… he had shot a brown bear which immediately turned on him and pursued him a considerable distance but he had wounded it so badly that it could not overtake him; I immediately turned out with seven of the party in quest of this monster, we at length found his trale and persued him about a mile by the blood… and shot him through the skull with two balls… we now found that Bratton had shot him through the center of the lungs, notwithstanding which he had pursued him near half a mile… these bear being so hard to die reather intimedates us all; I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen and had reather fight two Indians than one bear;

Lewis: [Clark?] 13th of May Monday 1805

In the evening the men in two of the rear canoes discovered a large brown bear lying in the open grounds about 300 paces from the river, and six of them went out to attack him, all good hunters; they took the advantage of a small eminence which concealed them and got within 40 paces of him unperceived, two of them reserved their fires as had been previously conscerted, the four others fired nearly at the same time and put each his bullet through him, two of the balls passed through the bulk of both lobes of his lungs, in an instant this monster ran at them with open mouth, the two who had reserved their fires discharged their pieces at him as he came towards them, boath of them struck him, one only slightly and the other fortunately broke his shoulder, this however only retarded his motion for a moment only, the men unable to reload their guns took to flight, the bear pursued and had very nearly overtaken them before they reached the river; two of the party betook themselves to a canoe and the others seperated an concealed themselves among the willows, reloaded their pieces, each discharged his piece at him as they had an opportunity they struck him several times again but the guns served only to direct the bear to them, in this manner he pursued two of them seperately so close that they were obliged to throw aside their guns and pouches and throw themselves into the river altho the bank was nearly twenty feet perpendicular; so enraged was this anamal that he plunged into the river only a few feet behind the second man he had compelled take refuge in the water, when one of those who still remained on shore shot him through the head and finally killed him; they then took him on shore and butched him when they found eight balls had passed through him in different directions…

Lewis: we had been halted by an occurrence, which I have now to recappitulate, and which altho happily passed without ruinous injury, I cannot recollect but with the utmost trepidation and horror; this is the upseting and narrow escape of the white perogue It happened unfortunately for us this evening that Charbono was at the helm of this Perogue, in stead of Drewyer, who had previously steered her; Charbono cannot swim and is perhaps the most timid waterman in the world; perhaps it was equally unluckey that Capt. C. and myself were both on shore at that moment, a circumstance which rarely happened; and tho we were on the shore opposite to the perogue, were too far distant to be heard or to do more than remain spectators of her fate; in this perogue ____ were embarked, our papers, Instruments, books medicine, a great part of our merchandize and in short almost every article indispensibly necessary to further the views, or insure the success of the enterprize in which we are now launched to the distance of 2200 miles. surfice it to say, that the Perogue was under sail when a sudon squawl of wind struck her obliquely, and turned her considerably, the steersman allarmed, in stead of puting her before the wind, lufted her up into it, the wind was so violent that it drew the brace of the squarsail out of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the perogue and would have turned her completely topsaturva, had it not have been from the resistance mad by the oarning against the water; in this situation Capt. C and myself both fired our guns to attract the attention if possible of the crew and ordered the halyards to be cut and the sail hawled in, but they did not hear us; such was their confusion and consternation at this moment, that they suffered the perogue to lye on her side for half a minute before they took the sail in, the perogue then wrighted but had filled within an inch of the gunwals; Charbono still crying to his god for mercy, had not yet recollected the rudder, nor could the repeated orders of the Bowsman, Cruzat, bring him to his recollection untill he threatend to shoot him instantly if he did not take hold of the rudder and do his duty, the waves by this time were runing very high, but the fortitude resolution and good conduct of Cruzat saved her; he ordered 2 of the men to throw out the water with some kettles that fortunately were convenient, while himself and two others rowed her ashore, where she arrived scarcely above the water; we now took every article out of her and lay them to drane as well as we could for the evening, baled out the canoe and secured her; there were two other men beside Charbono on board who could not swim, and who of course must also have perished had the perogue gone to the bottom.

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