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Day: July 26, 2016

River Feast

July 26, Day 125, Mile 2288 

It was another fine morning for paddling and my first goal was Silos Campground. When I got there I grabbed my empty water bottles and headed for the hand pump. After several pumps no water had come out yet but it was greased and there was no sign so it seemed likely that it was just one of those that took a bunch of pumping for the water to start. I asked a young guy there if it worked and he said to ask the campground host, but it was early and I hated to bother him. I gave it a few more  pumps and then to took a walk around the campground looking for another source, but didn’t see anything except a lady with a very long lensed camera who was looking for baby birds to photograph. 

I headed back to the pump and gave it several more pumps. 

“That thing hasn’t worked in years” said the campground host over his shoulder. He was now outside. 

“Doesn’t it seem like a good idea to put a sign on it?” I asked. 

“Most people figure it out after a few pumps,” he said. That didn’t seem like a very satisfactory response. I took my water bottles and headed back to my kayak. Down the shore a way I spotted what apparently was another part of the same campground, walked up there, explored, and found a conventional water spigot.  It seems like the host might have told me about it, but I had my water. 

Finding the river at the head of the lake wasn’t as simple as it might seem. I went up two false channels before finding one that lead to current. What they all had was numerous carp. It was entertaining watching them swim around anyway. 

After a while the Missouri developed a more trout stream style look. One fishermen I spoke to said he just caught one. 

At the Townsend bridge I considered walking into town but the traffic made me turn around. I could make it with the food I had. 

I paddled past some interesting reddish colored bluffs that Lewis had commented on. 

Crimson Bluffs

Lewis: Wednesday July 24th 1805. Set out at sunrise; the current very strong; passed a remarkable bluff of a crimson coloured earth

I was alternately walking and dragging the kayak and then paddling as I’ve done so much the last few hundred miles. 

Norman Miller said he might meet me today and to keep him posted by text as to where I was. I had just texted him that I was nearing York Islands when my phone rang. 

“This is Norm. Where are you?”

“Just coming up on York Islands.”

“That’s where I am.”

It took a little bit of map consultation to figure out which of the braided channels I needed to take to find him, but we had guessed right: as I turned left and waded up the next braid I could see Norm standing along the shore. He took videos as I approached and I paddled over to where his pickup was parked. 

I had talked and emailed and texted him so many times it was great to see him in real life. Norm is an expert on paddling the Missouri River and did much the same trip that I’m doing a few years ago, so we had a whole lot to talk about. 

Norm said he had brought me some food and begin to lay out a veritable feast on the gravel bar: sushi, fried chicken, lemonade, apples, chocolate, potato salad, chips, salsa, home picked raspberries, a beer and no doubt some stuff I’m forgetting. He knows how hungry a paddler gets. I ate all I could reasonably hold and left with a big bag of chicken. He had made the long drive from Livingston to meet me, too. Thanks Norm, it was much appreciated and I look forward to seeing you again soon. 

Norman Miller

A storm had been lingering nearby, putting down some lightning bolts in the mountains along with some rain and a few sprinkles where we were, but it moved on before doing much. I thanked Norm and paddled away. 

I’d been planning to do 20 miles but when I hit 18 miles I decided to call it a day. Three Forks, 33 miles away, should be within striking distance on Thursday. It’s hard to believe I’m so close to the end of the Missouri River. 

This evening a little fawn was looking at my tent and stomping his foot. Colter

Clark: July 23rd Tuesday 1805 a fair morning wind from the South. I Set out by land at 6 miles overtook G Drewyer who had killed a Deer. we killed in the Same bottom 4 deer & a antelope & left them on the river bank for the Canoes proceeded on an Indian roade through a wider Vallie which the Missouri Passes about 25 miles & Camped on the bank of the river, High mountains on either Side of the Vallie Containing Scattering Pine & Cedar Some Small Cotton willow willow &c. on the Islands & bank of the river I Saw no fresh Sign of Indians to day Great number of antelopes Some Deer & a large Gangue of Elk. 

 Lewis, July 24, 1805: …the valley through which the river passed today is much as that of yesterday nor is there any difference in the appearance of the mountains, they still continue high and seem to rise in some places like an amphatheater one rang above another as they receede from the river untill the most distant and lofty have their tops clad with snow. the adjacent mountains commonly rise so high as to conceal the more distant and lofty mountains from our view. I fear every day that we shall meet with some considerable falls or obstruction in the river notwithstanding the information of the Indian woman to the contrary who assures us that the river continues much as we see it. I can scarcely form an idea of a river runing to great extent through such a rough mountainous country without having it’s stream intercepted by some difficult and gangerous rappids or falls. we daily pass a great number of small rappids or riffles which decend one to or 3 feet in 150 yards but they are rarely incommoded with fixed or standing rocks and altho strong rappid water are nevertheless quite practicable & by no means dangerous…

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Canyon Ferry Lake

July 25, Day 124, Mile 2270

The river was peaceful this morning. The winds were very light, and at times it was nearly calm, a beautiful day for paddling.

Morning below Canyon Ferry Dam

The towering Canyon Ferry Dam was an imposing site when I came around the corner. What an incredible feat of engineering a dam like that represents. 

The Riverside Campground had a perfect spot to land a kayak or canoe, a very gentle incline leading up to grass. It was easy pulling my boat up onto the grass without gouging it on sharp rocks. 

As I took my cart out and put it together I noticed a sign saying that the portage for Hauser Dam is on the northeast side, the opposite side from where I portaged. I was working with old information and that likely explains why the terrain was so difficult in places. 

I filled up my water bottles, threw out my trash, and headed up paved road. It was very easy pulling, amid the sweet smell of  warm Ponderosa and cedars. I saw two hen turkeys with their chicks.

Just past a Y at the top of the road was a nice covered area with tables where I sat enjoying a shady break. 

After a while I started down the road towards the boat landing. There was a less than ideal spot with no shoulder on either side, so I hustled through it keeping an eye up and down the road making sure the cars could see me. 

Ahead I could see the turn off for the boat landing; also there were a big “Road Closed” sign and a sheriff’s pickup. I didn’t like to see that.  

I pulled my kayak off to the side and looked at the lady sitting in the pickup but she wasn’t looking at me. Obviously I needed to come up with some plan and she would be the one to talk to. I thought it was quite likely that, since I was on foot, they would just let me launch the boat anyway. 

Since I couldn’t seem to get her attention, I stepped over the yellow tape, walked about five steps to her pickup and said hi. 

“Get back over the tape!” She snapped. I did. 

“Can I talk to you?”

“No!” I was a tape stepper over-er.

I finally got her to talk. They were doing a drowning recovery. I needed to go elsewhere. Seems like she could have acknowledged my existence and started with that information. 

I turned around and went down that same sketchy section of road and scouted around until I found another workable lake access. 

I ended up paddling right through the search area. A young guy had been attempting a midnight ride across the lake on his modified motorcycle. Apparently he’d done it once before during the daytime. 

Once past the somber search area it was pleasant paddling, with nice scenery and only a light wind. There were also very few boats, including one magnificent sailboat with a huge sail, that looked like fun even on a day like this with light winds. 

Big Sky Country, Canyon Ferry Lake

I paddled a steady four miles-an-hour, taking breaks as needed. A dark rain storm was hanging over the mountains to the west but slowly moving my way. I checked the weather once more and it assured me that the winds would be light the rest of the day with sun until late with no mention of rain. It didn’t look that way to me but I often guess wrong. 

I’ve been shooting for 30 miles but the storm was rumbling and dark clouds were now right over my head. Along the shore were cove after cove of nice looking little campsites. I decided to hedge my bets and call it a day about 6 o’clock after maybe 27 miles. Considering I’d also done a portage and a half it was a full day anyway. 

My campsite had a gentle gravel beach, a  fire ring that I would not be using, and a nice flat spot under green ash trees. As I was unloading the boat I noticed there was now a gentle tailwind. It was hard to be ashore under such a perfect paddling conditions. 

About 730 the situation changed dramatically, a very strong west wind arose, one of the strongest winds of the journey. I checked the boat once again to make sure all light items were fastened down and that the boat itself was tied properly. It would be very, very, risky to be out at the lake right now. Big white caps swept eastward with violent gusts of wind blowing spray off the tops. 

The most amazing thing of all were the big fish jumping just offshore. At first I thought that they were excited by the sudden change in weather. But observing them, it appeared they were primarily surface feeding. That made sense because there was a big hatch of some kind of insects going on. Also there were surely thousands of insects like grasshoppers being blown off the bluffs. It might’ve been the fishing opportunity of a lifetime. Or, maybe they wouldn’t have bitten at all. It was a remarkable sight regardless. Colter

Clark: July 21st Sunday 1805 a fine morning our feet So brused and Cut that I deturmined to delay for the Canoes, & if possible kill Some meat by the time they arrived… I proceeded on about 3 miles this morning finding no fresh Indian Sign returned down the river four miles and Camped, turned out to hunt for Some meat, which if we are Suckessfull will be a Seasonable Supply for the partey assending. emence quantities of Sarvice buries, yellow, red, Purple & black Currents ripe and Superior to any I ever tasted particularly particularly the yellow & purple kind. Choke Cheries are Plenty; Some Goose buries—The wild rose Continue the Willow more abundant no Cotton wood of the Common kind Small birds are plenty, Some Deer, Elk, Goats, and Ibex; no buffalow in the Mountains. Those mountains are high and a great perportion of them rocky Vallies fertile I observe on the highest pinicals of Some of the mountains to the West Snow lying in Spots Some Still further North are covered with Snow …

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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