Here are accounts of days when I was unable to post earlier:
Another 5 AM launch with a goal of Judith Landing. The dawn light was so nice on the mountains that I determined to get a good shot of me paddling past. Not surprisingly perhaps, this proved to be a challenging enterprise. First, finding a place to put the camera, second, getting the exposure right in the light and shadow, and most challenging, climbing in the kayak and getting into the right position when the self timer went off. Despite all that I was more or less successful.
There were tough stretches of strong current where I had to get out and pull, and others where I could make good time. I was pulling my kayak when I noticed swirls just ahead of me. Two or more big fish, at least one a carp, and one a catfish by the looks of it, swam towards me, the catfish about a 15-pounder. At the last instant I tried to get out of the way but he bumped me, and I’m pretty sure I felt his raspy teeth on my pant leg, because something caught for an instant. No harm done. I’m thinking he was having a spat with carp and momentarily thought I was another adversary.
Ahead was ramp, just short of the bridge. This was also the site of the May 28, 1805 camp.
I was hoping the campground hosts or rangers would be around. Someone was sitting at the picnic table.
“Hi, are you the ranger?” I asked.
“No, I’m Lara, and I’m doing a voluntary survey about the Missouri Breaks.” She was a student, cheerful and pleasant. After the survey she fetched one of the campground hosts.
Marge, the hostess was very nice and helpful, briefing me on the regulations, printing out the weather, and allowing me to use the wifi to check my email. I prioritized the most important ones. Craig, the other host came by, her husband I think, also very knowledgeable.
Two BLM river rangers landed their canoes. John and John, super friendly and interested in my trip. It wasn’t until after I talked to them that I realized that a major reason the corridor is so trash free is they patrol it repeatedly during the summer, cleaning up and trying to keep people from burning everything down with escaped fires. They let me fill up my water containers with their leftover supply, and presented me with some really good apples.
After thanking everyone I put in a few more miles. I camped in the shade of a big cottonwood tree, once again plenty tuckered out from fighting current. I can identify with portions of Lewis’ journal entry, below. Colter
Lewis: Tuesday May 28th 1805. This morning we set forward at an early hour… we employed the chord generally to which we also gave the assistance of the pole at the riffles and rocky points; these are as numerous and many of them much worse than those we passed yesterday; arround those points the water drives with great force, and we are obliged in many instaces to steer our vessels vessels through the appertures formed by the points of large sharp rocks which reach a few inches above the surface of the water, here sould our chord give way the bough is instantly drivin outwards by the stream and the vessel thrown with her side on the rocks where she must inevitably overset or perhaps be dashed to peices; our ropes are but slender, all of them except one being made of Elk’s skin and much woarn, frequently wet and exposed to the heat of the weather are weak and rotten; they have given way several times in the course of the day… with every precaution we can take it is with much labour and infinite risk that we are enabled to get around these points. found a new indian lodge pole today which had been brought down by the stream, it was woarn at one end as if draged by dogs or horses; a football also, and several other articles were found, which have been recently brought down by the courant; these are strong evedences of Indians being on the river above us, and probably at no great distance; the football is such as I have seen among the Minetaries… [Crow]
I decided to sleep in to at least 7 today, and then decided to lounge as long as I wanted, all day if I liked. It’s good to be Captain of your own journey.
I’ve averaged 25 miles a day over the last 8 days. There have been many sections of “sprint paddling” and want to make sure that I don’t get overuse injuries. If I can keep up something close to this pace I’ll make it to the Pacific by early October. Appropriate rest is as important as hard work.
It was chilly this morning, the first time I’ve put on my balaclava in weeks. Clouds replaced the early morning sun, which is great, on a typical day my tent would have gotten too warm in the sun. It rained lightly. I read, ate, sipped cold coffee, and listened to a downloaded an interview with Sebastian Junger. I like his outlook on the world. I also read for hours.
When the sun came out and I looked at the nearly windless river I was tempted to launch, but storm clouds appeared over the cliffs and a strong wind buffeted my tent. I reached out with a shoe to hammer in the front stake better as significant rain fell. Good thing I didn’t launch.
“And this, too, shall pass” has been a theme of this journey. Appreciate a tailwind because it won’t last. Don’t be dispirited by headwinds because they will let up. Hang on through the strong current, there will be easier paddling ahead. Things will change, and almost every change will have its advantages.
The way I’m wired though, is that I’m never tempted to quit. It’s too big of an adventure. That’s one thing I admire about the Lewis and Clark journals. They are so clearly aware that they are on an epic adventure.
I inspected my shoes again today. My little toes are poking through the sides, and the opposite side is wearing through as well. Last night I cut off a length of excessive strap from my little pack and sewed a loop that goes around that part of the shoe. If it seems to help I’ll make one for the other side as well. They only need to last about 10 more days and I can replace them in Great Falls.
[July 7 was posted earlier]
The Citadel loomed dark against the predawn sky when I launched.
Thirty minutes later the clouds glowed pink in the east, but what promised to be a glorious sunrise quickly faded.
Now and then I’d spot a mule deer coming down to drink as I paddled. A small fawn followed its mother across the hillside, jumping and doing a playful run.
Ahead I could see four deer. They were trotting along the river, ran into the sage, then trotted back towards me along the river. A mile later I landed and the same four ran out of the sage to within a stone’s throw of my kayak. They kept looking away from the river, for something that must have really spooked them in the hills. I’m guessing a mountain lion.
Like yesterday, in places their were what looked like partially tumbled down walls of very dark stone. In others, stone mushrooms topped tan rock walls.
There were beautiful white cliffs near Eagle Creek, along with many canoes and kayaks with tents scattered through the cottonwoods. The morning sun on the cliffs was so scenic I asked a fellow loading his kayak if he’d mind taking a few shots of me paddling past. He graciously agreed.
I stopped to locate the Lewis and Clark campsite of May 31, 1805. I also looked for some petroglyphs in the area but was unable to find them.
There were several groups of people heading downriver, mostly canoes with many kayaks and at least two rafts and a paddle-board. Since Kipp Landing I’ve seen more paddlers than the rest of the trip, no surprise with the spectacular scenery.
In especially fast, shallow water I was wading calf deep and pulling my kayak. I noticed an old rusty barrel half buried in the mud. A big, blue-black catfish mouth was sticking out of it, his several long black whiskers waving. I put my paddle in front of his face and he bit it twice but didn’t leave his hiding place.
As I approached Coal Banks Landing a lady swimming in the river pointed me towards the landing. Her husband swam to shore and joined us. It was Martha and Jim, the campground hosts. They were very friendly and interested in my trip. The pointed me to a good campsite.
I went in the nice log visitors center and posted a journal update with wifi. Later I talked to a fellow paddler who has kayaked down the length of the Missouri twice! We were chatting as I put my tent up. It started raining just as I finished.
I took stock of my food. At least three days worth. I’m hoping to make it to Fort Benton in two more days. Colter
Lewis: May 31st 1805. This morning we proceeded at an early hour with the two perogues leaving the canoes and crews to bring on the meat of the two buffaloe that were killed last evening and which had not been brought in as it was late and a little off the river. soon after we got under way it began to rain… The obstructions of rocky points and riffles still continue as yesterday; at those places the men are compelled to be in the water even to their armpits, and the water is yet very could, and so frequent are those point that they are one fourth of their time in the water, added to this the banks and bluffs along which they are obliged to pass are so slippery and the mud so tenacious that they are unable to wear their mockersons, and in that situation draging the heavy burthen of a canoe and walking ocasionally for several hundred yards over the sharp fragments of rocks which tumble from the clifts and garnish the borders of the river; in short their labour is incredibly painfull and great, yet those faithfull fellows bear it without a murmur… The hills and river Clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the hight of from 2 to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular; they are formed of remarkable white sandstone… As we passed on it seemed as if those seens of visionary inchantment would never have and end; for here it is too that nature presents to the view of the traveler vast ranges of walls of tolerable workmanship, so perfect indeed are those walls that I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry had I not recollected that she had first began her work. These walls rise to the hight in many places of 100 feet, are perpendicular, with two regular faces and are from one to 12 feet thick, each wall retains the same thickness at top which it possesses at bottom…
July 9, Day 108
Before dawn I got up and put an extra large batch of water on my alcohol stove. It was oatmeal AND hot coffee for breakfast. A first on the trip. I usually drink cold coffee. This was a nice luxury.
Tom, the highly experienced long distance kayaker I talked to yesterday, started packing soon after I did. We had another nice chat. It’s good to talk to kindred spirits.
Jim, the campground host came down to see me off, wishing me well and presenting me with a treat, a chocolate truffle made by Martha.
As I paddled past Jim he played his Lakota flute to send me on my way, it sounded really nice in the calm sunrise.
The wind held off for hours. There were some very nice bluffs but it looks like those spectacular cliffs are behind me for now.
I stopped to take a photo of yellow flowers. Photography helps people notice and appreciate beauty I think.
Two carp were chomping the foam on top of an eddy, like two teenagers eating an extra large unsliced pizza.
The Virgelle Ferry was moored on river-right. A house cat stood silhouetted on the ramp. A domestic rooster crowed from the nearby house. On the other bank a barn was a rich red in the morning sun.
There were many mule deer here and there along the river. I passed an island near the point L&C camped on June 1805. Two bedded mule deer bucks lay in the grass and watched me pass, one with by far the biggest antlers I’ve seen this whole trip, so big I used my binos to make sure I was seeing antlers and not branches.
The day was going great. At about 2 PM I could see if easily make it past the Marias River and 20 miles, my goal for the day. Then the wind came up. A treetop waving, right in my face, too much to paddle wind. I got out and pulled my boat for a mile until it got ridiculous and it looked like there might be a hard rain.
For a while I awaited developments. When rain was at last imminent I started putting up my tent just as the rain hit. I got half wet.
The rain stopped. The wind stopped. I saw sun on the tent fly. I waited a bit then took down the tent and paddled.
An osprey nest was next to the river. An adult was tearing off pieces of fish and giving them to the chicks who were hollering for more. Later three mule deer walked on on gravel spit. The twin fawns were fascinated the operation. They walked up and down the spit. When the doe left one fawn stayed, then the other fawn came back and joined it. The doe finally got them up leave. I camped on a gravel bar at the edge of the willows, just before the Marias River. Colter
Saturday June 1st 1805… A range of high Mountains appear to the S. W. at a considerable distance covered with snow, they appear to run Westerly. no timber appears on the highlands; but much more than yesterday on the river… game is by no means as abundant as below; we killed one male bighorn and a mule deer today; saw buffalow at a distance…
Trip overview and route map with position updates: