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Tag: Montana (Page 2 of 4)

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:

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:

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