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Tag: prairie chickens

40 Mile Paddle

May 23 Day 61

[note: I just posted May 22 as well, check it out!]

It looked like the wind was going to be cooperating so I hoped to make up for some lost time and paddle a big day.

It is feeling more and more like the West. I went under a bridge and suddenly recognized where I was: I had crossed this bridge driving west four years ago.

Later there was the sound of prairie chickens making their strange dancing sounds,  so I veered over toward shore. I was delighted to see some displaying, wings dragging and heads low.

Watching me on the hill I saw an animal with more white than a deer, at least that’s what it looked like. I scrambled for my binoculars but it disappeared a moment before I could focus. Later however I saw another one and it was clearly an antelope. I saw more as the day progressed.

There was no bigger surprise though, then paddling along a wild looking stretch of river and looking up and seeing buffalo on the skyline. Now it really felt like the old West!

40 miles is a long long way to paddle on flat water for a mortal like me. I’m not really built for sitting in a kayak, my hamstrings are too short so I tend alternate between my back hurting a little bit or my butt hurting, or both. Not really suffering, just uncomfortable. Add in hot and tired and hungry and it can be challenging.

People often say that must be so much fun, walking and paddling the Lewis and Clark Trail. And it is often fun of course. But I think a much more accurate description is “adventure”.  Like most good adventures it is often difficult, and that’s one thing that makes it worthwhile.

When I finally stopped and was carrying stuff up to my camp spot I saw some trees up the drainage and noticed they appeared to be smooth. I got a kick out of it when my guess was right: there was hair hanging from the trunk and small piles of brown buffalo hair lying on the ground.

When I crawled into my tent at the end of the day I was one tired puppy. And I think it’s fair to say that few people would have enjoyed a warm sleeping bag, two tortillas heavy with peanut butter, a bottle of cold water and a chance to rest more than I did. Colter

Clark: 3rd of October Wednesday 1804 The N W. wind blew verry hard all night with Some rain, we Set out early, at 12 examoned our Stores & goods, Several bags Cut by the mice and Corn Scattered, Some of our Cloth also cut by them also papers &c. &c. at 1 oClock an Indian Came to the Bank S. S, with a turkey on his back 4 other soon joined him Some rain, Saw Brant & white gulls flying Southerly…
Clark: 4th of October Thursday 1804 the wind blew all night from the NW. Some rain, we were obliged to Drop down 3 miles to get the Chanel Suft. deep to pass up, Several Indians on the Shore viewing of us Called to us to land one of them gave 3 yels & Sciped a ball before us, we payed no attention to him, proceeded on and Came too on the L. S. to brackft one of those Indians Swam across to us beged for Powder, we gave him a piece of Tobacco & Set him over on a Sand bar…
Clark: 5th of October Friday 1804 Frost this morning, Set out early passed a Small Creek on the L. S. saw 3 Tetons on the S. S. they beged Some Tobacco, we proceed on passed a Creek on the S. S. I Saw a white brant in a gangue on the Sand bar Saw a large herd of Cabra or antelopes Swiming the River, we Killed four of them… I Killed a Buck & a Small wolf this evening, Clear pleasant evening, Camped on a mud bar S. S. refreshd the men with whiskey.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Prairie Dogs, Prairie Chickens

[I plan to update yesterday’s post after this one.] The winds were predicted to be southeast this morning which would be a slight tailwind for me, and then they were going to swing around to the west in the afternoon. I planned to be on the southwest or west side of the river to be as protected as possible from the wind in the afternoon.

I made good time in the morning with the river lined by hills on each side. The hills were greener on the west side, often so lush looking I almost expected to see a hobbit.

The sound of prairie chickens calling and dancing came over the water it’s a thrilling sound, a wild sound.

For a while I put up the sail and it was fun to glide effortlessly, but the wind was so light I decided to paddle.


Sail photo for Wyatt

Later I heard the alarm calls of some smaller birds. I was paddling close to shore and I tried to spot them. Prairie dogs! I didn’t recognize the sound. There were hundreds of them and their town went on for at least a mile, and more scattered smaller towns for another mile or so. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. later I looked at the Lewis and Clark journals and their campsite plotted for the night of September 12 and what is very interesting and exciting is I think they saw this very same prairie dog town it corresponds exactly. we Camped on the L. S. opsd. a Village of Barking Prarie Squriels

Almost exactly at 12 o’clock the wind changed, it was much more northwesterly than I had expected. my plan of using the river bank to protect me from the wind wasn’t working very well. For miles I had more or less of a headwind. nevertheless I was still making steady progress.

Finally around 5 PM the wind increased and it was getting ridiculous. I passed a nice cove and considered looking for a camp spot but decided to gut it out. Another hundred yards though I saw it was time to throw in the towel.

I turned around quickly in the waves were chasing me. was much harder to keep the boat straight and I was glad to duck into the cove. it was a nice camp spot on a shelf mostly protected from the wind buy some cedars and the hills around the cove.

I climbed 300 feet up a hill behind camp to try to find coverage send this out. Deer are grazing nearby. It’s beautiful wild looking country in all directions and except for the lake itself I’ll bet it looks much the same is looking to Lewis and Clark 200 years ago.

missouri River hills south dakota

Hill above camp

Clark: Septr. 11th Tuesday 1804…The man G Shannon, who left us with the horses above the Mahar Village, and beleving us to be ahead pushed on as long as he Could, joined us he Shot away what fiew Bullets he had with him, and in a plentiful) Countrey like to have Starvd. he was 12 days without provision, Subsisting on Grapes at the Same the Buffalow, would Come within 30 yards of his Camp, one of his horses gave out & he left him before his last belluts were Consumed…

Septr. 12th Wednesday 1804 a Dark Cloudy Day the wind hard from the N. W. we passed (1) a Island the middle of the river at the head of which we found great dificuelty in passing between the Sand bars the water Swift and Shallow, it took 3/ 4 of the day to make one mile, we Camped on the L. S. opsd. a Village of Barking Prarie Squriels I walked out in the morning and Saw Several Villages of those little animals, also a great number of Grous & 3 foxes, and observed Slate & Coal mixed, Some verry high hills on each Side of the river. rains a little all day.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Alone in the Fortress of the Bears cover

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