Cows Poop Where They Want. June 18th-24th, 2016

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Viki, Lisa, & Alyce.

June 18th, 2016

Still feeling tired from the portage on the 16th, we granted our bodies and minds the luxury of sleeping in! This was facilitated by comfortable beds and walls to block out the sun at Bonnie and Lyle’s house near Ryan Dam. Climate control was a bonus. It’s hard to sleep in much when living in a tent – direct sun hitting the nylon rain fly makes you feel like a smoked ham, even with maximum ventilation. There was also a coffee-maker and refrigerator with half and half. Modern luxuries! Alyce rejoiced. We allowed ourselves the opportunity to bask in these conveniences and took our time recovering. As we have mentioned, rest days are crucial on an expedition of this length. After some rest and music-making, we headed to town to use the Internet at the Great Falls Public Library. We arrived at 11:30 and were still there when they began to flick the lights on and off at 5:50pm, a ten-minute warning to closing time. How did 6 hours go by? And the to-do list is only half crossed off? The computer work days can be harder than paddling in a headwind on the river, though necessary for sharing our experiences and spreading our confidence-building curriculum.

Top-Notch-Boss-of-the-Day award then went to Viki who had been back at Bonnie and Lyle’s preparing the best curry dinner for us while we were typing and posting. Viki is a champion and great cook and it’s such a nice treat to eat her cooking instead of our normal river routine. We spent the early evening enjoying each other’s company, laughing, eating and playing guitar. Our plans to attend the festival never materialized and we were fine with how the day had unfolded. The scenery surrounding us and the knowledge that Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark were around these parts 211 years ago, maybe even the exact spot, filled us with great awe. We spent several silent moments sitting near the river and canyon, breathing it all in.

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Alyce enjoying the moment.

A sudden burst of motivation struck us like lightening in a heat storm, so we headed back into Great Falls to stock up on groceries for the next 3 weeks of the expedition (though we really just wanted ice cream). A few hours later, we had a few bags full of ramen noodles (new flavors include picante chicken and oriental), oatmeal, pepperoni, and key lime ice cream sandwiches. On an impulse, we stopped to watch the stock car races at the quarter-mile dirt track on the edge of town. At first, Alyce did not want to go; it was 10pm and she was tired but Viki and Lisa’s excitement amped her up. The dirt track, the lights, the sound of the engines, the crowd of people – lots of families – added to the thrill of this Montana experience. We may or may not have slipped behind the scenes to check out some of the cars after the races. They may or may not have been awesome. We had such a fun time. At the end of most days we like to try to tally up how many lives we lived in the last 24 hours. Today, too many to count.

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Double Rainbow along Morony Dam Road.

 

June 19th, 2016

After our late night at the races, plus the leftover exhaustion from the portage day, we went ahead and slept in again. Viki for the AM win with a Mickey Mouse pancake brunch including bonus peanut butter chips (thank you Lyle and Bonnie). She spoiled us with some bacon too. Giiiiirl. Lisa tuned up the house guitar and got an impromptu lesson on rhythm and timing from Viki. Viki is a talented musician and singer with a lot of training and a band of her own called A Constant Cough. Some of her original music became the soundtrack to our weekend in Great Falls. Viki on loop.

Getting the opportunity to learn anything music or guitar-related from others seriously fuels Lisa’s creative energy. That’s how she started learning a few years ago. She got tired of wanting to play and not doing anything about it and just started strumming a guitar of her dad’s. She brought it with her on her travels and asked anyone she met with more skill (which was every guitar player at that point) for some tips. Five years of intermittent practice and patience have started to pay off. The guitar and thirst to play more has led her to a lot of opportunities to meet and connect with people in a way she might not have otherwise. It has become a source of confidence, for sure. Now, with Viki’s help, she was learning a skill that she had been looking to hone for a while. Things started to gel and this was one of Lisa’s favorite feelings. In Viki’s words, she “leveled up.” That fueled a productive afternoon of expedition preparation.

The phone rang and Melinda Zosh, the reporter from KFBB news, was on the line. She wanted to meet up with us again! She had plans to interview us by the river and get some shots of us paddling. We were elated! We told her to meet us at the Morony Dam at 9am the next day before we continued downriver. Being on “river time” makes it hard to stick to strict schedules because of all the factors beyond your control (like wind, tired bodies, and deflated portage cart tires) that can slow you down or send you in a different direction altogether. We had to make it on time to the interview though, so we gave ourselves plenty of time. We do our best to stay on our timeline to major locations (our resupplies of food and gear) but what happens in between is left open to the experiences and people we meet. You could say we are always “on time” for those things too. At least it always seems like we are right where we need to be, meeting who we need to meet when we are on river time.

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Packing food and Viki documenting it all.

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly with food and gear to pack and laundry to do. These transition times bring in a whole set of different challenges and can be more stressful than being on the river. This time the resupply went by more efficiently as we had a better handle on how to prioritize and divide up tasks to succeed. Lisa organized and packed the food into the buckets and bags. Viki uploaded the week’s footage to the computer and documented the whole scene. Alyce switched out the maps and assessed the next section of route. We’d like to thank Ellen Mcdonah, fellow paddler and extraordinary woman, for the use of her maps. We feel honored to be using them and reading her notes on each section of river. Thank you, Ellen!

Finished packing, we headed to town to purchase one last item of gear and visit the [Sacajawea] Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Why is it still a surprise how quickly time passes by? We ended up only having 45 minutes to soak up as much of the interpretive center as we could. It was fun to learn more about how Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery crew portaged around all the waterfalls on this section of the river. What took us one day to complete, took them 18 days. They were dragging dugout canoes, weighing two hundred pounds, on wooden wheel carts up and down all that steep terrain. We thought we had trouble when the tubes in our portage cart wheels blew up and we had to deal with that. We stayed until we heard the, now familiar, “closing time” announcement over the loud speaker. When you get used to the wind and weather dictating your daily schedule, you forget that the towns and people operate on a clock.

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Informational sign at the Interpretive Center. We honestly don’t know about all the ways in which Sacajawea contributed, guided and supported the expedition, as we have no written or oral accounts of her experiences.

We hustled out the door and back to our base at Bonnie and Lyle’s. They were home when we got there getting a few items for the week so we sat on their porch, shooting the breeze for a while. They are such wonderful and generous people! We were so thankful to have their house for the weekend! Once B and L left, we got into what is now our “last 10%” routine. All the things we forgot or put off doing needed to happen. Finish laundry, charge electronics (made convenient through the use of an outlet), and organize personal gear. Unfortunately, this always takes longer than give ourselves time for. The bonus activity this time was creating cut-off SOC with #getshredded written on the back in black puffy paint. Our new joke with the KFBB sports anchor, Ben Kaplan. Our new plan is to win over local news stations until we get on Ellen. With that accomplished, we went to bed. Good day.

 

June 20th, 2016

Do we have all the electronics? Batteries and all the cords? Did someone get all the food out of the fridge? Laundry out of the dryer? These questions ping-ponged through our heads before coffee was ready. It can be tricky to ask each other if an item was remembered and stored in its appropriate place. Grogginess, irritability, and ego can get in the way of understanding that the other is trying to ensure that nothing gets forgotten. One of several communication challenges we have been facing during this phase of the expedition. When you take a big risk, even a positive one, there are many ups and downs. This is the greatest positive risk all three of us have ever taken, so of course there are going to be messy times along with all of the great ones. When we don’t all agree on what or how things need to be done, it can be difficult to compromise. We’ve been working really hard to talk through our differences and continue to build trust by listening to each other and keeping our egos in check. Our Expedition Rule #1 is that we respect and support each other. Our friendship is as important as anything we hope to accomplish with Source of Confidence. If we don’t support and instill confidence in each other, we contradict our mission. Our love and admiration for each other runs deep and we work hard to show it to each other by resolving our issues. It can be tough to share the low times but they are part of the deal. That’s the reality of how we have achieved success so far. We have been doing a lot of problem-solving. It has been paying off.

We remembered everything and got out the door (mostly) on time. We arrived at Morony Dam a few minutes ahead of Melinda and got our boat ready. We had decided to take minimal gear for the 3.5 miles of rapids and ledges below the damn. Viki would meet us with the rest of our gear downstream. As we got the boat and gear ready for padding, there were now two women filming us: Melinda for the news story and Viki for the documentary. It was a fun and surreal moment for Alyce and Lisa. Melinda has an amazing and infectious personality. She is great at her job. She asked us each a lot of questions about ourselves, our ideas, and our mission. She had us laughing and did an outstanding job of drawing out our most entertaining sides. It was also awesome to hear that she is part of the only all-female weekend broadcast team in the state of Montana. Breaking barriers! We had proposed the idea of interviewing Melinda for our documentary and she was really excited about it! She and Viki made plans to connect later on and potentially meet up for filming.

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Alyce in the bow, while paddling the Missouri River.

Soon enough it was time to get in our canoe and paddle away. Our plan was to meet Viki at Widow Coulee Fishing Access Site with the bulk of our gear- we would paddle there and she would drive. The water was moving fast and it was fun navigating the rapids and ledges. We kept looking out for “Big Eddy”, a large and sometimes turbulent drop about a mile down from the dam. We had been warned by numerous people that we should not paddle this section and by others to scout Big Eddy before running it. The ledge had apparently eaten up boats in the past. We often find ourselves in situations where people (mostly men, as that is who is mostly out here) end up telling us what we should or shouldn’t do without us asking for advice. We know that most people are well-intentioned and we always try to keep our egos in check during these interactions. We appreciate the folks who approach us asking questions about our expedition and canoe experience before assuming we are headed straight into danger. We wonder if these same suggestions would be made to a pair of men traveling the river. When we meet a pair of men traveling the river, we’ll be sure to ask them what their experience with unsolicited local area knowledge has been. Anyway, we scout rapids we are unsure about and Big Eddy would be no different. Well, turns out in low water, Big Eddy isn’t so big and we found ourselves at Widow Coulee having apparently canoed right over it without even realizing it. That was our experience in those conditions, on that day. Rivers rise and fall and it’s important to do your own research and investigate the conditions you see in front of you. We are learning to listen to the experience of others as just that: their experience. Their experience is nice as a heads-up but our awareness of the conditions we see in front of us when is what, we have learned, is best to rely on.

When Viki arrived, we loaded our boat and ended up starting a last-minute challenging conversation about budget and finances. In the whirlwind start of this expedition, it has been a huge task to keep track of everything and make sure we are allocating the right amount of money to the right things. We’ve had to do a lot of guess-work so far as this is the first time any one of us has tried to do a large expedition while making a documentary and designing a confidence-building curriculum. We have all the pieces of the puzzle, now we are figuring out how to put them together. Learning through experience. It takes a lot of patience and compassion to work through tricky and sensitive challenges and that’s one thing we are pretty skilled at. The conversation was productive and we made a plan to prioritize a budget meeting at our next resupply at Ft. Peck Dam in three weeks. We hugged it out, went for a swim, and said goodbye for our longest stint apart yet. Getting back on the water was amazing. We paddled and floated into the later evening hours, both of us not wanting to get out of the boat. We ate dinner floating in the canoe – leftover chili that Viki had made! We enjoyed the tasty food in what seemed like an aviary. The bird songs echoed in the canyons as the most excellent dinner entertainment. We camped on an island near Carter ferry and remarked on how much we miss the river when we spend a few days away. Getting back on the river each time only solidifies our desire to stay within her banks. River life is the life for us.

 

June 21st, 2016

It is so easy for us to slip back into our morning routine. A glorious sun greeted us as we got on the water in under an hour and a half from waking up. We ate breakfast floating, as the current moved us into Fort Benton around 10:30am. We got drinkable water at the campground about a mile before town and then paddled into the town center and parked our canoe. The post office was our first stop, as Alyce’s mom had mailed our canoe sail there via general delivery (thank you Ann Mavis! You rock!). Paddling your canoe into town to go to the post office is a great way to get a nostalgic thrill. Especially in an historic town like Ft. Benton where there are some pretty old buildings and cool statues. It was magical timing to get the canoe sail, as we made it to the post office right after the package had arrived and just before they closed for lunch! Who knew that places of business still closed for lunch in today’s era? It brought to mind days gone past, when that time of the day and eating were more scared rituals. When most folks paused with their work and sat down to eat. It’s hard not to think about the comparison of today. How people eat at their desks while still working. Or in the car running from meeting to meeting. Even we don’t totally stop for lunch, we eat in the canoe while we are floating down the river. Always making progress.

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Lisa, the documentarian, getting footage in Fort Benton.

Our next mission was to find WAG bags. These, simply put, are bags you poop in. The Bureau of Land Management requires you to pack out human waste via approved and sanitary containment units when paddling the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, where we were headed next. So, we walked to the Upper Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center, where we were told we could buy said bags. We learned a little Fort Benton history and saw some cool animal and plant displays. We learned that Ft. Benton was the western-most spot of the Missouri that steamboats could reach in the 1800’s, making it an important intersection for land and water transportation. Apparently, it was a pretty wild town to live in in those days. Lots of fighting and shoot-outs. One sign said the “women were as tough as the men”. We liked that. We also learned that there are 233 species of bird in the Upper Missouri Breaks and that the interpretive center did not sell human poop bags. Continuing on, we found the bags at the hardware store. Fort Benton is known as the birthplace of Montana, with original houses still standing and the feeling of a proud history.

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Alyce & Lisa at the Fort Benton Visitors Center.

During our time in Great Falls we came up with a new system for storing all the videos and pictures we have been gathering. Before this we had been running out of memory on our phones and Go-Pro and then Lisa’s computer became too full to store all of our footage. So we purchased a small external hard drive to use on the river and then ran out of time (per-usual) to set it up while we had internet in Great Falls. Luckily, the Visitor Center in Fort Benton had great wifi and we were able to cross that off the to-do list! As we are leaving, the wind started up. It was following us from all sides until, after a few hours of paddling, it was directly in our faces. Since we were no longer making any substantial progress, we decided to take a break. Although we were ahead of our timeline by a day, we weren’t ready to call it yet and make camp. We hoped the wind would die down and allow us to paddle on. We wrote and napped until around 5pm. The wind would not relent, so we set up camp. Usually we each set up our own tents, but in all that wind we needed to help each other. We did so in foreign accents; a favorite pastime. Lisa’s specialty: Australian. Alyce’s: “worldly” (meaning whatever comes out!). With everything organized, we ate dinner and watched another day of this grand adventure slip below the horizon with the sun.

 

June 22nd, 2016

The mist played a game of catch-me-if-you-can with the water. Rolling and jumping over her glassy exterior, never quite meeting with the surface. Sensing a metaphor in the mist, we had some good material to contemplate in the typical silence of the morning. It was colder than normal as we had camped on the east bank of the river and the hills blocked the sunlight. This change in temperature was a welcome reprieve for Lisa, while Alyce yearned for the sun to warm her body and hands. We packed up camp and were eating breakfast in the boat in an hour and half. Consistent mornings like these are truly welcomed. The cooler temperature was cause for celebration once on the river and in the direct, already hot sunlight. We paddled and took in the scenery. Mostly farm land, yet beautiful. Around 11am, we made it to the confluence of the Marais River! For the Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark history buffs out there, you know this as Decision Point. At this juncture the Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark expedition did not know which river to take. They had heard that they would encounter the great falls though as they were exploring the course of the Missouri River without maps, encountering the Marias, a larger tributary proved a quite challenge. The expedition party divided at this time, Clark went up the Missouri and discovered the great falls rather shortly thereafter. Meanwhile Lewis traversed the Marias by land, concluding that this was a tributary of the mighty Missouri. We have maps and information about the various campsites and other major points of the Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark expedition along this section of the river. It has been incredibly fun to read about the past events as we float next to the very places they occurred.

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Lisa in the bow paddling.

The day continued on rather pleasantly. We enjoyed a floating lunch and a good swim, as the temperature had dramatically changed from the morning. Now we were enjoying the refreshingly cold water and splashing around because, hey, it is summer after all. That is what you do in summer- splash around. The afternoon passed by quickly, as we passed places Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark camped and took in the breath-taking sheer embankments and the different layers of rocks. They had a hand-painted appearance and were a glorious site to behold. Around 5:00pm, we paused at Coal Banks Landing to refill a few gallons of water; we are careful to have enough drinkable water with us, especially in the summer heat. The average person consumes about a gallon per day; Alyce can consume up to 2 gallons of water, between drinking and cooking. The river water is not considered potable even through a filter or other treatment. Stay tuned for further clues as to why. Earlier in the day we had decided that we would continue paddling for a while and have a floating dinner! We pressed on, although it was a very nice camping spot, it cost money and there are free spots on the river. We had a Trailtopia beef stew, Lisa pulled out her guitar and Alyce her history book and we floated for a while enjoying the water, the movement and the landscape. Floating dinner was as great as floating breakfast and floating lunch!

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Sunsetting on the river.

Getting close to 7:00pm, it was finally time to get off the water. 12 hours in the direct sun on the river is enough for the body for one day. We came upon Little Sandy, a delightful and more primitive campsite. There was a fire ring and big logs to sit on around the fire. Nice flat tent pads and grass-free zones. We were up a few hundred feet from the river in the cottonwood trees as the cotton swirled around us and the sun sank across the Missouri. Snowing in June, we thought. Just like home! Lisa rounded out the day by working on some of the tips Viki had given her on the guitar. What an amazing river day. Now to finish watching the sun shine her falling light on us, safe from the mosquitos in our tents.

 

June 23rd, 2016

As we near the end of June, the notion that we’ve been out here for a long time has started to sink in. We started the morning reflecting on the last 43 days of the expedition. We have already traveled hundreds of miles, camped in many different places, and eaten a lot of Simply Native wild rice cereal (it still tastes just as good as on Day 1 and it is well worth its weight in protein and fiber). We’ve seen a lot of river miles and sunsets as we’ve battled weather, tough decisions, self-doubt, and sometimes each other. We’ve built a solid foundation of river routine, decision making, and communication. This is a great source of confidence for the joys and challenges that are sure to come in the next 5 months. The moon was full the other night and she stayed up in the sky to play with the sun for a bit in the morning. It was a beautiful collision of day and night. The oranges and golden light of the sun owned the place, for now. As we entered the white sandstone cliffs in the morning, it was breath-taking. There was something a little out of place, however. We noticed them the day before as well. Cows. Lots of them. We were used to seeing cows, but it was surprising to see them in this remote stretch of river that is valued as “wild and scenic”. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not being species-ist, we just didn’t expect to see them here. What really amused us was thinking about the rule of needing to pack out your poop from an area where cows get to poop right in the river if they want! It just didn’t seem fair.

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Sandstone Cliffs along the Missouri River.

We found the answers to these questions on some placards on shore near a ranch house. They informed us of an ongoing land stewardship program that allows ranchers to graze their cattle in the Monument under careful watch to make sure they don’t graze in one place for too long. According to this info sign, this actually helps the native plant communities stay strong and spread their seeds. This agreement also serves to keep ranchers happy and in business while people like us get to recreate in this unbelievable landscape. The sign also indicated that if you went up to the ranch house, they would take you to the White Cliffs on horseback as part of their “paddle-to-saddle” trail rides. Lisa was in an exploratory mood and headed up to knock on the door. No one was home except for two friendly cattle dogs and a herd of horses. After petting everyone, we got back on the river. The cliffs were stunning. Lisa, still feeling an itch to explore suggested stopping for a bit. Phenomenal idea! The beauty of these erosion-sculpted rocks needed to be experienced up-close and personal. We each took time to explore the land on our own. Lisa played the guitar in the best amphitheater that money can’t buy. Alyce used her geology book to explore the area, finding a plethora of what are known as concretions. These are a geological phenomenon. They are smooth, spherical or disk-shaped, rocks that form as a result of the precipitation of some type of mineral, that dissolves in the groundwater, as it moves through buried sediment. There were concretions that ranged from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a small table. It was exhilarating to examine these geological features.

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Concretions and Alyce’s shadow.

Although we are about a day and a half ahead, we still wanted to put on some miles in the good weather. Back in the boats, we paddled to Eagle Creek rec. site where we had heard about another off-river adventure: a slot canyon called Neat Coulee. Neat Coulee is a beautiful, dried up riverbed with remarkable, soft, white walls that stretch skyward. Words don’t do it justice. For Alyce, it was like walking into a fairy magical land. Sliding between the rocks felt like coming back, full circle to hiking up to Brower’s Spring with sheer walls of sand instead of snow.

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The beginning of the canyon, leading up to the tipi ring.

Lisa took the opportunity to partake in a low-key form of canyon parkour – running, jumping, climbing, shimmying up cracks and climbing to the top of the bench. This is where she had heard rumor that there were some rings of rocks that were used by the Native Americans to weigh down their tipis. Of all the history in this landscape, Native American history is the most captivating to Lisa. Having promised to be back at the boat by 2:30, she didn’t have a lot of time to explore (hence the running). Up on top, the hoodoo rock formations gave the adventure a Dr. Seuss quality. She found a trail in the grass and followed it until it ended on a large expanse of white rock. No tipi rings to be seen. She looked around for a while and, not satisfied but running low on time, took a different route back. All of a sudden, she stumbled upon a sight that made her heart start pounding. A perfect circle of colorful stones with a smaller circle of stones inside. Not sure if this truly was a tipi ring, but hoping so, she admired the handiwork for a few minutes before running back through the canyon and making it back with five minutes to spare.

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Tipi ring near Eagle Creek Recreation Area.

We paddled to Dark Butte rec. site located on the outside of a long, wide bend in the river with sheer embankments and a vast expanse of prairie leading to more rock formations. There were also Hoodoos, rock columns that stand like guards at the gates of a castle. Caused by erosive forces, they are composed of soft rock, with a hard-rock “hat”, on top, that protects the soft rock from eroding. There are a plethora of geological forces at work in this land. We shared the camp spot with two fellow travelers, Orville and Frank. Fantastic people. Both originally from Montana and now retired, they started working together in their early 20’s caring for inmates at the MT state prison for the criminally insane. We were impressed. Frank lives in San Diego and came out to join Orville on a trip to commemorate Orville’s father, who passed away before getting to paddle this stretch of river himself. It was on Orville’s bucket list and Frank wanted an adventure. So they made it happen!  We shared dinner together, we provided rice with sweet potato and Orville and Frank shared their steak with us. We all exchanged stories and parts of our lives with each other around the campfire. It was another one of those great river moments, meeting like-minded and interesting people. This campsite offered a bonus: a compostable toilet, situated behind the camping spots, offering a five-star view of the scene. The massive hills and the river provided a pure canvas for the sun to paint her familiar oranges and pinks as storm clouds raced past us towards some fictional finish line. All of a sudden it was 10:00 and time for bed. Lightning and thunder rolled in a couple of hours later, lighting up the entire sky and striking within 2 miles of us for a while. It moved on eventually and we slept on.

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Sunset from our campsite.

June 24th, 2016

It was awe-inspiring to wake up in the landscape we were in. The uter magnitude of the geological forces that went into sculpturing this land is astounding. The sandstone cliffs, sculpted by Mother Nature; erosion her chisel. We had decided to hang out with our new friends and paddle together for a while, hearing new stories and life wisdom. It is always fun to paddle with other “river rats”. Frank had started calling us “river raiders”! What a great nickname. The morning went by quickly listening to these guys talk. Frank told us about living in a trailer on the beach and writing a book about his time working with patients in correctional facilities, “The Lodge of the Whitetail Deer”. He said he wrote five to ten pages a day, in pencil, every day for a year. Orville let us in on the history of his family, who were native to this part of the state. It was impressive how he knew names, dates, and the lineages of so many relatives past. He said he’s done a lot of research and heard a lot of stories from his mother and uncles. We enjoyed the conversation as we passed the sandstone cliffs, intruding-ingenious rock, and the dikes. These are particularly interesting features, looking like rock walls coming out of the ground as though part of earths castle. Orville and Frank became official videographers for the SOC documentary by letting us attach our Go-Pro to their canoe. We have a lot of footage of the spectacular landscapes, from our vantage point in the canoe though we rarely have the opportunity to be in those shots. A terrific morning.

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Lisa & Alyce paddling through the Missouri Breaks.

We left the white sandstone cliffs behind around noon and entered the “breaks”. More trees were becoming visible. Up to this point, the trees had been noticeably absent from the landscape. The cottonwoods were almost cut to extinction during the steamboat ear; to paddle upstream on the Missouri, a steamboat would use between 25 and 30 cords of wood a day! WoodHawks settled and lived along the river, cutting down the trees and processing them to sell to the steamboat captains. Reading about the history of the land and paddling past known historical markers feels a little like living the history, like being inside of it. You can’t get that from just reading a text book.

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Orville and Frank in their canoe.

Stopping along the shore, Frank shared some of his fruit and granola bars with us! What a treat. After lunch, we launched our boats back into current and, in no time, we paddled the 10 miles to Judith Landing. A large, dark and ominous storm cloud had started following us and was now really creeping in. Although it was only 2:30, we decided to camp there for the night. Frank and Orville stayed too and we shared a campsite, reducing the fee! We got all of our shelters set up, including a tarp to hang out under just in time for the rain. It didn’t rain much but it is gratifying to have everything squared away, not getting wet.

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Using our selfie stick on the Missouri River.

We shared a hot snack of lentils and a can of chicken provided by Frank, tasty and protein-packed! We chatted under the tarp for a while, enjoying Frank’s stories of his life. The temperature had changed with the rain and soon we retired to our respective tents to read, write, and nap. When we emerged from the tents a few hours later, the storm cell had passed leaving behind big fluffy clouds and a crystal clear blue sky. Orville fished and caught a small mouth bass. Alyce and Frank made a dinner of cheese rice and the bass while Lisa provided the evening’s entertainment with her guitar. Another incredible sunset along the river. Frank started a fire and Lisa continued to play her guitar, while Orville fished on. He caught one more fish and we had a late evening snack as the stars popped into the sky. The coals of the fire burned red and orange, casting a mystical light on our faces. Is this really our life? Sometimes it feels too dreamy, too “perfect”, as though it is really all a figment of our imagination. Yet it is real. So real. Beyond words typed into an I-phone, in the tent at 11pm. With that, the makeshift pillow of clothes and the small inflatable sleeping mat sing their soothing night songs as eyes begin to droop into submission. Another day with many lives lived. Living the dream right now, in paradise.

Bibilography

  1. Scumacher, Otto L., and Lee A. Woodward. Magnificent Journey: A Geological River Trip with Lewis and Clark Through the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Spokane: Woodhawk, 2004. Print.
  2. Monahan, Glenn, and Chanler Biggs. Montana’s Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River. Second ed. Anaconda: Northern Rocky Mountain, 2001. Print.

2 Comments

  1. Jefferson M. Brown
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful reading your narratives, Alyce and Lisa! I went over to Ft. Union Trading Post NHS June 15th to 19th to participate in their Rendezvous (Je suis un hommes du Nord, je suis un voyageur, no?) and my trip wound up going 10 days. On my way there, I met Norm and Kris from Livingston and stayed at their house. On the way back, I thought I may see you around Ft. Benton. I stayed at the Canoe Camp 1 mi. upstream the night of the 20th and most of the 21st.
    I saw you were around Ft. Benton and tried to find you…but missed. The lady at the BLM Interpretive Center said she had seen you, though. While I was walking around town, the wind came up real powerful; big gusts from the north, and I hoped you were not out in it. There were 3 people out in some kayaks trying to land on the quay not too successfully. Maybe you saw my voyageur canoe and white Sawyer Cruiser by my truck. Great to see you the one time! I did succeed in rendezvousing with Kris and Dan and Jackson on Kris Laurie’s Avoiding Barges Expedition a few days earlier. —- Jefferson from like, the Dell, Montana part of your Odyssey.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted July 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I continue to be awe inspired by your adventure, and appreciate immensely the effort to share your experiences in a meaningful / inspiring narrative! As you have already commented, a project like this takes a team effort, so thank all of you for your individual contributions to this amazing effort…..and continued good wishes for the days to come. Gary

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