Half the distance with three times the effort. July 19th-22nd, 2016

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Inside view of Fort Union.

July 19, 2016

Missouri River, Ft. Union Trading Post, North Dakota

At 2am, strong winds woke me as the mesh of my tent walls was pressed against my face. Lightning in the distance drew me out of my tent to fasten my rain fly. No big deal, everything was in place, all I had to do was roll it over the top of the tent and stake it down. I looked over and saw Alyce doing the same with her tent. It’s too hot to keep the rain fly on if it’s not actually raining or really windy. I accomplished the task quickly and just as I was pulling out the guy lines and driving the last few stakes into the ground (and realizing I’d somehow lost a stake), there was an abrupt halt in the wind. It was as if someone had just shut it off.

Without missing a beat, a torrent, and actual torrent, of mosquitoes descended upon me. Of course, if it’s too hot to sleep with the nylon on the outside of your tent, it is also too hot to sleep in any clothes. So, there I was with no protection whatsoever, trying to defend myself from hundreds of blood-thirsty, needle-nosed pests. These were not the early-season, give-up easy mosquitoes of Montana. No, these were some Midwest, make-you-wanna-scream mosquitos. I scrambled to get back in my tent while cursing the stupid, mean bugs, only to realize that when I had left my tent to deal with the wind, I had left my tent door unzipped. Now my tent was filled with more stupid, mean bugs. I spent the next 20 minutes on a murderous rampage and did not stop until the entire space was secured against the enemy.

With all the adrenaline from the wind and bug attack, I couldn’t fall back asleep right away so I thought a little bit more about the storms we’d seen. The storm the had kicked us off the water the day before came on quickly and was east and southbound. As it passed us by, it threw 15mph winds back in our faces from the west for at least an hour. Now this storm, which I could see gather steam way in the distance, had spit what was probably about a 20mph wind at us for maybe 10 minutes and then totally just dropped the subject. I hoped it was over, anyway, as I was not in the mood to have to stay up and pay attention to lightning. I stayed in my tent until 11am. I took a bath in the river. I read my book – a novel about Sacajawea, of course. Living the dream.

We spent all afternoon and evening at Ft. Union Trading Post. Air conditioned, thank goodness. They let us hang out in their break room all day and gave us ice cream. We each bought a lot of things at the gift shop. I got tons of writing accomplished and talked to almost everyone who works there, at length about our expedition and our plans for the future. It was fun to talk to people who know so much about the history of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Plains Indians, and the river in general.

Ft. Union was established in 1828 to serve as a trading post for the American, Native, French-Canadian, and various European traders to come together and exchange goods and socialize. They traded mainly furs, meat, corn, beads, weapons, ammunition, and other valuable items. All these cultures lived in relative harmony for nearly four decades at and around Ft. Union until more white settlers headed west and ruined the party.


Fort Union Trading Post

We returned to our mosquito-infested campsite after running the mosquito-infested gauntlet through a jungle of willows and mud to from the Fort back to the river. We had our 2nd Tiger Eye session submerged in the river to stay cool and avoid the bugs as the sun set into the most beautiful colors I have ever seen. Brilliant orange encased by a rich, royal purple with thick rays of golden light piercing the breaks in the clouds. It looked like the sky was on whimsical fire. The orange light the flame, and the deep blue and purple clouds the rising smoke. The clouds climbed from the west horizon in one long, puffy plume, turning a deeper shade of grey-blue as they made their way overhead to meet the full moon in the eastern sky. I could scarcely contain my awe, not that I needed to. If only the bugs weren’t so bad. All I had to do was think the phrase, and out of nowhere, the wind was in my face. It is crazy how it just appears without warning. HERE I AM. Well, it swept the bug away.



Sunset on the Missouri River.

Awesome rest day! Slept in, as we were positioned so that the sun rose behind us, providing shade from the low hill. I had positioned my tent so the door faced the river and had the sun behind it, giving me shade all morning long!  This meant I didn’t get hot right away and there was a slight breeze. Slow and relaxing morning, around noon we ventured up to the fort. Carrying our frost river packs on our backs, I felt like voyagers of old coming to the fort to trade for goods.
Upon entering the main building, we were greeted by the immediate relief of central air conditioning. Just waking up to the fort I broke out in a sweat! The rangers and interrupters knew we were coming! Jeff brown had informed them of our impending arrival, when he was at the fort at the end of June for the rendezvous. We meet everyone and chatted for a while about our expedition and the history of Fort Union. We also inquired about being able to stay in the building all day, out of the heat and sun. They generously allowed us to use their upstairs break room area, complete with large table and bathroom near by. What a delicious treat, like a free ice cream truck on a blistering summer day.

The afternoon was spent using the Internet, writing and emailing. I spent a little time walking around the actual fort and taking in the vistas from the upper level of the fort. It was important to remind myself that all of this symbolizes the destruction of a whole people; of a culture and way of life that had existed on this land for thousands of years. I must remind myself what this Fort means to the native people of this land.

The afternoon went by quickly and all of a sudden the fort was closing. It was time to be back out in the heat. We had brought our dinner supplies to the fort with us, because we knew our camping spot by the river was going to be mosquito infested. The internet extended outside of the fort and we used this time to finish up some computer work. With dinner consumed, we made a mad dash back to the river, through the mosquito infested willow thicket. Good times. Getting back to the river, we immediately jumped into. The water was cool, relieved the itching of the new mosquito bites and offered us protection from these pests. The sunset this night was one of the best I have ever seen. Watching it from the protection of my tent, the mosquitos swarming around, unable to gain access. Another day of river life.


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Boat ramp near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers.

July 20, 2016

Missouri River, Williston Boat Landing, North Dakota

I didn’t even think of Lyme’s disease. I’d been so tired and sore in strange places. Headaches, stiff neck, loss of appetite, feeling like I was fighting a cold. I just chalked up to 70 days on an expedition, this stuff is hard. But then I saw a bullseye. Right there on my ankle. Where did that come from? Did it just appear? I’m not an expert on tick-borne illnesses, but that sure looked like the bullseye I’d heard about accompanying Lyme’s. Ugh. Not good. I showed Alyce, right away. She agreed. I took a picture and sent it to a couple of friends who have more medical expertise than me. They agreed. Go get it checked out.

As we were approaching the city of Williston, it was clear that if I was going to get this checked out, I would need to do it right away before we headed back into the sparsely-populated plains. I looked up more of the symptoms and more than half of them matched what I’d been experiencing over the last few days. It would be kind of a pain to get up to Williston as it is not right on the river, but it seemed worth it to at least get a professional opinion.

I called a cab when we got to the highway 85 bridge and headed to the hospital while Alyce stayed behind at the Williston boat ramp to hang out with our stuff. We had been warned by a number of people to be careful around here, that it’s not always a very safe place and definitely not a safe place to leave things unattended. After an expensive ride to the clinic, I spent the better part of the visit being harangued by an aggressively-assertive doctor who insisted I could not possibly have contracted Lyme’s. I was so surprised by this steamrolling, and so tired after having traveled more than thirty miles on the river that morning to get to Williston, that I started to cry. Tears twice in one week? That’s almost a record for me.

I explained that I wasn’t there to diagnose myself or get a prescription I didn’t need, I just wanted to figure out if the source of my symptoms and this strange red bullseye was something I needed to be concerned about. I think the doctor realized how inappropriate his handling of the situation was, but it was really too late. I was so uncomfortable and demoralized, I got out of there as soon as I could. They said they’d call with the results from the blood test in a few days.

I stopped to get some dinner to bring back to Alyce at the bridge and got an awesome surprise when a friend of a friend sent me a message that she was in the area and could give me a ride back to the river. That was great because on top of everything else, I really didn’t want to have to pay another $25 to get back. Jody came and picked me up in her truck and explained that she was friends with Peggy, the owner of Tobacco Gardens Resort on Lake Sakakawea a few days by canoe from where we were. We had been in contact with Peggy previously as she likes to keep tabs on all the long-distance paddlers that come through.

Jody was on her way back to the lake when she heard we were looking for some help. I felt like I could cry again when she came to get me. Once back at the bridge, I filled Alyce in, telling her it was unlikely I had Lyme’s. Alyce filled me in on the situation we were in at camp: 24-hour lights and bridge construction. Perfect. I set up my tent and called a friend who usually makes me feel better when I’m really down. It worked. We went to bed early, hoping to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

No rest for the weary, they say. At 2am a strange thing happened. A truck had pulled in to the parking lot and started playing music really loud. This was easy to ignore compared to the clanging of the construction and the trains speeding through and blasting their horns at regular intervals. It was easy to ignore until the truck drove over and parked right next to Alyce’s tent and all of our gear.

The music was on full blast now and the driver began flashing the lights on and off. Echoes of the warnings we’d received about this place flashed through my mind. Having no idea who was in the vehicle or what they were intending to do and not feeling in any way equipped to deal with the situation under my current level of exhaustion, I found myself dialing the number to the Williston police department. I figured they’d just send a car and an officer could handle telling whoever it was to quiet down or move along. No big deal.

Well, turns out the driver of the truck was pretty intoxicated, definitely over the legal limit to drive and they ended up taking him in. Not a good night for anyone. The one redeeming moment was getting to talk with the sheriff, a woman, who was very enthusiastic about our expedition. She said we reminded her of Reese Witherspoon in the movie “Wild” and offered us bug spray. “It’s all-natural,” she said.


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All you can do in this heat is wave your hat in the air.

Starting the morning off sweating isn’t a good sign for the day ahead. Today it was already hot and humid at 6:30 am when we emerged from our tents. The mosquitos were really annoying and we quickly got everything packed up and in the canoe. Stopped for water at the boat dock 5 miles past Fort Union (side note: the water seemed fine at first, just like well water, though as the days progressed we began to question its source, as it tasted stronger and stronger of sulfide. I would not recommend this as a drinking source). It was a nice day of paddling, enjoying the river and landscapes. 

As we are ahead of our timeline right now we started talking about camping around 1pm. As there was no wind and the temperature wasn’t that bad, I always elect to paddle more and put in a full 8 hours. I can struggle to relax on the paddling because I start to think about getting wind bound on the upcoming Sakakawea and Oahe lakes. These are both ocean-like, person-made lakes, that are notorious for storms and wind. Some paddlers get stuck for days on these lakes. My thinking around paddling is do it when there isn’t bad weather and have rest days on days when we can’t paddle. This thinking gets in the way of enjoying the journey.

It’s also tiring when the weather is continuously good and I keep thinking well what if tomorrow there is wind. Using the weather radio helps with planning our travel and rest days, though she is not stagnant and ever changing, a thought always playing in the back of my mind. I am working to find a balance, it’s just some days are harder than others and it can be a struggle. We aren’t route-stressed now and I don’t want to be in the future, though thinking like that ends up creating a sense of route-stress, in trying to just push on. The crux of long distance paddling. Yet also, the general crux of trying to find a balance, always present in my many different lives-lived. 

We started to have another disagreement on this subject and I was feeling very indecisive. I asked Lisa for patience and expressed my feelings of anxiety. I could tell Lisa was working hard at having patience, even though I felt like from her body language she was annoyed with me. This can be a crux in a partnership like ours: when you don’t like what the other person is asking for and having to come from a place of compassion to honor the request. We decided to take a swimming break and I tried to relax and change my mindset about camping early for the day. 

Well all of that became mute because Lisa found a bullseye marking on her leg, one of the signs of Limes disease. At this point we were about 12 miles from the 85 Bridge, where we could get driven into the  town of Williston for Lisa to go to the clinic. It was a rough afternoon, trying not to go down the rabbit hole of thinking: what if it’s positive and what will that mean for the expedition. The temperature increased and our paddling slowed down, so we didn’t arrive at the bridge till after 4pm. I stayed at the boat landing and public park area with all of our stuff. Although Dave Miller stated in the Complete Paddler that he stayed here and had a good experience, that was before the oil boom. So by this point we had been informed to stay safe and that Williston was an interesting place.

I spent the rest of the evening uploading footage, posting to social media and talking with my mom. Several hours later Lisa arrived, driven in by Jody, an amazing river angel. Lisa had kindly brought me a hamburger from in town. We were going to have to wait 5 days for the test results to Come in and were luckily only a 2 day paddle from the Tobacco Gardens Resort and Marina, where Jody worked. We were looking forward to getting there, as we had heard terrific things about Peg, the owner. It was declared a paddlers must stop and for many reasons. Lake Sakakawea is huge and can present quite the challenge to paddlers. Thoughts of trying to fall asleep early evaporated like dew in the morning, with the 24 hour bridge construction.


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24 hour construction of the Highway 85 Bridge, outside of Williston, North Dakota.

July 21, 2016

Lake Sakakawea, west of Tobacco Gardens, North Dakota

At 7am, we got another rude awakening as the guy from the night before showed up again, full of anger about the police encounter. Part of me felt guilty for not getting out of my tent to talk to him before calling the police department (not 911), but at the time, that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. If he hadn’t been so angry, maybe I would have explained how threatening his behavior seemed and that even though had meant no harm, his decision to drive under the influence was what did him in. I kept my mouth shut though and he moved on.

We got out of there as soon as we could, a little sour on our experience with some, but not all, of the people in that place. In fact, all of the women we had met in Williston – the cab driver, the female nurses and doctors, the Sheriff, and Jody were incredible. They were exceptionally kind, caring, and generous people which should not be overlooked. We resolved to avoid camping at boat ramps for the rest of the expedition.

The heat is becoming increasingly brutal. It remains 75 degrees even after the sun goes down these days. We await sunset each day like kids do Christmas. Now that we are farther downriver from the dam (which releases very cold water from the lake bottom), the water is much, much warmer and doesn’t do as well to revive us. The color of the river has changed too. Once we passed the confluence where the Yellowstone River joins the Missouri just east of Ft. Union, milky white swirls twist and turn through a chocolate-colored backdrop. It’s mesmerizing. It’s like watching a big, muddy screensaver while we paddle.


Another form of expedition entertainment: bug watching.

The current has yet again dissipated as we approach another dammed-up section of river, Lake Sakakwea (pronounced Sah-kuh-kuh-wee-uh). Again, we must shift into lake travel mentality and try to keep morale high as it takes greater effort to move shorter distances without the help of the current. Now, instead of moving five or six miles an hour, we’re down to about three. Swimming is one of our top morale boosters. We swim all the time. We swim before getting in the boat, we swim while we float with the boat, we swim at camp, we swim before going to bed. Today, because it was 96 degrees, with the heat index in the triple digits, I ended up eating all my meals, mostly submerged in the river. This also keeps the flies from biting.

We also listen to a lot of music to keep ourselves entertained. We fasten one of our iPhones to Alyce’s dry bag and keep it under the solar panel so it doesn’t overheat in the sun. When it runs low on battery, we plug it in to the panel and the sun keeps it going (at least the sun is good for something right now). If it’s not windy, we can both hear the music great. If the wind is blowing, not so much. That makes the windy days all the more difficult. On airwaves this week we had Beyoncé (we listen to her every week), The Head and The Heart, India Arie, Dessa, and Valerie June, to name a few.


Lake Sakakawea

Today, we decided to do something that I’ve done on many of my Outward Bound expeditions with my students to help them get to know one another. It’s called “5 Pivotal Points”. I didn’t make it up, it’s a common activity that instructors use on those expeditions. The idea is to think of five important moments, events, or people that have influenced, or been “pivotal” in where you are in your life today. The beauty of the activity is you have plenty more than five important experiences in your life so you can choose if you want to share the deep ones, keep it more surface-level, or go somewhere in between.

I decided to go deep. Alyce knows me pretty well, but even as close friends, there are plenty of things we don’t know about each other. While we may know a lot about what the other person likes or dislikes; what makes the other person scared or upset; what makes them happy or inspired; hearing the deeper stories of what has influenced each other’s decisions and life paths leads you to a whole new level of understanding. Now instead of just seeing “what”, we can also see “why”.

It felt really good for me to think about these things for myself. What have been the most influential moments in my life? What has shaped who and where I am? What do I want Alyce to know? It felt really good to share some of my most closely guarded secrets with Alyce. It seemed to add power to the parts of my story that I really like and took power away from the parts I don’t. I’ll be posting some of my answers here. The rest will be in the memoir I will mostly likely write someday.



Drying things out at camp on Lake Sakakawea.


What an awful start to this day, which actually began around 2am, when a man came to the boat ramp, blasting his music and parking really close to our tents. I awoke with a start and thought no way. I got up and asked him to turn it down and that we were tying to sleep.  That we wouldn’t have normally camped here, yet we were in a bit of a pickle because of needing to access a clinic. He was intoxicated and didn’t seem to understand that we were paddling the river and had to camp here. He had his dog Lady with him and she started to jump on me in the excitement. He immediately told her no and when she did it again, he put her in the back of his truck. This put my mind slightly at ease, because if he wanted to intimidate me he would have let his dog jump all over me. There are some folks who will use their dog to make another person feel scared or threatened. It was a, mind you small, sign of encouragement. Honestly this is the thought that went through my mind. I also kept a good distance between myself and him; a safety measure women learn. This conversation was not fruitful and he said no to turning down his music. I went back to my tent unsure of what I would do next. At this point I heard Lisa on the phone, with I assumed the sheriffs office. Well I guess that is all we can do at this point, since I had politely asked him to turn the music down and it hadn’t happened. Then I hear him walk over and begin asking me what we are doing. I get out of my tent and have a conversation with him and he finally seems to get it. After a few minutes he hands me a ten dollar bill and says to buy a hamburger. He walks back to his truck, turns the music down and begins to drive away. At this moment the police arrive, as Lisa had requested this over the phone. He was clearly intoxicated and should not have been driving.  

Yet I still felt conflicted about the whole thing/situation/event (heck I don’t even know what to call it). He was probably just bored and unfortunately it is more of the norm in states like North Dakota to drive while under the influence. Along with the fact that he was not white and here we are two white women calling the cops. I am really conflicted about this situation, and will be processing for a while how my white/socio-economic privilege acted out and affected/influenced/solidified (yet again not sure what word). Though at the same time he should not have been driving under the influence; a thought that passed through my mind was that could have been the night he got into a car accident and hurt other people. What a complicated situation and experience. I’ll just leave it at that for now, since I have so many thoughts swirling in my head; too many to put into writing. 

The sheriff, who was a woman!, showed up and talked with us. We didn’t see a need to fill an official complaint. We talked with the sheriff, who had seen the move Wild and had been inspired from it! She was enthusiastic about our journey and wished us luck. The man was arrested for drinking and driving, which honestly was the reason I was able to fall back asleep. Why was I so scared that he would get angry and try to hurt us? Was I naive to think he was harmless before? He was in the process of leaving the boat ramp when the cops showed up and had honored my requests to turn down the music. Heck I don’t know what to think or feel about it. 

I was asleep until 7:30 am, when the man returned. Shaking my tent to get his ten dollars back. “I was just trying to help” and “you didn’t have to call the cops.” This will follow me for a long time. He immediately left and we got the heck out of there. Don’t camp near the Williston bridge. 

We spent the morning processing what had happened and moving slow because of pure exhaustion. About a mile down from the bridge we passed an amazing place to camp on the right. it’s interesting that it didn’t even cross our minds to paddle past the bridge and camp downstream. The heat has a way of doing that though, playing little tricks with your mind and straight up exhaustion. Further on the river began to change, widening out as we approached the official start of open water on lake Sakakawea. The surrounding land flattens out, as we entered the braided chain of channels. Sticking to the main one, the water kept getting wider and wider, with large bluffs and hills blanketing the horizon. The immediate shore on both sides was mud, with sticks jutting out, almost like they had been placed their deliberately; to keep us or any other creatures out! Not a very hospitable environment it seemed. Tree stumps also lined the shore, making some of it in accessible. 

Getting into the actual waters of Sakakawea the shore line did a dramatic thing and changed to beautiful rocky beaches. With bluffs casting shade, as the sun let go of her strong hold on the day. There were still some tree stumps along shore tho. They weren’t that bothersome. The beaches were covered in rocks of every shape, size and the range of colors was stunning. Black spots marked the shore sporadically; shallow coal eroded to the surface, not useable as a fire starter. 

We found the perfect beach, unloaded the boat, got camp set up and quickly ran into the shade of a magnificent bluff. The evening was spent reading, swimming, writing and eating a simple dinner of ramen and precook end lentil packet. All enjoyed in the shade!! Another spectacular sunset graced the sky. Yet again I had aspirations of going to sleep early, yet the sunsets make my mind come alive. Alas, I can sleep when I’m dead.


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View of the sunsetting from Alyce’s tent door.

July 22, 2016

Tobacco Gardens Resort and Marina, Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

We listened to the radio and heard “damaging winds, thunderstorms, hail, and tornados” moving across the plains. That was enough incentive to get our butts in gear despite the increasing winds from the east, the direction we were headed. We took turns loading the boat to stabilize it in the waves. It seemed like it took us forever to get out of camp, but we did it.

We clocked ourselves traveling between 1 and 2 miles per hour in the headwind with waves crashing over the bow every once in awhile. Ww then figured we were going about a third the distance we normally travel using at least three times the effort to get there. It was slow, tough going, but we had our sights set on Tobacco Gardens where there would be shelter from the storm. So, we kept paddling.

We paddled for three hours without stopping lest we lose progress to the wind and waves. Finally, we reached the lee (protected from wind) of a north-south shore. As we approached the shore, the waves started to change shape and seemed to be coming at us from two angles now; east and south. I thought they might be waves refracting
off of the shore we were approaching. After watching the waves, that didn’t seem quite right as we weren’t near enough to the shore nor was the shore steep enough for the waves to be refracting (bouncing back). I focused on paddling hard those last few minutes to get to shore so we could eat lunch and empty our totally full bladders.


Sweet, sweet safety of shore after a 3 hour battle with wind and waves. Lunch break and then…back at it!

As we landed on shore and looked out at the distance we had covered, we couldn’t help but notice a placid scene in the place of the raging sea we had just powered our way across. Was this some kind of joke? Who turned off the wind? Then a gust hit me from the southeast and I realized what I had been witnessing in our last few strokes to shore. It wasn’t refracting waves, it was the wind changing direction. It was a southeast wind meeting up with a northeast one, adding some excitement to our paddling. Now it seemed as if the northeast wind was finished blowing, leaving the southeast one to menace us for the rest of the day.

We listened to the weather again. Now it was predicted to be 20-25mph winds from the east and a chance of thunderstorms. Not something we wanted to camp in, but not as bad as the original forecast. We decided to keep the train moving while we has this relatively calm water.

We traveled north along the shore enjoying the rich red and orange sand-stone bluffs. There were strips of black coal, not the kind you burn, pressed in-between the layers of red and white and brown. I didn’t expect so much beauty here. It kind of surprised me. We stopped every so often to admire the bluffs while continuing to move forward toward our destination.


The bluffs of Lake Sakakawea.

When we rounded the point to head east again, the break was over. It was time to put our heads back down and dig in to the wind. The waves were big, probably 2 feet, and coming in quick succession but we didn’t take on as much water this round as we had earlier in the day. We calculate our speed again. Still about a mile an hour. That meant we still had a few more hours to go. I was feeling pretty well-rested but paddling in a headwind all day kind of sucks. Alyce seemed to be a lot more tired but still willing to fight the wind.

I started looking for campsites along the south shore in case the wind picked up or got worse as we move farther east. The pickings were getting more and more slim and I was starting to worry about the impending storm. I was growing more and more skeptical about our ability to reach Tobacco Gardens and really didn’t want to get stuck camping in a super-exposed spot. Alyce expressed a desire to keep moving, so we did. Mostly, I didn’t want to spend another afternoon arguing and I didn’t mind continuing on.


These outcroppings reminded us of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore back home on Lake Superior.

When we got to the point on the west side of Tobacco Garden Bay, the wind had increased and the waves had gotten bigger. We considered our options: paddle around the point and potentially swamp the canoe in the cross-waves; portage our stuff around the point to take the waves head-on, still with the potential for swamping; or camp on this exposed beach. I could see that Alyce wanted to continue on, but my judgment weighed too heavy on me to stay silent. “These waves are too big. It’s not safe.” She quickly agreed and we decided to try to find the most sheltered spot to camp.

After unloading the canoe in the growing swells, a pontoon showed up and a lady hollered to us to meet her around the point where they could land the boat more safely. We headed over and met Nikki, her husband and two kids. Nikki is the daughter of Peggy, owner of the marina where we were headed. Peg had been watching our tracking device and, not wanting us to get stuck in the storm, sent her daughter out to get us. Well, we didn’t want to sit in that storm either so we grabbed a few of our things and jumped on the boat.

Peg was there to greet us once we made it to the safety of Tobacco Gardens. We hooked up a trailer to Peg’s super ATV and went to rescue the rest of our gear. When we got back we had hamburgers, beer, showers, and an air conditioned cabin while a storm we no longer cared much about raged on outside our door.


The shores of Lake Sakakawea.

– Lisa

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Loving the rock outcroppings on Lake Sakakawea.

Groggy morning. Still feeling tired from the lack of sleep the night before, I felt half asleep until we got in the boat and started paddling. Then I was really awake for we had a good strong head wind, barreling right at us. 3 hours later and only a handful of miles, we luckily had shifted directions and were in a wind shadow from the the rocky shore line. 

Lunch was consumed at a beautiful rocky beach. Thoughts of camping here drifted through my mind, though the weather radio dashed those dreams. A large and severe thunderstorm was being forecasted for the area and we were roughly 10/11 miles from the Tobacco Gardens Resort and Marina (TG). The owner Peg is a River Angel and TG is a paddlers must stop. We were determined to get there before the incoming weather. We had a break from the wind for several miles and were paddling fast. We paused to investigate the red rocks and shore line that we’re starting to become more numerous. Lake Sakakawea is huge and with imperiled beauty, my frustration with paddling into the wind evaporated. 

That was until we rounded the next point. The lake seemed to double in width and the wind was once again right in our faces. The rest of the miles were hard fought and it wasn’t until 5pm when we reached the entrance of Tobacco Gardens bay where the resort and marina are located. The wind was still blowing and I was exhausted from the days hard paddling. With no choice, we got out of the boat and unloaded her on the sandy beach. I guess we can just camp here for the night and paddle into the marina in the morning. A nice beach, though it looked like a party spot and it was a Friday. 

All of a sudden a family in a pontoon boat came up to the beach on the lake shore line and directed us to walk around the point into the more protected bay. Amazingly it was Pegs daughter, Nicole and her family. Peg was rolling our tracking device and saw that we were stuck at the point. Nicole and family were out enjoying the day and she asked them to pick us up!  Thank everything! We arrived at the marina in style! Peg was waiting for us at the docks and we were quickly brought to the bunk house, where we would spend a few days resting. What a place! We each had our own beds, it was air conditioned, there was a mini fridge and curtains on the windows! I was really looking forward to getting to sleep in tomorrow! 

We got settled, ate a snack and then Peg drove us in her Ranger, off road vehicle to the point we got stuck at to retrieve our boat a gear. Jody was done working for the day and accompanied us. We had quite the fun experience! After an adventurous time getting the trailer unstuck from the sand and the boat tied down, we were back at TG eating hamburgers and drinking a cold beer. What a day! What fantastic and kind and generous people. I fell half asleep even before my body hit the bed! What a treat, a real bed.

– Alyce

Reflection questions:

  1. What is one lesson that nature helped teach Lisa? Have you ever learned a lesson from nature? If so, what was it?
  2. Alyce and Lisa figured out that they needed to do something to break their big dream into smaller, more manageable steps so it didn’t seem so overwhelming all the time. How did they do this? What big dream do you have? Are there some small steps you can start taking today to get there?
  3. What were all the factors that went into Lisa and Alyce’s argument on the way to Ft. Union? How did they handle the situation? What would you do in that situation?
  4. What are 5 pivotal points in your life? What have been the most influential moments in your life? What has shaped who and where you are? What do you want people to know about you?

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