September 8th, 2016
I had a great night’s rest in the motel bed, with two pillows! The motel breakfast was plentiful and amazing. We lounged until it was time for the chiropractor and found our way there on the Main Street of Chamberline. It was incredibly to sit in that massage chair and I was almost asleep! It felt great to get an adjustment and Tyler gave me some great stretching recommendations. Haven’t been doing enough of that, will need to incorporate this practice into my daily routine. After this it was time for errands and the grocery store, where we picked up some healthy lunch food, including salad parts and hummus.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working on source of confidence, getting more content posted to the website and talking about our next meet up with Viki. All of a sudden it was nearing 5 pm and dinner was on my mind. Thankfully there was a pizza place just across the street, so a large veggie pizza was ordered and consumed by three women. We watched a Jurassic park movie that was playing on the TV and it felt reminiscent of sleep over parties from my younger years. I was very thankful for this day, resting my body and getting several business related tasks accomplished.
Tomorrow we would get back on the water and I was excited to paddle. It’s been hard to keep this perspective and to stay excited about paddling, when I’ve been doing it for over 120 days now. Though this is what I love to do and I must not take it for granted. Since we are over half way down, time wise, with the expedition. That is truly wild to me, as it still feels like we just started hiking up the mountain in May. How time flies when you are having fun.
September 8th, 2016
Super 8 motel, Chamberlain, South Dakota
My brain doesn’t want to participate in today. Even with the incredible gifts of comfort from river angels, Lena and Tyler Hammel, I need a real break. I have nothing to complain about; I don’t want to complain at all. I’m processed out this minute. I’m tired of talking which puts me in a good position to listen.
It’s nice to have Viki with us again. She brings all the right things to resupplies- and I don’t just mean gear and food. With Viki always comes a lot of love, encouragement, a different perspective, and a safe space to discuss…anything. Plus, sometimes bear costumes, egg pie, and Owa.
We are a team of three doing the work of many more around the clock all the time. We have to remember to acknowledge that so that we don’t get (more) overwhelmed by it and so that we make sure we are taking care of each other. When you are over-worked, over-tired, stressed, whatever, it can be easy to forget to thank the people who are right there with you. We do a good job of expressing gratitude to our supporters and not as good a job expressing it to each other.
Viki brought up not always feeling equitably acknowledged for the work she does and my immediate inner reaction was surprise and momentarily indignant. In the moment, I didn’t know what to say. This was ok because Viki gave us permission to just listen by telling us, “don’t say anything, just hear me out and think about it.”
Later in the day, I did think about it. I was really happy Viki brought this up. That’s what we’ve been encouraging each other to do with the things we find tough to say. Viki’s role in our mission is so vital and more easily overlooked and she’s doing most of her work alone. Now that I know she feels this way, I can do something about it.
I was too tired to come up with anything good tonight but it’s in my brain space and something will come out after a little time.
September 9th, 2016
We got out of the motel and down to the water by 8:30. The Hammels met us there to send us off, along with a reporter from the local paper. Lena had set this up and we were super appreciative. We love local press, though don’t always have the energy or time to set these things up. It was a fun interview and I noticed we are getting better and better at telling our story.
Only paddled an hour and 4 miles before the wind got us. Could still see the bridge. We got up two times to try and paddle, each time the wind picking up steam. The third time we actually got in the boat, even though the wind was still as strong as when we landed. We got about a few feet and then we were just paddling in place, the wind too strong. So we turned around and went back to the same spot we had just come from. This time we unloaded the boat and called it for the wind. A nice fire for cooking dinner and enjoying the fading lite of the sun moving across the sky.
September 9th, 2016
Lake Francis Case, Missouri River, South Dakota
Played flashlight tag with a raccoon and porcupine in the wee hours of the morning. Have you ever heard a porcupine? She sounded like a really tired kazoo player; just kind of sighing into the kazoo. Toot. Toot. Toot. Tooooooot. I’d never heard that sound before and followed the second sound of crunching leaves with my headlamp to spot her.
As she busied herself with stripping the tiny green leaves from a tree branch next to my tent, I tried not to blind her with my light. I was curious to watch her though, at the very least to see that she wasn’t interested in me or my stuff. She wasn’t. She was focused on one thing only. Her tiny hands and face working on that midnight salad to fuel her big, shaggy, quilled body while continuing to coo into her imaginary kazoo was unexpectedly adorable. Adorable as long as she stayed a respectable distance from my tent!
Raccoons are not as endearing to me. This one was surprisingly nimble for her rolli-poli stature. I watched her lumber up a tree and chatter with the porcupine. That was the last I saw of her. Me and porcupine continued to hang out because I couldn’t fall back asleep with all the nightlife and a sky full of stars.
A few hours later, Alyce discovered a mouse in our equipment pack. It chewed a hole through our tarp. That’s my backup shelter for the nights when my mostly-broken tent won’t stand up to the weather. Good one, mouse.
As the temperature begins to drop, I suspect we might be dealing with more critters in our supplies. Good thing there are only 87 days left on the river. Who’s counting?
I’m definitely playing defense in the mental and emotional game right now. While there are still plenty of great times and incredible things happening all the time, my focus and positivity is up and down daily. I’m grateful for Alyce and Viki. I’m also grateful for my friends, family, and the river angels that send a nearly constant and much-needed stream of love and support.
September 10th, 2016
Up when the stars are still shining. I have become a morning person, well a person who loves and appreciates the beauty and is thus willing to wake up to partake of it. That is my definition of a morning person. On the water at 6:50, just as the sun is breaking though the night times dark hold. Her energy sends electricity into the land. The shore line and bluffs shine electric gold. The oranges and pinks sweep across the sky. All feels right in the world. South Dakota is a rugged and all-encompassing landscape. She is hard. Truly hard. Almost 30 miles paddled. Long day. Good winds. Sailed. South Dakota is beautiful. The harsh and can’t look away landscape. How things survive out there is astounding. Yet that is resilience. Tenacity. Grit. Perseverance. Found a nice beach to camp on, fire, dinner, swimming, cribbage.
September 11th, 2016
Another early morning, with the Stars dazzling in the sky as I pack my tent and sleeping bag. There is a calm in these wee hours of the morning, even when the wind is blowing (which she was today). On the water by 6:40, paddling hard because the wind picked up just as we were shoving off from shore. We crossed to the left shoreline and found some protection.
The wind calmed down and we paddled, paddled, paddled. We were able to make another crossing of the lake, cutting off some miles. It is nice Francis Case is not that wide, only a mile in most spots, though up to two miles in her wider sections. A mile is not that bad for making a crossing, because even in the middle we aren’t that far from shore. Making good miles and then all of a sudden it was after 11am and time for lunch. By this point we could see the highway 44 bridge! Exciting!
The wind picked up while we were crossing back over to the left shore and I had to dig deep. I was tired, hot and not really wanting to paddle in the wind. Though we made it across and several more miles, past the bridge. By now the wind was picking up, had been for some time and it was after 3pm. And that is what we did. I hadn’t really slept well the last two nights and was drained from the early mornings and the long paddling day yesterday. Finding shore line with lots of trees at the same time the wind picked up, it was a sign to make camp and rest.
I ended up napping and woke up around 6, hungry and with all the motivation to make a fire and cook gone. Ramen and lentils it is! Hot water via the jetboil, to make it as simple as possible. Post dinner bath, brush teeth, write down the happenings of the day, read my book for a little and go to sleep. The river life can be incredibly simple and I relish in these quiet moments.
September 14, 2016
4 miles E of Niobrara on the South Dakota/Nebraska border, Missouri River
Please don’t blow today, wind. Just one day. Just one stinking day, don’t blow.
Thousands and thousands of birds are moving around us. I’ll read this as time to look from a higher perspective. Zoom out a little bit. This is easier to do when you are at the top of the mountain instead of the bottom, still try. If I can’t see, maybe I can look through the eyes of the birds. What does that pair of eagles see way up there? They remind of the spirit it takes to endure challenges. What does that pair of herons see? They remind me that wading through the murky waters is part of life sometimes.
Here we are, murky spirits, still paddling to the Gulf of Mexico.
September 15, 2016
Springfield, South Dakota.
Lightning and thunder just before 2 am pulled me out of much needed sleep. I have to re-inflate my sleeping mat. My boat repair glue and duct tape patch-job was a failure. It’s 4:30 now and my mind can’t stop racing.
It feels like the outside environment and my inside environment are in conspiring to crack me. I’m ok. Just keep moving through time and letting things unfold. In the cloud of the middle of a long and exhausting expedition, I’m figuring out when, where, and how to stand my ground. The number one lesson here is to stay adaptable on all other matters within your boundaries. Drawing just a few lines and being flexible with what’s created in between them is an important part of working with others while respecting your own needs and wants.
Easier said than done.
Viki led by example telling us how she felt about sharing in the recognition of all that we are doing with Source of Confidence. She asked us to think about it, which I think is a great request. With that line drawn, I’ve been thinking about how I can color in the in-between and show Viki that I’m listening and trying. What can I do to show her the value she brings to our lives and the whole project?
IDEA! Make a thank you video, just like we’ve done for many of our supporters, for Viki. Perfect. Go with that. Now I can fall back asleep.
Alyce got on board with the idea right away. Over the next few days we planned to make a list of all of the things Viki brings to SOC and us. After that we’d come up with a video.
With another stroke of river magic, we got in touch with some folks in Springfield, SD. Through the Missouri River Paddlers group on Facebook, we had found someone to help us out with our final portage (Viki headed back to Minnesota in early August and will join us by car again in October). A man named Jarett Bies offered to help us out in when we got to Yankton and in the meantime, put us in touch with Mac, his friend with a cabin right on river.
Mac and his mom, Pat, met us on the river and welcomed us with warmth. We were so thankful to get to shower (it’s been a week without one) and sleep in a bed and avoid another round of thunderstorms on the horizon. Pat, a very kind and gregarious woman, got a kick out of talking with us about the guts it takes for women to do something like this. She recounted a couple tales from her younger days wanting to do things that very few women were doing and how frustrating that was.
Mac, a military veteran with a big heart and a service-oriented mindset, went out and got us a pizza. When we offered money for it, his only words were, “pay it forward. Please just pay it forward.” Mac and Pat went on their way, leaving us to gorge ourselves, do laundry, charge electronics, and, the real treat, watch a movie.
Getting into bed felt really, really good. Thank you again, River Angels, we certainly will pay this forward.
September 16, 2016
Chief White Crane Recreation Area, Yankton, South Dakota.
FINAL RESERVIOR. Last one. After we make it across the 26-mile Lewis and Clark Lake and portage around Gavin’s Point Dam, we have free-flowing river all the way to the Gulf of Mexico! Rejoice! Just a 26-mile paddle to get through.
We took off from Mac’s place early and had a nice tailwind right away. The tailwind helped us all the way to the end of Lewis and Clark Lake in 5 and a half hours. We hardly had to paddle! What send-off from the Upper Missouri!
We unloaded the boat at the marina and Jarett showed up to support us with the portage. What an awesome guy. From our first contact with Jarett to getting to know him in the brief time around the dam, it is apparent that he loves this river and takes great joy in helping people experience all the good that she has to offer. From organizing events, to fundraising for local search and rescue, to taking folks out and teaching them how to paddle, he’s doing a lot for the paddling community in the Yankton and Vermillion area. And that kind of passion is infectious. That gives us an automatic boost to keep going, keep loving the river, keep sharing our experiences with others.
Jarett went above and beyond to make sure we were supported through the portage. He went into town ahead of time to pick up some packages we were expecting in case we didn’t arrive before the post office closed. He even went so far as to print off several different satellite images of the routes we could take around the dam and then briefed us on each one. Jarett also came loaded up with swag for us from the Fort to Field 50 Battle Paddle, a local paddle race that he organizes. We crammed our gear in his car and drove it around to the other side of the dam where we would camp for the night. He showed us a shorter route that would require paddling the mile or two of Yankton Lake, that would take us right to our campsite. Or we could walk around.
We went back to get the boat and opted for the paddle after carrying her over the dam – a quick walk up and over a big, grassy mound. The paddle took forever because we kept stopping to complain or splash each other with water. We were paddling the canoe unloaded, which we never get to do, so we had a lot of fun seeing how much we could get away with without flipping over.
Word had traveled to the campground that we were on our way and the good people of the Chief White Crane covered the cost of our site! Thank you! Our first order of business was to open the packages we’d been waiting for. My new sleeping mat had arrived – hopefully no more having to wake up a couple times night to re-inflate! We also got a box full of goodies from our friend, Erin, in Montana. Among other things we got such exotic treats as kiwis, cookie butter, jerky, and jam. Thanks, Erin!
As we spread out our still-wet gear from the other night’s rainstorm, we got an offer from one of the park managers to go apple picking and get dinner with his wife, Kay and their sons. Fall activities! Yes, please!
When we got back to our campsite, a local boy scout leader approached us to see if we’d come talk to his group of boys about our expedition. Of course! What an awesomely receptive audience. Most of the scouts had paddled before, some had even been to the Boundary Waters (our home turf) and were eager to hear about where we’d been and what we’d seen. Even though our mission is aimed at supporting girls and women in building confidence, positive risk-taking and self-confidence is for everyone. We left the guys with the message that if they keep pursuing their big ideas and adventures, good things will happen.
A long and incredible day. Although we didn’t get the chance to launch our fireworks, what an excellent way to end our time on the Upper Missouri River.