Monday, September 22, 2008

Part 7: In the Wake of Discovery: Great Falls to Three Forks
July 19-22, 2004
The two fawns stood looking intent to my approaching canoe. One hand was paddling while the other held the camera up to my eye ready for the perfect photo. I came within a boat length and clicked away exposure after exposure. The fawns did not know what to make of the strange creature at the waters edge. I'm sure mom or dad never explained to them what a canoe was. The mother deer had bolted minutes before as it was obvious she knew what I was while the fawns could care less. The kept looking back for mother and then looking forward at me, then taking a drink of water from the river. I watched them for several minutes before they too bolted for cover.
I am fast approaching the mountains. Even though the river is extremely crooked, the high hills get bigger and bigger. The river is also not as wide as it has been in the past. I can even throw a stone across it in several places while most of it is just out of my reach. Lewis and Clark left Great Falls in 8 heavily loaded canoes which they built out of cottonwood trees. I can't imagine paddling a 33 foot dugout canoe that weighed close to 8000 pounds! That is about 7700 more pounds than I have the pleasure of pulling through the current. (Lucky me!) Today I was actually forced to camp early due to the heavy headwinds which slowed my progress to almost a standstill. It has been a long time since I have been wind bound. I am hoping to make it to Gates of the Rocky Mountains in about 5 days. Three Forks by the last weekend of the month. From there I get to trade in my paddle for a pair of hiking boots for about a month. I am looking forward to resting my tired body for awhile.

Photo: Junked cars near Great Falls. Used as a form of bank stablization.

Photo above: My laptop and satallite phone used to send updates to my website. I am probably the first and only person ever to canoe across the country with such equipement.

July 15, 1805 "We arose very early this morning, assigned the canoes their loads and had it put on boars. We now found our vessels eight in number all heavily laden…" M. Lewis
"The sunflower is in bloom and abundant in the river bottoms. The indians of the Missouri particularly those who do not cultivate maze make great uce of the seed of this plant for bread, or use it in thickening their soope." M.Lewis
""the emence high precipces oblige all the pary to pass & repass the river from one point to another the river confined in maney places in a verry narrow chanel from 70 to 120 yards wide bottoms narrow without timber and maney places the mountain approach on both sides…" Wm Clark
July 18, 1805"this handsome bold and clear stream we named in honour of the Secretary of war calling it Dearborn's river" M. Lewis
July 19, 1805"this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. These clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of about 1200 feet. The towering and projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us. From the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the rocky mountains." M. Lewis"my feet is verry much brused & cut walking over the flint, & constantly stuck full Prickly pear thorns, I pulled out 17 by the light of the fire tonight." Wm. Clark Ju

Pine Island Rapids: named by Lewis and Clark. It was one of the most difficult up to that point to get around. I too had to wade up to my waist in the water and pull my boat around the next bend. The cold water felt great in the 90`degree heat.

Camp for the night. Believe it or not the highway and many summer cabins are just our of sight of this photo. The river runs right next to the road for most of it.

Dearborn River: Named by Lewis & Clark. The river empties directly right under the interstate highway overpass. I wonder what L&C would think if they could see this area now. I used the overpass as a momentary resting place with shade.

July 23-30, 2004

Sunday- Hauser Reservoir Montana The constant hum of jet skis, speed boats, and the smell of exhaust for two days has taken away a lot of the beauty and solitude from the area and given me a headache. Holter and Hauser Reservoirs are popular motor boat destinations especially on the weekends. For two days I have been bombarded my huge wakes from all directions. I have encountered over 500 boats and not one dropped their speed as they approached me. A few were so close that I could read the writing of the drivers t-shirts.

I arrived at the first of these two reservoirs Friday evening after three challenging days in which the current was the strongest I have encountered on the entire Missouri River. After passing the small town of Cascade, the river enters the mountains for the first time. Steep volcanic cliffs raise high above often dropping directly into the water. The scenery has been spectacular but not as remote as the previous weeks. Many summer cottages line the river and instead of canoes and kayaks the crystal clear waters are used by drift boats and trout fisherman.

The water is so clear one can easily see the stones 10 feet below the surface. The clarity has helped my navigation tremendously because I can actually see when it's getting too shallow. As with before I would either run aground or hit the blade of my paddle on the river bottom. When I saw that I was getting too close to shore I would steer further out into the deeper water. Although the navigation is easier, the clear water makes me feel uneasy. I personally don't like to see how deep the water is because I have a strange sense that it is calling me to its depths. In fact I am afraid of water which surprises most people. At times the river bordered on Class II whitewater while the majority remained very swift with intermittent pools of slack water for a 100 yards only to be followed by another section of fast moving current. Lewis and Clark had a difficult time hauling their heavy loads through Pine Island Rapids and so did I. The river makes a quick "s" turn with over a few hundred yards of standing waves. At times I was up to my waist hauling my boat through the slowest of current I could find.

I often wonder how I am able to paddle 10 hour days in water that I am unsure I can even walk through. I think I have reached a point in the journey where I've realized I can do it as long as I stay positive and focused on the situation at hand. I more or less tell myself "I've walked, dragged, or paddled hundreds of sections like this I can it one more time". Some days I am even surprised at the miles I have covered which are often more that I estimated for that particular day. I'm sure the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition had similar thoughts. The constant toil, slow pace and relentlessness became a daily routine in which one tries not to think about too much. I feel as if I am in some sort of mental trance at times making the hours speed my. The entire river I've discovered is basically like life itself. Whatever obstacle you are faced with can only be solved if you tell yourself you can do it. "One day at a time; one step at a time; one paddle stroke at a time will get you to the ocean." I've learned I can only do so much in one day. There are days when I don't feel like getting out of the tent or pressing on any further but I somehow manage to do it. Everyday. When the conditions seem hopeless one just has to dive right into it and keep pressing forward.

I hope this journey will inspire at least one person to step outside of the box, to see life like a river, as one bend at a time. We must remember that Lewis and Clark were not "super-heroes". They didn't do anything that today's man or woman is not capable of doing. People in this century have done far greater things than Lewis and Clark and will continue to do so. People I have talked to on the trail seem as though they could never do what I am doing when in fact practically everyone could if they had the desire and the determination.

I was pressed for time reaching the public campground at Holter Dam on Friday to meet Dr. Braun and his family. I had not only 15 miles to paddle but also a dam portage. Since I sent my (Stan's) portage wheels home to save on weight and space, I had to do the portage the old fashioned way, by hand . The portage was about 1/4 mile up a steep incline to the top of the dam. What usually takes me 6 trips to carry everything including my boat only took me three. Thanks to a young man named Tom from Helena who helped haul half of the load. (So I cheated)

I paddled up to the campground as Dr. Braun was walking up to greet me. He was joined by his two daughters Ruth and Abbey, as well as two grandkids. He was determined to grill me a steak dinner and give me a spinal adjustment. He is my chiropractor from my hometown and was the one who arranged other chiropractors along the route to help out. The steaks were great but my hip was about 1 inch higher on one side than but was soon put back in place. The only camping space available for us was in the parking lot on black asphalt. I was able to erect my free standing tent there as well. It was without a doubt the flattest camping place I have had the entire journey.

The entrance to the Gates of the Rocky Mountains, named by Meriwether Lewis.

View from camp inside the "Gates".

By Saturday afternoon I paddled into the "Gates of the Rocky Mountains" named by Meriweather Lewis in 1805. The huge limestone and quartz cliffs rise above the water for over 1100 feet providing a spectacular backdrop for the jet skis and speedboats who's wakes pounded off the sides of the massive cliff walls. I have been here before during the off season with DeeDee and we were the only ones around. It would be nice if they made this canyone a "no wake zone". The noise from the jet skis gave the place an amusement park feel.

There was a small tent camp situated in the middle of the canyon in which I pulled in at the same time as Van Goodwin and his wife Honey and children Thomas and Cat in their red canoe. There were very irritated with the lack of respect they received from the jet skis as well. Van is an ex Ranger and has spent time in Iraq fighting in the war. He is also part Nez Perce Indian which is the same tribe that helped Lewis and Clark during there difficult struggle over the mountains. He invited me to a grilled chicken dinner which I gladly accepted. I was also glad that Van didn't serve any military MRE"S (Meals ready to eat) but would have gladly eaten them as well. As I end this update the mass of boats and watercraft are speeding to the marinas as a fast approaching lightning storm is about to descend upon the area. I plan to make Townsend, Montana on Monday and Three Forks by Friday.

The following day was just a busy with motor boat traffic. No respect with boat wakes. Some speed boats would travel at high speeds within 20 feet creating a wake 4 times the height of my kayak. Now imagine being in a motoboat and having another boat create a wake 4 times the height of their boat? This would be equal to over 15 feet! I'm certain that if they experience a taste of their own medicine they would have a lot more repect with other boats.Several days later Van and his family were waiting for me at Canyon Ferry Resv. and offered to drive me around the dam which saved me a lot more time. Van broke out the tobacco along with the rest of the family and said a prayer and made and offering as I departed across the wind blown body of water.

Exiting the Gates and looking back north.

July 31, 1805"we have a lame crew just now, tow with tumers or bad boils on various parts of them, one with a bad stone bruise, one with his arm accedently dislocated but fortunately well replaced, and a fifth has streigned his back by sliping and falling backwards on the gunwall of the canoe." M. Lewis
Aug 1, 1805"the mountains are extremely bare of timber and out rout lay through the steep valleys exposed to the heat of the sun without shade and scarcely a breath of air…" M Lewis
Aug 5, 1805"the river today they found streighter and more rapid even than yesterday, and the labour and difficulty of the navigation was proportionably increased, they therefore proceeded but slowly and with great pain as the men had become very languid from working in the water and many of their feet swolen and so painful that they could scarcely walk." M Lewis
Self portrait. I hate this photo of me.

The Goodwin Family of Helena, Montana. Thanks for the help around the dam and dinner!

Windbound on Canyon Ferry Reservour. A great place to camp too. One of my favorites of the whole trip.

The rattlesnake made very little sound as I stood near it while pulling my boat to shore. A faint clicking sound was all it made but was enough to get my attention. As I looked down by my ankle I could see the small snake coiled up in striking position. They say you should move slowly away but my initial reaction was to jump. My leap proved to be effective. After realizing the area was probably crawling with snakes I pushed by boat back into the water only to paddle a few more minutes to a small island where I set up camp in the twilight.I slowed my pace the last two days to Three Forks since all my friends would not arrive there until Friday evening. I was looking forward to finishing my upstream travel on this long river. The journey has seemed very long and St. Louis seems like another lifetime ago. The last day or so had been similar to the week's prior. I would paddle a short distance and walk my boat through the shallow waters along the edge into the deeper water and repeat this again and again the entire day. Typically I would walk through the water about 3-4 miles each day while paddling 10-12 miles. I have been wearing sandals, which have rubbed the skin off of my ankles due to my walking in the water.

I am concerned now that I have to wear heavy hiking boots for the next month and what the constant rubbing on these sores may cause. My arrival to Three Forks was somewhat uneventful. Since it was Friday morning there was no one to greet me at the boat ramp. A couple was loading their canoe for a day of fishing as I paddled my last stroke on the Missouri. They asked me where I had started and congratulated me with a cold beer from their cooler. As they handed me the ice cold Budweiser, I thought it was very fitting to have a beer brewed in St. Louis where I started 17-weeks ago.

Above Toston Dam which you can see in the background. It was so peaceful paddling in the slack water above the dam that evening.

Quiet evening just before my rattlesnake encounter.

Photo: Above and below, my last camp before arriving at Three Forks.

Photo :Cheers! My arrival to Three Forks..the start of the Missouri River. It took me 17-weeks to reach this place. A young couple gave me a Budweiser Beer to congratulate me. I thought how ironic since Budweiser is brewed in St. Louis where I started.

The large rock face overlooking the confluence of the Gallitin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers was where Lewis climbed to get a view of the surrounding valley and ponder which river to ascend to reach the far off Pacific. I was tempted to climb the 200-foot cliff myself but my desire soon disappeared at the thought of lunch and the fact the rocks were probably home to many rattlesnakes. After locking my boat and belongings to the boat ramp sign, I was offered a ride into town by the park ranger, which was much appreciated. The small town of Three Forks radiated in the high ninety degree temperatures as I located a small cafe on Main Street to grab a bite to eat. I was offered the option to sit outdoors on the patio but declined it for the dark air-conditioned inside. Since I have been outside for 4 months I have grown to appreciate the indoors what few times I have encountered it.Several of my friends from Livingston, Missoula, West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Gardner, and Yellowstone National Park stopped by over the weekend to visit and welcome me to Three Forks. Several of us camped for two nights at the nearby campground.

It was really great to see them all and very much appreciated. Thanks to Hillary Johnson for the 20 pieces of Sushi which I inhaled without even knowing if it was all for me. It was great to see her. I can still remember going to her web design business (Star Web Services) a few years ago with the idea to do an ongoing web site during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. My chiropractor Dr. Braun and family camped as well and provided so much, such as a 10 lb. smoked salmon, yummy deserts, and plenty of firewood to last the entire weekend. Thanks for another spinal adjustment too! I was glad to see that my hip was not out of place this time. It was great to see Dave and Christie Meuer, Curt & Chery Loeffler, Jen Heath, Tom Porter, Tom & Katie Woods, Paula Clawson, Terri Nightingale, Jason Lehmann, Dennis & Billy Glick, Bev Dawson, Dave Hahn, Derek Poinsette, Dawn Drottos, Richie Doyle, and DeeDee Fite. (I hope I didn't forget anyone.)

Our camp happened to be where I've encountered the most mosquitoes of the entire journey. Having spent the last few months without the need to wear long pants and shirts at night to avoid the bugs, I had to cover up or be eaten by all the flying pests that seemed to congregate near our camp. Lewis and Clark were troubled by mosquitoes their entire journey, and wrote about them often in their journals. I have found it very strange that I have not encountered very many considering I have camped near the water the entire journey. During the next 30 days I will be backpacking over the continental divide through the Bitterroot Mountains that border Montana and Idaho. It was through this area that the Corp of Discovery nearly starved. They were fortunate enough to obtain horses from the nearby Indians and also be guided over the mountains along the trails that the Indians have used for hundreds of years. When I hike the Lolo Trail, I will be joined by author and historian Gene Eastman and his wife Mollie. Gene wrote the book entitled "Bitterroot Crossing- Lewis & Clark across the LoLo Trail". Gene has spent over 20 years researching the real route that Lewis and Clark took over the mountains. His understanding of William Clarks maps, journal descriptions, compass bearings, and terminology has resulted in locating the original trail. The Indians have not used the trail since the 1860's when Chief Joseph passed through while heading to Canada. The current Forest Service Trail that crosses over the mountains is actually not the original trail, as many people believe. The "presumed" Lolo Trail was constructed to accommodate horse packers and hikers over the years and is basically a compilation of an 1860's military road, CCC, and Forest Service Trails that are close to the original Indian trail. Gene says the original trail is still visible in many locations and matches up precisely with where William Clark recorded them to be.

Gene and I will be carrying small packs with minimal amount of supplies. The bulk of our supplies (tent & food) will be located at various camps that Mollie Eastman will set up while Gene and I hike the trail. Each evening we will walk off the original trail to the camp, which will be, located close by. The forest if very thick and overgrown with vegetation since it was last traveled by Native Americans. We will be unable to use horses because of this and all our walking will be in difficult terrain. I hope to send an update once I am camped with Gene and Mollie since she will be able to haul my laptop in their truck to each of our nightly camps. I am looking forward to walking and traveling the "real" route and not the supposed route that was constructed by the US Forest Service.

Friend at Three Forks, Montana

Photo: Me with my friend Hillary Johnson who designed my entire website. Thanks Hillary you are the best. The large cliff in the background is the one Meriwether Lewis climbed to the top to get a view of the three rivers that merge at this location.

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