Saturday, July 5, 2008

My Missouri River Journey

So it has been 5 days since I left Montana and all the new friends that I met in my journey of discovery down the Missouri River in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. When you experience something truly amazing, the most difficult thing is trying to share that experience with others who cannot quite relate or understand. It is not their fault, but the experience is exactly what it is: the experience. I can tell you about the stunning vistas, the mass of mosquitoes, or the personalities of the individuals but unless you personally experienced, within context, the views from Eye of the Needle, the coatings of DEET or the humor of Norman and the talents of Jessica, you will not quite understand what the experience was like for those of us that were there.

I cannot share with you all my experiences, nor will you necessarily be as excited about them as I am. But you do need to know some of the things I got to experience, so here is an encapsulated summary of my week:

Day 1, Mon 23 Jun: Travel Day. Met at RDU at 6:00AM. Flew in airplane. Met the rest of the team. Norman Askew and I, with our wrestling connection, hit it off. Arrive at Great Falls International where they have stuffed animals (not teddy bears) in the lobby. Check in at Holiday Inn- Great Falls where they have stuffed animals in the lobby. Learn what an espontoon is. Take a walk around Great Falls where I am introduced to the mosquitoes of Montana. Meredith H. and I go on a futile search for ice cream and settle for Wendy's frosty.

Day 2, Tues 24 Jun: Breakfast is tasty. We meet Carol T. Place! We see waterfalls: Rainbow, Crooked and Black Eagle. Learned that Lewis expected one waterfall and a one day portage. He finds 5 and the portage takes a month. They push and pull canoes across the prairie with prickly pear (a cactus) sticking them in the feet. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center lets us experience the Corps. Yummy sandwiches at Giant Springs. Avoided the guided tour at the Charles Russell Museum. Am introduced to Scheel's Sports. Pack for River. Next door, Armando and Justin sick.
Day 3, Wed 25 Jun: Breakfast was sparce. Meet Wes, driver from MRO. Ulm Pishkin is where buffalo jumped and we saw snake, marmot and prairie dog colony. Stunned, just like Lewis, by the mighty Great Falls of the Missouri. Learn new word: precipate (as in "precipate off the precipice"). More yummy sandwiches. Wes takes luggage and non-river essentials to Ft. Benton. Meet canoe partner, Jessica. Go back to Scheel's. Dinner at Bert and Ernie's where I enjoy good company, bison burgers and Fat Tire and am introduced to Pig's Ass.

Day 4, Thurs 26 Jun: Breakfast better. Look at Decision Point, the confluence of Missouri and Marias Rivers. Wes drives us to Coal Banks to put in the river. Meet MRO Crew. Jessica has queen chair and new nickname: Cleopatra. I am Diesel. Paddle through cliffs, touch cliffs, admire cliffs. Watergun fight. Get to campsite. Happy Hour. Food and service amazing. Peter rescues runaway kayak. Campfire includes camp songs and "Frosty the Snowman" (sung in June, sung in French), and a not so scary scary story about a toe.

Day 5, Fri 27 Jun: Up before 5:00 and there's coffee! Watch sunrise hit cliffs. Blueberry Pancakes and Canadian Bacon for breakfast! Climb to Eye of the Needle. Look down at camp. Boys pee off cliff. Eat again. Hike into Neat Coulee. Narrow canyon and gorgeous bluffs. Definitely worth the effort. Canoe with Jamie. Camp at Hole-in-the-wall. Mike and Meredith hike in with ice! Pasta for dinner. Stay up really late to watch stars under clear and perfect "Big Sky".

Day 6, Sat 28 Jun: French Toast! We hustle to help break down camp. Hike up to Hole-in-the-Wall. Pretty views and no one falls. Matt, the Sheik, is my canoe partner. Slaughter River is where we camp and one of the places that the Corps camped on both the away and return journey. Leisurely stoll after dinner. I am pooped, fall asleep at the campfire.
Day 7, Sun 29 Jun: Karli is my paddle partner today. I have too much coffee. Need to stop and pee. Flotilla with Loren, Meredith, Renee and Adam. We are the last ones back to Judith Landing. Bridge makes us sad. Wish we could stay on river. Bison burgers for lunch! Cheer the MRO crew. Shower at Grand Union is perfect. Walk along levee. See Carol T. Place again. Dinner at Grand Union where there are toasts and Peter makes us sad. Hang out with Mike, Meredith and Mr. Scottie! Scottie reveals that this year's Summer Celebration was the first one he's missed in 25 years. He could not do both the Summer Celebration and the NCCAT trip and he chose us!
Day 8, Mon 30 Jun: Closing circle, lots of touching testimonies. We are a family. Norm and I walk to Ft. Benton High School, talk with some administrators there. Say goodbye to Keith and Mr. Scottie. Back to Great Falls. Ride plane. Minneapolis-St Paul. Ride plane. RDU. Get concerts from Meredith and Jessica. Hugs and farewells. Fond memories.

1 comment:

Revolu said...

looks like a stellar trip mate!