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A Taste of Lewis and Clark July 2017
Gerhard Schroeder  

Running into outlaws – actually, it’s Ed with his way of sun protection

We met Ed and Linda when they still lived in Phoenix. Last year they moved to Bozeman, Montana, same town my son lives in. For the last couple of summers Bozeman has been our family vacation destination. So we also arranged for getting together with Ed and Linda. Like floating the Yellowstone River for a day.

In 2016 Ed revealed that one of his bucket list items was a canoe trip down the Missouri. Not just for a day, but for what turned out to be 108 river miles, which equates to five or six days, depending on water flow and how much paddling one does. That seemed too much effort and inconvenience for me. Then I purchased and read the book “Undaunted Courage” and my hunger for adventure swelled.

The next thing I know, I was on the phone with Ed, told him I was “in”. Long story short, our wives also wanted to come along, and we settled on a starting date of 09 June 2017 to be on the water. Linda’s nephew Alan (17) also came along. He in an inflatable kayak, Ed and Linda in their Oldtown Guide 16’, Mary and me in my ancient Oldtown Penobscot 17’.

The truth that nothing worth having comes without some sort of effort was also evident here. Just getting us and the canoe to Bozeman was over a thousand miles of driving. A third makeshift support bar for the canoe on the roof of my 4Runner allowed us to go 80+ mph when the I-15 permitted such.

From Bozeman we all drove to the take-out point where Highway 191 crosses the Missouri, packed all our stuff into Ed’s Suburban, and left my 4Runner behind. Put-in was at Coal Banks Landing, where we left Ed’s vehicle behind, loaded canoes and kayak and committed to the River. It, by the way, appeared to be between 150 and 250 yards wide along the section we let it carry us.

The first half mile was a piece of cake. The river flowed at approximately 4 mph. And with a little wind from behind we were going downstream faster than one would want to jog. Stability even with all that gear was no issue, and so I set up the fishing rod, tied on a silver spoon, and let it troll, thanks to a special rod holder that David had welded together for me. It maintains the fishing rod to one side to facilitate trolling with minimum interference to paddling.

By the way, a gun was (barely) involved on this trip, my Kahr 9mm, residing in one of the dry bags. I also want to mention that for the first time in years I bought .22LR ammo at Walmart. The Bozeman store had 4 types to choose from. Just out of principle I bought the cheapest, two 100 packs of Winchester SuperX at seven bucks each.

Back to the Missouri. Within minutes it yielded a heavy tug one my line. Full of anticipation I carefully reeled in. Up came a fat carp, about 4lbs. Fun, but nothing for the pan. That day we easily made it to our targeted campsite.

After dinner, while casting from the bank, Alan and I caught three walleye between us. This, the walleye, was a first-time species for me, tricked by a golden spoon. Got another one early the next morning, that time on a black and gold Panther Martin spinner.

Second day began as easy as the first. But in the afternoon the wind increased and now came from the sides and front. Forget fishing or trolling. All focus was on keeping the canoe on course. The wind, any wind, will move a canoe sideways. No big deal until waves and small rapids add to the mix. So, you want the canoe to face as much into the wind as your travel direction permits. That only happens through paddle power. We were quite pooped at the end of that day’s “float”. But the walleye tasted fantastic.

All was quiet again the next morning, allowing to lazily let the river carry us along. That provided the opportunity to try all kinds on fishing – trolling spoons, shallow running plugs, spinners, or casting them forward, sideways or backwards. All to little avail. I got one fish, but it was a 17” Sauger, another species I had never caught before. It ended up being the biggest keeper of the entire trip.

Calm also turned to wicked wind about the time we reached camp for the night. In order to prevent the Coleman from blowing out while frying walleye fillets, we arranged a table and two ice chests as ‘walls’.

And once in our tents, a little hell broke loose with lightening so bright that one could have been reading in the tent. God displayed His beautiful creation during the day, and His awesome power that night. We all survived, and the Mountainsmith tent kept Mary and me bone dry.

But the next hardship lurked. The main air chamber on Alan’s kayak was flat. They had a patch kit, except it required not to inflate for 12 hours. So we took on some extra gear in our canoe, and Alan got into the canoe with Ed and Linda, with one of them sitting on top of their big ice chest, which makes for a high center of gravity. Bad enough. We had vicious wind all day. Mary and I purposely stayed behind them so we could react in case they would dump, since there was no “turning around”.

Amazingly, they kept ‘er upright all day. We were exhausted that night. Yet this was nothing compared to what the Lewis and Clark expedition had to achieve. They did the entire Missouri against its flow, and with way more gear, and no map! BLM offers waterproof maps for that section of the Missouri River, and we had them. So we always knew on what mile of the river we were at. The kayak held air again the next day.

There was endless scenery to enjoy along the way. Mostly of the rugged type. The white cliffs you can only see from the river. Along those 108 miles was only one other bridge (Judith Landing on Rd 236, where there is no store, only a camp ground), and somewhere one ferry. So almost no sign of man. Bring ALL your own food and water. I would not rely on fish(ing) for dinners. The Missouri demanded donation a good half dozen lures from me. Most of the time the 10 lb line was strong enough to break off whatever twig or plant the lure had run into. But not always.

Being carried by the river is healing for one’s soul. We forgot the world for a few days, with no fake news, no TV, no traffic noise, no bills to pay, no texting, no Facebook, no schedules to keep. All we had to do is decide where to camp next.

Of course there were critters. Most big game came in the form of Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. No picture of those, as we were in the middle of fighting the elements. But how about a deer, or a bald eagle unhappy about us being on his water and near his nest? With the river never stopping, taking such pictures was a bit of a challenge. Weather and wind prevented me from capturing electronically creatures such as ducks, Canada geese, osprey, golden eagle and prairie dogs. At one time an otter surfaced three feet from the canoe.

And on our drive to and from the river plenty of antelope and deer kept us entertained, as well as a black bear, some sandhill cranes and a badger.

The last day we woke up to rain, with 12 miles to go to the take-out. But the wind was from behind, therefore nobody complained. And with the aid of a rear cargo carrier and that special roof bar, also welded by David, all our stuff fit into and onto the 4Runner, for the return journey back to Ed’s burb. In the end it all worked as we had planned.

We liked this trip so much that Ed is working on another canoe adventure, somewhere within Yellowstone Park. So we left our Penobscot in Montana.

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