May 19 through May 25
Sunday, May 19, 1996
Just got back into Great Falls from James Kipp Campground at the Fred Robinson Bridge in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge where Roland and John have been spending a few days waiting for the ground to dry up. I must admit that even being born and raised in this area I had never been to Fred Robinson Bridge. It was a great drive! Central Montana has some small but very pretty mountain ranges, such as the Judith Mountains north of Lewistown and the Little Rockies north of the wildlife refuge. Roland and I went exploring on Saturday. We drove north from James Kipp Campground to Hays on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. If you drive through Hays you will come to a natural canyon with a natural rock bridge. It was beautiful! Kind of a rainy day, but the canyon was very unexpected. Then Saturday evening we hiked up a ridge across from the campground and watched the sun set over the Missouri below. Spring has finally come to Montana, it smelled wonderful out. Sagebrush and wildflowers and grasses all growing…you could almost watch the leaves pop out of the trees over the course of a couple days. But enough of this…John has written more on their adventure….so here it is:
Excerpts from John’s Journal
Monday, May 20, 1996
It was really nice to see Doug & Ron yesterday, and we are extremely grateful to them for the support they have given us. Besides Julie, family, the Stimac’s and Big Horn Wilderness, no one has been more supportive. Doug & Ron are friends of mine who understand the need for sporting events (football, hockey, basketball, etc.). Roland on the other hand only knows one sport…kayaking. Ask him who his favorite NFL team is and he says, ” The Harvesters.” Incidentally, it was Ron who named my boat, “The Pea Green Boat.”
Not a bad day, though a little breezy. We made good time, camping at a little pull out with a couple of Paddlefish fisherman who only had a single syllable dialect. I caught a catfish and a huge carp, that broke my pole in half! This brings the total score to date at: 1 Rainbow Trout, 1 Brown Trout, 1 Brook Trout, 1 Northern Pike, 2 Goldeyes, 1 Walleye, 1 Catfish and 1 Sucker…Not bad for as little fishing we’ve really been doing.
Tuesday, May 21, 1996
What a beautiful day! The sun is out and all we wore today were t-shirts under our PFD’s. Early on, we lost each other in a maze of islands, signaling the beginning of Fort Peck Lake. I went right and Roll went left, we didn’t find each other for over an hour. We lunched and erected the sail for only the second time this whole trip and took advantage of a strong breeze from the west. We made good headway for about an hour before the wind stopped dead! After paddling a couple more hours we camped on the east shore having depleted the last of the current where the river turns south. Tomorrow the Mussellshell Bend.
Wednesday, May 22, 1996
Overcast and cooler with the wind coming out of the north. We made incredible time, nearly being faked out by the left-hand (east) turn, thinking it was a lagoon, and heading up the Mussellshell. Once we rounded the bend the wind really picked up directly in our faces and the waves began tossing our boats about. We did the long crossing ferrying the waves looking for Devils Creek Campground and at one point confident we had passed it camped on the rivers right-hand (south) shore.
Thursday, May 23, 1996
All night the wind howled and it became increasingly cooler. We launched early and began paddling into a northeast wind. The waves were no worse than yesterday but we know we are not making good time. After rounding a huge point Fort Peck showed us a little of her ugly side. Waves in sets of four and five steadily came directly head on. The last wave is usually the biggest and the fronts of the boats lurch into the air before slamming back down into the water. The shore just crawls past, maybe we are doing two miles an hour. After about three hours we see a campground and are disappointed to see a sign proclaiming it to be Devils Creek.
Friday, May 24, 1996
All night the wind beat down on us getting progressively stronger. The rain started about 7pm last night and hasn’t let up since. Sometime after midnight the wind ripped my rain tarp off my tent, showering everything I own until all was drenched. It took me about 20 minutes to get it back in place, leaving me to sleep in puddles. At 9am we both slogged through the mud and had a minimal breakfast of tea and half an apple each. We weighed our options and decided to just stay where we are….Yuck!!!!
Devils Creek is guarded by angels…Late this evening an outfitter and his wife went into town and called Julie for us. They returned with fresh water and offered us a ride to Fort Peck….very tempting.
Saturday, May 25, 1996
After weighing our options we decided not to take the ride from our unnamed friends. So through the mud and wind we paddled all day, barely making 10 miles! We camped in a beautiful cove that wasn’t too soggy. To describe the mud we have been dealing with would be futile. Our shoes are caked and every piece of clothing we own is brown. Just as the ground begins to dry in comes the next rain storm. Next year, I’m giving up mud for Lent!