Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ft. Peck Restday

Hello to everyone from Ft. Peck. Whew, what a whirlwind week! I have been paddling through some absolutely beautiful country, very wild and pristine.

When I last talked with you all, I was getting ready to leave Ft. Benton. My journey took me through the wild and scenic White Cliffs section for 3 days. I had the chance to see more deer than I could count, herds of bighorn sheep, spectacular sandstone spires, and of course, breathtaking sunsets.

I have then spent the past four days crossing Ft. Peck reservoir, the first of the big three reservoirs that I will be paddling through. What a challenge! The reservoir was so remote that some days I would only see a fishing boat at a distance and I really felt very isolated. The most challenging part of this section was the long stretches of open water that I had to cross. If you have been following my SPOT check ins, you can see that I have had to cross numerous coulees, or bays ranging from 1-7 miles across. Before each crossing I had to check the weather and then just paddle, long and hard, until I reached the other side. I certainly felt very alone when I was several miles from shore in my 17 foot boat.

The other major obstacle was the wind/weather. Afternoon thunderstorms have started arriving around 2pm, so in order to get my long distances paddled, I needed to get up very early. While getting up so early was hard, the sunrises from the reservoir were phenomenal and the stillness of such a large body of water in the morning is really eerie. One of the more memorable experiences I had was passing by an island full of terns and gulls in the early morning. I think I spooked them a bit because all of a sudden the dark morning sky was filled with squaking birds. For several minutes I had visions of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" floating through my mind, but thankfully I just kept paddling by and the birds settled down.

Yesterday was one of the more exhausting days. I awoke very early and paddled until about noon when I reached the marina at Ft. Peck. In order to get there, I did a 7 mile open water crossing which was nerve racking and physically very challenging at the end of a long morning of paddling. However, the cheeseburger and company I found at the marina made it all worthwile.

Zane preparing a meal

As Jared mentioned in his previous blog, I had the chance to meet up with Zane and his dog Pickles, who are also paddling to New Orleans.

Zane, Joe, and Pickles

This is his second trip and he is traveling with a substantial amount of gear and taking his time, so I had a feeling we would meet up at some point (folks upriver had told me he was heading down). We spent the afternoon celebrating a successfull passage of a very difficult section of the trip as well as touring the interpretive center and going to the Lewis and Clark lookout.(Unfortunately I don't have the ability to upload any photos, but hopefully that will change in Williston)

Today, I am resting up for my next push, which will put me in Williston, ND and my next big lake. I am hoping to check some email, tour the hydroelectric plant, and learn about all things Lewis and Clark that happened in the area.

Part of Fort Peck Dam

Zane has been a great asset and has been driving me around showing me the sights. I am continuously surprised at the really great and helpful people I am meeting on this trip.

So now for a new segment on the blog, a section that my brother and I are going to call "Thoughts and River Life." About every 7 days or so we are going to try and put together a brief informative post about how I go about daily living on the river, major revelations, or just plain interesting bits of information. The story for today, my morning routine.

Essential to any successfull outdoor trip is developing a routine for setting up and taking down camp. It increases efficiency and prevents one from forgetting items at camp. So here is my routine(times change based on weather but it gives you an idea of how long these tasks take):

2:30 am - My alarm goes off

2:35 am- get dressed for the day

2:40 am -pack sleeping bag into a dry bag.( I have found that if I hold off on doing this until later I lose a bunch of time in the morning)

2:50 am- Start boiling water, arrange my 6 tablespoons of oatmeal and my coffee.

2:55-3:15 - While the water is boiling I start taking all my gear out of the tent and take it down to a tarp that I set out on the river bank. This is where I stage all of my packing.

3:15-3:20- Pour the boiling water into my coffee press, and pour the water my oatmeal. I then keep packing while I let the water cool down.

3:30 - By this time I have all my gear down on my tarp, except for my tent which I leave up until the very last in order to let it dry as much as possible.

3:35 - Wolf down the oatmeal and coffee, and prepare my lunch bag for the day(usually a couple of snickers bars, a protein bar and a package of tuna)

3:40 - Clean my cookware and package it up. I then drag the Storm GT down to the river bank.

3:45 - Pack up my tent and do a final check of the camp to make sure I have all my trash out and haven't left anything behind. I then walk down to my boat and start packing.

3:50 - After packing(I will have another info sesh about this procedure), I put on my life jacket, do a quick tick/spider/other nasty buggers check, put on my spray skirt and shove off.

It is quite the procedure but it is amazing how much more efficient I get each day!

Well, that is all for now. I will hopefully have a chance to upload a bunch of photos when I get to Williston, but if not then, then Bismark.

I also wanted to say a thank you to my brother, who has been doing a very great job on the blog, and I am glad to hear how much everyone is enjoying it!


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