Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything. -Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day -1


After various communication and technical issues, let me now catch up with the progress of this expedition. The day before launch was well worth its own entry. John, our chase car driver, and brother George and I arrived in Malta, Montana, on schedule after a two-day drive from Denver. Malta is about fifty miles from the Canadian border, so is the northernmost point in this journey. You have to go there and the turn back south on forty miles of dirt roads to get to Fourchett Creek Recreation Area, our chosen point of embarkation on the north side of the Missouri River.

After gassing up we headed south, and found quickly that we were following a rainstorm, and were entering an expanse of land with no signs of life, except the occasional cow. It was getting late in the afternoon.

Road signs were not good, and our Montana map was worse. We made a sensible left turn, and continued on as the only folks in the region. The road was damp from the recent storm, especially in a low spot. The 4,000+ pound boat and trailer bogged down, and the Highlander started off the road. This was bad.

After some delay, digging in front of trailer tires and building runways for the car with rocks and grass, we blasted out. Then this whole exercise was repeated in another spot. After a while we decided that this was not the road to anybody's recreation area, slammed and slid back out, and found our way to the right road. It was not great, but better, and our joy was unbounded when we reached the overlook to the river and the boat ramp.

We did the boat launch and gear transfer in record time, because another storm cell was coming in from the west, and we all feared that John would not make it out the forty miles of gumbo if it got any muddier, even with an empty trailer. (Actually, he nearly didn't make it. Fortunately, he met an angel along the way. An old rancher in a pickup stopped and instructed him carefully on what roads to take. And then offered John a swig of whiskey. My kind of angel.)

After John left, George and I got the boat tied off and buttoned up the "tent" cover on it and sat out the edge of a passing storm with tunes and well-earned adult beverages. I reflected that the massive planned river voyage was about to be delayed or hazarded by being stuck in the prairie, or worse. Having the trailer jack-knife and flip while ramming through muddy stretches would have been pretty bad.

The weather passed, and we spent a quiet night, looking forward to Day 1 -- the launch of the actual water journey.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to following your journey from a comfy chair! The blog is great - love the pictures. Stay safe.