KAYAKING THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER TO THE MISSOURI RIVER
THE MISSOURI RIVER TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER TO THE GULF OF MEXICO
DAY 2 APRIL 7 THURS – Up early on the road and drove to Big Sky, MT, arriving at approximately 5PM. I spent the night there in Big Sky in a Mt. Roads Dept Gravel Pit.
DAY 3 APRIL 8 FRI – Left as the sun was coming up and headed to Gardnier, MT, arriving about 8AM. My original plan was to ask one of the outfitters/river raft companies to let me put my kayak together at their location/leave my gear with the kayak and head to Williston, ND to park/store the Camper Van and then hitchhike back to Gardnier. As I was driving to Gardiner, I spotted a boat put in and across the river was the Dome Mountain Lodge and stopped there and got to speak to the owner and she said I could tie up behind the lodge.
I went to the ramp/put in and started to put the kayak together. The wind was howling, it was about 9:30AM when I started the assembly. Two hours later, a couple of cuts and bruises and very sore thumbs I had it together. I had watched the DVD several times, read the printed instructions several times so that helped. Next time it will be a breeze. These guys who came up with this “break down kayak” are Geniuses, because this kayak is amazing considering how simple and few pieces there are.
I completely went thru my gear again, I have a lot of it and probably too much. I decided to take the ice chest which takes up the entire 2nd seat. Originally my plan was not to take an ice chest, but since it is about 80 degrees I thought if I can make it work, that is what I was going to do. I made it work.
I loaded up the kayak, got it all in except a backpack of extra food and paddled across the river and staked/tied up the kayak.
I grabbed a subway veggie in Livingston and head to Williston, ND leaving about 5:30 or so.
DAY 4 APRIL 9 SAT – I drove about 50 miles on the other side of Billings, MT and spent the night in a rest stop. The rest stops are few and far between in MT so one doesn’t want to pass one up when one can’t keep their eyes open. I could just pull off, but wanted a bathroom close by in the AM.
I left that rest stop about 3:30AM, couldn’t sleep, and stressed out with the pending hitchhiking challenge coming up. I got to the Interpretive Center when the Confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers is. Once again, my original intention was to drive to Williston, find a place to store my Camper Van and hopefully when I got there my kayak and gear, but changed my plans when I saw the Interpretive Center.
I went in and told the folks what I was doing, and the Director let me park my Van in the parking lot and I will be able to tie my kayak up in a slough right in front of the center when I get there. This couldn’t have worked out any better.
I had to walk about 3 miles to get to where I could start hitchhiking.
I got the 1st ride as far as “can’t remember the name of the little town”, two guys in a Van.
Then my 2nd ride was with a guy who happened to be from New Orleans, black guy, he just could not for the life of him figure out or understand how I was going to get there by kayaking. In fact I don’t think he even knew what a kayak was. He took me to the far side of Sidney, Mt.
My 3rd ride was from a really nice guy driving a brand new Ford Super Duty pickup on his way to Billings from Ray, ND. Great guy, lots of good conversation. It is never a problem for me to carry on a conversation or have something in common with anybody because of all of the places I have been and the things I have done. He dropped me off about in the middle of Billings. I went down to the end of on ramp, but it became very obvious, very quickly that was not the place to get a ride. I walked back up the ramp, and went to a hotel and called a cab and had them take me to the farthest West truck stop there was.
My 4th ride was just a fluke. It was getting late in the day, I was beat and was realizing I wasn’t going to make it back to Livingston in one day. I talked to numerous truckers and these days truckers don’t pick up hitchhikers. Never. So I gave up, went into the restaurant to get something to eat and was going to walk across the street and get a room for the night. As I sat down and was about to order, a guy behind me struck up a conversation and I told what I was doing, and he said he could take me as far as Big Timber, which is about 40 miles or so from Livingston. I said let’s go, he was just paying his bill.
The State of Montana as just recently changed their Freeway Speed Limit from 65/70 to 80 MPH. I don’t drive the Camper Van over 55 or 60. So obviously 80MPH is covering a lot of ground. It became apparent that I might have about 1 to 1½ hrs to still make it to Livingston before dark. He took me to the last truck stop in Big Timber; now grant it Big Timber is not that big.
My 5th ride was a stroke of luck. Once again, I was just about ready to give up, and was actually walking across the road to a motel and a nice truck pulling a cattle trailer pulled into the gas pump. I went back and asked if they were going west, they said yes and I told them what I was doing and they said, get in. I couldn’t believe it.
DAY 5 APRIL 10TH SUN – Launch day. I was up early, had a quick breakfast in the lobby and was walking out of Livingston 6:30AM. I walked about 3 miles, not realizing how early it was and forgot it was Sunday.
My 6th and final ride. A gentleman picked me up who was on his way to Gardnier to take his daughter her Volleyball Jersey which she had forgotten to a volleyball tournament there in Gardnier. He worked for the Park Service and had been there in the Yellowstone Park for 30 years and was retiring in less than 6 months. He was a very pleasant person, as all of those guys who have picked me up have been. No women, no young guys/gals and for sure no truckers pick up hitchhikers.. As everyone I happen to tell them the trip I am embarking on, they are somewhat awed and find it motivating to meet someone who takes these kinds of challenges on. I am starting to realize an awful lot of people lead a very mundane life.
I was at my kayak by 9AM, on the water by 10 and paddled until about 3 in the afternoon and set up my first camp for the trip. I went thru my gear once again, trying to eliminate anything I could, finding hardly anything.
It is absolutely essential to me, to make this trip work right; I have to eat well, be prepared for any and all kinds of weather and for sure be warm and safe and sleep well on the bank. That takes a certain amount of gear and I am not going to compromise.
DAY 6 APRIL 11TH MON – How could this possibly be, two absolutely sunny, beautiful, 70 plus degrees days in a row to start this trip. Yesterday the wind blew up river about 15 to 25MPH but it never was so much I couldn’t make headway. Since arriving on Thursday, the river has raised a good 1 to 2 feet which is making all the difference. Don’t let anybody tell you there are not “some smaller rapids” on the Yellowstone River. There is and they are enough if you are in a kayak you are going to get wet one way or the other. But I am learning real quick how to read the water, handle the kayak and anticipate plenty of time in advance to hit the seams of water I want to. So far I have not got hung up on a gravel bar. I would not be saying that if the water had not come up as it has.
I stopped about 2:00 in the afternoon, even though there was plenty of daylight left, the wind was blowing down river, but I have covered a lot of miles for the first two days of this trip. A lot, so I decided to set up a good camp, go thru my gear again, fish a little bit,,, although that is fruitless because the water is muddy.
This is a good opportunity to start the Journal. Tomorrow I plan on stopping in Big Timber and walk up and get a few things, charge the lap top, get some ice and work on my web site a little bit. I can keep the Cell Phone charge with the Solar Charger it works very well.
DAY 7 APRIL 12TH TUES – Another unbelievable morning. No frost last night or dew. I was up before the sun came up. Packed up, breakfast and on the river at exactly 8AM. My goal today was to get to Big Timber, MT to go up and charge up the computer battery, make sure that my phone and camera will up load to the lap top and get caught up on the journal. Unbelievable day again for weather. I say this for the last time, if anybody tells you that there are no “minor rapids” on the Yellowstone, they are full of shit. I was wet a good part of the morning. Got hung up on one rock in some “minor rapids”, the back of the kayak got hooked up, almost turned over and almost filled up with water, it took all I had to get off that rock. Don’t know what I could have done to prevent it. I have done an excellent job so far of reading the river. It was difficult this morning because I was head right into the sun. I can deflect the sun in the sky with sun glasses, a wide brimmed hat and my hand for shading my eyes. There is nothing I have come up with so far to deflect the glare off of the water. It makes it almost impossible to see the river ahead. Keep in mind; it is different reading the water/river form a river raft sitting up high, than it is trying to gage what is right up ahead of you, sitting on the water in Kayak. You cannot lollygag around, nor can you hesitate to make a decision. One has to commit and go with that commitment, no changing your mind, doesn’t work that way.
Typical Montana Guest House
I am in Big Timber and will accomplish everything that I intended to. Probably won’t get back to my kayak until around 6, hope the rancher is home so I can ask him if I can stay where I tied up for the night, if not I will have to re pack and head down the river a ways, hoping I can get things set up before dark. It is supposed to rain, we shall see, I am prepared for it.