Friday June 13th and Saturday June 14th (Gates of the Mountains & Craig Montana)

this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet. every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect. the tow[er]ing and projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us. the river appears to have forced it’s way through this immence body of solid rock for the distance of 5¾ miles and where it makes it’s exit below has thrown on either side vast collumns of rock mountains high. the river appears to have woarn a passage just the width of it’s channel or 150 yds. it is deep from side to side nor is ther in the 1st 3 miles of this distance a spot except one of a few yards in extent on which a man could rest the soal of his foot.”- Meriwether Lewis July 19th 1805

I wonder if Meriwether dealt with hail storms the night prior to entering “The Gates.”  Probably not.  He also didn’t have the luxury of spending 3 hours at a marina before entering.  I did.  After a harrowing night, we headed for The Gates of the Mountains.  We almost made it when another storm rapidly approached and we made the correct decision to head for the Gates Marina.

The marina has boat tours of The Gates of the Mountains for tourists,  I was surprised as many people decided to brave the weather and take the tour today.  Some hearty souls in Montana.  Mike and I hung out at the marina and waited out the next round of thunderstorms. I was asking employees if they had a Mac plug for my computer. There is something about trying to mooch electricity, it seems odd, I feel like a beggar.    “Hey do you guys use Apple computers?  Oh you do, great, can I borrow a plug (mine was lost when I capsized)?”  Nope, not the right plug, aarghh.  Sidenote: I do like the usability of Apple products, but how about some uniformity with their plugs?  I digress.

After another failed attempt to recharge my computer, I decided to have the $3 marina nachos, certainly not The Ballpark of Arlington (or whatever it is called now) quality but considering my recent diet they were quite tasty.  I was  excited for the storm to pass so I could go throug The Gates of the Mountains, and they did not disappoint.  An awesome spectacle. Mike and I were able to make it through in the afternoon, took our time and found a nice camping spot in the Helena National Forest just past The Gates.

As we were passing through The Gates, we passed one of the tour boats and I heard the tour operator mention to the passengers that Mike and I were going to paddle the entire Missouri River.  The passengers shouted words of encouragement to us which was rewarding.  I am not sure the captain was pleased when I cut him off in the middle of the river, Mike sure made a point to me that was not proper protocol.  I did reinforce that this is my river too. (the boat stopped to allow the tour guide to explain rock formations or something and the wind actually blew me across the river-that’s my story and I am sticking too it)

I was really hoping it would not rain considering the previous night.  The canoe gods rewarded us with a dry night.  This would be the last one for awhile.

Saturday June 14th

Objective. Finish Holter Lake.  Weather. Terrible.  This was a day where I wondered were I was, am I in Seattle in November?  Nah, am I in Boston on a wet cold late October day? Am I now in Florida because it is raining every day?  No, I was in Montana, it was wet, cold, damp and dark.

We spent a rain and wind filled afternoon on Holter Lake as we progressed towards the dam (not Hauser but Holter Dam- we already completed Hauser).  There were times when a I had to paddle my rump off to keep my boat on course and prevent myself from getting blown back towards the Gates.  Then the rain started about 11:00 (we left our campground around 9:00) and did not relent until about 6:00.

Mike was well ahead of me, when I finally caught up he had setup his tarp between two trees to cook up some hearty chicken noodle soup.  I opted for the peanut butter and cookies lunch.  I was too tired to deal with getting all my cookware out for a more substantive lunch and I wanted to get to the dam.  The shelter was certainly welcome.

We headed back out towards the last of Holter Lake and he mentioned he may want to stop at another marina prior to the dam.  I suggested we try to make the dam.  As we approached the last stretch of Holter Lake, Mike went river (or lake) right and I headed for the dam, which I eventually managed to reach despite the less than ideal conditions.

I figured Mike would catch up to me (which he did in Great Falls) so I soldiered on.  The dam situation took some time to portage.  Once I reached the dam, I carried The Helinda and all it’s belongings to the top of the portage steps and waited for a dam worker to save the day.  I waited some more and decided “why not be proactive.”  I headed down the portage path which lead me to a noisy, Saturday night rain, soaked campground.  I scouted out sites that had trucks and finally knocked on the RV door which had a nice Ford F150 in front. The guy answered and was about 85 years old…probably not the best candidate for portage help.  I explained my situation and asked if he knew anyone that could assist, he let me know that no on really could because they are not suppose to drive up to the top of the dam.

I walked back to the dam and went to the ground level (trespassing) and peeked inside the grainy dam window until I saw someone walking around (btw it is still raining).  I knocked on the window and one of the workers came out, I asked him for assistance and he let me know someone would help out shortly. Brian, the friendly dam worker, drove his truck to the top of the dam and portaged my goods to the launch site down river. He was very helpful and gave me pointers about the Great Falls portage.  Beautiful, sweet, amazing current.  Capsizing risks be damned, I need the current, I want the current.

I had a decision to make, do I go on or try to squeeze into a spot at the campground.  The campground was packed and I wanted to make more miles so I canoed on.  Shortly after I launched, I saw someone on the banks taking pictures of Pelicans and other wildlife, he appeared to be somewhat of a professional.  I shouted out to him to “take my photo and post to canoe”  Incredibly, he heard me and did just that….thank you Steve, the photos are awesome.

Anyway, I talked to some fisherman about campsites close by, one guy suggested I paddle to Craig…there will be a restaurant waiting for me just off river.  I humped it and made it to Craig Montana about 8:00.  Good move on my part.  I setup tent at a campground and sprinted to the restaurant where I had a tasty Guiness and burger.  I sat at the bar and exchanged pleasantries with the patrons, a true river bar scene.  Good times after a really long wet day.  Oh and it actually didn’t rain too much that night.





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One Response to Friday June 13th and Saturday June 14th (Gates of the Mountains & Craig Montana)

  1. Norm says:

    Sounds like fun!!!

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