I had planned on taking my first few no-paddle days for the trip when I arrived in Great Falls, MT. My arms weren’t super sore when I got here, but I could feel they’d benefit from a day or two of little to no use. My main contact in Great Falls had been a local Hash House Harrier. Long story short for those that don’t know, the HHH are an international ‘drinking club with a running problem’ located in almost every medium to large sized city in the world. I’ve used it as a method to meet new people with common interests in other cities, to get intelligence on where to go, where to stay, where to get good beer, etc.
Anthony let me stay in his vintage camper out in front of his house.
Electrical was hooked up but not water so I had to get a little creative and become a frequent customer of the coffee shop around the corner. I paddled into Great Falls on Sunday morning, it was rainy and cold. Anthony picked me up and we somehow found a way to balance my 20ft kayak on the roof of the cab of his pickup truck for the short ride back to his house. Later on that day, the local Hash group was playing sloshball – a form of kickball infused with cheap beer and a lot of fun. It continued raining hard all day, stayed in the 40s, but sloshball went ahead as planned. We all had a blast splashing around on a muddy field, chasing a kickball, downing beers and generally having a great time.
We adjourned to a local brewery for post contest refreshments than back to Anthony’s house for some more great food cooked by his wife Nikki. I truly treasure the HHH community both at home in St. Louis and in other places I’ve visited throughout the world. What an incredibly fantastic luxury to have to be able to have instant friends and people who will go out of their way to help you with anything you need in almost any place you find yourself in.
The next day was Memorial Day, and the forecast was for more rain – all day and more cold. The length of my stay in Great Falls was seemingly dependent on the arrival of my first re-supply package. Mainly food and a few other small items I’d need to ensure I’d be able to continue my trip fully stocked. Through some snafu with UPS, I learned my box is not expected to arrive until this Friday – not for two more days from today! I spent Monday afternoon having a couple beers at a local brewery and trying to come up with a plan. After a few iterations, I decided I was going to wait for Tuesday, when the weather was expected to be excellent, and when all the attractions and businesses in Great Falls would be back open for business. I’d then determine if I really wanted to wait until Friday for my package, or buy the stuff I needed at the local WalMart Supercenter and get back on the river.
Yesterday was glorious! Anthony loned me a mountain bike to get around town. After my morning visit to the coffee shop, I headed to the river and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. This is a fantastic museum in Great Falls that covers Lewis & Clark’s entire journey in 1804 – 1806 and beyond, with a pretty good focus on their time in and around the Great Falls of Montana, and their incredibly difficult month-long portage around the Falls. I dodged the kids on field trips at the museum and really enjoyed it. Then I biked down the hill to Giant Springs State Park – an amazingly crisp and clear spring on the banks of the muddy Missouri. The Spring forms what some consider the world’s shortest river – the Roe River at 201ft long. I spent a few more hours biking the excellent bike trail system along the river around Great Falls – some photos of the day on Instagram.
At some point in the day, I made up my mind to proceed on with my trip and not wait for my package. I contacted a few folks about getting a ride past all the dams and falls with my boat to continue on my trip and I have that arranged for this afternoon. Yesterday, I also met up with a guy from Great Falls who is considering a MO River trip in the next year or two so I talked to him for a while about planning and all kinds of stuff. I swung by an army surplus store to procure 12″ tent stakes for what Jim Emanuel promised I would encounter on the Great Plains: 80 – 100mph winds that my tent wouldn’t have a chance of standing up to without. Then I made a dreaded trip to Walmart to purchase food that would last me until my next re-supply box, along with an additional water container as this next stretch of river will be very limited in provisions and refill opportunities.
By the end of the day, the bike seat ensured my butt was in pain. Anthony invited me with his family and some friends to 50 cent wing night at his local VFW, and we had a wonderful time. Today is another fantastic day weather-wise in Great Falls. My shuttle is coming to pick me up around 2pm, then I should be on the river by 3:30 or 4. I’ll paddle for a couple hours to a campsite at Fort Benton, MT. From there on, I get into what will likely be the most scenic portion of my trip – through Missouri River Breaks National Monument. I’ll take my time, do some exploring and hiking in the canyons and cliffs along the river. From there it will be onto the first big lake – Fort Peck. Phone reception looks to be extremely limited over this stretch so I’ll likley be off grid for a couple weeks.
Spirits are good – mind and and body seem to be in good shape after R&R in Great Falls. Fingers crossed that the weather may have finally made a Spring-like turn for the better.