Pierre, South Dakota
July 29, 2023
Dear Family & Friends:
Yesterday, I finished Lake Oahe. This is a great relief because Lake Oahe is the longest and most challenging reservoir on the Missouri River. It is a relentless foe to paddlers. Here is a report that picks up where my last report ended.
July 23. This was a long, hard day. I was on the Lake at 7am and did not stop paddling until just before dark at 10 pm. My stress levels were significantly increased when my iPhone went dark, which left me with no maps and no means of navigation. I did not know where I was, or where I was going, on the Lake. And, my fear was I had paddled into a dead end bay. I saw some lights on a bluff so I beached my canoe and slogged 1/2 mile through tall reeds and vegetation to reach the source of the lights. It turns out I was in West Whitlock Resort, a high-end trailer park for fisherman and retirees. A generous resident offered me water while I tried to figure out what was going on with my iPhone. I soon discovered that the source of my problem was the overheating of the iPhone. So, this problem was happily solved. It turns out I was not in a dead end bay. So, I returned to my canoe and paddled another hour until I reached a sandy area where I set up camp.
July 24. I was on the lake again at 7am paddling into stiff headwinds. The good news is that I do not consider this Lake dangerous. My canoe has a spray skirt on the bow and stern that prevents water from swamping the canoe. And, the canoe handles rough water really well. The challenge is that this Lake is so huge and I cannot make much progress moving at less than 3 mph. I decided to make this a shorter day, so I pulled off the lake at 2pm and set up camp. I think I gained about 15 miles. So, I have about 65 miles until I reach the Oahe Dam and can get off this dreaded Lake. This should take about five days. In order to obtain some relief from the searing heat, I stripped down to my sandals, and walked into the Lake to take a bath and cool down. This was a great relief. I still had about 10 hours before sundown. I spent several of those hours sitting in my beach chair shielding my body from the sun with my umbrella and warding off those pesky flies. Oh, well, tomorrow is another day.
July 25. The day did not start well when I woke up to 15 mph headwinds. These headwinds increased in intensity as the day wore on. My goal was to reach Bushes Landing where there is a lodge with a restaurant and bar along with rooms for lodging. When I reached the boat ramp at Bushes Landing, a fishing boat pulled into the dock right behind me. The kind & generous anglers-Jason DeGroff, his son Gage and his son’s friend Ryan Bush-gave me a ride up the steep hill to Sunset Lodge where I checked in. For dinner, I enjoyed a jalapeño/cheddar hamburger. I am now about 50 miles from the Oahe Dam.
July 26. Good, bad & a bit scary. I was back on the water at 9am. The Lake was glassy calm, so I made good progress to a huge bend in the Lake, which is almost like making a U-turn. That’s where the headwinds ruined my plans for a good mileage day. I pulled off the lake at 4pm and set up camp in the back portion of a nice calm bay. After I set up camp, I noticed dark and menacing clouds headed toward me, accompanied by lighting and thunder. I added additional tie lines to secure my tent & canoe. Then, I got a message from Norm Miller warning me of a big storm headed my way, which could be a tornado. He suggested I double secure my tent and canoe and seek shelter, perhaps in a vault toilet. No such protection was available. After I doubled my tie lines securing my tent and canoe, the wind picked up significantly and it started to sprinkle. Having done all that I could, for my protection, I sat down in my chair, poured a glass of wine and waited to see what additional challenges nature would throw my way and how God would get me through these challenges. The good news is that the weather report showed good conditions for the next day, with tail winds to help me move closer to Oahe Dam.
The last few days, I have endured heat exceeding 103 degrees F. If I had to choose between heat and the biting flies, I’ll take the heat. The flies follow me everywhere, even when I’m paddling in the middle of the Lake. They land on my baseball cap and bite right through the cap into my skull!
July 28. This was a really good day. I finally reached the Dam at Lake Oahe. The hardest part of this journey is now behind me. River Angels, Paul & Sally Crouser portaged me around Oahe Dam. I am staying at the AmericiInn Hotel in Pierre, South Dakota. After checking into the hotel, Paul took me to the Dam where I enjoyed a 1-1/2 hour tour of the power plant which was really interesting.
I plan to take a rest day tomorrow, and then resume my journey below the Dam on Lake Sharpe. The good news is the Lake is more like a river and has a nice current, which I sorely lacked on Lake Oahe.
Paul & Sally are wonderful River Angels. They manage a state campground below the Dam. Paul, Mary, Jack Trullinger (another camp ground host) and I had dinner at Mad Mary’s Steakhouse in Pierre. Great dinner: French onion soup, prime rib and a fully loaded baked potato. After dinner, we visited the state capital and went to a great ice cream parlor. I had a strawberry and chocolate ice cream cone. Here is the backstory regarding the steakhouse: Mary and her husband owned a steakhouse in Pierre. When they divorced, he got the steakhouse. So, she set up a competing steakhouse and named it. “Mad Mary’s Steakhouse.” After returning to my hotel, I enjoyed a glass of wine on the back patio of the hotel with a great view of Lake Sharpe and the pleasure boats making their way up and down the Lake.
Tonight, Sally prepared a wonderful dinner of fresh walleye, chicken, sweet corn, salad, watermelon & cantaloup. How great is that!
I’m making memories for a lifetime.