Costa Mesa, California
January 30, 2024
Dear Family & Friends:
In 2023, I completed a through-paddle of the Missouri River in my “livelikedan”/ “Ollie Power” canoe. The trip began at the source of the River in the Rocky Mountains near Three Forks, Montana and ended at the terminus of the River just north of St. Louis, where it converges with the Mississippi River.
The Missouri River is the longest river in North America. The River is 2,341 miles long and courses through seven states-Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. The River played a major role in the exploration and expansion of the American West. Following the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson charged Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with responsibility to find a waterway that would connect the east with the west, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Thus began the Army Corps of Discovery, aka “The Lewis & Clark Expedition.” The Lewis & Clark Expedition began on May 14, 1804 and proceeded up the Missouri River from St. Louis to its headwaters in Montana. From there, the Army Corps of Discovery crossed the Rocky Mountains and proceeded to the Pacific Ocean via the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia Rivers.
My trip started on May 22, 2023 in Three Forks, Montana and ended on December 11, 2023 at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. This four-season trip started in the Spring, proceeded through the Summer and Fall and ended in the Winter. My paddle down the Missouri River was far more challenging and difficult than my Mississippi River adventure in 2019. There are three reasons: First, the Missouri is more remote than the Mississippi, which left me alone on the water for long stretches, accompanied only by my wit, wisdom, thoughts and prayers. Weeks went by and I never encountered a single soul, not even a fisherman. This remoteness required careful planning because there are so few towns and cities along the River for rest and resupply. Second, there are 15 dams on the River creating over 600 miles of lakes. Some of these lakes are enormous. Lake Oahe, for example, is 231 miles long and has a shoreline of 2,250 miles, which is longer than the entire California coast. Lake travel is especially difficult because of the lack of a current and frequent headwinds. There were many days when I paddled hard into strong headwinds and managed to travel only 1-2 miles per hour. Third, the weather on the Missouri River is wild and unpredictable. This is especially dangerous on the lakes, which can blow up on short notice and create waves that can swallow a fishing boat. Although I tried to paddle close to shore, most of the lakes required frequent open water crossings. The weather was especially challenging during my late Fall and early Winter travel when the temperatures plummeted into the teens. Several days I had to take shelter from snow storms.
One of the highlights of the trip was when I was given my purple hat in New Haven, Missouri, signifying my completion of the journey. Another highlight that was unique to my Winter trip was the Christmas parades I attended in Jefferson City, Missouri and St. Charles, Missouri. The lowlight of the trip was the death of Jim Kurz, who drowned in the River during a storm shortly after we met and I took his photograph. He was paddling upstream and I was paddling downstream. Jim was a dear soul who was so kind to me. He even gave me the keys to his car, which was parked in the James Kipp Recreation Area, so I could travel into cities to resupply. Another lowlight was when I was forced to return to California on August 20, 2023 to deal with significant water damage to my condominium in Palm Desert. I returned to the River two months later on October 23, 2023.
As with the Mississippi River, I was overwhelmed at the support given to me by all of the River Angels. These kind people helped me portage around dams, took me into their homes, resorts and lodges, fed me, washed my filthy clothes, took me into cities for resupply, loaned me their cars, gave me a bed to sleep in and hooked me up with downstream River Angels. I will never be able to repay their generosity. I was also very fortunate to meet fellow paddlers, Bill Behrns and Steve Ohrt, who paddled with me for a few weeks. I am truly blessed to have all these new friends for life. I was also uplifted by the prayers and words of encouragement and support from members of my family and friends, including Facebook Friends and Eightsummits Friends.
My beloved canoe functioned flawlessly the entire trip. Only one time in 2,341 miles was a rogue wave able to breach the bow of my canoe, and that wave flowed harmlessly off the side of the canoe into the River. In 2019, when I through-paddled the Mississippi River, I inadvertently paddled over the deadly Chain of Rocks near St. Louis, Missouri. My canoe saved my life.
Despite the daily challenges, I had a wonderful time during my Reverse Lewis & Clark Expedition. The views were absolutely spectacular and the people I met reaffirmed my belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. As I have always said “friends are the priceless jewels we collect on the journey of life.”
All of the glory goes to God, my navigator, protector and paddle companion.
In the near future, I will announce my adventure plans for 2024.
Here are a two-part movie documenting my Reverse Lewis & Clark Expedition and an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times/Daily Pilot, my local newspaper. Please watch the video in full screen mode.
HERE is a link to read the article in the LA Times/ Daily Pilot.