The rain is mostly a light drizzle as we load gear into the van that will take us to our launch point. On the way, we stop at Decision Point — an overlook of the confluence of the Marias and Missouri rivers — where Lewis and Clark camped for 10-days as they made reconnaissances up both to determine which in fact was the Missouri River that would lead to the Northwest Passage.
Next, we drive to Coal Banks Landing, where we begin our paddling adventure through the White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River region. This is an area much described by Captain Merriweather Lewis in his journals and the most popular section to float. It's name comes from the dark layer of lignite coal found in the hillsides, and it was the landing used by steamboats during the Indian Wars (1876-77) and the construction of Fort Assiniboine on the northwest side of the Bears Paw Mountains.
Though the stretch of river we will be paddling can be done in two-nights and three-days, we will explore it with an extra day. And, since there is no potable water available, our supply pontoon boat carries plenty along with massive coolers that hold food/wine/ beer, tents, tables and kitchen equipment. Each of our canoes carry our personal gear and folding camp chairs. I am teamed up with Kevin O'Briant, who is our river guide/naturalist/historian — a perfect pairing for an inquisitive mind like mine!
While the paddling is easy due to a nice current and gentle tailwind, I am nonetheless delighted to discover that my water aerobic classes have helped develop my upper body strength! Several miles downstream, it begins raining again in earnest and I am thankful for having started out in full rain gear — jacket and pants — especially when the temperature starts dipping.
Unfortunately, the rain is now teeming, so Kevin makes an "executive decision" to keep paddling to our camping site rather than stopping at Burnt Butte to explore on foot. Arriving at Eagle Creek Boat Camp several hours early, our camp is not yet set-up nor are our tents. A pop-up dining tent is quickly put up so we can huddle under it to get out of the rain. Cold, wet, we await hot water for tea as priority shifts to putting up our tents and changing out of rain gear and wet clothes. One of the advantages I quickly realize in traveling solo is a tent all to myself. Whereas mine is roomy for one — allowing room to hang up wet clothing and unpack my dry bag in search of warm, dry clothes — others have two cots that take up most of the floorspace.
Chick Pea Tagine • Roasted Olive & Orange Salad •
Okra in Spicy Tomato Sauce • Aged Sheep's Cheese • Pita bread
Moroccan Chilled Almond Soup with Roasted Garlic & Green Melon
Chermoula of Mahi Loin • Couscous with Pine Nuts & Currants •
Orange Blossom Glazed Petite Carrots
Pistachio-Filed Phyllo Roles 'Briates' • Caramelized Peaches
Chateau La Roque, Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc (Roussilion, France)
Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserve la Demoiselle (Corbiéres, France)