Hey there, everyone. It’s been a minute since we’ve done a post, but we’re planning to reboot the blog, and we thought that our first retirement trip would be a great way to get back into the swing of things. And our first trip was a doozy! We paddled 107 miles in a canoe down the Upper Missouri River in Montana. It was a one week trip that followed part of the route of Lewis and Clark. Although, they paddled UP the river, and I have no idea how! We paddled DOWN the river, and it was the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
Our trip was guided by Upper Missouri River Guides out of Fort Benton, Montana. If you are interested in doing this trip, we would highly recommend this group. They were fantastic. We had four guides for most of our trip and they took care of every single possible thing. They put up our tents every day, they packed all the canoes, they dealt with the toilet tent (for which they should get a medal), they encouraged us when we were tired, they gave us tips to try and make it easier, they fed us incredibly well, and they were hilarious! The trip was not inexpensive, but it was a good value, and honestly we could not have done this trip on our own. Undoubtedly many people could, but not us. We needed ALL the help!
If you do decide to do a trip like this, we would highly recommend you get some practice in a canoe before you go if you don’t have experience. We were not smart enough to do that, so the first few days were exceptionally difficult for us. If we had known something (or ANYthing, really) about canoeing, that would’ve helped. It would’ve also helped if the wind had not been barreling at us at 25 mph (see photo below of Jeff using his paddle as a sail)! Luckily the rough winds only lasted a couple of (loooooong) days.
The scenery on the trip was stunning. The White Cliffs section reminded us in some parts of Bryce Canyon National Park. Super interesting and unusual rock formations. The light colored rock against the bright blue sky was really gorgeous. Every day we had the opportunity to do some hiking if we wanted to with the guides. One of the hikes was up a slot canyon and that was really cool (literally and figuratively). There was a bit of scrambling up the rocks on this hike, but we all managed to do it, and when we got to the top the view was spectacular. Another hike was up to a large window arch that overlooked the river. That one also had some serious rock scrambling/climbing, and I really should not have done the last part up to the window, but I wanted to prove something to myself (not really sure what or why). Luckily, I didn’t fall! All the hikes had great views.
The Badlands section of the river was also beautiful, but in a different way. It was less dramatic, but super rugged. We saw more animals in this section, too. We saw bighorn sheep, coyotes, prairie dogs, and lots of evidence of beavers. So many chewed up trees. The Horseshoe Bend hike in the Badlands was particularly beautiful. There were also many, many birds on/along the river, and if you know us at all, you know that makes our birdnerd hearts go pitter-patter. Our friend Matt had the Merlin birding app that identifies birds by their call, so we spent lots of time trying to look for the birds it told us were in the area. Western Meadowlarks, as it turns out, are incredibly good at hiding!
The physical demands of this trip were intense. If we were to do a trip like this again, we’d pick a trip with shorter distances than we had this time around (that choice, however, was all our own doing). But the chance to be away from civilization and out in nature on one of our country’s wild and scenic rivers for a week, surrounded by the sounds of the animals, the river, and the laughter of old and new friends was a delight, and well worth the effort. Plus we felt pretty proud of ourselves after we finished.
If you’d like to know more detail about this trip, our new overachiever friend Robin, who also was on the trip with us, is writing extremely detailed posts for each day of the trip. They’re fantastic, and you can find them HERE.
We hope you’re finding epic adventures this summer as well, whether they’re for a week or a weekend! Leave us a note in the comments to let us know what you’re up to!