Every other year of so I take a canoe journey on the Missouri River. I usually paddle from Washburn to Bismarck, a distance that takes about two and a half days at a nice leisurely pace. For much of this stretch, the river feels wild and remote. You don’t see anyone else. Cottonwood groves line the shores. Sun bleached pieces of driftwood wash up on sandbars. The river braids into many channels that change from year to year. If there’s good weather, you can set up camp on the sandbar. At night you can hear packs of coyotes calling through the trees. Floating down the quiet waters it’s easy to forget that Bismarck lies just twenty or thirty road miles to the south. Sometimes you can feel like you’re truly in the middle of nowhere. Here are a few pictures from my 2013 trips undertaking in June and July.
The Root Glacier, the ancient conveyor of ice, recedes near McCarthy. This part of the glacier is covered with moraine – rocky debris scraped from the mountains at it’s source. Underneath this debris lays the actual white ice most people associate with glaciers. The toe of the glacier, as it’s called, is a wild place to hang out. For one, exposure from the sun and lowland temperature result in melting which causes moraine slides and rock falls. With all the crashing and collision of rock it’s like hanging out at a bowling alley on league night. It’s a loud, thunderous environment. At the toe of the glacier there are also vast reflective pools of melt-water. Upon first seeing the pools I immediately thought about how cool it would be to procure a canoe and paddle the waters.
Well, it wasn’t long afterwards, during a day hike along the east side of the Root Glacier that I found an old aluminum canoe stashed in a dry ravine. Sitting just a few feet from the water, it begged to be commandeered. What an amazing find (pictued right).
Yesterday, I returned to the canoe with paddles and my coworker Matt. As I’ve found out, the canoe belongs to someone around town – Old Wild Bill So-and-So. Something like that. Because I couldn’t find So-and-So for permission, this canoe outing became sort of a friendly hi-jacking, carried out under secrecy.
Matt and I snuck along the back edge of town, on old game trails to the trailhead leading out towards the glacier. Sure enough, the canoe sat in the same spot, brush growing around it. With the utmost care and respect towards someone else’s canoe we lowered it into the water and enjoyed a sunny day floating amongst the 10,000 year old ice of the Root Glacier.
So to Bill, or whatever your name is: Thank you for use of your canoe. It was much enjoyed. The canoe handles like a dream – very responsive. You should know that we washed the mud off of our shoes before entering the vessel. We also avoided shallow spots and rocks. The canoe was placed back in the exact same spot. Also, kudos on the old ice ax converted into an anchor. Nice touch.