In early September of 2018, a small band of friends completed a water journey through the Missouri Breaks of central Montana. We followed in the reverse footsteps of Lewis and Clark at about the same pace as they progressed upstream 213 years previous. Not much has changed since, as indicated in my following journal entries. Lewis had a particular way of writing and I’ve striven to make my entries period-correct, complete with some very badly misspelled words. In his journal Lewis wrote much about animals, especially the kind they could eat. Being a vegetarian, I’ll point out the ones we didn’t eat.
September 6, 2018
The morning was clear as we set out downstream from Coal Banks Landing on the Missouri River in our five boats. We had procured two canoes from the locals, but as they would not barter beads, kettles, or guns, we were compelled to trade in gold card and considered the price excessive. Provisions filled our five boats to capacity as we began our Voyage of Discovery with trepidation.
The men (and two women) are of sound character and reasonable physical condition. Captain Ohmann is a perceptive arranger and has knowledge of plants and anamals. Her man servant, Crockett, is proficient at moving items from boat to shore and is of agreeable temperament. Ferschweiler is informed on many topics but has a weakness for puns. McKay is an experienced supplier of food and accomplished at remembering important dates (except the current one). McMahon is a man of medicine and resourceful at curing fever and scurvy. Glass is also of agreeable temperament and a source of amusement during evenings of playing cards.
Game is abundant today. We saw many flatulent black buffalo along the river edge and a number of bald eagle. We also saw pelican, coyote, swallow, antelope, deer, kingfisher, gull, hawk, duck, geese, magpie, and grouse. We did not shoot and eat them for dinner.
The men pulled the boats to shore at a small stream and we camped at a nearby grove of cottonwood trees. I named the stream Eagle Creek. We traveled 14 miles today and because the men had endured today’s hardship with fortitude, I rewarded them with a dram.
September 7, 2018
The men were exhausted after the hardship of yesterday so we camped at Eagle Creek an additional night. The crew explored the surrounding white cliffs and canyons, with the steepness of the terrain requiring skill and resolve.
We came across an engraving of a horse on the cliff walls but no sign of Indian settlement did we see.
We did not shoot any of the anamals we saw today and therefore did not eat them for dinner. The bravery of the men while scaling the cliffs today convinced me to reward them with a dram.
September 8, 2018
The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the height of up to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular. They are formed of remarkable white sandstone which is sufficiently soft to give way readily to the impression of water. The side of the river has trickled down the cliffs and worn it into a thousand grotesque figures; which with the help of a little imagination and an oblique view at a distance are made to represent elegant ranges of lofty freestone buildings, having their parapets well stocked with statuary. Columns of various sculptures both grooved and plain, are also seen supporting long galleries in part of those buildings. I could go on.
Today, in addition to anamals we had seen previously, we saw prairie falcon, smallmouth bass, crane, rock dove, and pike. We saw many flatulent black buffalo, as before. We did not shoot any of the anamals and so did not eat them for dinner.
We traveled 13 miles today and camped near a dark butte, and so named the site Dark Butte. The men were valiant in navigating the boats today so I rewarded them with a dram.
September 9, 2018
The weather was again sunny and pleasant, if not somewhat warm in the afternoon. The men embarked from camp with eagerness and we commenced another 13 miles downstream. In addition to other anamals we have seen, today we saw toad, marsh hawk, and barking squirrels. The barking squirrels form a colony of 20 acres just north of where we have camped. The barking squirrels create many burrows and mounds and they consume all the grass, even more so than do the flatulent black buffalo that are again most numerous along the edge of the river.
The crew were entertained by watching the barking squirrels from a distance and enjoyed their dram with much merriment.
Crockett found a particularly fine view of the river for the Donald this evening.
September 10, 2018
Today the men (and two women) paddled a great distance of 22 miles, past a herd of flatulent black buffalo that were so widespread that we scarcely could find place to camp. We passed Indian settlements where the buffalo were most numerous. We encountered a band of 9 maidens of pleasant appearance and 3 braves in skinny canoes but failed to engage them.
We saw for the first time turtle, tern, and heron. We did not have them for dinner.
The men went to sleep early due to exhaustion and a wee too much dram.
September 11, 2018
Captain Ohmann battled with a rattlesnake today, which was of great concern since the snake threatened to pull her into the water, bite out her eyelids, and render her motionless at the bottom of the river. Only a heroic effort on my part — in which modesty prevents me from explaining in detail — thwarted the disaster.
Notwithstanding the alarming events of this morning, this section of canyon is peaceful. The slopes are steep and scattered with pitch pine. Bighorn anamals, the first we have seen so far, appeared at the edge of the river and this tempts me to write at great length about their horns. But a shortage of ink prevents thus.
We traveled 18 miles and reached a settlement of Indian ruins. I named the site Gist Bottom in honor of my uncle Gist who is of considerable girth below the waist.
We set up camp under a canopy of cottonwoods and got out the dram and commenced with a game of cards.
September 12, 2018
The crew was exhausted and needed time to sew up their torn moccasins so we spent a second day at Gist Bottom. Following a trail, I hiked up a canyon and came across an Indian artifact of beaten metal.
Upon reaching the canyon rim, I happened across a maiden on a mare who was surrounded by flatulent black buffalo. Her legs were strong and shapely, her neck arched and regal, with her mane of hair fluid in the wind. The maiden also wasn’t bad looking.
September 13, 2018
We paddled 20 miles today and made camp under an agreeable canopy of cottonwood trees. The black flatulent buffalo are now gone and we stepped about the terrain without concern of what might seep into our moccasins. I paddled to the far side of the river and walked about, coming across elk and other anamals of interest. Upon returning to the men, they pulled out the cards and we had a dram or two. This was the last night of our Journey and the men were in a mood for celebration. We woke to soggy blankets and a cold fog.
September 14, 2018
On the last 7 miles of our Journey we paddled a placid river bordered by flats of dense cottonwood trees.
We landed our canoes at a place that I named Kipp, in honor of the brother I never had. Our canoes no longer needed, we attempted to sell them to the local natives but they would have none of it. In hindsight, we probably should have brought fewer items to trade with the natives.
The men (and two women) were in fine spirits upon completion of our trip. I consider our Journey of Discovery a success and will soon confer with my friend, Ken Burns, about the prospects of producing a more formal accounting of our adventure.