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Brock: Canoe trip enjoyable, despite weather

Harvey Brock

Last week I wrote about my impending float trip on the Missouri River in Montana. I mentioned there was better-than-average chance we would either dump the canoe or get drenched in a rain storm.

Thankfully, my son Tom and I stuffed our vessel with enough camping equipment and supplies that despite our best efforts, the canoe remained upright for the 48-mile trip. Unfortunately, Mother Nature came through to ensure that we could appreciate a wet wilderness experience.

The rain really was just a drizzle as we launched the canoe on Thursday afternoon. The weather forecaster predicted the worst was over and the next real measurable precipitation wouldn't hit until Saturday night, long after we were safely off the river. The steady drizzle was just enough to keep our ponchos wet -- just a slight annoyance really and besides, the swarms of mosquitos really seemed to be enjoying themselves. The real rain didn't really get going until we had a nice campfire going and dinner cooked.

Retreating to our tents, we spent an uneventful night feasting on soggy hot dogs and cold beer. I mentioned that it had been almost nine years since my last trip and Thursday night, as the rain pelted my tent and lightning lit up the sky, there was an hour or two or three that I thought it should have been 10.

Unlike some folks, I'm not the least bit scared of lightning. I find it beautiful while looking out my picture window at home. Sleeping outside in a vinyl tent pitched strategically 8 miles downstream from the closest vehicle and under the largest cottonwood tree on the Missouri River gave me a whole new appreciation. Inside a sturdy building, you never seem to find time to play count the seconds between thunder and lightning strikes to determine how close you are to death.

The next morning, we cooked and ate a hearty breakfast under a tarp that kept us somewhat dry. We headed down the river after draining the sleeping bags of enough water to sink a canoe. The next best way to appreciate thunder and lightning other than sleeping outside in a tent is a canoe trip down a river where at least you are a moving target.

Eight hours of paddling later, we reached the last camp site on our river trip and, remarkably, the sun came out.

I told my son that it was downright enjoyable with the sun out and I could no longer feel my arms from paddling. He then made a rather astute observation that at our current brisk pace we were only 2 hours away from a hot shower and a dry bed. That was the moment the three-day trip canoe trip switched to a two-day canoe race.

Despite the weather, we had a great time and saw incredible scenery as we followed a small part of the river explored by Lewis and Clark.

Along the way we saw just about every type of wildlife that lives along the river. I left the river planning next year's trip assured that within a week or so the feeling should return to my arms.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at