Sunday, May 23, 2021

Haystacks aren’t only for horses!

The weather in central Montana remains unsettled as the late winter storm system slowly moves out of the area.  I sat in the hotel room in Prewett Creek all day Thursday (May 20) and Friday (May 21) and watched snow fall outside the window.  By Thursday evening I had all my gear dried and since there was no laundry room/service in site all I could do was repack and wait for a break in the weather.  It seemed like a perfect time to take advantage of the limited offerings in the Prewett Creek Inn store and load up on soda, donuts, and Haagen-Daz ice cream.  There are a few benefits of paddling a canoe all day and getting to indulge in junk food is top of the list!

After sheltering in place for two days I was ready to get back on the river.  The weather forecast indicated that Saturday would be overcast with highs in the mid 40s but no rain or snow.  On Saturday/Sunday evening rain was predicted and continuing through the day on Sunday.  I could work with that; I could paddle all day Saturday and get below Ulm, MT, to camp and then make my way into Great Falls by mid afternoon on Sunday.  My original plan had been to get a hotel room in Ft. Benton and do laundry before heading into the Missouri Breaks wild and scenic area.  The snow delay altered things a bit with the hotel and laundry taking place on Sunday instead of the quick pass through Great Falls I had originally intended.

Prewett Creek Inn
I rose early, ate a quick breakfast, and packed the last few items before portaging everything from the hotel back to the Prewett Creek boat landing.  It took some effort to dig out my canoe and chip out the ice.  The rudder assembly was totally frozen and I was afraid to strain the cables too much and damage them.  As I made my first pass carrying gear to the river, I noted that the depth of snow accumulation on the tables at the inn and the boat landing was at least 12 inches.  It had been a good storm.

It was just after 7:15 a.m. when I finally departed and it quickly became apparent that the current had picked up dramatically from a few days prior.  The heavy rain, combined with heavy, wet snow made for a thrilling ride.  At one point I found myself in some solid Class II rapids that I wasn’t expecting and as the boat banged up over a set of haystacks I thought “you have my total attention.”

Prewett Creek to Cascade, MT, is 13 river miles which I traversed in two hours.  The current remained strong and I paddled on, stopping for lunch at around noon, and arrived at Ulm (25 miles) at 4:00 p.m.  I rode the current for a couple more hours to give me an edge on today’s (Sunday) paddle.

USGS station near
Great Falls, MT
As predicted, it rained overnight and it sputtered on and off all day.  The trip by river from Ulm to Great Falls is 29 miles so my two day tally is 67 miles.  If it hadn’t had been for the crappy weather I would have taken my time on this last stretch of river.  As it was, I was in the mood to get moving again and feel like I’m actually on a canoe trip.  I also wanted to take advantage of the current while it lasted, I’ll have enough dead water paddling on reservoirs when I get to the Dakotas.

So…to make that canoe trip feeling come true I’m in a hotel in Great Falls doing laundry and scheming on visiting the pizza joint next door for some fresh pizza pie.  Now that’s roughing it! 😆

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