Some initial reflections upon returning from canoeing the Upper Missouri Breaks "in the company and service of our ancestors"
I led canoe trips for a couple of summers in my late teens (I know! Who would send their middle schoolers into the BWCA with a 17 year old these days?!?). Two different trips we had kids get mildly ill, one with a stomach bug, one got bit by something and his hands swelled up. Watching the other kids incorporate their reduced abilities into the trip without making a big deal about it is one of my favorite memories of those summers. As a group, the kids were responsible for getting all but 2 canoes, the packs, paddles, boat cushions etc across every portage, and we left it to them to figure out how they wanted to do it. The kid with the swollen hands was pretty strong, and couldn't paddle, but the others would flip the canoe for him, and steer from each end, and he could carry the portage.
Those summers were so formative to who I am, and how I think of community both human and more-than-human. I'm so glad you got to experience the Missouri, and the gigantic character of our world out here. Such a lovely piece -- thank you!
What a beautiful WanderFinder. I feel your spirit and the river's, as do your many readers. Thanks for letting us experience the "kindness of strangers": people, land, and river, ancestors too.
Hannah, this trip would not have been the same without you. Thank you for borrowing all that gear and challenging yourself to make the journey. I want to say that you didn't "rely" on anyone, you "allowed" assistance. They are two different things, and your way was gracious. You more than held your own and I admire your courage and your ability to remain ebullient in the midst of what must have been far more difficult for you than you let on. 🙏🏽
Loved the comment about hanging out laundry. Decades ago, when I rafted the lower Grand Canyon, I remember being so excited if that night's camping spot included some big flat rocks, because you could dry laundry on them. And how wonderful it is, just for a bit, to have modern concerns go away & celebrate having a big flat laundry rock. Or not.
This is wonderful. I wish I could have joined you all! It looks like it was a struggle at times, but you did it. Nature is for everyone.
Thanks for sharing the peace! If you had never done anything like this before, it must have taken some bravery and some grit for you to jump right in, especially if medical or mobility issues could recur. I admire your willingness. And thanks for the lovely photos and descriptions of the trip. I’ve never seen that area, so it’s a treat to get to know it a bit. Rivers are something else, aren’t they.
I love this. And love that you made this trip. And your embrace of the uncertainties of such a trip! I’m proud of you! And envious. Congrats!!! Thank you for this post.
Sounds like such a powerful journey.
This sounds like Heaven...
The water is not my friend because I cannot swim...but being in that kind of community, it sounds like it barely matters.
We are all connected, for sure.
I hope your leg has eased up on you.
Looking forward to reading more about your trip in the future.
Hannah, you write so beautifully. What a brave and gorgeous river time you shared with us!
I live on a river, a mountain river, and grew up beisde the Mississippi. "River" is the sexiest, most evocative word I know. And you did the river justice.
Thanks for this, Hannah!