We slept under the stars last night, cowboy style, as the embers from our final campfire faded in the light of the full moon.
I couldn’t sleep.
I knew I wanted to finish the expedition and ride the high that comes with accomplishing what you set out to do. I was also looking forward to taking a hot shower, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and sleeping under cotton sheets. I also miss my wife and can’t wait to see her.
But exiting the wilderness after such a long and engaging experience comes with the challenge of re-entry. I’m a bit envious of Walker, Aiden, and Chase, who are serving as youth staff at the Montana High Adventure Base next week, and head back into the wilderness on Monday for a week. Lucky kids!
We arose this morning at 5:30 AM and quietly packed our gear, strapped our inflated boats to the back of our packs, turtle-style, and walked the trail to portage The Gorge.
We put in a bit below the sweepers and paddled the remainder of the South Fork of the Sun River until the water no longer flowed, just above its confluence with the North Fork. We were now in Gibson Reservoir.
As the morning chill was replaced by sunshine, we paddled through Elbow Gorge, which was underwater in Gibson’s nearly full pool. Soon we passed the camp of another MOHAB crew who had just spent a week hiking up and paddling the North Fork of the Sun River.
We paddled on until catching a tailwind. We rigged sails with our rain jackets and enjoyed a break for our arms and shoulders.
Two and a half hours after putting in, we had paddled the 7 stillwater miles and arrived at the boat dock of Mortimer Gulch.
We enjoyed one last game of hearts in the bed of Justin’s pickup to begin our re-entry therapy. We waited for the other MOHAB crew to paddle in, and then shared stories with them. Luke met us with ice cold bottled water, apples, and oranges.
And of course, we stopped in Augusta for ice cream at Chubby’s (Mel’s).
We are now back at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, cleaning gear, cleaning our bodies, and decompressing in view of the mighty Wailing Reef rising to the west.
We are now reflecting on what we have just experienced.
One hundred and five miles.
Two hundred and forty pounds of food.
Fifty miles along four rivers paddled, including the South Fork of the Flathead that hadn’t quite exited its flood stage.
An off-trail traverse along the top of the Chinese Wall.
One big, beautiful, black bear.
No (lasting) injuries.
A shared experience of a lifetime.
And five Venturing Scouts who showed courage in the face of trials, honor to each other and respect for their differences, and leadership of the highest caliber in executing a wonderfully complex, uncertain, and adverse expedition.
Thanks for tuning in.
Godspeed – RJ
1. The final portage past the South Fork Gorge early this morning.
2. Chase taking a rest on Gibson Reservoir.