A Little Hiking, a Little Climbing and a Lotta Padding on the Mighty Mo
Gail H, Chrissie J, Sue M, Cathy and Brittany K, Mary N, Mary and Michael S embarked from Coal Banks Landing Saturday morning. Day 1, Slightly overcast skies helped us endure 15 miles of paddling to our first night camp at Eagle Creek.
After setting up our camp, tents, cots, kitchen and dinner setting, we took off for our first adventure, hike through Neat Coulee. Starting off in a cow pasture, that turned into the most amazing slot canyon, with narrow walls, and wind-eroded formations. In a couple places, fallen rocks blocked our paths, but with team work, determination and lots of laughs, we climbed our way through, over, under and on to further amazing views of incredible formations. It was hard to believe that the landscape could change so dramatically from the river and meadow land we had started from to this almost “alien” land forms.
Breathtaking views and wonders awaited us almost at every turn, until we reached the “top” of the plateau. Posing for a group picture, we than made our way back down to our camp. That night’s dinner of grilled steaks, corn on the cob, salad and cheesecake was a delightful end of a very full day. There was “no daylight left on the table” as we finished the dishes by headlamps. After a few S’mores around the campfire, our cots and sleeping bags welcomed us for a great night’s sleep under a beautiful moon that reflected off the river and the white cliffs opposite the shore of our camp. Day 2, breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs, blueberries and cantaloupe was the beginning of another long day of paddling and hiking. Our first seven miles took us past the Citadel, and National Historic Landmark, just before The Hole-in-the-Wall. This is literally an 8 ft hole in the side of an igneous rock extrusion, about 300 ft above the river. “Climbing up to the Hole-in-the-Wall is not for the inexperience hiker. The trail is steep and the drop from the edge is precipitous.” (BLM map description). With determination, high spirits and “Jay with a rope” we climbed the rocky trail, using the rope and supporting each other, we reached the HOLE! Pictures of all of us, huddled precariously inside the Hole were taken and the journey back down was just as adventurous as the climb up. We became adept at “rock repelling with a rope” as we made our way back to the boats. We had sure worked up an appetite for our lunch waiting for us under a large cottonwood tree. The afternoon proved to be quite challenging with clear skies, (no cloud cover) over 90degrees on a lazy, slow river that required us to paddle consistently for thirteen more miles. In this section of the river, we enjoyed the most amazing rock formations, wind erosions, hoodoos along the river banks; Seven Sisters, Dark Butte, Archangel, Steamboat Rock to name a few. Twenty total miles of paddling under a very hot sun brought us to a welcome campsite at Slaughter River. Grilled chicken marinara with steamed green beans and raspberry shortcake was a delicious end of a great day as the sun set. Day 3, breakfast of French toast, warm peaches and sausages began our last day on the Wild and Scenic portion of the Missouri River. We found a little faster water on our final 11 miles to Judith Landing. We had a 2 hour drive back to Great Falls to reminisce our 3 days, incredible hikes that pushed our limits, and paddling 46 river miles.