Tiny Canoes on the Clearwater…

Following is a trip journal I posted to “Song of the Paddle”. At Christine’s request I’m reposting here so readers of this blog can follow along… Matthew

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to post anything, but thought it high time to change that. My father has owned an Old Town Pack for a number of years, and decided last week his shoulder problems were going to make it impossible for him to use any more. Knowing that I’d love to have a solo boat to add to the fleet, we worked out a suitable trade, and yesterday we drove home with a barely used Pack strapped to the top of the car. Along the way home we stopped at Salmon Lake, the southern-most lake in our own “Lake District” here in western Montana.

Ready to roll… I’m glad I read the reviews of the Pack (and listened to my dad’s advice…), the first few moments in it make you wonder if you will go for a swim, then it seems perfectly normal. After about a half hour I felt like I could lounge about and at one point even stood up to get a better view… but she’s a lively little thing!

The Pack isn’t the first boat my father bought then, sent our way. Christine paddled her Perception Sparky. It’s essentially a decked version of the Pack. Dad bought it to use at his favorite fishing pond, but the first time he used it, he got stuck inside and had to be helped out by his companions. Like me, my dad is a big guy and the Sparky is a small boat. It shortly afterward made its way to our house… as you can see Christine is tiny and the perfect size for it. No danger of getting stuck.

We headed across the north end of the lake and entered the Clearwater river. The stream was very shallow and the two little boats skimmed along like leaves on the water.

A Pack’s eye view…

A place of quiet comtemplation… we saw eagles, deer, a heron, and many belted kingfishers as we made our way upstream.

Christine leads the way.

…and I follow behind, trying out my double paddle.

Perfect stillness…

I gave the single blade a try, kneeling. I’m torn… they’re both good. Not nearly as fast as the double blade, but a wonderful feel.

Heading acoss a wider section of the river.

The stream flows on and on. The Clearwater takes a meandering route through this section of the valley, and around every bend is a new side channel to explore.

The two wee boats. As I guessed, they are the perfect vehicles to take one deep into secluded spots that would be too small to get our 18.5 foot cruising canoe into. They made an afternoon on a lazy river feel like a grand adventure…

…”the smaller the boat the greater the sport”

Water Lilies

We traveled over to Matthew’s home town in Cascade last weekend to attend his 30th HS class reunion.  It just so happened that Lake Alva was on our way again – surprise!  We’ve decided we are pretty much in love with this little place, so we  stopped to camp a night before the festivities began for the reunion.  I enjoyed meeting the nice people, seeing his parents,  having a beer  and attending the picnic in the local park on Saturday.  However, I really enjoyed our time at the lake.  That was my little perk for attending the party with Matthew! We wives need those perks sometimes, no?

water lilies_1

We just so happened to be at the lake while the water lilies were blooming. They look very perky…  This is down at the inlet of the Clearwater where the river enters into Alva.

water lilies 2

Here is a view I have shown you a bit this summer, but now without the snow up there on the peaks. Looking towards the Bob Marshall Wilderness area.  The lake levels really haven’t dropped much but I’m sure the next few weeks will bring that on.
no snow now

Brooding sky over Folk Fest


This is the main stage area of the National Folks Festival last weekend in Butte, MT. We were pretty much blown and rained off this hill while we were waiting for a band from Quebec to begin playing. We hung around in the the storm a long while but the band was waiting for the wind to die down. We finally had to leave.   Prior to this we listened to Irish and Blue Grass band, both of which we enjoyed greatly.

Sky Watch Friday is here.

A spray skirt for the canoe

Here are more photos of our paddle up in the Missions.  I wanted also to show off the spray skirt which I made a couple weeks ago for the Red Raven.  Matthew cut out the pattern and sewed on the fasteners. So, it was more like we made it together.  You can click on these to enlarge the photos. A spray skirt helps keep water out of the canoe, but more, it shields the boat from wind resistance. We tried it out in some hefty gusts and it worked very well.

canoe skirt 2

In the springtime wind is usually not an issue out on the water, but as soon as July hits then one really seems to be fighting it on the lakes around Montana, especially Flathead Lake.  Early morning is best but sometimes we simply can’t make it; for instance, McDonald Lake started to get windy about 11 a.m. We will be sewing a front and a rear piece later for the Raven, but the mid-section is the most important piece for us now.  Just a reminder, the boat is 18 feet long.

spray skirt

Here I am looking up at a very large waterfall behind McDonald Lake. With all the snow melting it was really rushing and loud! I kept my eye out for bears but didn’t see any, thank goodness. I love knowing they are here but I don’t want to have any kind of encounter with them. I am totally and completely respectful of the fact that they are on top of the food chain when we are in their space, especially when I’m happily munching down on my turkey sandwich…

looking up

There is not much snow left up on these mountains but then they get the full sun.  Majestic Mission Mountains.

Canoeing on McDonald Lake

These photos were taken late last week. We canoed McDonald Lake in the Mission Mountains outside of town on one of the warmer days we’ve had so far this summer.  Was it not a beautiful day?  (I don’t have pics from the National Folk Fest yet because our camera battery went dead yesterday.  Someone left the camera on ~  I will have to beg photos from Ian’s sweetie instead.  So, those photos will be upcoming.) Thus…. let’s back track a little to this beautiful paddle we made just twelve miles from our house.


McDonald Lake is part of the Grizzly habitat management region of the Mission Mountain Wilderness and the lake will be closed in a few days so the bears can feed freely in their range without human interference.  We paddled all the way to the end of the lake and as we rounded each corner there was another stunning view of the mountains.  The lake, which is also a dam, was very high due to all the rain we had in June.  There were very few places to land so we stayed in the canoe most of the time except for our lunch which we ate on one very soggy island!

Everywhere we looked were towering cliffs overhead and small waterfalls could be heard in the ravines.


Truly a remarkable day in many ways.  It was so quiet!  The experience of being in the wilderness so close by to our home was well worth the cost of the Tribal permit.  And, I don’t mind at all that this spot will be closed soon.  The bears need their respite from the outside world….

McDonald Lake

Not fallen off

I have not fallen off the face of the earth – yet.  I simply have my plate full, life is spinning but more – my computer is running slower and slower these days.  When I get home there will be upgrade issues or perhaps I will need to replace it. Thus, blogging has become cumbersome.  It is more akin to “slogging”.

This weekend (today) we are attending the National Folk festival in Butte, Montana.  Butte (byoote, not butt!) has hosted the Festival for three years. Next year it will go to Nashville. We are going to listen in on a vast array of folk music from all around the world plus sample some interesting food. There are multiple stages and tons of music, all taking place just over the hill a piece.  Hopefully we won’t bake our brains too badly in the sun. We are making this a family event so it should  be great fun.

Hugs to all of you and I will be back soon with pics one way or another….