Wilderness Inquiry on the Missouri River

Wilderness Inquiry on the Missouri River

How can we go into wilderness when we’ve never before sat in a canoe?

Canoeing on the Missouri River?  With him over 70 years and me unable to get up from ground level without help? Yes—with Wilderness Inquiry.

I once rowed a small skiff in a calm, protected bay off the Massachusetts coast. Skus and his brothers had, using a purchased kit, built a motorboat to use on Lake Chelan in Washington.  I could learn how to use a paddle, but how efficiently or effectively?

If I remember right, I discovered “Wilderness Inquiry” under accessible outdoor travel in Quest, the Muscular Dystrophy Association magazine,  Wilderness Inquiry mixes abled and disabled persons of any age (Skus, you would be cooperataing, not competing, with athletic college students!.  If they can include wheelchairs on a canoe trip, then my cane and needing help to get in and out of a canoe won’t embarrass me.) 

I requested a Wilderness Inquiry catalog and detailed information.  Only the shorter, closer trips were within our budget. The prospect of a few days on the Lewis and Clark expedition route of 1803 to 1806 delighted us.  We signed up for the Wilderness Inquiry Missouri River Canoe trip 200 years after that historic expedition.  We had driven on marked parts of that route in Montana, along the Clearwater river in Idaho, and often along the Columbia River, both Washington and Oregon sides. 

I enjoyed hiking, but at my speed, and not too steep.  Skus, who joined the Seattle Mountaineers before he met me, adapted his walking speed to match mine.  We held hands both to prevent him from getting ahead of me and because it felt good. We ultimately held hands either literally or figuratively for 60 years. The only skiing Skus did after we married was around our orchard in a heavy snow year when the snowpack raised him so he could prune the trees without a ladder; that ruined his skis, and, besides, we had no time for vacations in those years.. 

We check out Wilderness Inquiry

Paddle the upper Missouri River and experience Montana’s ‘Big Sky’ country much as Lewis and Clark did 200 years ago. Start at Coal Banks Landing and float beneath beautiful sandstone cliffs and white stone spires that the explorers compared to Europe’s finest cathedrals. Canoe past the Eye of the Needle, LaBarge Rock, Citadel Rock and Hole in the Wall––all spectacular landforms that grace this section of the river. Set up camp under cottonwood trees at Slaughter River, a Lewis and Clark site, and read from their journals… End the adventure at Judith Landing, a historic area for the Blackfoot tribe, fur traders, and steam boaters.

Wilderness Inquiry

.I note one discrepancy in the description; when we camped by a grove of cottonwoods, it was recommended that we not camp “under the cottonwood trees.”  They are brittle, and if the wind comes up a branch might land on one’s tent.  I don’t remember the Lewis and Clark expedition reporting branches falling on their tents, but I’ve only read selections from their journals.  Their duty was to record details, which they did consistently; the quality of the wood may be noted somewhere.

Canoe travel begins at Coal Banks Landing near Lewiston, Montana.

Our group met in Lewiston. [Recent information descrubes meeting in Billings.] Their bus transported us to Coal Banks Landing.  First we learned to put on and admust our life jackets.  (That’s Skus in the foreground)
Note the blue carry sack in front of our tent; Wilderness Inquiry supplies one tent and one sack for each two people.  Single travelers are paired up.  When the sacks are properly loaded, the ends folded and fastened, they are waterproof. 

I was able to help Skus set up.  He had no difficulty following the directions because he visualizes verbal instructions; I do better reading printed steps and following them one by one.  He remembers facts like the population of a town or the date of an exploration by listening, or by looking it up once.  I need to read the words and write them down.  Our differences taught me about variations in learning styles.  The young man in our group with Down’s syndrome needed encouragement and repeated demonstrations, but he and his tent mate, like the other partners, mastered the procedure.

Wilderness Inquiry: Access, Inclusion, Opportunity

”It’s all about access, inclusion, and opportunity. We believe exploration of the natural world is a birthright we all share, and we act on that belief. We operate in a manner that facilitates full participation by everyone, including people who come from different physical, cultural, or socioeconomic places. We believe in the power of community. Let’s get to the other side of the woods together.” 

Wilderness Inquiry
Across the wide Missouri; these canoes are not Wilderness Inquiry, but some other group.

Adapting for Covid

The normal routes for Wilderness Inquiry include both national and international areas.  This year, because of Covid, those are canceled, and the 2020 season is almost over.  They did set up small-group adventures of 3 to 6 closely associated persons for shorter trips with extra health precautions, and they have partnered with other organizations for community-focused virtual events.

COMING NEXT: Family Excursions with Wilderness Enquiry

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