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Fort Peck, MT

MAY 8, 2005 — FORT PECK, MT

Andrew has hiked 5980 miles (or 78%) so far. On Monday April 25th, Andrew finished hiking the 4,400 mile North Country Trail. He then began a 900 mile section of terrain without defined hiking trails. He made an intentional 130 mile detour southwest into the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which he had heard had “great trails, wild animals and beautiful scenery.”

Tuesday, April 26th – Andrew made the transition from farming land to ranch land. The land appears to be pock-marked with 100 foot high stone towers. This was the first of five days of colder temperatures with heavy wind and snow squalls. He did not see the sun for five days as constant snow squalls passed through the area. The Go-lite Ether Wind Jacket was a stellar piece of gear during the week. He had his hood tied tight and the bottom cinched for protection against the wind and snow. The only body part exposed was his nose.

On Wednesday night, Andrew stayed at the Kukla family farm. The family was very friendly and Andrew really appreciated their fine hospitality. The week before Andrew’s arrival, the family had a 150-pound calf delivered by C-section. Andrew has been hoping to see, but has still not seen the birth of a calf…

On Thursday night, the Brueni family hosted and entertained Andrew. The people in the area have been wonderful. Mr. Brueni, who is 85 years old, had stories to share about taking the “horse-drawn school bus” to school and “homesteading on the land.” He told Andrew: “If I were you, I would find me a horse. It would get you to Seattle a lot faster.” Andrew laughed and thought: “Where else, other than North Dakota, would a horse be the recommended mode of transportation?”

On Friday, April 29th, Andrew reached Medora, ND. This is a tourist town at the South Unit (geographic section) of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The town is full of frontier architecture, wagon wheels, etc. Andrew found all of this very interesting. From Medora, Andrew began the 96-mile hike from the South Unit to the North Unit. The park was thrilling. Andrew was the first hiker of the season and had the place to himself. He saw several bison. Suddenly come upon a bison grazing on the trail, Andrew smartly gave the trail up to the bison, but did take quite a few close-up pictures. One evening, Andrew was looking for a place to pitch his tent. He spotted a grassy area some distance off the trail. As he approached the area, he noticed that a bison was already grazing there. Andrew decided it would be safer to “let the bison have his space” and he found another place to pitch his tent. Andrew described the park as: “…like the Grand Canyon with colors of tan and yellow rather than pink and red. The cliffs are like dribble castles we made as kids at the beaches in Rhode Island.” This was a wonderful diversion trail for Andrew since he felt like he was walking through a “Jurassic Park” environment where Bison roam in the wild just as they did 200 years ago.

Monday, May 2nd- Andrew hiked through the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt Park and had one of his most memorable hiking days. The weather cleared and Andrew was able to see the tremendous, beauty of the park. It was a wonderful sun-lit day for great pictures. He wanted to have more buffalo experiences, so he went out of his way to find some. Andrew found five bison grazing in different areas and then had a close encounter with another bison that was climbing up a narrow trail that Andrew was hiking down. In the excitement of the moment, Andrew forgot the warnings about the dangers of bison and he began to take pictures of the bison as he descended a side trail. When the bison began to run up the hill, Andrew ran up the side trail to continue taking pictures. It was an exciting moment for Andrew. We are looking forward to seeing these pictures!

Tuesday, May 3rd- Andrew began a day and a half walking through the Little Missouri grasslands. In the summer, this is a huge pasture for grazing livestock from local ranches. At this time of the year, it is empty. Because it is federal land, Andrew was able to hike in the direction he pleased, without trespassing on any private property. That night, Andrew had one of his best campsites, on a bluff, overlooking the Yellowstone River with a great view of the town of Fairview, MT. He hiked 42 miles (14 hours at 3.0mph). That was Andrew’s first day of hiking over 40 miles and has since hiked two more days “over 40 miles.”

On Wednesday, May 2nd Andrew crossed the border of North Dakota and Montana as he reached Fairview, Montana. He has found this section of the hike very difficult because the available maps do not differentiate between private and county roads. Andrew was having difficulty finding a clear route to travel in the correct direction. Western North Dakota was quite rural and remote. Eastern Montana is even more rural and remote. Thus, finding potable water has become a real challenge, and he is hesitant to use standing water because of the number of cow pies in the area. The weather has been inconsistent, with temperatures in the 40s one day and in the 70s two days later. He traveled north to the Missouri River and followed the river to Fort Peck, MT. At this point, the river is narrow with steep 100 to 200 foot bluffs on the sides.

On Friday May 6th, Andrew stopped at Harry’s Nightclub, where he had a delicious burger with fries, and enjoyed the company of some local residents who meet at the club on Friday nights. One member of the group, a Native American and a physician, gave Andrew a lesson on the living difficulties of people on the reservation. Andrew found this very interesting. As Andrew traveled through the Indian Reservation over the past few days, he found the Native Americans to be very friendly, consistent with other people Andrew has met throughout North Dakota and Montana.

Saturday, May 7, 2005- Andrew called from a grocery store (the first store and town in many days) at Wolf Point, Montana. The area of Montana is mostly used for ranching and is very remote. Farms are now 10,000-15,000 acres, compared to parts of North Dakota where the farms were 3000 to 5000 acres. There are fewer houses and roads in this area of Montana. The people are very nice and friendly and seem to know everyone living within a 40-mile radius.

On Saturday evening- May 7th, Andrew met up with the Core Discovery Group of the Lewis & Clark Re-enactment expedition. Andrew had decided to camp in the same area with this group. The group and Andrew had a great time, sharing their stories of trail and outdoor hardships and experiences. This group is traveling in authentic-looking canoes, fitted with 60hp motors. They wear authentic clothing and use authentic gear and are following the same route in the same time of the year as Lewis and Clark. Andrew was invited to stay with them in one of their 16ft. x 20ft. canvas tents. When it began to rain, Andrew pulled out his waterproof, ultra-lite rain jacket while the others were putting on their bear skin jackets. It was quite a contrast.

On Sunday morning, Andrew continued his hike on foot while they went to their motorized canoes. Andrew arrived at Fort Peck, MT in mid-day and found a room at the Historic Fort Peck hotel. This was Andrew’s first opportunity to take a shower in 14 days. A new record. Andrew will pick up his food box at the Post Office on Monday morning. Thus, he will be well prepared for the next remote section of hiking- about 322 miles, from Fort Peck, MT to Great Falls, MT. There are only two small towns along this section- Winifred and Geraldine, MT. More adventure stories to follow.

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