By Aunge


Living and learning in the backcountry from a canoe.

Two wise and knowledgeable MWS (Montana Wilderness School) instructors joined our TTS crew as we paddled 8 boats over 90 plus miles down the Missouri River. With their guidance, students mastered setting up mids (tent-like shelters with a center pole), cooking on a white-gas fueled camp stove, keeping a tidy camp, and using a groover (a backcountry toilet).

Students rig canoes with luggage.

Our mids seen through the boughs of a Cottonwood Gallery.

Working on a daily rotation, each student had the opportunity to practice their own leadership style as “Expedition Leader of the Day.” Leading your peers can be quite a challenge, and TTS36 stepped up to the task by facilitating songs and games, delegating camp tasks, and scheduling academics classes while floating on the water!

With three layover (non-paddling) days, academic classes moved steadily along while on the river. Our competent MWS instructors gave guest lectures on Public Land Management, river hydraulics, and Indigenous history. While not in class, students explored a slot canyon winding through white sandstone; cooked cheesy pizza for dinner on a backcountry stove; bonded with each other; and built new friendships. We even had time for a Saturday night party full of laughter during the game “Salad Bowl” and a dance party out in the wilderness.

Students in study hall with the sunset in the background.

Each evening, our group circled up for “Fireside,” a review of the day’s events and a preview of the next. Amanda and Mozelle took it upon themselves to write the following ad hoc poem, capturing the events of the day:

We flipped a canoe,

The cows went moo.

The old lady liked to talk,

And Amanda lost a sock.

Maia was leader of the day,

And “hurry up” she would say.

Our concept maps were due,

While the groover was filled with poo.

This trip is ending soon,

And we’d like to sleep til noon.

The Missouri is really fun,

And with that our poem is done.

Clean gear drying after students diligently washed it all.

Students enjoy the luxury of sleeping indoors after twelve days paddling canoes on the Wild and Scenic section of the Missouri River in northwestern Montana.