After a few final days in Bozeman, our TTS38 crew woke up early to drive to Montana Wilderness School, our outfitters and guides for our ten day expedition. Filled with anticipation, we met our guides, who students quickly nick-named Pumpkin and Marmalade. We then sorted our river gear and loaded up the vans for our drive to the river “put in” (i.e., our launching spot). On the way north, students sang along Taylor Swift songs and listened to a podcast about bison management in the state of Montana.

Here’s a snapshot from our first morning of our river trip. Students secure their river dry bags, put on sunscreen, and get ready to put on the water at Coal Banks Landing. We’re preparing paddle over a hundred miles together!

Two canoes on the Missouri: Learning to paddle straight took us some practice! The first day on the water our canoes made large s-curves back and forth across the river. Our guides taught us the basic canoe paddle strokes, and by the end of the trip we became proficient in this skill. 

Paddling along this historic section of the Missouri River, we followed in the wake of Lewis and Clark and crossed over the Nez Perce Trail.

Cora laughing. In the background the sagebrush fades into the smoke blown in from wildfires in Idaho. 

Chloe trying out her new camera!

A portrait of Ella on a cool, not-quite rainy day on the Missouri. We had a few times we pulled on our rain gear to keep us warm and dry and one misty morning with fog rising off the surface of the river.

Checking out sandstone cliffs deposited when this area was an inland sea, now eroded by the force of the river. There’s some neat cliff swallow nests and hatched dragonfly casings too!

Students jump for joy! In between school, camp chores and paddling, we still make time for moments of silliness. 

Wyethe tucked into a rock formation.

Students take a break amidst the white rocks and sagebrush. 

A close-up of this laughter-filled moment. We love circles at The Traveling School – no shape represents how each person has a place in our community.

Rock formations on an afternoon hike: After arriving at camp, setting up tents and our kitchens, there was time for a hike up a narrow slot canyon.

Emma excited about snack time on the river! 

On the river, students cooked their own meals in small groups over a camp stove. These cook groups were responsible for everything from planning how they’d use and prepare their food, to lighting their own stoves, to doing their own dishes! By the end of the trip, we’d mastered the art of backcountry cooking. Here Tess and Stella prepare backcountry pizza!

Maylie takes a dip. 

A candid moment capturing Stella’s smile. 

Tess in the bow of the boat, looking back. 

Patricia enjoying a morning in camp.

Nell, Chloe, and Biz relax on the river. Each day, two students were designated Expedition Leader of the Day. Their task was to work together to keep the group moving, on task, and inspired. Leaders were asked to navigate and communicate on the water. Reading maps and learning river paddle communication gestures were new skills for many of us!

Ella, Maylie and Nell strike a pose in some glorious sunshine. At the start of the trip, each student was given a safety whistle, which they could blow in case of an emergency; this crew is responsible sporting theirs! 

Study time! Cora hits the books during study hall. Five days a week, students have evening study hall, a time to focus on academics. Study hall on the river happened outside under the big Montana sky and the emerging stars. 

Class time under the large cottonwood trees at our resupply site. We received a “re-supply” – a fresh delivery of food and supplies from Montana Wilderness School support staff – partway through our trip. 

Reading maps during a floating lunch break.

Our trusty vessels brought up on shore for the night.

Saying goodbye. The day after de-rigging our canoes, students head down to say goodbye to the Missouri River before heading up in elevation to the American Prairie Reserve.

Our time on the Missouri was incredibly valuable in continuing to connect with each other and place, as well as learning new skills like cooking, camping and paddling in a wilderness area. And, we’re excited for our next adventure — Stay tuned!