As we rounded a bend on the Missouri River, swallows darted from the sandstone cliffs, sending shadows across our red-and-white sail. Our flotilla came into view: a motley crew of canoes and kayaks haphazardly pulled up on shore, above which our friends lounged near a grove of cottonwood trees, enjoying Montana’s spring sun.
My 3-year-old son, Talon, stopped playing with a rope long enough to ask, “Is that our campsite, Mom?”
It wasn’t. We were only 3 miles into a 50-mile float down the National Wild and Scenic section of the upper Missouri River, part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Our friends were simply waiting for us to catch up. Since this was our maiden voyage in the sailing canoe, my husband and I had launched later, taking extra time to set up the collapsible mast — and to strategically pack all of the gear we needed for a five-day family expedition.
Once underway, though, we caught up in no time. The downriver wind was a lovely 10 knots, pushing our lightweight canoe along at 8 knots. And when the wind was blocked by the river’s famous white cliffs, we simply paddled leisurely with the current until the sail filled again.