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Out There: Floating the Milk takes time, bug dope

Out There: Floating the Milk takes time, bug dope

The front page of our local newspaper, The Glasgow Courier, carried an intriguing story the other week about an interesting Canadian.

That’s not necessarily news. What is noteworthy is Dominique Liboiron’s ambitious goal to canoe 3,000 miles from the Saskatchewan town of Eastend all the way to New Orleans. Liboiron stopped in Glasgow for a needed break from his paddling, a month spent on the winding Frenchman and Milk rivers across Phillips and Valley counties.

In the newspaper photo, Liboiron appears cheerful and unwelted, probably that’s because the picture was taken at the very beginning of his odyssey. That was before the mosquitoes and the mind-numbing sense of unmotion took their toll on the young man.

I base that on my own experience paddling the Milk River. Navigating the slow-moving, serpentine river requires a certain mindset, a quantity of insect repellent, and a lot of time. On my first canoe trip on the Milk, I spent hours paddling downstream to where my friend waited to pick me up. Down in the trench of the river, it’s hard to see landmarks, but I reckoned I must have been nearing the take-out point.

So I climbed the bank and looked around. There, not far behind me, was my pickup where I had launched three hours earlier. I could have walked to it in 15 minutes. The lazy, bending river had carried me miles on the water, but virtually nowhere on the map.

I was reminded of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the poor cuss condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down just as he reached the top.

Still, the Milk is such an appealing place for a boater that the other day, just days before Liboiron’s passage through Glasgow, I took my sons on a maiden voyage in our new canoe. We launched at a neighbor’s river landing, intending to float a couple of miles to a take-out point we could see just above the cottonwoods.

As we prepared to push off, our neighbor offered some advice: “Plan on about three hours. That’s if you paddle the whole time,” he said.

I worry that the next time we read about Liboiron, it will be October. After three month of solid paddling, he’ll still be in Valley County.

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