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Headed on his way home, Hoff paddles last segment of river to officially end trip

The following is a recent segment of Larry Hoff's journal entries as he makes his way on the second leg of his journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Hoff began the first half of his adventure to paddle and portage across the United States on ...

The following is a recent segment of Larry Hoff's journal entries as he makes his way on the second leg of his journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Hoff began the first half of his adventure to paddle and portage across the United States on June 3, 2006. He hopes to finish the journey this July.

July 7-July 10

On my way home!

Saturday, July 7-- Jim picked me up in Astoria sometime after 12:30 p.m. on July 7. We loaded everything up and decided to head down the road and get as far as we could, which turned out to be Ellensburg, Wash. about 120 miles east of Seattle. The next day we decided to go down to Yakima, Wash. to see a minor league baseball game.

While I was paddling the last few days, Jim went to Eugene, Ore. to watch a minor league game and the Yakima team was playing the Eugene team. To Jim's surprise there was a player from Barron, Wis. playing for Yakima. Barron is where Jim and I are from. I moved to the Minneapolis area after eighth grade. Anyway, Jim wanted to go see him again, so we did.

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Sunday, July 8 -- Jim and I drove to Livingston, Mont. with the idea that I would finish paddling Fort Peck Lake and then on to Culbertson, Mont., where I left off when I decided to move ahead because of river conditions earlier.

Monday, July 9 -- We were up early and off to a boat landing at the southwest end of Fort Peck Lake. When we arrived I was about to put in and start my paddle when, for some reason, I turned on the car radio to the local weather channel. I found out that there was a wind advisory for the lake for the next day with winds of 30 miles an hour and gusts to 40. That changed everything, for there was no way I could paddle this vast body of water in those conditions and if I started I could be stranded in the middle of nowhere for days. So I decided to move up to the dam and do the river below the dam to Culbertson. In an earlier journal entry I mentioned I was leaving the river section from Fort Benton to Lake Fort Peck for a later date. Hoping to do that section as a family vacation next year or maybe with a couple of friends this fall. That section of the river is called The National Wild Scenic River and is supposed to be one of the best recreational paddle trips in the USA. I thought this would be a great way to complete this trip -- with friends or family. Now I will need to add the lake crossing to that trip. Finances are also a bit of a concern if I had to wait around now for the weather to be favorable).

Well, I put in below the dam and had a great day. Jim went off to Williston, ND and will be back tomorrow to pick me up. The current was fast, plus I had the strong wind at my back. Just a real enjoyable day of paddling, actually day and late evening for I did not quit until after dark, making camp on a nice island somewhere between Poplar, Mont. and Brockton, Mont. Only down side to the day (which really was not a downside), but this part of the river twists and turns all the way to Williston. I like to go in a straight line and many times I was paddling five miles in one direction only to come back at 180 degrees and be within a quarter mile of where I just paddled.

Tuesday, June 10 -- I was on the water by 6:30 a.m., leaving my last campsite of the journey. Man, last campsite. It seems just like yesterday I stopped at my first campsite along the Potomac River. I remember back then I was about three weeks from knee replacement surgery and having to soak my knee in the river every evening to get the swelling down.

Again I had the strong wind at my back. If I'd have started out yesterday on Fort Peck Lake I'd be sitting on some shoreline right now going nuts. Glad I made the decision I did.

Funny, knowing this is my last day I had no sentimental thoughts -- just paddled and cursed every snake-like turn I made!

I got to the Culbertson bridge in the early afternoon and Jim was there waiting. What a trooper he's been. We were inseparable as kids and now again, here is this old man pretending he's a kid and his friend is there to take care of him, just like he did so many years ago. Thanks, my good friend.

Time to go home. For all practical purposes this journey is over. Funny how this works. Like the PCT hike before and the bike ride around the USA, there's no fanfare, no real sense of joy, no jumping in the air, no high fives. My thoughts are, okay that's over, let's pack up and go home. Strange ... wonder what else is out there that an old guy can do?

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Note: When I get back home I will reflect on all that's happened. I hope you've enjoyed following along.

For more about this adventure, visit Hoff's Web site: www.lhoff.com .

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