After 31 days, the crew of Where the Yellowstone Goes reached the Missouri River. It was a beautiful evening. We arrived just as the sun was beginning its descent. Our skin had tanned, our muscles had worked, and our hearts had grown. As our boats drifted through the last bit of the Yellowstone, it was difficult not to think about all the people we met along the way. We had been places, seen things, and made friends. Our lives would never be the same.

The water opened up and drained into the Missouri. We were in a new river but only for a moment. Onlookers peered at our drift boat and raft from their motor boats nestled near the banks. We waved. They hollered over to ask where we’d been. As with every other inquirer, they hooted with delight when we told them we’d come all the way from Gardiner.

Our mission was nearing a close. The access site grew larger with every paddle stroke. Soon, the raft hit the concrete launch. The drift boat glided up to the dock. Bursting with pride, we tied up the boats and shared a toast. We had done it. That night, we camped for the last time together. As we’d done so often in the last month, we made friends with our neighbors. We feasted and listened to music until what felt like late into the evening.

Morning met us with a bright sun. We packed up and set out for Livingston. The drive home, right alongside the Yellowstone, felt like a time warp. As we swept through all the towns we’d just been through in reverse, we couldn’t help but recall our favorite moments. We arrived back home near dinnertime. We slowly dispersed, ready to shower, drive home, see our families, or to simply watch television.

Being on the river for a month changes the way a person thinks about life. Even readjusting to city life took a day or two. From it all, something deeper remains. A thread ties us to one another and to a place in time that we shared. Only time will tell how we’ve grown. In the meantime, we are home.