Friday, August 26, 2005

10 Things To Do #3

A while back I posted a list of ten things, in no particular order, that I want to accomplish before I die. I thought it would be helpful for me to explain each thing on the list, more as an inspiration for me to keep striving to accomplish them someday. So here is #3 on the list.

Kayak the entire length of the Columbia River

I am not a professional adventurer, getting out these days means sneaking in a good bike ride or maybe a paddle in my kayak while the kids are still asleep. I would love to climb the mountains of Patagonia someday, or raft a forgotten river in China, but my dream of outdoor adventure is a little closer to home for me. What I really want to do is kayak the entire length of the Columbia River, from its headwaters of Columbia Lake in British Columbia, to where the river spills into the Pacific Ocean. From the Rocky Mountains of Canada, through desert plateaus and basalt cliffs, and finally through the Columbia River Gorge to the mouth of the river. 1,243 miles, start to finish.

I grew up in Eastern Washington, fifteen miles from where the Columbia River bends westward towards the Pacific. As a teen I spent summers camping in the Cascade Mountains. In college, I spent almost as much time climbing at Smith Rocks, Oregon and kayaking on the Little Spokane River as I did in class. After college, I moved to Hood River and spent many days skiing on Mt. Hood and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. But it was on the Columbia River where I first sought outdoor adventure. It was on the Columbia where I caught my first fish. At eight years old, my father taught me how to paddle a canoe on the Columbia. At sixteen I taught myself to windsurf in the Columbia River Gorge.

My mind returns to the river often, especially now that I live 3000 miles away from it. While in college I paddled a 51 mile long section of the Columbia known as the Hanford Reach with my father, brother, and a friend. The Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing, nontidal stretch of the Columbia. We camped along the banks of the river for two nights, and it was while on that trip that I vowed to return someday to kayak the entire river. My father and I made plans to paddle sections of the river together, but like so many plans in life, it never happened.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my father's death. My father loved the Columbia, and spent as much time as he could on the river. Two weeks before he died he was fishing on the Columbia. Kayaking the Columbia will help me keep a promise I made to my father fourteen years ago.

Listening to: Hot Tuna- Live at Sweetwater


TripleJ said...

Great post.

Satisfied '75 said...

i think I need to add this to my list after reading this post.

CHW said...

I'll be sure to head out to Sauvie Island and have a cold beer waiting for you when you come by. Good stuff!

JMH said...

Still working on the logistics of this one. I've given up the idea of trying to do it all at once, as it would take me a month or more depending on weather, etc. I'm now thinking of doing it in sections over a number of years. Fun to think about.