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Hoarde on the Columbia

Hoarde on the Columbia

Twelve of us converged on a favorite island in the Columbia River, near Clatskanie, Oregon, this Memorial Day weekend, intending a thirty-mile paddle to Skamokawa, WA. Eight completed the trip, more or less, and four others bagged it, two victims of migraine, and two, heavy headwind.

Saturday was a scorcher, reaching the eighties, demanding sun tarps (in Oregon — remember that in Oregon people don’t tan … they rust!) and bringing on the goodies and vino at an early hour for those launching at Willow Grove Cowlitz County Park some eight miles downriver from Longview, WA. We dodged freighters and fishers enroute, covering the eight-some miles in under three hours. Could have been slower, but we did not have enough to babble about to one another as we drifted with the current and now and then stroked.

The six folks in “Easy Riders,” monster decked canoes from the Easy Rider people, had the best setup, paddling from the deck, and could see more than the kayakers (in two doubles). But we were sleeker, and proved to be the better craft on Monday when the wind rose.

African Peanut Soup, fishcakes, eggplant surprise, multiple varieties of slaw, nuclear chocolate chip cookies, and token sips of Guinness made Saturday’s dinner memorable, though perhaps it lead to my SO’s midnight migraine. The migraine persisted into the next day, forcing us to stay on the favorite island. The others sprinted off at the spirited hour of 10 am (or 11 am, depending), and disappeared in the ebb current to the west. Becky and I made the best of it, reading books in the sun and wind, dodging aggressive freighter wakes, and admiring a quartet of golden eagles dogfighting later in the day. Garlic and herb fettucine with tuna annointment and cookies graced us to bed. Monday, we returned upriver against the ebb to the put-in, pushed by a vigorous front which brought rain squalls and a stiff breeze. The breeze helped us to the east, but made crossings of the opposing current challenging.

On regrouping with the rest downriver, we heard tales of tossed tarps from the rain, hordes of folks on Tenasillahee Island, now a “hot spot,” and the saga of stuck in the mud in Elochomon Slough out of Cathlamet. (I told them it was dicey at one foot of tide … but, listen to me? I don’t think so!) One couplet in an Easy Rider faded against the wind, and pulled out four miles short of their goal, but the others stiffed it out.

Next year, we’ll have the tide we need to do the Elochomon, and we’ll all go down the Slough!

Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR

Copyright 2001 by Dave Kruger.
May not be reproduced or redistributed without author’s permission.
Originally posted on Paddlewise mailing list on 5/29/2001. Republished with permission.