THE LOWER COLUMBIA RIVER: PORTLAND TO ASTORIA, 2009
As I get older, my adventures seem to get smaller and closer to home. This one starts just 47 blocks
from home at the Hawthorne Bridge boat dock on the Willamette River in Portland-- but its a
relatively big adventure, with a curious post-script. Most of the lower Columbia River was new to me; my 800 Mile Trip ten years ago ended just west of Irrigon, Oregon . This trip was just 100.5 miles, but brought me to the other "end" of the river, having started the 1999 trip at the headwaters of the Columbia in British Columbia.
I left for Astoria on Tuesday the 23rd of June at 8:30 am. The kayak I used is my brand new replica of an 1880s
Bristol Bay Aglurmiut kayak that is in the Smithsonian-- click HERE for more on this kayak. I rigged the kayak with a non-traditional square sail for assistance should a tail-wind come up-- a highly unlikely scenario on the Willamette/Columbia this time of year. The weather on day 1 was clear, sunny with a light north wind; I was heading north. I brought along two traditional paddles: One was a double-blade and the other a single-- like a common canoe paddle. I used the single for about 75% of the paddling. The following are some snapshots from my trip as well as further notes.
Here is the Burnside Bridge just moments from launching. Bridges come fast and often in Portland, and this was already about to be the third I went under! In the background is the Steel, Broadway and the high-reaching Fremont bridges.
The Steel Bridge with the M/V Hispania Graeca taking on grain right behind it.
Many of the docks in Portland have been 'signed' by visiting ships; here are some from the 1960s.
The other side of Gunderson (a rail car manufacturer): They also make sea-going barges.
I saw a coyote on the beach just past Gunderson.
The magnificent high-Gothic Saint John's Bridge-- arguably the most elegant bridge in the world.
Kelly Point: Where the Willamette River meets the Columbia River. This is a view East up the Columbia, towards Vancouver, WA. Mount Hood is in the background.
My first landing was at Caterpillar Island, WA-- some 5 hours and 15 minutes after launching.
My first camp was on Bachelor Island, across from Sauvie's Island. Above is the "Dinner of Champions." The scotch came in particularly handy for disinfecting blisters. Apparently, it can be taken internally, much as if it were water. The mosquitoes made a large withdrawal from the 'blood bank' this night-- my nose is still disfigured and my forehead covered in spots. My sleeping arrangement consisted of a very heavy canvas bag in which I placed my sleeping bag-- no tent. Insects are the one thing I overlooked in preparation for this trip. (I hate tents-- I hate setting them up, packing them, carrying them, etc. I like fresh air, looking at the stars, sleeping on the sand, and seeing wildlife instead of scaring them away with noisy zippers.) Scotch is not an insect repellent; I hope those *^&%#% were hungover the next day!
Here's an abandoned steel tugboat on Sauvie's Island, OR.
Warrior Rock the morning of the second day. The town of St. Helens is just around the corner. W. Rock is on the north end of Sauvie's Island. I bought repellent in St. H. and had breakfast at the Kozy Korner, which, if you dig country music and flourescent lighting, was very, very cozy.
Miraculously, after leaving St. Helens a south wind started to blow-- a pretty good one too. I sailed nearly all the way to Rainier, OR before the wind abruptly changed direction! This gave me my single biggest sitting: 5 hours, 50 minutes.
This shows my view down into the kayak. The light comes through the nylon covering quite nicely, and I enjoyed watching the water ripple by.
Behind Sandy Island across from Kalama, WA rests the "River Queen." This used to be a famous Portland restaurant, and before that was a car ferry in the San Francisco bay area.
Some rocky shores with inlets and beaches, just north of Prescott, OR-- former site of Trojan Nuclear Power Plant.
Very picturesque and natural looking train tunnel on the Oregon side.
Longview, WA. Rough water and heavy headwinds through here.
My second camp: The west end of Walker Island. 28 mile day; much better sleep as there were no mosquitoes. It did rain on me that night, but when rain is hitting your face, you just roll over. The canvas sleep-sack was very dry (not even treated with anything-- just raw canvas).
Ships facing off in the Columbia. (Yes, the shippopottamus again.)
The M/V Col. Caballero.
Some wild shoreline in Washington. This was the third day on the river-- a day of rain.
Passing a ship at Cape Horn, WA (One of three Cape Horn's on the Columbia-- two in Washington, and one in British Columbia). I could hear this ship's propellor blades slapping the water.
Here are some local salmon gilnetters: Bowpickers. Thes are later fiberglass types, with their sad, sullen but determined look.
Towards evening the clouds scattered and the light was dazzling. Even the wind died. I paddled late this night racking up 9 hours and 20 minutes in the kayak that day, for 30.25 miles traveled.
Sunset the 3rd evening. Not quite at camp yet; I slept on the sand at the Aldrich Point boat ramp (OR).
Day Four: I was going to hug the Oregon shore all the way to Astoria, but then a t the end of Prairie Channel, I saw Tongue Point, and decided to head straight for it. Its about seven miles away in this photo.
The 'straight-to-the-point' idea was slightly hampered by sands that made me run aground once as well as fatigue and poor landing surfaces (mud). I thought I'd take a break on the driftwood on this beach before making the crossing to Tongue Point. Problem was, that this driftwood started barking at me as I got closer: Sea Lions. ....keep paddling.
Finally rounding Tongue Point, 2-1/2 hours after leaving Aldrich Point. Following the anchored fishingboats kept me in deep enough water; I was in a race against time as the currents are very tide-sensitive down here. Around the corner is Astoria.
Max and Kathy came down to pick me up. My last campsite is in the top right.
Here's a 1948 wooden bow-picker-- the classic motorized form. This is on exhibit at the Cannery Pier Hotel. Its a much prettier boat than the glass successors.
View of the stern.
...Did I mention the curious post-script? Well, on my first Columbia River trip I endured having my boat pilfered (my tent stolen), confiscated (twice), and 'borrowed' (twice). None of this happened during this trip I am very happy to say.... however.....
We returned home on Saturday, and I unloaded the kayak on Sunday. I didn't have room in my garage for it, so left it next to my house while I made room. Then I took Max to the park. Upon returning, my kayak was gone! For the first time in my life, I had a kayak stolen (ahhh. . . . so flattering!) STOLEN! (not to be confused with borrowed, or confiscated). Neighbors ralleyed, and by bike and car we tracked the course of the two thieves via inquiries to folks around the nieghborhood. A neighbor found the kayak stashed in some bushes near a fixer-house, and another neighbor I.D.'d the culprits.
Well, an adventure isn't over until its over I suppose. I sure hope its over now!