It’s high summer in the Pacific Northwest. Tomatoes hang heavy, rivers run low, and the heat is a golden delectable light. But the sun is well on its way south, leading the geese; the shadows steal warmth, and getting out into the shortening days has a sense of urgency.
Heeding the call, my buddy Crash MacClanahan and I took to the Lewis River for a bit of paddling, a bit of sipping beers on the water’s face in defiance of the coming cold, a bit of marveling at this great cerulean wilderness. Our course would takes us under a railroad bridge, down the Lewis River, across the mighty Columbia to the lighthouse beach at Sauvie Island, back across the Columbia and up Lake River, and at last back down and then up the ol’ Lewis.
This was our noble craft, belonging to Crash and his wife J Motzingham.
The paddle down the Lewis was tranquil as the day was warm, the river bottom at times a mere couple feet below us. After a mile or so we met the Columbia, where the lazy flow of our Lewis collided with the vast heave of history surging for the sea. We dipped into the chop and hauled ourselves across to Sauvie Island. There we landed on empty beach, our seamans legs unused to solid ground. But we managed to hike sandwiches and beers to investigate the light house point. Ahoy Crash, what do you see?
The Columbia is a major shipping channel. Especially exhilarating are the giant box tankers that charge up and down the river, delivering shiny new cars to massive port lots. I was hoping to see one approaching, and challenge it to a race. Unfortunately they were too cowardly, but Crash did spy a barge and its accompanying tug approaching from downriver. Life jackets on, stow the Newman O’s, back into the drink!
The race was on! We paddled pell mell, laughing uproariously into the spray, visions of being keel-hauled dancing in our heads. Just when I thought it was going to be a razor’s edge finish, the bastard angled for deeper water and allowed us to escape disappointingly death-defiant free. Crash remains vigilant.
Mainly for birds, but also for danger!
Coming up in Part II: Fellow mariners we salute you.