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Category: Lewis and Clark Trail (page 3 of 49)

Blue Jays, Blue Waves

September 8

The wind was already blowing when I launched my kayak, but I hugged the shore and made steady progress. A strange object was bobbing up in the river ahead of me. As I got closer I realized it was an otter chewing happily, biting off mouthfuls of salmon caught in a fisherman’s net. 

As i paddled through Hood River I noticed people appearing to be walking out most of the way across the river; obviously there was a sand spit ahead. 
I rounded the point of the spit apologizing to two fishermen casting off the end. It was like a different river on the windward side. The wind had come up even more so I didn’t dare beeline it upriver, instead I decided to follow the shore just in case I had problems. 

It was sketchy enough so I decided to land, which meant that the surf was pounding my boat as I was trying to crawl out. 

It looked like the sand of the spit might be firm enough if I stayed near the edge of the waves. I assembled my boat cart and it pulled fairly well. When I got near the main shoreline the wavesdissipated and I followed the the shore without incident. 

There was a stretch of river filled with stumps and a few logs sticking up, some stumps barely under the surface were only visible because waves were breaking over their tops. 

It was only about 10 o’clock when the waves were building enough so that I was looking for a potential campsite. I saw a forested point with a sandy beach.  It looked perfect but when I got closer there was a sign that said Private Property. 

I paddled around the point, which I wasn’t crazy about, and made it just fine to the next point down the river. Here was another nice landing spot with Pondarosa pines. I crawled out of my boat, soaked from the waves despite my spray skirt, and scouted the area. Stellers Jays were flying around with their beautiful blue plumage, a range of blues from indigo to royal blue. Yesterday I had seen Scrub Jays. 

Down at the beach I put out my solar chargers and spread out various wet items to dry in the nice sun. There were acorns on the beach, back to oaks! 

I pitched my tent in a nice deep bed of dry ponderosa pine straw. Just beyond I noticed some poison oak. 


I walked around a bit. The peak of blackberry season is done but I managed to find a few ripe ones. Kiters and windsurfers appeared and were zipping around like a yellow jacket nest that it just been kicked. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that they were getting on the river just as I was getting off the river. 

A few days ago my shirt caught on a branch stub and I ripped a considerable hole in the sleeve. Months of wear and sun exposure had weakened  the material. I sewed a couple pieces of duct tape on the inside of the sleeve with dental floss. 

Today was only a 6 mile day but the wind is supposed to diminish tomorrow and I hope to portage Bonneville Dam and get some help with downstream current afterwards! Colter

Clark: October 29th Tuesday 1805… at the upper village… This chief gave us to eate Sackacommis burries Hasel nuts fish Pounded, and a kind of Bread made of roots—we gave to the Women pices of ribon, which they appeared pleased with—those houses are large 25 feet Sqr and contain abt. 8 men, Say 30 inhabitents-Those people are friendly gave us to eate fish Beries, nuts bread of roots & Drid beries and we Call this the friendly Village We purchased 12 dogs of them & 4 Sacks of Pounded fish, and Some fiew Dried Berries …The robes of those Indians are, of wolf deer Elk, wild cats, Some fox, & Deer I saw one of the mountain Sheep, th wool thick and long Corse hair on the back, resembling bristles—those animals live among the rocks in those mountains below, orter is much valued by those people they Cew their hair on each Side with it and ware it about the necks with the tail in front C… they were pleased with musick of th violin.

Trip overview and route map with position updates: 


Hood River

September 7, Day 168, 170 miles to go 

It was crazy early when I started rousing myself. Orion was bright in the sky. 

Breakfast was cold cheeseburgers, a pastry, and excellent coffee, all of which John had brought. Possibly my favorite breakfast of the trip. 

There was a good breeze across the dark water when I launched. I had to watch carefully for rocks or pilings. A glow appeared in the east and slowly spread across the sky. The spooky mystery of the river at night receded and was gone. 

Today was windier than I expected but by hugging the shore I made steady progress, staying on the Oregon side all day. Only when the wind was angling sharply towards my shore was the going especially tough, with considerable waves hitting my boat at an angle. It made all the difference in the world that the water was fairly warm and that if I had capsized I would immediately have been washed ashore. 

Hillside trees started showing up yesterday, and today I was back in timbered country. The very brief current just below the dam yesterday, however, was long gone today. 

At Mozier I stopped for a break at a paddle boat and windsurfer launch site. There was a sign there that said river mile 174, and also had a Lewis and Clark emblem on it. I took a good break and ate a giant chocolate chip cookie that John had brought me.  And more cheeseburgers. 

I thought the wind was going to stop me there but it slackened a bit so I pushed on hoping to reach Hood River. When I got to Koberg Beach State Park I landed. A couple of guys told me in a not unfriendly fashion that this landing was for Indian fisherman only. The landing for white people was around the corner of the big cliffs. 

There were now big waves rolling down the river. I wasn’t crazy about paddling around that point but I needed to find a camp spot. Rounding the corner was as bad as I feared. Big waves were bouncing off the cliffs, causing waves to come at me from all directions. I was relieved to run my kayak up on the nice sandy beach on the other side. After putting out my solar chargers I set up my tent on a nice flat spot under the trees. 

I got a text from Seth, a fellow who’s been following my trip along with his kids, and someone that I’ve exchanged emails with for years.  We arranged a meeting at my camp. When he arrived we drove into Hood River and I bought some groceries before we stopped for some Mexican food to go. On the way back we saw wind surfers and kiters zipping across the river at an incredible speed. I was mighty glad not to be out on the water in my kayak.

Back at camp we talked about firefighting and hunting and his prior life as a forward air controller with the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Seth is a very impressive person and a nice guy. Thanks for stopping by Seth!

Seth Nickell near Hood River

I still managed to put in 17 miles today so I was pleased with that progress. The conditions tomorrow are supposed to be similar, but the day after is supposed to be fairly calm. Colter

Clark: October 27th Sunday 1805… 2 Chiefs and party Continue with us, we treat them well give them to eate & Smoke, they were joined by Seven others, from below who Stayed about 3 hours and returned down the river in a pet, Soon after the Chiefs deturmined to go home we had them put across the river the wind verry high, we took a vocabelary of the Languages of the 2 nations… not withstanding those people live only 6 miles apart, but fiew words of each others language—the language of those above having great Similarity with those tribes of flat heads we have passed—all have the Clucking tone anexed which is predomint. above, all flatten the heads of their female children near the falls, and maney above follow the Same Custom… Some words with Shabono about his duty…

Clark: October 28th Monday 1805… I entered one of the houses in which I Saw a British musket, a cutlass and Several brass Tea kittles of which they appeared verry fond Saw them boiling fish in baskets with Stones, I also Saw figures of animals & men Cut & painted on boards in one Side of the house which they appeared to prize, but for what purpose I will not venter to Say,-. here we purchased five Small Dogs, Some dried buries, & white bread made of roots, the wind rose and we were obliged to lie by all day… The wind which is the cause of our delay, does not retard the motions of those people at all, as their canoes are calculated to ride the highest waves, they are built of white cedar or Pine verry light wide in the middle and tapers at each end, with aperns, and heads of animals carved on the bow, which is generally raised. Those people make great use of Canoes, both for transpotation and fishing… the harbor is a Safe one, we encamped on the Sand wet and disagreeable one Deer killed this evening, and another wounded near our Camp.

Trip overview and route map with position updates: 


The Dalles

September 6, Day 167, 187 miles to go

Last evening Nan Floyd flew over my camp on the way back from her fire where she was Air Attack. She drove out later with some awesome Chinese (or was it Thai?) food, and a growler of beer. Nan was a smokejumper for many years out of North Cascades. We had a very fun talk about mutual friends and smokejumping. She is an outstanding, cool person. Thanks a lot Nan!

Nan Floyd

This morning was cloudy, breezy, dark and rainy, relatively dismal. I crossed the river, already sporting whitecaps, to the more protected shore. There was a flashing CAFE sign and although it was painful I passed up a hot breakfast to make miles before the wind came up. 

The wind actually lessened as the rain increased, the hardest rain in weeks. When I launched I thought my rain gear and spray skirt would prove too warm but it felt great. 

I was making very good miles. I took a shortcut through a fairly narrow channel. The low clouds on the dark bluffs in the falling rain  reminded me of Admiralty Island. 

There were fishing boats checking the many gill nets. I stopped a couple of times to pick blackberries from the boat, but I took no real shore breaks. 

The low winds held. I couldn’t believe it when I made 20 miles before noon and I could see the next dam ahead. This dam was going to be a tough portage. I wanted to “Lock Through.”  I pulled the signal rope but there was no answer. I called the Lock Master who cheerfully told me kayaks can’t lock through. Many dams do, but apparently not on the Columbia. 

I also learned there was no portage put-in point below the dam. I’d made an alternate plan though. 

I guy at the pull-out watched me with arms folded as I put my cart on. He assured me I was paddling upstream. He was a bit odd. 

My only portage route was a bad one. I wheeled my cart as far as I could and then took a load of gear while scouting the route out: down the railroad track, down a steep rip-rapped embankment, a hundred yards down an old road then down another very steep hill followed by more rip-rap. Next to my route was a paved ramp leading to the river. That was closed. For security. 

It took three loads. I was sweating from effort and trying not to fall as well, and also the stress of waiting for someone from the Dam or Railroad to tell me I couldn’t be there. Carrying the kayak was the most challenging. I made it though, as I knew I would. 

the Dalles Dam

I made four more glorious miles before I turned the corner and had the wind and waves in my face. I paddled to the first landing which happened to be a park. They gave me unofficial permission to camp there. A homeless guy befriended me for a while. 

I texted yet another old smokejumper buddy, John McColgan, who was planning to meet me. At 7:00 he showed up, laden with burgers and other great food and drink. We had a great reunion on the bank of the Columbia. I really appreciate you making the long drive, John! Not the first time you treated me well on a long adventure. 

John McColgan


Clark: October 25th Friday 1805 A Cold morning, we deturmined to attempt the Chanel after brackfast I took down all the party below the bad places with a load & one Canoe passed well, a 2d passed well I had men on the Shore with ropes to throw in in Case any acidence happened at the Whirl &c—the Inds on the rocks veiwing us the 3rd Canoe nearly filled with water we got her Safe to Shore. The last Canoe Came over well which to me was truly gratifying Set out and had not passed 2 mils before 3 Canoes run against a rock in the river with great force no damg. … river about 1/ 2 a mile wide and Crouded with Sea otters, & drum was Seen this evening we took possession of a high Point of rocks to defend our Selves in Case the threts of those Indians below Should be put in execution against us. Sent out Some hunters to look if any Signs of game, one man killed a Small deer & Several others Seen I killed a goose, and Suped hartily on venison & goose. Camped on the rock guard under the hill.

Clark: October 26th 1805 Saturday a fine morning Sent out Six men to hunt deer & Collect rozin to Pitch our Canoes, had all our articles put out to dry—Canoes drawed out and repaired, the injories recved in drawing them over the rocks, every article wet in the Canoe which nearly Sunk yesterday… one man giged a Salmon trout which we had fried in a little Bears oil which a Chief gave us yesterday and I think the finest fish I ever tasted, Saw great numbers of white Crams flying in Different directions verry high. The river has rose nearly 8 Inches to day and has every appearance of a tide, from what Cause I can’t Say… The flees my Self and the men got on them in passing thro the plains… are very troublesom and with every exertion the men Can’t get rid of them, perticilarly as they have no clothes to change those which they wore...

Trip overview and route map with position updates: 


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