Once the dump truck was unloaded Keel and Paul took a break for the first time since the start of the expedition, nearly 17 days earlier.
After resorting gear and food, washing socks, dealing with foot-rot, and just taking a moment to relax; Keel and Paul once again pushed off as daylight faded. Their next goal was Rocky Reach Dam ~40 miles away.
Paddling through most of the night Paul made it to within 10 miles of the dam while Keel camped and started up early again in the morning. Paul knew he was ahead of Keel so most of the morning he spent waiting for Keel to arrive so the two of them could finish the final 10 miles to Rocky Reach and work on the portage together.
Around 11am the wind once again began picking up speed and Paul was unable to paddle downriver. Fortunately this time he was at least at a nice place to sit and wait for Keel so he sat and read a book happy for an excuse not to be paddling. Soon after he received a call from Keel. Keel had made it to Rocky Reach, somehow he past Paul around 9-10am that morning unbeknown to them.
Keel was quickly able to get a ride around the dam and spent the night at a park downriver of the dam. Paul now behind, packed up his gear and headed out towards Rocky Reach. A few hours later he was there and camped for the night hoping to secure a ride around in the morning.
The next day around 8am Paul received a phone call from Keel. A Wenatchee World Photojournalist had come across Keel camping downriver and wanted to do a story on the expedition. After speaking with Keel, Mike Bonnicksen of the Wentachee World headed up and met Paul at the Rocky Reach Dam to take photos and work on a story. Paul in the meantime was working on finding a ride around the dam, in time the two would work themselves out as Mike became part of The Columbia Experience. For Mike’s Photo Story: Click Here
Throughout the day Paul asked several people for rides around the dam but no one had an empty boat trailer or any means for loading the gear. Eventually, a Chelan County Public Utility District employee who was counting wildlife species in the area saw Paul and came over to ask what he was doing (Chelan County P.U.D. owns and operates Rocky Reach Dam). After a quick talk, Eric of the Chelan County P.U.D. agreed to help portage Paul around the Dam in his truck when he got off work. Fortunely, Eric was a paddler and enjoyed canoeing sections of the Columbia. He always wanted to paddle the entire river and was happy to help out a fellow boater. In the meantime Mike who had finished his interview and left, called Paul asking how the portage was going since he was eager to photograph loading the boat onto a trailer and document the boat entering the water on the downriver side of the dam. Paul mentioned to Mike that he had secured a ride around 5pm and Mike planned to come back out around then to finish his story.
Around 5pm Eric was nowhere to be seen. Eventually, Paul and Mike began discussing other portage options. Realizing they really had no other options Mike agreed to let Paul strap the boat and gear onto his brand new car. Scared of damaging the vehicle they slowly figured out how to get the Cataraft frame onto the roof. Fortunately, Eric showed up soon after and instead of strapping the frame to Mike’s car they were able to load the frame, oars, and other equipment into the back of Eric’s truck.
During this time Keel was downriver at the park he had been dropped off at waiting for Paul to make it around the dam. After sometime security officers, park visitors, and others became aware of Keel. Nervous about having too many people see him and not wanting to receive a loitering ticket he pushed off, heading downriver.
After loading all the gear into Mike’s car and Eric’s truck they headed out to the park where Mike had met Keel earlier that day. Once there they noticed Keel had left so they began reassembling the cataraft. Just as darkness set in the boat was once again together and loaded. Mike who thought the story was going to only take an hour or two was relieved to finally be getting the photo he wanted of the cataraft launching back into the water.
Upon launching below Rocky Reach Dam, Keel and Paul had successfully made it to Wenatchee, Washington. A major mental milestone this marked the largest town the two had arrived in since leaving Revelstoke nearly 20 days earlier.