Posted by: Columbia River | April 6, 2010

McNary Dam – John Day Dam

McNary Dam bright and early.

McNary Dam bright and early.

Having been within sight of McNary Dam for two days, Paul was finally set to pass through the locks. After a quick breakfast he paddled up to the intercom and rang the bell to signal a request to pass through the locks. Once communication was established it became clear that not having a motor was going to be an issue. Frustratingly there are no signs or any indication that a motor is required to pass through the locks.

Lock Operating Procedure.

Lock Operating Procedure.


While waiting for a clear yes or no to being able to go through the locks, a discussion broke out between two of the employees at the dam. One of the employees was positive Paul was not able to utilize the locks since he did not have a motor, the other believed there was no reason why he couldn’t pass through. Thankfully after a short time the dam operator allowed him to pass through the dam.

McNary Dam, entering the locks

McNary Dam, entering the locks

Once inside the dam Paul was instructed to loosely wrap a rope around a buoy built into the wall of the dam. After doing so the upriver dam lock closed and water began draining from the lock. In about 5-7 minutes water levels drop roughly 85′.

Downriver Lock

Downriver Lock

Inside the locks.

Inside the locks.


Looking back upriver, McNary Dam

Looking back upriver, McNary Dam

Not long after passing through the dam, the wind picked up and stopped Paul once again. It wasn’t until later that evening that he would once again be able to make his way downriver. That night the wind stopped, leaving the Columbia absolutely still. Having no upriver wind made paddling unbelievably easy. Paddling all night Paul rowed roughly 30 miles until dawn came and the wind once again began blowing upriver.
In a final push before being completely shutdown by an incoming wind storm Paul raced a barge till it was obvious he wasn’t going to win.

Barge.

Pulling over alongside a cliff it was clear that Paul wasn’t going to be able to go anywhere for a while due to the increasing wind. Grabbing a few items: jacket, hat, gloves, some water & a few Clif bars, Paul climbed the rocky cliff to a “flat” area above.

Windmills = wind.

Windmills = wind.


The scenery was nice but the line of windmills lining the hillsides gave little hope of going downriver anytime soon. After a few hours of being pinned down Paul decided to go for a walk and explore the area. Unfortunately it wasn’t long getting up that he rolled his ankle making walking or standing on both legs impossible.

The rockpile campground that cracked my ankle.


Post rolling.

Post rolling.


That began two and a half days of sitting. Not wanting to risk falling into the river Paul was unable to climb down to the boat for the first day and night. Mice or little animals scattering in the brush, fear of the animals that eat little animals scattering in the brush, cold air, not being able to walk, and sleeping out under a jacket with little food or water, the night passed incredibly slow.

More Windmills

More Windmills

The next morning one thing became clear, Paul needed water and food which meant climbing down to the boat. Going excruciatingly slow he eventually made his way down to boat and in a final one legged roll/leap, was able to get back onto the cat. The effects of the wind were amazing. The cat was being fully rocked along the cliffs becoming covered in wood chips and Columbia River trash. Grabbing some food, water, sleeping bag, and pad; Paul climbed the cliff once again.

Around 3pm or so a random person appeared on the road above, heading Paul’s way. Turned out one of the barge workers passing by had seen Paul’s boat against the cliff and thought it had become untied, which somehow meant it was free game. He called his dad who lived 2.5 hours away to come get the boat. The random man walking down the cliff was the barge worker’s dad.

“After hearing his original plan to take the boat I had to sadly tell him I was still alive and didn’t really want to part with it. For a second I thought things were going to get scary.” Paul remembers.

That night while more comfortable than the night before, thanks to the sleeping bag and pad. Paul could not help but think of the random guy coming back. The wind continued to howl, the night passed slowly.

As daylight began to break the darkness, Paul began an attempt to leave the rocky prison. After eating breakfast he hobbled over to a bushy area wanting to clear some room before the paddle ahead. Once done “using the facilities” he stood up and noticed blood covering his stool. Bloody stool is generally not considered a good thing and the decision to take break became obvious. After a quick call to Ryan and Cody, Paul waited for a ride into Hood River. Wanting to speed up the loading process Paul climbed back down to the boat and drifted up river to an easier access point. Paul was picked up by Cody and Ryan and that evening the three returned to Hood River.

Taking about five days off, Paul’s ankle became less swollen. The bloody stool resolved itself, seemingly due to dietary issues Wasting no time the team headed to the EF Lewis race, paddling Money Drop along the way. After the race the team headed back to Hood River and waited for favorable wind conditions along the Columbia. Four days later the conditions were right and with the help of Lana Young, Paul pushed off from the banks of the Columbia where he had left off.

Nothing had changed. The ships were getting more and more frequent and the wind was blowing upriver nearly nonstop.

Wind & Barges, only getting worse.

Wind & Barges, only getting worse.

Two days later Paul reached John Day Dam. Keel was near the town of Hood River mixing sea kayaking days down the Columbia with raft guiding on the side.

John Day Dam

John Day Dam

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