Posted by: Columbia River | August 19, 2010

Portland – The Pacific (Astoria)

Beach Paul camped on near Portland.

Beach Paul camped on near Portland.

At first light Paul packed up and headed out. He wanted to be off the shore before anyone noticed he had slept in the park. Once back on the water he quickly passed under Interstate 5 and continued down the Columbia.

Side of I-5 not normally seen.

Side of I-5 not normally seen.

Paul ended up paddling through the Portland area on the 20th of April. Coincidentally, a large percentage of the Portland population also had the day off. As the day passed more and more enjoyers of the Columbia lined the banks. Around mid-afternoon he was paddling along the southern bank of the river when a group of four started talking to him. Out of all the people on the banks they were by far having the most fun.

Enjoying the day.

Enjoying the day.

After some talk of the expedition one of the guys began entertaining the thought of swimming across the Columbia. Going back and forth he eventually decided to go for it and borrowed the necessary gear from Paul to give it a shot.

Eric Bontz swims across the Columbia

Eric Bontz swims across the Columbia




Reaching Washington the group celebrated the historical achievement and after a quick beach clean-up they made their way back across the Columbia. Swimming most of the way back across Eric eventually jumped on the Cataraft and the team headed back to Oregon.

Styrofoam.  Awesome.

Styrofoam. Awesome.



Back in Oregon.

Back in Oregon.

Kiteboarders.

Kiteboarders.

Barges, still growing in size.

Barges, still growing in size.

Great campsite.

Great campsite.

Lewis & Clark Fixed Bridge.

Lewis & Clark Fixed Bridge.

Barges transform once again.

Barges transform once again.

Eventually, the sun began to set and darkness crept in. Just after dark, the wind kicked up.

Not making it very far after dark Paul pulled the boat to shore and slept on the boat. A few hours later he found himself floating back up the Columbia. Confused and exhausted he paddled the boat back to shore. In the predawn hours he woke yet again to find that he was now definitely in the tide zone and at least 50′ away from the water. Having to unload most of the boat through muck and reeds it took a while to lighten the boat enough to push it through the mud. Once everything was back on the boat Paul pushed off realizing that the camping situation couldn’t be any worse down river. He made good time until the wind picked up and stopped all progress. Pulling over to a beach Paul made breakfast, picked up trash to celebrate Earth Day and waited for the wind to stop.


After a few miles Paul came across the town of Westport, OR. Exhausted from the night before and needing a break he tied off to a pier that was extending out into the river. Within a few hours Paul was awoken to the sound of the boat groaning. Not sure what was going on he looked around for what was making the sound. The pier Paul had tied off to was now about 2′ underwater and he was floating about 4′-5′ above the tie off point. The tides were becoming a serious logistical nightmare.

No matter where the boat was tied off, short of 100′ up the hill, it was at risk of being affected by the fluctuating river. Tired of dealing with the tides as well as the barges floating by and draining then flooding the shores. Paul pulled the boat to shore near the tie-off dock and got out to find water. The Columbia was transitioning to the sea and as a result was functioning more like the ocean than a river.

Searching around the town of Westport, Paul realized he was going to have start knocking on doors or find an empty faucet and fill up. Walking down the main road Paul found a couple unloading their car and asked for help. The couple gladly filled the jugs and for the next day and a half while Paul waited for the wind to stop continued to be amazingly friendly and hospitable. The second morning he was there the couple came down and brought with them soup and coffee.

Eventually the tide changed from high to low tide and with a slight upriver wind Paul departed Westport.

Friendly locals.  Water, Soup, Cookies, nothing better.

Friendly locals. Water, Soup, Cookies, nothing better.

Not long after leaving a major storm system moved in and dumped hard rain then hail.

Storm a brewing...

Storm a brewing...

Fifteen to twenty minutes later the storm passed, wind mellowed, and the Columbia entered a beautiful stretch of sloughs loaded with wildlife.

Heading west, almost there.

Heading west, almost there.

After sunset the wind stayed down. Knowing he was reaching the end of his journey Paul paddled into the night and at 2:15am reached Astoria, OR. Long before the trip had begun the team discussed paddling completely around the turn to reach the mouth of the river. However, the danger of the open ocean, very large and frequent ships, majorly fluctuating tides (8′ difference), and other factors made Astoria a very nice location to conclude this portion of the expedition. Calling Ryan Scott and Lana Young the team was once again together loading gear about two hours later.

Astoria, OR. Lana Young Photo.

Astoria, OR. Lana Young Photo.

Revelstoke, British Columbia, CAN to Astoria, Oregon, USA. - Complete. Lana Young Photo.

Revelstoke, British Columbia, CAN to Astoria, Oregon, USA. - Complete. Lana Young Photo.

Loading up and heading home. Lana Young Photo.

Loading up and heading home. Lana Young Photo.

After 54 days Paul had reached the ocean. Sadly the rest of the group had splintered off by then and it was unfortunate to not arrive all together. Keel Brightman who was doing sections of the Columbia then returning to Hood River would finish about a week later. Having more guts and agility in the sea kayak he paddled all the way to the mouth and walked across the sand to the Pacific.

The amazing journey down the Columbia from Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, to Astoria, Oregon, USA was complete.

All they had to do now was head back to the Source to complete the section from Canal Flats to Revelstoke which was frozen solid when the group was there in March. That journey and more still to come.

Stay Tuned!

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