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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Outlaw tendencies

Day 7.

We stayed put for breakfast for once, without first breaking camp and paddling away, as we'd found it such a lovely park; also, getting the boats down the stairs and loaded seemed a daunting process.

There was no sign of the tandem 'yakkers as they had taken over a rented yurt and partied with their shore-based friends and were still asleep. They overtook us after about forty minutes, waved, and passed on.

We were not in a hurry. Very few miles remained to our pickup point, the appointment for the pickup was tomorrow, and we would have to make one more camp somewhere.  Risa argued for another state park, having become enamored of showers; The Cowboy held out for an island. None of the remaining islands had designated campsites, which Risa stressed over, but The Cowboy likes undesignated sites: "It appeals to my outlaw tendencies."

We found the state park and stopped first at the place where a tributary comes in, but too much was going on in the area, and people had indulged in unsanitary behavior on the site. If this was the park's designated river-camping place -- the map was vague about it -- it would not do; so this became our lunch break. We watched a father and son, in swim trunks, fishing at the confluence by spotting trout with a face mask underwater, then casting to it -- an interesting method. In this way the child was able to hook and play an actual game fish, something Risa and The Cowboy had neither done nor seen done by all the rods and lines the length of the river.

Paddling on, they found the rest of the park held only a picnic ground, with No Camping signs in evidence everywhere, so Risa gave up hope of another shower and reluctantly followed The Cowboy back onto the water.

At least the day was a little cooler -- about 91(F). They passed the third and last river ferry. Risa backed water and sat looking back at the big boat as it chugged past on its long cable, carrying a pickup truck and a handful of bicyclists.

"You really like those, don't you?" asked The Cowboy.

"Yes. In another lifetime, I'd be captain of one -- it has everything; water, romance, public service, changing seasons, and yet a set routine. Always the same, never the same. Like farming."

"Yes, that about sums you up, Sacajawea -- living to serve, serving to live."

Aww ... !

Around the next bend they paddled right into the river equivalent of a speed trap.

County Mounties, with a speedboat and two ski-doos, were checking all vessels for licenses (Rubber Ducky, under ten feet long, did not need one), PFDs, sound devices, and absence of visible containers of alcoholic beverage. They were gentlemen and showed genuine interest in two retirees making such a long journey.

The Cowboy knew that they knew that we would have to spend one more night, so, more to stay on their good side than from any lack of map knowledge, asked, "so, is there anyplace between here and our pick-up that we can camp?"

"Oh, yeah! There's an island right around the corner. Can't miss it."

So much for our outlaw campsite.

There was a raucous party in progress on a beach within sight of the obvious take-out point, but we paddled down the back channel, found the tail end of the island unsuitable for once, and returned to a spot just out of sight of the "wildlife" and almost as nice. 12 mile day, 141.5 river miles total.

Along the way, Risa met a Cooper's hawk. It was standing in the water at the edge of a narrow strip of gravel below the bluff, bending over, sipping at the river, tipping its head back, and gargling down the water, just like a chicken. Risa drifted to within fifteen feet of it before it spread its wide wings, took off majestically, and soared to a more private spot among Douglas firs on the far bank.

The campsite was the biggest animal trail yet -- it had obviously been used for millennia by velociraptors, woolly mammoths, and the like -- but we were not disturbed. We faced the tents toward each other, as usual, and talked philosophy, long into the last night.


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