September    Pasco, WA to North Bonneville, WA.
     14 - 20:       This section of the Columbia River reminds me of the
                          Missouri River in the Dakotas: flat water behind dams,
                          dry and monotonous landscape, and dangerous 
                          paddling conditions when the wind picks up.  As far as I
                          can tell, the wind is always up here.  It seems to get
                          amplified as it's funneled through the Columbia Gorge,
                          hence the region's reputation as the wind-surfing
                          capitol of the world.  Had I reached a section like this
                          earlier in westward float to the Pacific, I'd have been
                          terribly discouraged.  Now I simply tell myself there's 
                          not much more to endure before I reach the ocean.  
                          Still, the first few days on the Columbia felt like a real
                          grind, both physically and psychologically.
                          The wind never ceased on this stretch - there were just
                          days when it was less strong than others.  As I got 
                          closer to Bonneville, I saw more and more windsurfers
                          darting back and forth through the waves.  I envied 
                          them.  Dressed in wetsuits on their thin boards, they 
                          had nothing to lose if they capsized, which they often
                          did.  Some of them also annoyed me, especially the
                          paragliders.  Like the flyfisherman on the Missouri, they
                          assumed they had a right to occupy whatever space 
                          they wanted, regardless of other traffic.  To allow me to
                          discreetly paddle past along the shoreline appeared to
                          be a major inconvenience to them.  By the time I 
                          reached Stevenson, I was secretly hoping to run one
                          over, even though I'd probably suffer more from the

                                  A beautiful view...

                          As I got nearer the Dalles, the landscape began to 
                          change.  I began to see vineyards along the hillsides, 
                          watered by the river, and by Hood River I could see Mt.
                          Hood, its snow-capped peak highlighting the 
                          southwestern horizon.  By the time I reached Bonneville
                          Dam, I knew I was in the Cascades - the treeless bluffs 
                          and hills of the eastern gorge were now covered with
                          pines and hardwoods.
                          I've now portaged the last of the dams on my route, and
                          I have only 150 miles left to the ocean.  I was hoping 
                          for a free ride downcurrent, but people have told me not
                          to get my hopes up.  If I stay in the main channel, I will 
                          have some current to help me, but that means 
                          contending with the wind, waves, and starting in 
                          Portland, huge ocean-going freighters.  If I stay close to
                          shore, as I plan to do, the incoming tidal flow will mean 
                          the current will actually be against me.  I guess there 
                          will be no free rides on this trip.
                          Last week I was feeling blase about this journey.  It 
                          didn't seem like much of an accomplishment.  I figured 
                          that if an inexperienced camper and kayaker like me 
                          could get this far, anyone could.  All you needed was a
                          combination of naivete about what you were getting 
                          into, and a determination to see it through no matter 
                          what.  Stupidity and stubbornness, these were the 
                          keys to success.  Looking back at what I've done now, 
                          I can't believe I managed to get this far.  I battled the
                          Missouri's current for 850 miles, I survived (barely) the
                          lakes of the Dakotas, and I battled the Missouri again 
                          through Montana.  I waded up half the length of the 
                          Jefferson River, and most of the Beaverhead, pulling 
                          my kayak behind me.  I hiked across three mountain 
                          passes, and through the burned-over Bitterroot 
                          Valley.  I mounted a horse for the first time in my life,
                          and trudged through rain, sleet, and snow in the 
                          Bitterroot Mountains.  And now I'm only 150 miles 
                          from the end - not bad for a novice explorer!

                  Click here for days 152 - 156 of Richard's journal