September     For its last 150 miles, the Columbia River flows 
 21 - 25:           unobstructed to the sea.  This is good, because I have
                          the current helping me.  Unfortunately, this section is 
                          also subject to the tides.  This is bad, because if I catch
                          the rising tide, the river's current can actually be 
                          reversed.  Plus, the closer I get to the estuary and 
                          ocean, the more I will have to worry about the wind.
                          After six months on this journey, I've decided that all
                          wind is bad.  I've also become much more cautious and
                          fearful as I approach the Pacific.  I've had such good 
                          fortune so far, and I worry that it's all going to end just
                          before I get to the ocean.  Wind and wave conditions
                          that wouldn't have fazed me in June now give me
                          anxiety, and I've taken to not attaching my spray skirt
                          unless waves are actually breaking into the cockpit, so
                          that if I'm flipped I can get out easily.
                          The weather has been remarkably cooperative.  There
                          was a little rain in the morning leaving Vancouver,
                          followed by some wind, but I was on the lee side and 
                          the chop wasn't too troublesome - the heavy traffic on
                          the river coming into Vancouver posed greater 
                          problems.  By the time I passed the Willamette River, I
                          started to encounter huge ocean-going freighters, and I
                          gave them a wide berth.  I wish I had a picture of my 
                          kayak next to one of those ships - their bulk made me 
                          feel very small and vulnerable.  I've also encountered 
                          more dikes on this part of the river - not the solid rock
                          dikes of the Missouri, but wooden pilings that can 
                          extend fairly far into the river.  The spacing between the
                          pilings often allows me to shoot throught them, but 
                          occasionally I have to paddle into the main channel to
                          get around them.  I do this gingerly, with great 
                          trepidation.  From Gray's Bay, where Lewis and Clark 
                          were trapped for 10 days by heavy wind and rain, to
                          Point Ellice, across from Astoria, the tidal current was
                          very strong, and with the stress it put me under I 
                          decided to stop earlier than usual at a campsite near
                          Chinook, Washington.

                          On Monday, September 25, on the high tide and under
                          calm wind, I set out across Baker Bay for Cape 
                          Disappointment, Fort Canby State Park, and the Pacific
                          Ocean.  Passing the Coast Guard station at Cape 
                          Disappointment, I found myself in the broad swells of
                          the Pacific, and I discovered a whole new meaning to
                          the word fear.  I carefully picked my way along the 
                          coastline, staying far enough away from the cliffs and
                          rocks to avoid getting swept up onto them, and paddled
                          out along North Point jetty to its end, where the mouth
                          of the Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean.  I was so 
                          scared that the moment barely registered.  It was only
                          after I rounded the jetty and began paddling the final
                          100 yards to the beach that I began to feel the 
                          excitement of reaching the end of the line.  I landed and
                          stumbled out of the kayak, almost capsizing it in the 
                          surf.  This was not quite the graceful end I had 
                          imagined, and it was paricularly embarrassing because
                          several people on the beach witnessed it.  I eventually
                          convinced a nice couple to photograph my arrival, and 
                          we restaged the event for the cameras, after which I
                          took a celebratory plunge into the ocean.  O the joy!

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