Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kayaking the Lower Columbia River: A Road Scholar Program

This program was held in Skamokawa, Washington (pronounced ska-mock-away) which lies 34 miles up-river from the Pacific Ocean. The water here is under tidal influence but is not brackish. Our guides from Columbia River Kayaking, Andrew Emlem, Mark Whitaker, and visiting guide Santiago, were highly skilled and exceptionally professional, informative, and helpful. Here we cross the main channel of the river, and the magnificence of the surrounding hills is clearly evident. Each morning had low-lying fog and a bit of a chill, but the sun soon burned it off and warmed us. The water temperature was 70 degrees.

Several of our routes took us on backwaters or sloughs, where river traffic was minimal and wildlife was more evident. National wildlife refuges abound here, protecting the habitat for hundreds of species of fauna and flora.

On our paddle around Welch Island and up Red Slough, we stopped for a hike at the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, set aside to protect the endangered Columbian White Tailed deer.

On our non-kayaking day, we drove to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment and toured the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which is perched atop a 200 foot high cliff with marvelous views of the mouth of the Columbia. The Center relates the story of the Corps of Discovery's journey using interactive displays, artwork, and replicas.

Here we are hiking the nearby two-mile Coastal Forest Loop Trail to another glorious Pacific overlook.

Below are guides Mark and Santiago standing and balancing -- each with one foot on each kayak. Santiago also stood in his boat, balancing a paddle on his head, while he juggled three balls.  Mark is an expert at rolling his kayak, which he demonstrated for us numerous times (because that's how he cools himself on warm days!)  There are over 40 official "competition" rolls and he performed a number of them for us during the "Kayak rolls and rescues" session (which will be available on YouTube soon with a link here.)

Music was a large component of this program. Our guide, Andrew, is a classical cellist and also plays guitar, banjo, violin, and jews harp, all of which he played for us. His group, Willapa Hills,  performed folk songs of the Columbia-Pacific Region for us, many written by members of the group.  Below are (l to r) Kerrie McNally, Jennifer Hanigan, Andrew Emlen, Fern Fey, Jessica Fletcher, and Sunrise Fletcher.

Andrew returned to entertain and inform us again with his friend, professional violinist/fiddler Jeffrey Reynolds, in a program entitled "Corelli to Cruzatte: Music of the Lewis and Clark Era." The first half (complete with formal attire of the era) featured the classical numbers Thomas Jefferson admired, with selections by Corelli, Bach, and Haydn...

...and after a break to change clothes, they returned portraying Pierre Cruzatte and George Gibson, two members of the Lewis and Clark expedition who were fiddlers ...

Excerpts from these performances are shown on the video.

Here's the entire group of intrepid paddlers, taken at Dismal Nitch where Lewis and Clark had to wait out strong seas near the Pacific...

(L to r) front row: Mary, Mary Ellen, Rosie, Nancy, Anne, Andrew (guide)
            2nd row kneeling: Marsha, Harriet, Gay, Roger, Jeff
            Back row standing: Naomi, Judy, Gary, Chuck, Jan, Don  

Accomodations for this program were at two exceptional local Bed and Breakfast establishments:

The Inn at Lucky Mud, run by Sunrise and Jessica Fletcher who are pictured above in the band photo, and here is their inn...

The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm, run by Don and Kitty Speranza, is pictured here...

Here's a video of our week's activities, including the kayaking, hiking, musical performances, and more...

Mark and Andrew demonstrated a number of kayak rolls. kayak rescues, and kayak self-rescues...

Columbia River Kayaking

Additional photos can be found here

Chuck's other Road Scholar/Elderhostel active, outdoor programs are available here.


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