Isle of Sky Basecamp: The Uig Hotel!

10 12 2022

The hotel has a magical view of the Outer Hebrides – and the ferry swings in from there.

We took a half day’s drive from Glencoe, over the Isle of Skye Bridge, and then up to Uig. It’s a spectacularly picturesque village clustered on a postcard perfect harbor. Our fabulous weather just kept on coming! To die for views. And the hotel? It is superbly over the top cute, cozy, everything one could hope for on a stay on Isle of Skye! There is even a Fairy Glen not far away. And then we arrived at the Uig Hotel.

My room is on the upper right! Perfect!

If anything can match, or even enhance the scene, it would have to be the Uig Hotel! Inside and out, the view, the location, the proximity to real movie scene hikes, its delectable restaurant, and its cozy single-malt whiskey stocked bar, it all just oozes authentic Scottish experience! The original building was a coaching inn built in 1831. There are newer rooms in a building out back. I totally lucked out that I got a seaside view room with a cathedral window!

Settled in, I chose to grab a pint of stout from the bar and wander the grounds. The lighting, the view of the harbor and bay beyond, are pretty much over the top intoxicating beyond the brew I had in my grasp.

On this evening, it was the wedding anniversary of two of my fellow trekkers, Cassie and Taylor Graham! FYI Cassie is the niece of Don Martin, of my Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal trip! Halfway through happy hour, we met up outside their room for a toast! I brought along my Scotland flag from home, which I proudly fly from my home. I have a LOT of Scottish heritage!

And then? It’s time for supper! Over there, a “dinner” would be mid-day. Supper is the evening meal. Once again, we were at liberty to order anything on the menu. No restrictions! I LOVE seafood, and on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, that is plentiful. So, I ordered baked salmon for the main course. But WHOA wait a minute. The starters! One cannot allow oneself to neglect an opportunity indulge! I noticed one of my absolute rarely indulged favorites, steamed mussels in white wine sauce with lemon! And I was not disappointed. What came to my place set was huge! So delish it was, that I ordered it again the next night.

Cathy Ann and our local guides Tonia and Susie announced our hiking plans for tomorrow. We’d head south, to the Black Cuillens, to a place named Culnamean, which is at sea level. We’d hike straight up to a spectacular lunch spot Coire Lagan, under Sgurr Dearg, the highest point on Isle of Skye. If we were lucky, we’d have completely unlimited views from there!

With that, in my typical fashion, I bid everyone good night! Each night I needed ‘me time’ to write up the experiences of the day!





Glencoe: A Chill Out Day for Me, Pap of Glencoe for Others!

25 11 2022
View from the Glencoe Visitor’s Center. Improving weather!

We were staying two nights at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. Since I was still mending from my summer-long bout with shingles and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, I decided I’d take a rest day. The group decided to hike the Pap of Glencoe, a relatively short but steep climb to a breathtaking view of the lochs and mountains nearby. A quick read on information about the area revealed that there is a Glencoe Visitor Center down the Glen. I could learn some of the area’s history, take an hour’s hike, and then catch a taxi back to the hotel. There, I could catch up on my journal, read my novel, and maybe hang out on the picnic tables outside and meet fellow travelers. As it turned out, it went by so fast I was really surprised, and enjoyed it immeasurably.

After another hearty breakfast, we piled into our vans with our local guides Tania and Susie, and headed down the Glen Coe. As the road winds, iconic green mountain vistas open up, many with waterfalls cascading down their slopes.

This was where I learned how popular Scotland is with hikers and international tourists! At pull-outs with views, many vehicles. Later in the day, with my taxi return, it was just packed! And why not. It’s very beautiful. And, of course, it has been captured in many films and is rich with history.

The Three Sisters of Glencoe

We stopped at a pull-out in front of the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Somewhere in this valley, a dreadful event occurred. The Massacre of Glencoe. In 1692, the newly crowned Protestant King William III of England was anxious to secure the loyalty of all Scots once and for all. He issued a decree in which he required all Scottish clans sign loyalty to him, or face punishment. Allies of William, Clan Campbell quickly signed. But local Clan MacDonald had not. Clan Campbell was sent up the Glen to speak with the MacDonalds about the issue. Although they were not friendly to one another, the MacDonalds played host to their visitors. The Scottish government had offered to pay 12,000 pounds to the Scottish clans to sign the oath. But many clans, as in typical fashion, disagreed on how to divide the sum amongst themselves, delaying signing. This delay led to William’s impatience, and an example was made to demonstrate the consequences of a lack of signing. The story goes that the MacDonald chief was on his way, but delayed. William III delivered an edict to liquidate the MacDonalds. The Campbells got that instruction and massacred 30 MacDonalds in the Glen.

I was dropped off at the Visitor Center and bid my comrades a good hike and that I’d look forward to their stories later in the day. I checked out the information to be learned, including a film on the region. There is a nice forested garden out back with a view up the valley. It has a house built exactly as they were hundreds of years ago, which visitors can check out. I paused for a bit to enjoy the sun’s warmth and take in the view.

Next, I hiked the longest of several available trails within the Visitor Center property. It was pleasant, if a bit muddy from recent stormy weather. It only took about an hour to complete. Then I waited for a taxi which I’d arranged prior to my arrival. He arrived right on time, and just like that I was on my way back to the Kingshouse Hotel.

After lunch, I went outside and picked out a spot at the picnic tables, one which had a shady roof. It was getting nice and sunny! I went into the nearby pub and got myself a coffee. I didn’t get much of my journal written, as not before long, two Swiss hikers showed up and we spent the next two hours visiting. The Kingshouse is a multi-functional institution. While it has 4-star rooms and some top notch table service cuisine and a bar with over one hundred Scottish single malt whiskies plus local gins to try, it is also a genuine hiker backpacker shelter/lodge with complete facilities for them as well. Camping is allowed on the grounds. There is a large heated room to dry out tents, boots, and camping gear. It has a budget bunk house. Well, my new Swiss friends were in a pickle, because something was delayed with their bunk house accommodation. However, their luck turned golden whilst we chatted. Something was wrong with the bunk house. And so the Kingshouse Hotel gave them one of the 4-star rooms instead! They had just hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, my trekking comrades had hiked up the Pap of Glencoe. They surely got the view promised! The evening cocktail hour and dinner was full of tales of their adventure that day.





West Highland Way: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse / Glencoe – The Weather Breaks

8 11 2022
Above Loch Tulla with Cathy Ann!

Today we start with a nutritious breakfast. Choices are fruit, yogurt, eggs, smoked salmon, oatmeal, toast, muffins, and much more. The weather looks squally, and once again, I’ve prepared for whatever comes. The towel dryer worked well on my stuff. So again, I’m wearing full rain shell and pants, and pack rain cover. It’s 11 miles of varying climbs and descents to Kingshouse. Along the way we will hike through woodlands, grasslands, and if the clouds part, experience views of distant lochs and mountains.

We cross the Bridge of Orchy and climb the forested hills beyond. This is the steepest part of the hike. We pass by some clearcuts. With the rain, this part of the trail is a flowing stream. We have wind-driven rain, and that, combined with my perspiration, causes my new Columbia Sportswear rain shell to utterly fail. Soaked through, the only thing I had going for me was my body heat was warm due to the exertion. After an hour the rain ebbs. We emerge out of the woods into a grassy hilltop, where views open up and we can see for miles.

This section of the West Highland way is not only a military road, but a cattle drover road. These roads, built of countless round river rocks pounded into the ground, were used for driving cattle from one place to another. For me, all the round rocks were solid, but made for a sort of “rounded” movement my foot made each step.

Loch Tulla comes into view! Now, we are rewarded with the Scottish Highland views we’re longing for. It’s very picturesque and, as I learned, full of salmon.

It’s getting toward lunchtime. This section of trail is very exposed, so it’s breezy, but the views are terrific. We’re still wary of those pesky midges, so Tania picks out a lunch spot where the breeze will keep them away.

Although today’s trail lunch was better than yesterday’s, I still found the sandwich utterly below par. As the trek progressed, and we got lunches from different places, I began to realize it’s England/Scotland, not the cooks at the places we got the lunches. All of the sandwiches were plain by North American standards. None of them had lettuce, tomatoes or onions or some condiments. Just two pieces of bread with something in the middle. Nevertheless, to their credit, they did include juice boxes, fruit, and some treats like cookies or something similar to a Kit Kat Bar. The weather continued to break up during the rest of the day. Here’s a video of the wonder of Scotland opening up! From this point on, the rest of our trek had fabulous weather!

We came across Inveroran, with its adorable to-die-for, magical Inveroran Hotel, originally a 19th Century inn for cattle drovers. I could see it from above on the trail.

It’s down on the left near the trees!

Descending, and coming across a road, we crossed a picturesque stone bridge, and there it was! We stopped in for a break. Super cute cozy bar and restaurant. I kind of wish we could have spent a tucked in night there!

To-die-for location!

After Inveroran, we continued a kind of monotonous uphill climb for quite some time. It was monotonous because for several miles it was next to a forest and there was no view. However, our stubborn tenacity was rewarded as we came out, as before, into an open high grassland with miles and miles of mountains and endless views all around. Plus, the weather truly broke up and lit up the hills for the rest of the day!

Now we were rewarded with unlimited views, more warmth, and luxuriating in the sights of the Scottish Highlands we’d come for. Along the way we spotted one of Wilderness Scotland’s most iconic fauna – a red deer! We stopped for a rest by a stream flowing with peat-colored waters

And then it was on for the final stretch! Next up is Glencoe, and the Kingshouse Hotel. This was another hotel very visible from up high on the trail.

Built by the British Army in the 18th Century, this hotel is one of the oldest inns. It originally functioned as a stopping point for those crossing Rannoch Moor. Expanded and refurbished in 2019, today it’s got 57 rooms, two restaurants, a bunk house, a substantial gear-drying room, and on top of it all, expansive views of the mountains of Glencoe. It’s a focal point for all things outdoors in the region. Hikers pass through, campers can stay on the grounds. Nearby there is wildlife viewing, climbing mountains, historical sites, skiing, lochs and moors. Our meal was first-rate! Choices were generous plates of lobster-like langoustines, a plate-sized grilled t-bone steak, and venison medallions, amongst others.

The day’s sunset over the Glencoe area said to us, “Your weather fortunes have turned! Go forth!”

Our stay here was two nights. So, I opted for a ‘day off’ the next day. Whilst the rest would go conquer the Pap of Glencoe, I’d sleep in, check out a visitor’s center, work on my journal, and take in some sunshine!





Scotland: The West Highland Way to Bridge of Orchy

5 11 2022
On the way to Beinn Dorian. This was the 8th attempt at this image due to winds!

It’s the first day of our inn-to-inn Scottish Highlands Trek! My primary guide on this trek was American Cathy Ann Taylor, of Cattara. I’d been on three other treks with CAT, the Chomolhari Trek in Bhutan, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal, and the Cordillera Huayhuash Trek in Peru. Those were high altitude treks, and we camped every night. Mind you, these were fancy glamping style treks – breakfast and dinner served at tables in dining tents, and your tents carried by horse, llama or porters. Here, however, it was staying in fine inns every night! Beds, showers, and some very fancy meals too! On this trip, we’d do 8 days hiking and a total of 46.12 miles. Tame compared to the other treks, but with my limited time to train and my body still fighting shingles, it was plenty challenging!

I’d been checking the weather forecast each day of the week prior. It was positively horrendous! Upon arrival, the BBC meteorologists forecasted this ‘stalled low pressure system’ west of Scotland, which would deliver days of rain and squalls. With that in mind, we all donned our full rain gear for the first day’s hike! Like they say in the movies, Scots really do say, “I’ll take it as it comes.” Our group of 10 were greeted by our local Scottish guides, Tania and Susie, from Wilderness Scotland. They would be with us the whole trip. After grabbing trail lunches, we set off in mini vans out of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond, to our trailhead near Auchtertyre. This was about the half-way point of the West Highland Way. The entirety of the West Highland Way is 95 miles, about 12 days, over moors, mountains and forest. The 21-miles we’d cover over two days were part of a military road constructed sometime in the 1700s.

Along the ride over, I glimpsed rain showers cloaking many of the hillsides. Upon reaching our starting point, I noticed other hikers. They were wearing full rain gear – pants and rain shells. Most had trekking poles and day packs with rain covers. We outfitted ourselves the same. Well, the rain held off for our start, but the wind did not. There was a good breeze with temperatures in the low 60’s. Considering our pace and athletic output, the breeze was most welcome. I was perspiring, and this evaporated the moisture and kept me relatively cool and comfortable. Every so often, gusts would muscle through with winds above 45 mph! At one point, I asked that a fellow trekker take my photo. Right then one of those gusts cranked up, and it took about 8 attempts to get that image.

Although the skies were gray, we had good views, and passed through some history. We paused at a historically significant battlefield – he Battlefield of the Battle of Dalrigh. Here, in 1306, Robert the Bruce’s army was intercepted and destroyed by Clan MacDougall, who were English allies. Legend has it that they threw their remaining weapons into one of the Lochans (ponds) here. But a modern-era ground penetrating radar search revealed nothing. Still, it was truly cool to stand in such a place.

We stopped at a spot safe from the midges to eat our lunch. My sandwiches were so awful, especially after athletic hiking, that I couldn’t eat them. Plain slice of cheese between two pieces of white bread! Susie was greatly concerned that I wasn’t going to get the calories necessary for the rest of the hike and thoughtfully bought some power bars for me at a package store when we crossed the road.

This day’s hike was often within eyesight of a highway, which really wasn’t so annoying. We also crossed a bridge over the West Highland Line railroad, and a small, four-car passenger train passed under and tooted its horn at us. It makes a stop at the Bridge of Orchy, our destination for today!

The trail took us right past the iconic cone shaped mountain Beinn Dorian. It’s 3,530ft high and dominates the landscape. It’s one of 282 Scottish Munros. A Munro is a mountain in Scotland at least 3,000 ft high. This area is highlighted by views of fields with sheep grazing. As we hiked, the weather was a series of breezes, rain squals, brightening, back and forth.

And then, we arrived!

At last, we were within striking distance of the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

It’s a classically old-style inn. Out front and inside the original building very cozy. They’d built some out-buildings with additional rooms, where I stayed. Unfortunately, these, while very comfortable, were not constructed in a style matching the original hotel. Nevertheless, my room was welcome after a squall-filled hike. It had a heated towel rack, which was most helpful in drying out soggy clothing and boots!

Dinner was lovely table service! Wine, mackerel/cucumber appetizer, burger with salsa topping, and then I tried the iconic sticky toffee pudding with ice cream for dessert. Then off to my room for some me-time (writing my journal, of course). Tomorrow’s another “take it as it comes” kind of day! It was a stormy night, rain pelting my window.





2022: The Summer that Wasn’t. And Triumphing Over Shingles So I Could Trek in Scotland! Off to Glasgow.

31 10 2022

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog, and mostly it’s because in 2022, I’ve had a series of health issues! But with great determination, medical attention and tenacity, I’ve pulled through.

In January I had plans to join friends on a Tour du Rockies alpine ski road trip. But Covid got to two of us, and it didn’t happen. Then, suddenly, with work time off still approved, I got better. I managed to go all by myself! I went to Crystal Mountain, Big Sky, and Mount Bachelor. Then, in February, I returned to Mount Bachelor, where I had a ski injury which strained my shoulder. I spent several weeks in physical therapy. Still, I managed a trip to Taos New Mexico in March! In May, I had a bout with salmonella. Then, in June, I was diagnosed with shingles in my left ear. This eventually led to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which paralyzed the left side of my face. I couldn’t use my left eyebrow. My left eye wouldn’t close. I could not chew on the left side of my mouth. I was not allowed to be outside for any length of time because my left eye would not close. But I’m back.

I am a passionate outdoor enthusiast, and to not camp, hike, sail, run, and paddle outside was torture! For all practical purposes, summer 2022 was canceled. No less than 4 camping trips were canceled. My job involves paddlesports. My boss and coworkers were very accommodating, and I am thankful for that. We guide and teach paddlesports, but we also sell retail. So, I could work inside our store. I had booked a trekking trip in Scotland’s Highlands and Isle of Skye for September – So I was very anxious to prepare for that!

By late July, I could close my eye, and drink normally from a cup and chew on both sides of my mouth. My doctor said I could exercise. So, with great determination and tenacity, I worked up a training regimen. My flight to Scotland was to leave August 31st. I had just a few weeks to train, but train I did! I hiked 7 miles every 3rd day. I did as much lower body and abdominal exercises at my gym that I could manage.

This was to be a terrific trip. We would hike the West Highland Way, then Glencoe, then Isle of Skye, and then Cairngorms National Park. I’ve been on treks before, two to the Himalayas (Chomolhari in Bhutan, and Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal), plus the Cordillara Huayhuash in Peru. Those were glamping trips. But on this trip, we’re staying in inns and hotels every night! Wow! Showers and restaurants! And on August 31st, I was packed, ready as I could manage, and I was off to Glasgow!

I was fortunate to book a non-stop flight from Portland, OR to Amsterdam for the connection to Glasgow. That way, I could avoid the problems associated with making connections in the USA, plus any weather delays or missed flights. Once landed, I grabbed an airport taxi. After chatting with the driver, it turned out that he had picked up my tour leader, Cathy Ann, earlier in the day! I checked in at the Ibis Styles in downtown. It’s a hip-modern style hotel. The bar food isn’t much to praise, but it was adequate for my jet lag.

I had errands to run. Reading up on conditions in the Highlands and talking with a Scottish friend of mine back home, I was warned about swarms of tiny biting insects called midges. The Scottish summer of 2022 was a long one, and the midges were still out and about later than usual. When I was going to be trekking! With that in mind, I set out to find some bug repellant and a mosquito net. I was told to head to a pharmacy called “Boots” in a mall down on Buchanan Street. I was also told there are some outdoor stores there.

Within a couple of blocks, immediately I noticed two things. First, there are almost zero street signs. Some of the buildings on corners had the street name on them. I was thankful for Google Maps. Secondly, it seemed there were empty offices everywhere. I wondered if there was a downturn in business, or maybe people were fleeing to the suburbs. Or, perhaps Covid had converted many Scots to telecommute from home? Walking further, the age of Glasgow became apparent. There were very old buildings everywhere. From churches to cathedrals to homes and offices. And mixed in were much more contemporary style buildings.

I reached Buchanan Street. I needed three items. Some bug spray and a mosquito net. And I needed to exchange US dollars for UK pounds. While most of the walk over wasn’t very busy, Buchanan Street was bustling with walking traffic.

Score! Bug spray. The mosquito net was more challenging. Two stores were sold out! But a 3rd had lots. Finding a currency exchange was a frustrating experience. I finally found a tiny office in one of the shopping malls. But I got it done.

In the early evening, our group met back at the hotel for our first orientation. Then tomorrow will be our first hike of the trek. It’ll be 12 miles to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel! The weather forecast is awful. In fact, it shows a full week of rain. Well, it’s Scotland, right?





Staff River Trip on the Deschutes!

1 11 2021
First night’s happy hour! As you can see adult beverages on the left AND right!

The Covid years of 2020 and 2021 have been the most challenging – and rewarding – to all of us Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Each of us has worked our hearts out – practically reinventing the business in the process – slaloming through countless challenges posed by mask mandates, reinvention of rental and instruction procedures, chronic product uncertainties, and skyrocketing pandemic-driven consumer demand. We’ve succeeded. The business is stronger than ever, and we still command exceptionally high customer satisfaction. Congratulations everybody! So in early October, our bosses Dave and Suzi, as a celebration and thank-you, closed the store for two days and took the staff on a two-day trip on 42.4 miles of the Lower Deschutes River.

The trip was to put in at Buckhollow day use area, below Sherars Falls, and end at end at its confluence with the Columbia River at Heritage Landing State Park. The plan was to meet up and camp at the White River Campground, a few miles upstream from Buckhollow.

Meloy, Matt, Alex, Ethan, Byron and I loaded up the van with our gear and a couple of whitewater kayaks. Dave and Suzi earlier headed out with a trailer full of rafts and inflatable kayaks. Road trip!

We arrived within 30 minutes of each other. With daylight slipping away we wasted no time setting up tents and the all-important kitchen and “campfire.” At the departure date, wood campfires were prohibited. We ordered a propane-fueled campfire set up but it hadn’t showed up the day before, causing anxieties. But it showed up two hours before departure, and it was totally a hit!

Suzi did a bang up job coordinating the food and beverages for this trip. There was NO shortage of anything especially the adult beverages, which included wine, tequila, mud slides and mimosas! Our first night’s meal featured pulled pork burritos with this amazing salsa for the toppings. For dessert, she served my suggestion of brownies topped with whipped cream. The night was pretty cold! I sleep pretty warm. I brought my Mountain Hardware Phantom 32 bag plus a packable down comforter. It’s a hydrophobic down bag. I was so comfy I never even zipped the bag. We all had frost on our tents upon awakening.

Wakey wakey was about 7 a.m. with piping hot coffee. We had a nice assortment of Suzi’s home baked pumpkin muffins, yogurt, cereal, and fruit. The idea was to eat quickly and get on the river!

Once packed up we headed down to Buckhollow. Even though it was chilly, it was pretty physical work putting the boats together, and before long, we were wondering, once we put our dry suits on, if we’d soon be de-layering! Setting up involves sorting out gear, inflating rafts and inflatable kayaks, strapping things down, river feature discussion, etc. I was having trepidations about the dry suit I chose – I suspected it might leak. So I wore thick polypropylene pants and neoprene socks. That turned out to be a wise choice!

Off we went! This river section has a couple of Class II and a Class III (sometimes III+) rapid called Wreck Rapid. Turns out the name Wreck Rapid wasn’t referring to wrecking boats. It was the site of a 1949 railroad crash! As it’d been 10 years since I last whitewater boated, I chose an inflatable kayak. It was an Aire Tomcat. Inflatable whitewater kayaks are kind of two-faced. On the one hand, they are very forgiving, pretty much riding over eddies and opposing currents, rather than being thrown around by them. On the other hand, trying to make any sort of quick move just doesn’t happen. They are barge-like. I found the best way to approach a rapid or wave train is to just point it right at the waves and go. The main thing to avoid is being sideways to a wave. What is amazing is how fast they drain! Many times the kayak would seem to completely swamped, only to drain instantly. I brought along my bomber waterproof duffel by Ortlieb. It’d taken me on the Cordillera Huayhuash Trek in Peru, and the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, in Nepal. But it hadn’t been subjected to constant thrashing on a river trip! This tough as nails bag came though completely dry on the inside. My drysuit, however, was as problematic as I’d feared. The right leg was very damp and foot wet. Yes, after the trip, on inspection, it had some kind of abrasion inside the leg, it had delamination, and the icing on the cake, a hole in the sock.

Today’s objective was to get to a few miles past Mack’s Canyon. If we managed that, we’d have a shorter paddle tomorrow. The river passes through beautiful Central Oregon canyon country. The canyon walls are lined with spectacular columnar basalt formations. Flora is mostly sage brush and juniper. We are on the lookout for Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep! We glimpse countless Blue Heron, Osprey, and Kingfisher. The Cliff Swallow nests are visible, but the inhabitants have migrated away for the winter. The character of the paddle itself is moving flatwater punctuated by pool-drop rapids.

We chose to go further than Mack’s Canyon, the initial destination. We paddled approximately 3.5 miles further, to a campsite called Homestead. This offered us plenty of space to set up a kitchen with plenty of dispersed tent sites. But our late arrival made for hasty tent pitching and set up before dark! Alex set up a long length of line to hang out gear which we availed ourselves of tout suite! Soon, we found ourselves setting out food and drink, and the fire pit was going. This night we’d enjoy Suzi’s home made pasta sauce over noodles. Prior, as appetizers, we scarfed down crackers, cheeses, plates of sliced carrot, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and more.

Dinner done, it was time to hang out by the fire. It wasn’t long, after a few quaffs of adult beverages, that calls came out for the “Squim” game. Uh oh. This is a game where quarters are carried to a kettle and aimed and dropped in. HOW, do you ask, does one drop them in? By holding the quarter between the butt cheeks! Not all are skilled in this endeavor. But Suzi has buns of steel and is very adroit at this game. Andrew tried it too, and his new found strut made me just about cough up my beverage in laughter.

Suzi nails it!

I announced I was retiring, and went to my tent. But before, I ensured I had everything inside, including my drysuit. This turned out to be super wise, as it started to rain just as I zipped up the tent fly. My MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent was not the tent it used to be. The tent fly did not leak thank God. But the inside tent’s seam tape had completely disintegrated, and the floor became sticky like some kind of tape. Anyway eventually I got up to check and OMG there were little pools forming at the edges. The foot of my sleeping bag was wet. But inside the sleeping bag it was still dry. Lucky it’s hydrophobic. And if I just stayed on my Thermarest pad I was dry. It was hard to sleep, as I dreaded a drip drip drip falling on me from the fly! I prayed PLEASE rain stop. Which it did. I think it rained 90 minutes. About 2 a.m. I got up to relieve myself, looked up and glimpsed a 100% clear, sparkly starry sky! So the rain was a desert passing shower.

Once again, wakey wakey about 7 a.m. And first things first, the morning Constitutional demanded attention. OH, I ought to mention! On this river trip, this situation was practically a crisis! Only myself and Suzi brought toilet paper, and I only had 1 roll. For like 10 people? Damn. I will leave it up to your imagination. Oh come on, we are supposed to be professional outdoors people, right? I only know in my case I never depend on the campground or whatever for TP, I always bring it just in case! Anyway, here I was early in the morning, my body making demands. Dave had set up the ‘stool’ some ways away from camp. Only upon making the hike did I find the spot more than a place to perform the duty. It was a place of contemplation! Let’s just say, it was a unique spot to complete one’s daily dump.

The Throne of Contemplation!

In my case, my thoughts were occupied with the final few Class II, Class III and maybe Class III+ rapids I’d need to navigate in my leaky drysuit. Dave and Suzi, and Ethan told me repeatedly these were straightforward and not that big of a deal. But I didn’t know for myself, right? Oh well. Just forge ahead, right?

Our Chef’s duties called for my group to cook this morning’s breakfast. The pressure was on myself, Tyler and Ethan. The menu called for hash browns, bacon, and scrambled eggs, with melted cheese if we could manage that. And OF COURSE lots of coffee! The hash browns were of a kind I can’t seem to find at my local Fred Meyers. They come in a cardboard container. Just open, pour into the skillet and cook! The bacon was a snap. Suzi had pre cooked the bacon before the trip. Essentially all that was needed was a nice hot pre-heat. The eggs I did in my own simple way, which is to crack them open right on the skillet and add the other ingredients (milk and in this case cheese), scramble right on the skillet. All went well! The paddlers were satisfied! The funny thing about this trip was that many of us had never camped together before, yet it certainly seemed like we’d been camping together for years.

OK. After clean up of kitchen, packing away wet tents and other gear, topping off inflatable kayaks and rafts, strapping down of duffel bags, camp chairs, kitchen tables and propane tanks, it was time to head off! Today’s journey called for much flat water river journeying, viewing of canyon walls, hiking to petrogplyphs, and 4 Class III and III+ rapids at the end of the float. I was definitely nervous about the end, but it turned out to be more fun than fear!

Yes, once we began, Day 2 was sparklly bright and clear. There would be no rain. Wind was our primary challenge on Day 2, especially toward the end! On this day, we had plenty of fast moving flat water. But lay ahead were rapids with names like Washout, Rattlesnake, Colorado, and Gordon Ridge Rapid (where one of our Wenonah Canoe sales representatives dumped).

Some of switched boats, but myself, Meloy and Byron stuck to their original craft. For Matt, it was his first time piloting a raft, and he performed like a seasoned raft paddler. One thing I learned is that as a kayak paddler on a trip like this, you do NOT want to be behind a raft entering a rapid. As a kayak paddler, if you are behind a raft, the raft blocks your view, and secondly, the raft may, without warning, suddenly change direction, leaving you, the kayak paddler, without time to change position for an upcoming river feature like a hole.

I found that my favorite rapid was the Gordon Ridge Rapid. It seemed unanimous that all of us liked this rapid best! It featured numerous small islets which the river wended around, creating innumerable opportunities to paddle the kayak back and forth to meet the demands of the river. And, it was longer than the other rapids, making more fun! At one point, we were so ‘trafficked,’ that we bumped into each other.

We finished the storied Colorado Rapids, which were followed by Rattlesnake. Funny thing was, I paddled through Rattlesnake and did not even know it. Maybe it was the river level, I don’t know. But I just followed, at a distance, Dave and Suzi’s raft, and it was no big deal.

Then the wind roared. How does this happen? So, in the Summer, the Columbia Gorge gets hot, and even on warm Fall days, and the hot air rises. Something has to displace the air rising. And what would that be? It is air from the Pacific Ocean, and it begins to replace the rising air about noon. This every-day phenomenon starts a race-track all the way from Astoria to beyond The Dalles in the Columbia Gorge. And, it also flows up the Columbia Gorge side canyons like the John Day River and the Deschutes River. On our final miles to our take-out, we were experiencing gusts up to 35 mph. So what to do? PADDLE HARD! It constantly forced my inflatable kayak to turn right. To counter, I had to paddle hard to left, which at some point eventually led to a blister on my right wrist. Alex had a First Aid Kit with a gauze self-adhering bandage which I applied. That kept the damage at bay.

In the end, we all paddled against the wind to the take out. It was annoying but not too bad!

We had a terrific trip! We’re looking forward to a great 2022!