Columbia Plateau Route- Day 4: 6 miles (boated)

My eyes closed well before dark. The afternoon of relaxation in the face of the last few days left me in a wet noodle state, and I wasn’t fighting it, but what that meant was I had achieved a full 8 hours of sleep well before sunrise.

So, I made coffee and wrote about yesterday’s excitement. I was ready for a nap by the time I was finished, so I rested a bit more before it was time to prepare for the day.

The water had come up again (15,000 cfs by this point), and the sky had clouded – adhering to the forecast from a few days ago. A windy overcast day on snowmelt is very different from a hot sunny day on snowmelt. I didn’t have warm boating clothes, so my strategy was paddle consistently until I reached the boat ramp at Cottonwood Canyon.

That’s a tiny pump!

I rounded a bend and saw the BLM rafts in front of me….the crew I met up with yesterday was inventoring the last few campsites of this section, so I made a beeline for them and asked if I could hitch a ride the last few miles to the end.

I think Monica was relieved that I asked, it was a riskier situation to be a tiny boat in the river today, I definitely felt that. The wind had started blowing gustily upstream, something that often doesn’t happen until the afternoon and is an indication that it’s time to get off the water. It’s hard to battle an upstream wind in an inflatable boat with a delicate paddle.

I jumped in the boat with Monica and Austin, Mark was in another raft, and volunteer Kirk was in yet another. (Fun fact: Kirk had originally inventoried the river about 20 years ago when he worked for the BLM….now the crew was doing it again and preparing an updated boater’s guide).

My plan when I got to the boat ramp was to hitch from Cottonwood to Condon, about 20 miles away. The BLM folks were going to Maupin (the other direction), but Kirk was going home to Sisters, so he offered to give me a lift. Brilliant!

I helped the boats unload and then load, and before I knew it, I was in Condon waiting for their burger place to open for lunch. Oh baby!

The boat ramp is now a lake

After I had demolished lunch, I walked over to the historic Condon Hotel and got a room. This is a wonderful hotel, and when I walked in my room to see white everything, I made sure not to transfer my dirty funk all over the place. I promptly took a bath and put on one of the hotel’s robes. (A white hotel ROBE???? I am definitely in a different universe than two days ago!)

I spent the afternoon catching up with friends, family, and the internet. I napped and watched cable. This day was so valuable because I could almost feel my body healing itself. The sore muscles and achy calfs were melting away and leaving the starts of a hiking machine in the wake. I would use all those muscles on the second half of the trip. This was just an unexpected interlude!

Kirk and I made plans to come back to do some of the parts of the route I was now skipping. Scott says the highlight is the North Pole Ridge Wilderness Study Area just south of the Thirtymile boat launch. We will definitely return at some point to check that out. As I was explaining the route challenges to Kirk, I could tell he was perking up…he will happily be my plus one for the skipped sections. He loves this exposed mountian-goat type of scrambling.

So what I haven’t done a lot of so far on this trip is read some of the history that K’Lynn and Brooklynn from the Condon Chamber of Commerce had sent me, so I spent some time with the pages yesterday and read about the John Day Queen I – a 50′ long pleasure craft that was in operation at Clarno from 1892 to 1899 when it was washed downstream in a flood and destroyed. This free-flowing river floods a lot, as it should.

I’m not too worried about getting myself to Clarno (50 miles away) tomorrow, it is a long ways away, but I’m going to do what is in front of me, and now that’s sleep in this wonderfully soft white bed and be grateful.

2 thoughts on “Columbia Plateau Route- Day 4: 6 miles (boated)

  1. So glad you are staying safe & role-modeling to others, the importance of knowing when to pause, when to turn back, when to ask for help….all signs of a strong, capable outdoorsperson.

    Liked by 1 person

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