:: COLUMBIA WILDLIFE REFUGE
Over a warm April weekend I pulled together my car camping kit, kayak and SUP (stand up paddleboard) for a fun getaway to the Columbia basin area with my friends Brian and Sarah. After a long, dusty drive to eastern Washington we pulled off highway 26 onto a gravel packed road entering the Columbia Wildlife Refuge Area. About a few miles into the park, we landed at the Overlook camping area, a stunning scrubland full of shimmering clear lakes and waterways surrounded by basalt columns and cliffs. We landed right at dusk, and the first scene was a fisher pulling a number of large rainbow trout out of Sage lake (a smaller body of water next to Long Lake where we camped at)…it was a beautiful, pristine moment.
After a decent night of sleep with some new gear (first time trying out a new backpacking tent, pad and sleeping quilt) we set off for a paddle through Long Lake. After a not very cheerful phone call from home about sewer line issues (thankfully taken care of), I searched for Brian and Sarah who took off ahead but couldn’t find them. I decided to trek down a channel heading further into the Refuge area and came across more giant basalt columns, various birds including waterfowl, herons and plenty of cliff swallows (accidentally scared a few out of their nests in the columns). I was so tempted to keep paddling but knew getting back would be a challenge going against the current so decided to turn around. Along the way I hugged the bank to avoid the stronger parts of the current, and at one point I saw a big beaver hop out of a bush (maybe a few feet from the kayak), dove into the water and went right under my kayak. Scared the crap out of me (as I scared it) but such an amazing experience. The big splash told me it wasn’t a little fella.
For all the easy paddling down the current, I paid the price coming back: about 500 meters through a tight channel I had to paddle like a demon just to make a tiny bit of progress. After a grueling session I made it through (with a few blisters and dead-tired arms and shoulders) to the open area of the lake, and shored up to an island for a drone shot before heading back to the camp. After relaxing with some fun games, beers and food, we fell asleep the the soothing sounds of crickets, the not-so-soothing sounds of coyotes in the distance, and the occasional splash of fish breaching the water to snag some yummy gnats.