A view while driving into the area at dusk

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. 

me before coffee
me after coffee
a quick hike around the area

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.

best. free. campsite...EVER!
lost lake
an egret trying to be all sneaky like