and now i'm really tired
We left *early* Friday morning. We drove to down to Wallace Marine Park in Salem and when we had all assembled we packed up 6 kayaks with three days worth of food and camping supplies and off we went. We started out with a nice, leisurely paddle through quickish water in a gorgeous part of the Willamette. There were tons of islands and sloughs to paddle up and explore and the banks of the river were full of herons and osprey, we even saw a few bald eagles.
Eventually we met up with our other two kayakers who weren't able to get out of work that morning and who had planned to catch up with us downriver. They were waiting at another park, so we docked there and filled the rest of our water bottles (this was the last water gathering spot) and used actual toilets for the last time, then we were off again.
The rest of the day's paddle was more vigorous. The water was moving slower and we wanted to reach our camping spot early enough to set up before dark, so we had to kick it up a notch. We ended up camping on this sweet little sandy island and eating an incredible meal (potatoes, corn on the cob and bbq'ed chicken), then we all sat around staring at the fire and zoning out.
It helps to know that this is a group of older women. I drag down the curve at 32. The next up from me is 39 and at the top end we've got two women who are 62. But they're very young 62's and you'd never guess they were that old by looking at them. And I should tell you, this is the perfect group for me. They're all sweet, they're not competitive, they just want to have a nice, smooth paddle and enjoy the serenity of nature. I love it.
However, don't think they're not fiesty. One of the 62 year old's snuck herself a pot brownie and didn't tell anybody. Then Kara, the unofficial leader of the group, whipped out a sport bottle filled with 100 year old tequila and went around the group squirting shots down people's throats. I'd never done a tequila shot before and I'm proud to say that my first one was 100 year old tequila shot down my throat out of a sport bottle held by an awesome dyke on a kayaking trip. That's the kind of shot you'll always remember.
The next day was more of the same, a more steady paddle through slower water, but still gorgeous and fun. At our lunch stop we ate burritos and passed around a bowl out of which we shared premade (weak) margaritas. Then we walked across the island to a still, deep slough and played in the water awhile. It couldn't have been sweeter.
We had a harder time finding a good campsite the second night. The last island was pretty rocky and we ended up on a funny little slip of bank opposite the end of the island, right across from what was evidently a landing strip for small planes b/c we kept seeing them land and take off, right there in our laps. It wasn't annoying at all, just entertaining and bizarre. I cut my legs all up thrashing through the undergrowth and dragging dead trees out for firewood. There was more tequila, spaghetti for supper, lots of staring at the fire and telling stories and listening to the bullfrogs across the way. It was really awesome.
Day three was all too short. The paddle was the hardest and it was over way too soon. We docked around 3:30 in Champoeg State Park (at least 40 river miles from where we started), dragged all the boats up this very steep, very long hill to the parking area, and then I was elected to sit with the boats while all the women were shuttled back to their cars in Salem.
This might have been my favorite part of the whole trip, actually. I sat amid all those gorgeous boats in a little squatty lawn chair, finally all by myself, free to go inside my head and think and not worry about anybody else. I sat with my journal and jotted down lots of little trip details so I wouldn't forget and then suddenly I remembered that there was one Black Butte Porter left in a cooler that we hadn't managed to drink the night before. Ahhh, sweet, sweet Black Butte Porter! All mine!!
It was perfect, really, Sipping that sweet, dark beer, sitting there on top of that hill looking down to the river and the valley below, the rise on the other side, all the trees, the blue sky full of puffy clouds. I couldn't have been happier.
After about an hour, the ladies all showed back up and we loaded the boats onto cars and headed back to town. We were all so sad it was ending, we decided to go out for dinner and beer before actually splitting up, so we caravaned out to McTarnahan's Brewing Company over in the NW, the same place we went after the Sauvie Island paddle a couple weeks ago. I ordered and completely devoured a half pound bacon blue cheese burger -- it was the biggest burger I have every completely eaten in my life. The whole table was amazed.
Then I went home and that was that. I still feel like I'm moving on water. I have a few blisters on my hands and some new muscles in places I didn't know muscles could grow. And I'm just wondering how I have lived my life this long without kayaking and I'm trying to figure out how I can keep doing it every single day forever. Because that's how awesome it is.