Monday morning was clear and sunny in Corvallis, Oregon. When this reporter arrived at the Crystal Lake Boat Ramp about 8:30 am there was an expectation that there would simply be a group of people putting their craft in the water and unassumingly paddle their way down the Willamette River.
So much for faulty expectations. Paddle Oregon is certainly every bit the challenge one might want. What I did see was a well oiled machine, Willamette Riverkeepers , with Travis Williams and Kate Ross moving about with great precision and clear focus on what they had to do to get the 175 people on their way on a five day journey down the Willamette River.
The level of excitement grew by the minute with paddlers and their families gathering their gear and organizing their thoughts on how they would navigate the river and prepare themselves for what is sure to be a momentus week.
With the arrival of two charter buses one could only watch with amazement as the 80 or so passengers disembarked, to join others already assembled, with looks on their faces as if they were kids going to camp. I for one was envious that I was not one of them.
I found my conversation with Travis Williams from Willamette Riverkeeper to be inspiring as well as educational. Travis shared with me the fact that this trip was the 11th time that this has happened. Both cultural and educational opportunites would be afforded to the participants. The concept is to bring people to the River to get an understanding of how to preserve habitat and wildlife for future generations.
The cost for the week was $595 which includes food, nightly organized activites, safety personnel and gear where necessary.
While roaming around chatting with some of the canoeists I came upon George Hutchinson who requested my assistance in offloading his craft. My conversation with George Hutchinson was interesting. He would act as the "sweeper boat", picking up any stragglers that either had equipment or fatigue problems. George invited me to go along to Albany, Oregon, the first day's destination. My first impulse was to say "Yes", but unfortunately I was not prepared to take advantage of the invite.
Two of the entrants in the Paddle Oregon excursion were from the Confederated Tribes of Oregon, Chinook, Grand Ronde and Coquille Tribes. There was a short educational presentation and traditional song just prior to the start of the day.
The paddlers were put into "Pods" of about a dozen or so and had "pod leaders". The sounds eminating from the group just prior to getting into the River made me think I was at a summer camp with hundreds of excited children.
The age range was from the young to some that were in my bracket, seniors. It seemed to me that the seniors were the most excited to get going, or maybe it was just me wishing I were one of them.
The planned stops are day one Bryant Park in Albany, day two Chatoe Rogue Farm and Brewery in Independence, Day three Willamette Mission State Park near Salem and finally Champoeg Park Near Newberg, Oregon. The journey will end when the canoes will leave the Willamette River at Clackamette Park in Oregon City on Friday.
The five day and four night trip will total just over 100 river miles. The evenings activities promise to be as much fun as the trip on the river. This type of vacation is one that we all need to do.