In 1992 Steve and Lisa Pointer canoed the entire length of the Columbia River.
Not sure where the idea came from, but it developed around the notion that a voyage like this was possible. We didn’t have any canoeing experience. The river--the mighty Columbia--was slowed by 14 dams and not raging and wild, but doable for us.
We learned that the right beginnings, even if small, can lead to great results. The Columbia starts at Columbia Lake, just north of Cranbrook, BC. It starts tiny--an innocent creek rippling through a golf course--then sweetly wanders north through the Rockies for a couple hundred miles. It gradually collects power from tributaries, and by the time it reaches Astoria, 1250 miles later, it’s a few miles wide at the widest point and a major shipping channel. Lloyd’s of London rates the Columbia River bar as the third most hazardous river entrance on earth.
We learned to appreciate small achievements, like how far we came in a day and what we learned: how to paddle together, how to set up the tent in the wind, how to make a good cup of tea, how to read water and how to smell weather. The river became personalized, a being with moods and depths, struggles and joys. We learned that we could easily do without the usual amenities of living, that the river could be our home, and was, in fact, home to many beings. We learned that in addition to being husband and wife, we were best friends.
We appreciated the kindness of others. Many people helped us during our trip, from family members who found us stranded by a storm to friends met us on the river and kept us encouraged. We found that most people were attracted to this journey and that their heart yearned to do something similar.