I almost missed my chance to kayak the White Salmon River before it
changed forever. After dropping off the kids at school, packing, making
last-minute phone calls and sending last-minute emails, I left the house
an hour later than planned. With a five-hour drive and only the
afternoon of a late October day ahead of me, I had almost given up on
the idea of paddling before my trip even started.
I had my boat with me, though, and I wanted to get on the river if I could. So I was heavy on the pickup's gas as I dropped from the freeway onto the state highway that follows the Washington side of the Columbia River and headed west.
I expected the river country to look the way it did the first time I saw it, frozen in a present tense as static as a story in the pages of a book. Of course, no landscape keeps still. Windmills twirled on what I remembered as empty hillsides, and wine grapes sprouted where I recalled only cheatgrass and sagebrush. Slowing to drive through the town of Roosevelt, I noticed a new spec-house subdivision.