Editor’s note: Chronicle reporter Eric Schwartz and photographer Brandon Swanson are continuing a weeklong kayak trip down the Chehalis River from Rainbow Falls State Park in West Lewis County to Grays Harbor.
Wednesday: As Seinfeld’s George Costanza might say, the river was angry today, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.
Our impending arrival in Grays Harbor was preceded today by an inbound Chehalis River, as we passed the junction of the Satsop River and began to fall victim to the tidal influence of the Pacific Ocean.
At 3 p.m., near high tide, the waters of the Chehalis were high and tumultuous. A prevailing afternoon wind beat back our kayaks as the incoming water from the Pacific made paddling an extreme chore.
For three hours we moved forward at a crawling pace. Minor backaches gave way to full-fledged pain as the sun beat down on us and we struggled to paddle against the splashes at the noses of our kayaks. While just a day ago we could allow the current alone to push us forward, we were now being pushed back each time we paused for a breather.
It was that kind of day on the Chehalis River, as we near our final destination in the harbor and prime ourselves for a morning run to Hoquiam.
We began the day in Porter, where the kind staff of the local tavern allowed us to type up our nightly reports and edit a day’s worth of photos.
After waking early, we moved down the river without seeing a soul, though the wildlife was in heavy supply. Two beavers swam across the river in front of us, and near continuous sightings of bald eagles, osprey and owls kept us occupied as we churned past Elma en route to Montesano.
About halfway between the two cities, we met three fishermen on a motorized boat, attempting to remove their line from a snag as they fished for sturgeon. They were the only people we saw on the river today.
Aberdeen residents Ron and Jim Snider, along with their friend Dick Herman, were having no luck on the river as of early afternoon. They said fishing on the river is either hot or cold. On this day it appeared to be cold.
The trio kindly talked with us, answered our questions and allowed us to snap a few photographs. They pointed and said Montesano was just three or four miles down the river.
Their estimation put a skip in our paddling, as we planned to camp just past Montesano. After several more hours of paddling against a seemingly reversible Chehalis River, though, optimism gave way to exhaustion.
Still, we are once again anxious to attack the river. We spent the entire day getting within striking distance of Hoquiam, well past the river’s convergence into the harbor and the decided-upon conclusion of our journey.
Just one day left. After six days we are nearing our destination. The smell of saltwater is wafting through the air as we set up camp for the night.
Soon the Chehalis River Journey will come to an end.
Eric Schwartz: (360) 807-8245
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