Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: August 2021

Betsy Kayaks the Lower Columbia River

My 7th Road Scholar Trip

Four Days of Kayaking and Hiking Wahkiakum County Washington


The first week in August, Mike held down the fort in Morgantown while I set out to go kayaking in Washington state. This is the story of my adventure.

Thanks, Mike, and thanks too for your patience in helping me put together this web page!

P.S. For more pictures, remember to click on the link at the end of the article.


August 1-6 2021
Betsy Kayaks the Lower Columbia River

Skamokawa resort

I had a great kayak trip on the Columbia River. It was through Road Scholar (formerly Elder Hostel) and was my seventh trip with them over the past ten years. I was originally scheduled for this particular adventure in July of 2020, but the trip was cancelled due to Covid. I immediately rescheduled for 2021 and on August 1st I was on my way.

I flew into Portland OR and took the Columbia River Kayaking Company shuttle to the tiny town of Skamokawa WA. Here's a trick for remembering how to say the town's name. "Your way, my way, Ska mock' away." The internet says the name means 'smoke on the water' in the Chinook tongue, but our guides said there is absolutely no linguistic evidence of that. Fake news! However, there apparently was a Chief Skamokawa who lived in the area at one time.

Not everyone arrived by plane and shuttle. Some folks from nearby states had chosen to drive. One woman who came all the way from Honolulu Hawaii had flown into Seattle and taken the train up to Portland. We all got checked into our rooms and I was pleased to discover I had a nice view of the water .

shot_from_my_the_ window_of_my_room

There were twelve participants - ten women and two men - and two guides. We had long, slim sea kayaks with rudders. Mine was a Necky Eliza - lime green. We were fitted to our kayaks, set our footrests to the right length and were given skirts, life jackets and paddles. And every morning before we headed out, one of the guides would spider check my boat!

Betsy's boat was spider checked every day

Our guides (Andrew and Kyleen - two of the owners of the Columbia River Kayaking Company) were excellent paddlers and well versed in the flora and fauna of the area. They were also part of a singing group called Skamokawa Swamp Opera and they entertained us two evenings with their songs, some traditional, some written by the group members themselves. My favorite was a song called Coho, written by Andrew about the coho, or silver salmon. To listen, click on this link.

Click the play arrow to hear the song "Coho"
by the Skamokawa Swamp Opera.

We paddled along basalt cliffs, across wide open expanses and through narrow sloughs. We experienced calm waters and choppy and dealt with the tides and the winds.

Boats on the Lower Columbia River

In the shipping channel on the second day we encountered a large vessel heading towards us at a good clip. Andrew yelled "Slant your boat like mine and PADDLE, PADDLE, PADDLE, PADDLE, PADDLE!" We did! and not one of us capsized in the four foot wake.

One day as we paddled, we watched a great aerial display as several ospreys dive bombed a bald eagle again and again. The eagles have a habit of hanging around and stealing the ospreys' catch. I didn't bother to wear my binoculars and didn't have my camera (phone) out much because there wasn't much time to take pictures and it was a bit precarious as well!

We took a day off from paddling and headed out to the coast where we hiked the Coastal Forest Loop Trail among huge Sitka Spruce, went to Waikiki Beach , and found out more about Lewis and Clark than I will ever remember.

Looking at a large Sitka Spruce

One evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner of cedar plank salmon at the Duck Inn, just steps away from our lodging. Our other meals were catered by the Inn but served in a waterfront meeting room at Skamokawa Resort

On our last full day on the water, we all doubled up in two person kayaks. This was suggested for stability in what might have been some choppier than usual water and wind conditions but it also provided us participants with a different paddling experience. And despite the predictions, we had an excellent day with winds picking up just as we were in sight of our docking place.


We had had good weather all week, but the last morning greeted us with rain. We all agreed it made it easier to leave behind our wonderful adventure.
Until the next time, happy paddling!

To see more photos of my trip, click here. Photos included were taken by me and also various members of our group.


Addendum to:
West Virginia's Mushy Weather

Several people had questions about the mushroom photos. With one exception all of the photos were taken at Coopers Rock State Forest on 17 August 2021.
The exception was the pink and brown "Stink Horn" which has been emerging in our yard for over a month now.
No, I was not collecting the mushrooms to eat. I learned my lesson years ago.


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