The Second Attempt: [Part 1 of 3]

So, clearly it’s been a few days since we tried this thing again. I didn’t write an entry immediately, mostly because I was sleeping. SO TIRED. And then I didn’t write an entry because the task seemed daunting, and with all the “picnic-ing” I was suddenly I bit behind on the rest of life. And THEN I didn’t write an entry because I was trying to process the whole thing, and felt like it would do well with a little space. FINALLY, I really want to make a video but I haven’t yet. I had some technical difficulties (now resolved) but since I’m obviously not getting to that quite yet, I figured I should write things down for the time being.

So now, a couple weeks later, here we are. We’ll do this in three parts. So, to start, let’s travel back to Thursday, May 30th, shall we?


All our support was set up for the first attempt, and many of those people weren’t able to swing taking time off work a second week in a row (this is where, again, I’m immensely grateful for my wonderful, wonderful employers). This meant that we’d be self supporting the trip (ie: managing our own gear). So, to do this, we needed to stage some gear.

It all started at noon on Thursday when we both drove up in separate cars to Timberline Lodge. There we dropped my car with skis, boots, climbing gear, and extra food.

Then I jumped into Paul’s car and we headed into Hood River. Some fascinating clouds developed overhead on the way, including some larger cumulonimbus clouds (thunderheads).

And while the wind was relatively calm on the mountain, about 15mi out of Hood River is started picking up. As we crested over the hill looking down to the river, we saw a large swath of wind surfers already out on the water.

Not exactly the ideal start, but one we were prepared for.


Thankfully, our friend Dan was amazingly able to join us again for the swim. While we technically didn’t need him in the water, it was really nice to know that there was someone watching out for us should anything go wrong.

We had spent the last week contemplating how to “solve” the swim puzzle. We now truly knew the strength of the current, the issue with the Hood River, and the how far the wind surfers roamed. Upon a lot of consideration, we made a new plan (click the image for a larger, clearer view):

We dropped Paul’s car at the Best Western, and hitched a ride with Dan over to our new starting point down the road.

We were fortunate to start off from a beach, complete with a bit of a shallow, protected area. It was definitely a little daunting to think about attempting this thing again knowing what a challenge it was the week before. But, we were hopeful about the adjusted course and determined to give it another try.

View from Dan’s kayak

The start was promising, with Paul and I staying close together for the first bit. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds, and we kept a steady pace out to our first stop. There was a spit that jutted out near a shipping area. The goal was to reach that bit of land. In worst case scenario, that was technically Washington and we could check off the swim. If there was no shipping traffic, we could continue on to touch the slightly farther shore. In good time we arrived at that first stop and, feeling good, made our way around the shipping entrance and to the far shore.

Upon further reflection, it’s probably not an area I’d swim in again. I imagine the water was not particularly clean nor the bottom of the river clear from debris. Nonetheless, we made it!

We stopped for a brief celebration, knowing the harder part was still to go. We’d also heard a clap of thunder, so we took a few minutes to evaluate the weather. Thankfully, the storm seemed to be far out. After a few minutes to split a bar and stretch, we dove back into the water.

This time, we had given ourselves more leeway to be moved by the current. Again, the first few hundred yards felt good as we approached the shipping lane. But by the time we were nearing the middle of the channel, the current was in full force. The bridge was clearer getting closer and closer with every stroke, but thankfully (unlike last time) it was clear we were also moving closer and closer to Oregon.

On each leg of the swim, I had turned against the current a bit harder than Paul, causing me to consistently come into shore a little closer than he did. Thinking I shouldn’t work quite so hard this time, I let me guard down a little and swim a bit more with the current (knowing we were aiming at an angle).

The water was a bit choppy. Nothing to speak of from a boating perspective, but as a swimmer I definitely found myself getting tossed around a bit:

As I neared the Oregon shore, I realized I was off my mark. I quickly turned head on into the current to fight for the last couple hundred yards. It felt a bit like swimming on a treadmill, but slowly, eventually, I neared the dock. Paul had aimed slightly better and had already made it, collapsing onto the dock with a calf cramp. Dan stuck by me as I finished the last bit, and I won’t lie – it was incredibly tempting to ask for a tow!

But we made it! Totally elated and kind of exhausted. The cold, choppy swim definitely took a lot out of us. I said to Paul, “If we do nothing else today, I’m so proud of what we just accomplished”. And it’s true. Swimming across the Columbia was a feat for a non-swimmer like me. I’m super proud of this!

But hitting the Oregon shore also meant that it was time to dry off, fuel up, and start the second leg of the adventure. We weren’t in a rush, and spent a few minutes drying off, changing clothes, and even laying in the grass:

We also had a little mini picnic — this WAS called The Picnic after all!

It was now 6:30 PM, and we were ready for the next phase!

Author: cartwheelsandcake

Cyclist, climber, hiker, trail runner, back country skier, dabbling mountaineer Lover of cake, chocolate, brownies, and sweets. Excellent napper.

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