Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Im Experiencing the Columbia !!!


I have just completed the first 600 miles, marking the halfway point of the trip.


Follow our progress with google maps, and join in on the journey at www.thecolumbiaexperience.com which will have daily position updates, photos, journal entries, and video.

This trip is an effort to raise awareness of energy use, and current global hydro development. Which ultimately effects the health of our planet, and you.
Come join the experience!!!
Here is a link to the wenatchee world which ran an article on the trip.
The Wenatchee World

Heres an update from yours truly!! Enjoy.

I have arrived in Kenewick, WA. 300 and change miles from the coast.
It has been an amazing journey, and has been everything i thought it would be and more. The weather has been brutal until the last 4 or so days, very cold, and even though i have Kokatats newest expedition dry suit, staying warm has been my greatest challenge. Since parting ways with Ryan Scott in Fauwker, BC. Paul and i have stayed together as a loose team. We have completely different crafts which challenge us in unique ways. I am paddling a 17 foot expedition sea kayak, thanks to Next Adventure. Paul is rowing an 18 foot cater raft donated by Sotar rafts. My kayak is very fast but uncomfortable for long periods of time for i can barely move inside it. The boat is packed so tightly i have 2 full dry bags in the cockpit with me along with my water bottles and tent poles which froze outside my boat for the first 16 days. Paul has lots of room, and is high and dry, but is at the mercy of the wind. This last single factor has dictated the pace of out trip.
The First two weeks are a blur of Brutal cold, jaw dropping scenery and wildlife which sometimes left me spellbound for days. I have enjoyed endless solitude for i spent very little time in the presence of anybody except my own mind. When i did meet up with Paul we would speak little for the sound of our voices seemed a foreign thing in this world. Our plan was to paddle 20 to 25 miles a day. This is a reasonable if not easy task in a sea kayak, if not for the winter conditions. But this scedule has proven to be grueling in a cater raft. I paddle from 9 in the morning till 5 or 6 in the afternoon taking a break sometime for lunch, usually as i pass Paul. The wind blows during the day growing stronger towards the afternoons so paul paddles whenever the conditions or his body let him. There were a bunch of days when he would be miles behind me when i set up camp right before dark. The next day i would set out and wind up catching him at around noon the next day. I would find out he had slept for a few hours huddled on the floor of his raft. Or camped on a rocky beach waiting for the wind to stop, and continuing on. We came to Grand Coulee dam at the end of the second week. It would be the first of 7 dams that had no locks and would require a portage. The only dam we had passed so far was keenleyside Dam at the end Of the Arrow Lakes in BC, and It had a lock . I arrived at Grand Coulee half a day ahead of Paul, for i sprinted the last day wanting to find a ride for the raft before Paul got there. I ended up meeting the owner of the local paper, Scott Hunter at Pepper Jacks the local diner. Scott spent the entire day helping us find a trailer to portage the dam with on the quiet Saturday. We got back to the water at 6pm and headed downstream with a mild current. Our goal was to get 45 miles downstream by the following afternoon. We were hoping to catch a fisherman leaving Chief Joseph reservoir, who would help us around the dam that afternoon. The next 24 hours Paul slept maybe 3 hours and rowed all 45 miles. We didn't get to the boat ramp till after dark due to a brutal headwind that stopped us in sight of the dam. The fisherman had left, but we still felt like we had made a huge dent in this endless journey. Paul was exhausted and I made him dinner for he was to tired to crunch down some dry ramin noodles and gorp which had been his staple till this point. I was blown away he even made it this far. I had paddled hard well into the night before, and all day fighting a constant headwind. To my amazement Paul would have beaten me there had it not been for the gale force winds that forced him to stop. He had long ago earned my respect, but after this I determined he was one of the toughest people I know. It would have been a big feat to do this on any day. But to get it done after two weeks of exhausting paddling, and painful tendinitis in his right forearm. This was a feat few could muster. My hat was off to him and a hot dinner was the least I could do for him.

The next morning the local ranger threatened both of us with citations for we were camped on the lawn next to the boat ramp. We were lucky enough to score a ride with a local fisherman Ken Schroeder, so we wouldnt need to camp another night. He was in his 70s and had lived in the area all his life. He remembered life on the river before the dams and thought it a hell of a feat we were trying to achieve. He even gave the ranger a hard time, for he felt it was the rangers responsibility to portage us around the dam for it was the state who had put the dam here in the first place. He posed for a picture with his high strung little dog for me before he drove off from the boat ramp below the dam. We put in and paddled down the river appreciating the current that carried us downstream for free.
The next week continued in similar fashion. The dams continued to be a major obstacle but proved to be an opportunity to meet some amazing people. I have learned that people are truly kind at heart and will go far out of there way to lend a helping hand to someone in need. Without there help we would be rolling my 200lb of gear and Paul's 400lb of gear around every dam with our 1 set of wheels. A task that would have been crushing at best. We were getting super lucky finding rides and wound up getting to Wenachee almost a week ahead of schedule. At random i ran into another newspaper. Mike Bonnickson, from the Wenachee World. He took full interviews with Paul and I and put together a great article articulating our journey and mission. I feel I have been as lucky as one could get. The 3 times I have stopped for more than enough time to sleep and move on, I ran into two newspapers. This exposure was all I could hope for, for awareness is all I seek.
I camped with Paul on the night of the 19Th just south of Wenachee. Paul was sick from eating spoiled tofu burgers, and was happy to wait till 5pm the next day for he had secured a ride around the Rock Island dam. He looked like he needed some rest. I had also found a ride around Rock island dam from a fisherman I had met, Dale Ward. It was at 9am in the morning. We talked about it and concluded I would go ahead and meet up with Chris Bolkan, which was our oasis on this trip where we could shower and resupply. We had planned to paddle the Hanford Reach with a group of paddlers starting on the on Friday the 27th, So Paul had a week to go 60 miles. With only 2 dam portages 1 of which I could borrow a truck and help with if need be. This would be a chance for Paul to rest his sore arm and take it easy. It was also a chance for me to get on a computer and let everybody know that we were alive and well and truly having the experience of our lives. It is Monday the 23rd and it appears that we will pick up Paul late this afternoon or early tomorrow morning, and bring him to Chris's where he can clean up and enjoy the hot tub overlooking the river. It will be a long awaited and hard earned treat.

Here is a list of the people who portaged me around the dams.
Without there help i would still be hiking and paddling today.
Many more people helped with information on portage routes, and Boat ramp locations. As well as simple friendly conversation and intrigue. All of which has made the trip what it has become so far.

Grand Coulee, Scott Hunter
Chief Joseph, Ken Schroeder
Wells, Jerry McKinney
Rocky Reach,Dan Jester
Rock Island, Dale Ward
Wanapum, Keel Brightman Rubber Express
Priest Rapids, Scott Harris



It has been an amazing journey so far.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will be with you every day Keel. Your site is my home site where I will perch myself waiting to hear where you are. I hope that all who journied with me around the world sailing will join my son, Keel, on this fantastic important journey. I love you Keel, way beyond a mother's love, but as an individual in this world I so highly respect with envy. Biggest Hugs and good luck. My energy will focus on your 'little ship' and those of your companions all through the days. Please, just beware the cold, that it doesn't creep up on you...silly of me to say, as you are the most careful person I know...but xooxoxoxo Captain Donna Lange, Keel's Mom.

Anonymous said...

Incredible writing Keel. I can't wait to hold you and hug you...kiss your cheeks and congratulate you. keep on Keepin on, hun.... xooxoxo big hugs xoxo mom

Keel and Cooper, Brightman said...

well i watched out for the cold but it got me anyways. but it didnt kill me so in theory it made me stronger. if nothing else i know that shivering does work as long as you eat allot of food. i have 2 new loves of my life... my stove and my sleeping bag. thank you next adventure!! i would have froze in my old sleeping bag. the Down one you donated was awsome!!