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A Cool Retreat

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

kgw.com

Posted on August 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM

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If mid-summer heat waves get you down, perhaps it's time for a cool retreat!

This week's Grant's Getaway promises a refreshing escape as Grant goes aboard a small boat on a huge river.

He says it's the sort of adventure that may leave you feeling a million miles away from the city hubbub and noise in a sea kayak on the Columbia River.

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Trying something new and risky takes courage, but if you're convinced that it's right for you, the risk can often pay off with unique adventures.

Safety is everything when Steve Gibons, owner of Scappoose Bay Kayaking, gathers paddlers together on the dock at Scappoose Bay Marina.

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Chris McOmie and I joined Steve, his wife, Bonnie, and a half dozen other adventurers for a daylong kayaking excursion.

The first step: we slid into the cozy confines of the small cockpits of a smooth sided 14-foot long tandem sea kayak.

We listened intently as Steve explained a basic rule of kayak recreation: First, a reassuring fact: more people tip over at the dock than any other place on the water - either getting in or out."

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Many of our fellow paddlers were like us - relative newcomers to the recreation and to this stretch of Multnomah Channel at Scappoose Bay.

It's a place where tide and weather can change in a heartbeat.

But on this gentle summer's day, the bay and the nearby Columbia River were smooth and calm, so no need for us to worry.

Instead, we used our time to practice the basic forward and reverse paddle strokes that Steve taught us - paddle strokes that we would soon put to good use.

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"We're going to paddle out of Scappoose Bay and down the channel," explained Gibons, the lead guide for our afternoon paddle trip: "Our ultimate goal will be the northern end of Sauvie Island and a beautiful little area called Cunningham Slough. Remember, this is not an Olympic event - it's all about taking our time and enjoying the wildlife that's in the bay itself."

Finding a comfort zone on the glassy water came easy on a day that was filled with summer's glory - clear skies, a gentle breeze and outgoing tide to ease our downriver journey.

More importantly, our small group of paddlers seemed to have the river all to ourselves on a stretch of Columbia River backwater that's largely overlooked by most folks.

Steve explained that summertime low water conditions kept the motorboat crowd off this area of water:

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"Since sea kayaks draw only four inches of water, we have easy access into tiny bays and sloughs - it provides a unique opportunity to see many different wildlife species like herons, eagles, osprey and black tail deer."

Bonnie Gibons is also a partner in the decade-old kayak rental and touring company.

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She explained: "Unless you get out into nature, you can't experience it. Kayaking is the best way to experience wildlife because we are so quiet and can slowly paddle our way up close."

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Fellow paddler, Randy Wiltgen, agreed and offered that there are hundreds of miles of watery trails across the Portland area - plus, many more miles along the coast - protected from wind and bad weather:

"You often feel like you're a million miles away from people and yet you're not! And you see so much that you never see from shore - so many wildlife species allow you to get really close. It's exciting!"

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It is certainly that - and much more - a time and place where nature's touch restores your soul.

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