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Voyage of a Summer Sun

Canoeing the Columbia River

Robin Cody

Publication Year: 2012

“The story is the Columbia River, not the canoe and me, but I’ve learned that friends can’t hear me tell about the river until they know why I was out there. This is not an adventure story, though some adventure was unavoidable, and I didn’t set out to find myself if I could help it. Nor did I launch the trip with a large point to prove. It was a voyage of discovery, and its telling is the uncovering of surprise on a river I thought I knew…” —Robin Cody, from the prologue

On a June morning in 1990, high up in the Canadian Rockies, Robin Cody pushed his sixteen-foot Kevlar canoe through tall grass and mud to launch it on peaceful Columbia Lake, the nominal source of the river that heaves more water into the Pacific ocean than any other in North or South America. For the next eighty-two days, Cody would portage massive dams and revel in the rapids as the great river plunges 2,700 feet in 1,200 miles before reaching the river’s mouth in Astoria.

Cody’s canoe sneaks up on the bear and moose and raptors and beavers who make a living on the Columbia. He drops in on riverpeople: the trapper, the wind surfer, the archeologist, the lock operator, the native woman who grew up at riverside in a dwelling of tule reeds. With a generous and infectious spirit, Cody draws us into the mysteries of a much-altered and regulated river that is still, at heart, a life-giving place.

This first OSU Press edition of Voyage of a Summer Sun—winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award and the Oregon Book Award, and an Oregon State Library choice for “150 Books for the Oregon Sesquicentennial”—includes a new afterword by the author.

Published by: Oregon State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Acknowledgment

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Prologue: Where Things Come From

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pp. 3-12

A water skipper skates a shallow pool on six little pads of surface tension, and you have to remember that what you're seeing is not the water skipper but the shadow of the water skipper on the pebbled bottom of the pool...

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1. Headwaters to Golden: The River Awakening

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pp. 13-30

Summer comes late to Columbia Lake. The headwaters lie 220 miles north of Spokane, Washington, on the other side of the Canadian Rockies from Calgary, higher on the globe than New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Because the infant Columbia River flows another 200 miles north from...

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2. Golden to Redgrave Canyon: Bear-Scare and Water-Fright

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pp. 31-46

The river ran high and swift and mud-green to Golden. Glad for my life on the Columbia so far, I wheeled into a man-made lagoon by the airstrip and pulled the canoe ashore. Donna was going to meet me here Saturday, but I'd arrived Friday. Rather than lug the gear or hitch a ride...

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3. Kinbasket Lake: He Saw What Was Coming

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pp. 47-66

The story they tell about Kinbasket Lake, the reservoir behind Mica Dam, has these innocent fishermen trolling the lake when a tree busts loose from the lake bed. A whole tree, with no warning, comes whooshing from the bottom...

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4. Mica to Revelstoke: Loon, Rain, and Oompah Music

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pp. 67-82

The shore kept curving left, and I turned the Big Bend-the Columbia River's northernmost probe-on Friday, June 29. To my right lay wide-open water. Deep below rested the site of the fur traders' Boat Encampment, at the former junction of the Wood and Columbia Rivers...

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5. Arrow Lake: This Is Why You Do It

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pp. 83-100

The Columbia River flowed swift but without rapids below Revelstoke Dam and swirled into a big eddy called Big Eddy, half a mile in diameter, before it spun out, eastward, and coursed under a pair...

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6. Free-Flowing River: Keep the Wet Side Down

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pp. 101-118

After Bowman Creek, I came from wilderness back into the world. A lawn mower wafted a smell of fresh-cut grass from a spread of new homes at Deer Park. Over the hills, tankerplanes droned in wide circles...

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7. Lake Roosevelt: We Were the People

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pp. 119-136

Below the narrow slot of The Little Dalles, current was a mere echo of river expiring, with weaker and wider swirls into Lake Roosevelt. The river still moved, but it had to show me where it was. A light trailing breeze matched the current, so the part that was moving moved...

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8. Grand Coulee: A Man Has No Idea

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pp. 137-154

There was nothing on earth to compare it to. Grand Coulee Dam was the biggest assault of man on nature in the thenhistory of the world. For seven thousand years the planet had spun unburdened by any man-made object larger than the Great Pyramid at Giza...

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9. Change a Big River: Rattlesnake, Milfoil, and Carp

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pp. 155-172

It's impossible, not just illegal, to launch a canoe at the base of Grand Coulee Dam. The river roils from the penstocks into a narrow channel between steep rock banks. So Ben Seibold drove me two miles downstream to a boat launch where the river ran swift but flat...

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10. 'Nchiawana, Columbia: We Live in Two Worlds

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pp. 173-192

It's easy to forget what you came for. Eighty-two days on a river, the river shows you only what it is right now, right here. If you're looking for a big thing...

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11. Hanford: Nobody Knew What We Were Making

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pp. 193-210

When a big river slams through narrow canyons, swift current flushes grit and gravel on through. Only the larger piecesboulders and rock shelves-stay put, and you'll look long and hard for a quiet pool, a sandy beach. But when the river escapes its confining walls and spreads...

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12. Turning for Home: This Is Our Mother, This Country

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pp. 211-228

The Columbia River leaves the Tri-Cities as if headed for Texas, southeast, but then it sniffs the Pacific Ocean and starts a slow fifty-mile bend toward Wallula Gap and into the Columbia River Gorge-Oregon on the left, Washington on the right. More rivers-the Yakima...

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13. East Gorge: Still in the Brown Country

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pp. 229-244

On the third day at the Walla Walla River, the wind still howled and trees swayed. An eighty-one-year-old small-motor repairman brought his wheelchair to water's edge, caught and kept bluegills and threw back small...

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14. Celilo: She Who Watches

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pp. 245-264

The wind shut me down early the next day. Between two fingers of brittle rock on the Washington shore, a sand beach rose into low dunes with waist-high snakegrass. Snakegrass, mashed under the tent floor...

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15. The Urban Waterway: To a Clearing in the Wilderness

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pp. 265-282

A long time ago, when the mountains were people, a stone bridge arched the river and mountains could pass from one side to the other. Coyote, making the world ready, came up the river and found a terrible...

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16. The Pull of Tide: So Big and So Soon

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pp. 283-302

From Portland the Columbia turns north, accepts the Willamette River and climbs the map to find a dogleg left through the final barrier--the Coast Range-to the sea. The Coast Range parallels the...

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An Afterword

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pp. 303-308

Twenty-plus years have passed , and the Columbia River has changed. The way people see and relate to the river has also changed, and mostly for the better. Now comes an opportunity to change the text in this new edition of Voyage . It's tempting . I'd be more optimistic in some places...


E-ISBN-13: 9780870716621
E-ISBN-10: 087071662x
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716614
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716611

Page Count: 308
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Northwest Reprints

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