The dams calmed the Columbia. They didn’t stop the wind that whips its surface. The water was choppy when we launched near Marcus, 40 miles south of the Canadian border, and steered into the river channel. Away from shore, the boat rolled gently over the swells.
But as the wind grew stronger, the inflatable boat slammed into whitecaps that sent water over the bow by the bucketful.
The spray mixed with grit blowing off Chalk Bluff to leave our faces muddy.
We were soaked, shivering and scared when we turned into a cove, where we set up the tent and wormed into sleeping bags to wait out the storm.
We left our gear when the pretzels ran out, and hiked a mile through wet forest and alfalfa fields to the Rice store. With the help of locals, we met Joe, a retired cop staying in the house closest to the river.
Joe - he never said his last name and never asked ours - helped us retrieve our boat, and let us spread our wet gear on the covered porch.
We ate from his grill and garden, then slept in the front room, waking occasionally to hear rain on the metal roof.
“Most people around here are pretty nice,” said Joe.