Sunday, July 22, 2007


It's been some 10 days or so since I got to the Pacific Ocean. The following are some of my thoughts in reflecting back on this journey and answers to questions I've been asked.

1. What did you like best? Without question it would be the people I met. Which also means last year's trip from Washington, DC to Bismarck was the most fun.

2. What about this year? I was anticipating this year's trip to be even better than last, but that was not the case. I had to make way too many adjustments and my mind was not into it.

3. What would you do differently? The only thing I would really do different is without question I would start at Astoria, OR and go from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. When I got home this is one of the first things I heard. Why do you think he went east to west rather than west to east with the prevailing winds? Jokingly they said probably because that was the toughest way to do it: remember, we are talking about Larry Hoff!

Actually, I thought east to west would be the easiest. I thought the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers would be the easiest to go upstream and the Ohio, Snake and Columbia the toughest. As it turned out the Missouri was almost impossible because of the wing dams. The Columbia and Snake by far would have been the easiest to go upstream. Except for the stretch from Astoria on the Columbia to the Bonneville Dam at Cascade Locks the Columbia is basically one lake after another and so was the Snake to Lewiston, ID.

Only change I would have needed to make was starting my bike ride from Lewiston rather than Orofino, ID. The Ohio would have been very manageable at the right time of the year. You would just need to avoid the early spring runoff.

Actually, because of having to do so much of the Missouri from west to east, my trip became almost a west to east adventure after all.

4. What was the equipment you had with you? The big three were:

A. Kruger Canoe. If you are looking into long distance water travel, look at this canoe first.

B. Dahon folding bike: Used for portaging and it worked great for portaging and going over the mountains.

C. Paddleboy Trailer: To my surprise it worked better than expected. Plus it came apart and stored easily in the canoe as did the folding bike.

I also used a ZRE paddle that weighed about 7 ounces. (a light paddle is a must).

Other than the above I went very light. Tent, sleeping bag, rain jacket (no rain pants), light jacket, silk long johns (if it got cold at night), bike gloves, life jacket, sandals (only shoes I brought with), cap, sunglasses (bought many pair along the way because I kept losing them), paddled in shorts and t-shirt and pair of hiker pants and shirt for going to town, radio, bike repair kit and bike tubes, first-aid kit, toiletries, plus food and water.

5. What is next? I will bike/paddle from home to Stillwater, MN starting July 30. After that, not sure. I've thought about swimming across the English Channel, but then likely it will be a hike. Maybe in Norway some day.

6. Which of the three adventures did you enjoy most? Hiking the PCT would be first. The beauty and peacefulness of this journey would be hard to match. You can hike with people when
you want and be by yourself. It was also the most demanding physically. The canoe trip was a close second. Especially the first year. The bike ride was the least enjoyable. Maybe because I liked the backcountry more.

7. Would you ever do any of these adventures again? Actually yes, God willing, I definitely
plan on re-hiking the PCT when I'm 70. Maybe do the bike trip again when I'm 75 and the canoe trip at 80.

I still have some clean up work to do on this trip before I can officially say I've paddled from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Plans are to do the Missouri National Wild Scenic portion of the Missouri and Fort Peck Lake either later this fall or most likely next spring. As I mentioned earlier in a journal entry I skipped this part because I want to take my time and enjoy it. Many have told me this section is one of the top recreational paddle trips in the USA. So I plan to do it as such. Take my time (well, as much as I can) and really enjoy it. I brought a fold-up fishing pole with me and never used it, because I was so wrapped up in making time. I plan to use it when I do this section.

Hiking 2,650 some miles across the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington, biking close to 10,000 miles around the perimeter of the USA and then canoeing and bike portaging from the Atlantic to the Pacific...not sure if I should be proud of that or wonder if I'm sane. (DON"T ANSWER THAT!) I guess I should be proud for I'm not sure anyone else has done the three, let alone at age 63. Yet again, who's that foolish?!

The one thing I do know is that there are a lot of nice people in our country. Thanks again to all that helped me out when needed it and I cherish all the new friends I've made.

By the way, if you are looking for a nice place to vacation, Superior/Duluth and the north country of Minnesota and Wisconsin is a great place to put on your agenda someday. Sometimes I wonder why I go off on these trips considering the view we have from our living room.

Note: I will be posting my journey to Stillwater, MN to give those not familiar with Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota some idea of how beautiful and peaceful we have it in this part of the country.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On My Way Home!

July 7th: Jim picked me up in Astoria sometime after 12:30PM on July 7. We loaded everything up and decided to head down the road and get as far as we could, whiched turned out to be Ellensburg, WA about 120 miles east of Seattle. The next day we decided to go down to Yakima, WA to see a minor league baseball game. While I was paddling the last few days, Jim went to Eugene, OR to watch a minor league game and the Yakima team was playing the Eugene team. To Jim's surprise there was a player from Barron, WI playing for Yakima. Barron is where I and Jim are from. I moved to the Minneapolis, MN area after 8th grade. Anyway, Jim wanted to go see him again so we did.

July 8th: Jim and I drove to Livingston, MT with the idea that I would finish paddling Fort Peck Lake and then on to Culbertson, MT where I left off when I decided to move ahead because of river conditions earlier.

July 9th: We were up early and off to a boat landing at the southwest end of Fort Peck Lake. When we arrived I was about to put in and start my paddle when for some reason I turned on the car radio to the local weather channel. I found out that there was a wind advisory for the lake for the next day with winds of 30 miles an hour and gusts to 40. That changed everything, for there was no way I could paddle this vast body of water in those conditions and if I started I could be stranded in the middle of nowhere for days. So I decided to move up to the dam and do the river below the dam to Culbertson. In an earlier journal entry I mentioned I was leaving the river section from Fort Benton to Lake Fort Peck for a later date. Hoping to do that section as a family vacation next year or maybe with a couple of friends this fall. That section of the river is called The National Wild Scenic River and is supposed to be one of the best recreational paddle trips in the USA. I thought this would be a great way to complete this trip - with friends or family. Now I will need to add the lake crossing to that trip. (Finances are also a bit of a concern if I had to wait around now for the weather to be favorable).

Well, I put in below the dam and had a great day. Jim went off to Williston, ND and will be back tomorrow to pick me up. The current was fast, plus I had the strong wind at my back. Just a real enjoyable day of paddling, actually day and late evening for I did not quit until after dark, making camp on a nice island somewhere between Poplar, MT and Brockton, MT. Only down side to the day (which really was not a downside), but this part of the river twists and turns all the way to Williston. I like to go in a straight line and many times I was paddling 5 miles in one direction only to come back at 180 degrees and be within a quarter mile of where I just paddled.

July 10th: I was on the water by 6:30 leaving my last campsite of the journey. Man, last campsite. It seems just like yesterday I stopped at my first campsite along the Potomac River. I remember back then I was about 3 weeks from knee replacement surgery and having to soak my knee in the river every evening to get the swelling down.

Again I had the strong wind at my back. If I'd have started out yesterday on Fort Peck Lake I'd be sitting on some shoreline right now going nuts. Glad I made the decision I did.

Funny, knowing this is my last day I had no sentimental thoughts - just paddled and cursed every snake-like turn I made!

I got to the Culbertson bridge in the early afternoon and Jim was there waiting. What a trooper he's been. We were inseperable as kids and now again, here is this old man pretending he's a kid and his friend is there to take care of him, just like he did so many years ago. Thanks, my good friend.

Time to go home. For all practical purposes this journey is over. Funny how this works. Like the PCT hike before and the bike ride around the USA, there's no fanfare, no real sense of joy, no jumping in the air, no high fives. My thoughts are, okay that's over, let's pack up and go home. Strange.... wonder what else is out there that an old guy can do?

NOTE: When I get back home I will reflect on all that's happened. I hope you've enjoyed following along.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

July 6th: Island by Skamokowa to Astoria Bridge

I was up early and just lay around knowing I did not have to hurry this morning. I only have 20 miles - maybe less to go to Astoria. Looks like it's going to be a great day. As of now there is only a breeze, but my plan is to cross over to the Oregon side as soon as possible where the water is shallow and I can work in and out of a number of grass islands almost all the way to Astoria. That way if the wind does come up I will not be out in this vast open water area. (Must be getting just a little smarter. Normally I'd take the straight line approach.)

As I paddled I thought I'd be thinking about all the experiences I've had along the way, but to my surprise, I thought about nothing, just paddled, took some pictures and enjoyed the morning.

Then as I came around the last little bend about 3 miles from Astoria all that changed. As I looked out I saw the Astoria Bridge in the distance, my ending point. On the left was the town of Astoria basically on a hillside. It reminded me of home as it looked like a small Duluth with the high bridge connecting Duluth with my home town of Superior.

I looked off to my right and I saw this seagull land about 10 yards away. I was in a little slack water in this bay and the seagull was out in the strong tide water just floating very fast by me. It seemed as though the seagull was looking right at me and saying, "Hey dummy! Move over here, it's a lot easier!" So I did and for about 5 minutes the seagull and I floated side by side as I gazed at the bridge and the surroundings.

As I gazed ahead it was like everything in about 10 seconds flashed before me. The start way back in Washington DC and how apprehensive I was about the trip. All the great people I met as I worked my way along the Potomac. The crossing of the Appalachian Mountains. Camping with the nice people along the Ohio and Missouri. My friend Bob Maxwell and his wife, Marcia helping me out at Paducah. My friend Jim McIntyre helping along the Missouri and now again he will be meeting me around noon to take me home. My cousin Gary Hoff who got me and my gear to my starting point in Bismarck this year. Then this year, the tipping over on Lake Sakakawea and wanting to quit, only to know I couldn't. The help I got in Williston when my trailer broke. The ride over the Rockies. The Barrazza family in Orofino who kept my gear as I biked over the Rockies. The hassles of the Columbia in the wind surfing areas. All the people that made this possible. Especially Balance Bar, Jeff Foster Trucking and Bass Pro. I thought how much I would once again like to thank them and all the other special people who were there to help me when I needed it most. Then, as I was approaching the bridge thoughts switched to my family and how supportive they've been. My wife LuAnn, sons Dean and Eric, daughter Heidi and grandkids, Devin, Drake, Ryah, Liv, Rory and Lily. GrandPa will be home soon!

The water is starting to get rough. I only have about 200 yards to go and the waves are picking up so my thoughts go back to getting to the bridge before I flip over. I manage to do so. I go directly under the bridge and take a picture straight up at it. Then I swing around a pillar and head over to the shoreline by the Holiday Inn Express motel. As I went by the motel I noticed a small sandy beach and it was the only place I saw where I could land, for everything else along the way was high walls and piers.

As I pulled up there was a man and his boy. They were the first people I met and were kind enough to take a picture in front of my boat. A few minutes later others came down to see what I was doing. Once they found out, they seemed more excited than I. I took a picture of them and they ran back up to get their cameras and did the same. They also were kind enough to help me get my canoe and gear up to a small park next to the motel.

Well, I'm done. Once again I start thinking about all that has happened. (I will write more about this in a later blog) It all started by looking at a sign in the Cascade Mountains years ago on a family trip, which said, " A walk to Mexico" and my wife looking at it and saying, "No, you're not!" That led to walking the Pacific Crest Trail, which led to a bicycle ride around the perimeter of the USA and then this. Even now to me it seems a little amazing. Maybe a little meaningless history for I've not been able to find any information on anyone else doing such. I passed thousands of people having no idea what I'm doing. I'm not even sure many people are reading this journal, but I do hope for those that are and for the many people I did meet, they too follow their dreams. Life is too short not to. I, for one, do not want to sit around waiting for the guy to come cover me over with his shovel! Do you?

Ryan, "WE MADE IT!"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 5th: Fisher Island to an Island west of Skamokowa,WA

What a great evening. Nice sunset and I even woke up to see the finale of the Longview fireworks!

I have less than 60 miles to go! Plans for the day is to get to or just past Skamokowa, WA. Then tomorrow I will have less than 20 miles to Astoria.

What a morning, absolutely no wind and I have the tide again in my favor. By noon I was already at the Cathlamet, WA bridge. This was a little bit sentimental for if the weather was bad I was going to make this my stop. In a few miles I will approach wide open water that if the weather were bad I may not be able to navigate. Not today, there's only a slight chop and I only had about 5 miles of wind area early that I was able to get through with little trouble.

Well, for the 3rd day in a row I stopped early! (Hard to believe, I know) I'm on an island just west of the village of Skamokowa and tomorrow I will have less than 20 miles to go and I will be at the Astoria Bridge, and where the Columbia river opens to the Pacific Ocean. Atlantic to the Pacific...I'll be darned, I think I'm going to make it!

July 4th: St. Helens to Just past Longview, WA

Last night, just before bed I asked Dennis (Dennis really knows this river and gave me a river map and showed me what lies ahead for me) if this wind will continue tomorrow. He said, "No, it normally starts around late afternoon and blows all night, but in the morning it will be calm." Well, I was up and on the river by 6:00 and that wind, well it was still blowing! Good thing was that I could get along the Oregon shore and be a little bit protected, plus I have the tide going out which will help big time.

At about 1o:ooAM I was approaching Kalama, WA when the wind was really getting tough, so I decided to pull over and take a break. There were a number of fishermen along the shore (this time of year they are fishing for steelhead) and I asked one if this wind would die down. He said it usually does soon and then picks back up in the late afternoon.

Well around 12:30 it died down some so I continued on my way. I had only about 10 miles to go until I reach Longview and then I turn west again with the hope the wind will not have as much as an effect as it does now coming straight out of the north. I figure when I turn I will be protected more. Not the case. When I made my turn the wind also decided to turn, it is now out of the west. Paddling was tough so at around 6:30 I decided to stop at Fisher Island and set up camp. Fisher Island is just west of Longview and I figured I still can make it to Astoria on the 6th, plus it was the Fourth of July and I could relax and watch the Longview fireworks.

Time for a quick dip in the river, have dinner and relax for the second day in a row with an early finish to the day!

July 3rd: Camas to St. Helens, Or

Oh, was I looking forward to today, hoping for no wind and I got it. I got up at 5:00. Jim was still sleeping when I left for a walk. When I came back at about 10 minutes to 6:00, Jim was still sleeping so I decided to go down the street to eat at McDonalds. When I got back Jim was still sawing logs so I woke him up by saying, " Half the day is gone - let's get going."

At 7:30 I set off from the Camas Marina saying goodbye to Jim until I reach Asotria which I hope will be on July 6th. Jim has been unbelievable in following me around and always being there whenever I needed him. Now that the dams are over with, I told him go do your own thing for awhile. He agreed so I'm off feeling good that Jim will be able to enjoy himself.

What a great day. No wind to speak of and I have current, plus for most of the late morning and afternoon the tide was going from high to low which means I was picking up more current.

I made it to Portland around noon. As I paddled through I'd see many people walking along the shore or along walkways, plus many boats. There were a number of restaurants along the way with many people sitting out on decks having lunch and taking a glance down as I came back. They, like all along this trip, have no idea what I'm doing and I've often wondered how different this trip would be if they knew what I was doing as I paddled by. Personally, I am glad they do not. I like it just the way it is - that I meet people and they learn personally from me what I doing. Why? Well every time that happens I've gained new friends. I feel I've made many new friends and that has really made this trip.

It was getting close to 4:00PM and now I'm heading north as the the Columbia turns north at Portland/Vancover until I reach Longview, WA. Also the wind is picking up and the tide is now at the low point so paddling is becoming more difficult.

By 4:30 I reach St. Helens, OR and I notice this island with a small marina across from St. Helens. Also there are many tents set up all along this island that looks like its a good mile long. I figured with the wind as strong as it is that this would be a good place to pull in and take a rest.

As I brought my canoe up on shore, I asked a guy if this was a private place? He said no, that it was a St. Helens city park plus you can camp here for free. Well, that word, "free", sounded good so I thought just maybe I'd stop now and take advantage, which in a few minutes after meeting some of the people here made my decision easy to do so.

What a neat group. People went out of their way to help me in any way they could. Down on the marina there were many boats docked and all were having a great time partying. I got a great picture of the group that you will need to check out.

I'm glad I stopped, for again I feel I made friends with a real neat group of people. Someday I hope to come back. This is a neat area.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 2nd: Below Dalles Dam to Cascade Locks and then on to Camas

What a day this was!

First, I must say our day in Seattle was great. We saw two great baseball games on June 30 and July 1, plus it was good just to joke around with my friend Jim without worrying about paddling. Only downside was our motel. I always look for the cheap one. Cheapest we could find was for $75.00 and I would not recommend it to anyone. In all my adventures I've stayed in some real dumps and this rates right with some of the $25.00 ones I stayed in in New Mexico when I did my bike ride. Hurts that I had to pay $75.00 for worse than those!

Last night we decided to drive back to Cascade Locks and get a room there because that is where I expected to end after today's paddle. We got a room at the Cascade Motel which is actually a number of very nice cabins. (see picture) As bad as our motel was in Seattle, this was a real treat. If you ever come through this area I recommend it very highly. The couple that own it are very nice and will do all in their power to make sure your stay is a pleasant one. In fact, we thought we'd stay two nights, but the events of the day changed that.

We were on the road back up to The Dalles by 5:00 in the morning. My hope was that with an early start I'd be able to beat the wind. Again, this is wind surfing area all the way to Cascade Locks. In fact the owners at the Cascade Motel said that the Olympic Sailing team practiced in this area. Not what I needed to hear.

Well, everything start well, but ended quickly. After about 10 miles the winds started up and within 15 minutes they were howling. Again I was paddling in waves and when I decided to give it up I could no longer make headway. I called Jim and told him I was going back about two miles where he could come to my rescue.

On my paddle back I was really down. Nothing was going the way I planned and now I have 30 miles still to go to Cascade Locks and it was going to be another bike portage. I thought about having Jim take me back to Cascade Locks and paddling back upstream but dashed that idea on my paddle back to meet Jim because some of the waves hitting me from behind were swinging my canoe sideways which was a little nerve-racking.

So here I am again biking, not what I want to do. Only good thing is I'm getting a good workout and when I get to Cascade Locks this wind-surfing dammed up area is over. At Cascade Locks is the Bonneville Dam which is the last dam . From here to the ocean I'm supposed to have less wind trouble plus current which can be up to 5 miles an hour when the tide is on its way out. Surprisingly the tide comes all the way back to this area some 160 miles inland.

Now as bad and as down as I was this morning, things really changed around this afternoon.

At about 2:00 Jim and I decided to continue on and go down to the portage below the Bonneville Dam. He would continue on to Camas, WA about 30 miles downstream and I would paddle as far as I could and camp and meet him in the morning.

Off he went and I headed out. What a change in what I've experienced above these dams. I have a good current and I have little wave action. It felt like I was back on the Ohio River. I was moving, scenery was spectacular and I was once again enjoying the trip. In fact I was enjoying it so much by 8:30 PM I was in Camas and calling Jim to pick me up.

A day that started so bad really ended on a high note. For the first time in a long time I was looking forward to tomorrow.

I guess Jim summed up the day best. When he came to pick me up we was just shaking his head and said, "You're an animal." I said what is that supposed to mean? He said he meant it in a good way, explaining that you just paddled 15 plus miles in extremely difficult conditions this morning only to get on a little bike and pedal 32 miles and then paddle another 30 miles and you look like you just finished a walk around the block.

I stopped to think about what he said. Yeah, I guess it was a good day, but honestly and I've said this before, the toughest part about this trip is the mental part (which is now a whole lot better). The physical for whatever reason is the fun part. I hope the fun continues, because I dread the mental part when I cannot move forward. Time to get a bite to eat. I think even my dad would say it was good half day's work!

June 30th: Biggs to The Dalles Dam and on to Seattle

Last night I was glad everything turned out okay. Although, honestly I was hoping for a better start upon my return. I knew this was going to be a tough area to get through, but I guess because I was so lucky on the dammed up lakes on the Missouri my luck would continue here. Not the case. Things have been frustrating. I have little patience when I cannot make the headway I expect and I have no patience at all to sit around.

On the good side, this morning the wind is only a breeze and I'm on the water at 6:00 AM. If I can get across this two or so mile wide area (favorite for the wind surfers) I should be more protected even if the wind picks up.

I made it with ease and the rest of the paddle was the best I've had since I hit the Columbia. Once I made it across the widest part I made a turn to the northwest and then back west and all the way to The Dalles Dam. The water was like smooth glass. (Check out picture)

I wasn't sure when I'd get to the Dam. I told Jim it could take until noon. My hope was 10:30, for this is the day we are going up to Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners baseball team play the Toronto Blue Jays. Jim is a big baseball fan and has been to 34 major parks and has not been to the new park in Seattle. So that was part of the deal in his coming to pick me up - that we go up and watch a couple of games.

Well, for once luck was on my side. With the glass-like water I made it to the dam by 9:30 and we were on our way to Seattle by 10:30. Finally a good day of paddling and I'm quitting at 9:30!

I'm glad for Jim we are going to be able to make the game tonight. We also will watch the afternoon game tomorrow and then head back to continue to the Pacific.

Note: Must admit all day long I thought about how many miles I could have made today. Stupid!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

June 29th. Irrigon, OR to Biggs, OR

Jim and I picked up my gear in Irrigon and headed to the nearest restaurant for breakfast. The morning was beautiful and there was little wind so I'm hoping for a good day of paddling. This area all the way to The Dalles is a big wind surfing area, so getting through this section could be very tough, but right now it is relatively calm.

Jim lets me off at the boat ramp west of Irrigon and because the highway goes right along the river, we hope to meet around 3:00 PM . I say goodbye and I'm off. It feels good to be back on the water, conditions are good and I figure I can make it to Biggs by 7:00 or 8:00 PM - about 40-plus miles away.

Everything is going good until around 3:30. I'm feeling very lucky that I have little wind and am able to make good time. I figure I'm a little under 20 miles from Biggs when a breeze starts up. Then in about 30 minutes the little breeze is a 20 mile an hour wind and I'm back into high waves again. For the last hour I've been looking for Jim but do not see him. Also, because I figured I'd be meeting him I did not put my bike or trailer in my canoe so all I can do is pull over somewhere and hope he shows.

I continue to try and make headway but can make little, so I give up and pull over along the OR side of the river. Now this is the side where Jim is supposed to meet me. But the road is also a freeway so getting out and meeting Jim will be a slight problem. I now wish I had my bike and trailer. Big mistake!

Eventually, Jim calls my cell (very lucky to have reception where I am). I let him know approximately where I am and he tells me he's been back and forth in that area for the last hour and could not see me. I guess I must have looked like part of a wave or I was just out of sight when he passed.

Anyway I get my gear up over the riverbank, back across a railroad track and then over the barbed wire fence along the freeway and we head to Biggs where Jim has a room for us.

The day ended being about 15 miles short of Biggs, which also means I have 15 miles to make up because I will need to get back into the water tomorrow at the Maryhill State Park. It is across the river on the Washington side from Biggs. There are no entry points between where I got out and Biggs. Besides, I do not think the State Patrol will like it if he sees us re-entering alongside the freeway tomorrow!

All in all it was a good day. Even with the frustration both Jim and I had in not finding each other when things got tough, we both are still smiling.

I was back on the water and I felt good.

June 28th: Back to Portland

I hope today is not a sign of how the finish is going to be to my trip. I was supposed to fly out of Duluth at 12:45, but ended up leaving at 2:35 because of plane delays, which meant I would miss my flight from Minneapolis to Portland. In the end I got to Portland at 9:30 PM, which is 11:30 Central. I was rerouted from Portland to Boise, ID and then to Portland. Not a pleasant day.

On the good side, my friend Jim was there waiting for me with a smile. LuAnn was able to get in touch with him earlier in the day to let him know I would be late.

Well, the day ended with a 2-plus hour drive to Biggs, OR where we were able to get a room for the night. So, at 1:00 in the morning, (3:00 central time) I'm in bed, hoping this is the bad day and tomorrow I will have good paddling conditions.