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The Gearboat Chronicles

Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake has been treating us right. Fireworks on the 4th are launched from a barge on the lake. There’s an armada of ski boats jockeying around on the water. An amphitheater of lawn chairs hugging the banks. A traffic jam to-be of cars that brought all the lawn chairs and the people sitting in them.

I hiked up on one of the moraines to watch the big sparklies. Paul and Penny were there. Sam showed up. It was a Winding Waters convention and an exciting one this year, since it looked a lot like the fireworks barge might catch fire when a few of the launches didn’t seem to go as planned. Turns out the fireworks crew launches them via remote control from a safe distance, but we weren’t privy to that as we watched burning showers come down on the platform, thinking our pal Carl was on the raft and probably losing his hair and eyebrows. But not to worry.

Afterwards we beat the traffic by riding bikes downhill to Joseph, and there’s nothing quite like a long downhill stretch, bombing along on a mountain bike, to make you appreciate the invention of gravity.

Then we put the Starcraft in the lake the next day for the maiden voyage this year. A trusty 16-foot aluminum boat I grew up fishing from and skiing behind. I won’t be doing any skiing behind it anymore, as I’ve added a couple pounds since the last time I got up in the wake of that boat. A 25-horsepower outboard can only pull so much. It would be cruelty to animals to expect those horses to haul such a load at skiing speed, and I’m an animal lover, people. Let’s get that straight right now.

But we did putt-putt around that big deep glacial pothole on a nice summer afternoon, picked up some friends from the swimming beach and motored on to the rope swing strung from a big, leaning ponderosa pine along the Lake Highway. This here photo is of Paul “Big Air” Arentsen setting a new height record for North American rope swing launches. He brought back a handful of stratosphere as proof.

I was going to go, but there was some cloud cover that cooled things down a bit. And somebody had to run the boat, you see. Also I slapped the water so hard last time I went off that thing that the noise caused a small avalanche on Mount Joseph. But it is fun. And the lake’s a good place to be. Little chilly for swimming, but you do come out refreshed.

We’ve got Salmon and Snake and Grande Ronde river trips getting ready to launch. Been having fun on the River To Rails train ride/rafting combo. Fishing’s good. Weather’s warm. Rivers rolling. My tanlines from wearing Chacos are coming in nicely. Let’s go rafting.