Voyage of a Summer Sun

Voyage of a Summer Sun

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When I first heard our assignment was to read this book, it didn't really appeal to me...I thought, how much can you write about canoeing the Columbia River anyway? It just seemed it would be one big, long, boring story about canoeing and "guy stuff." I enjoy a good adventure and the book cover showed some promise, but I certainly didn't share the same level of appreciation for canoeing as Robin Cody...until now.

I must admit the first part of the book was a bit too much for my taste, although it did hit some high points when Robin had to navigate through rough water and wind conditions as well as the dams and locks. However, the anecdotal details about where to pitch the tent, the camping conditions, creepy critters, etc. left me less than inspired to read on. In fact, it took me twice as long to read the first 100 pages as the remaining 200 pages!

Perhaps my lack of appreciation for the journey on the upper Columbia was partly because I was unfamiliar with the geography and landmarks in Canada and I was more interested in learning about "our" part of the Columbia...specifically the part between Oregon and Washington.

Once Robin hit Grand Coulee Dam, my interest piqued as well as my memory of his travels. I don't recall many of the details about our river to the north, but at least now I know the source of the mighty river. Prior to reading Voyage of a Summer Sun, I had no idea the Columbia River source was in Canada, let alone so far up north.

I enjoyed the historical information about the sites and sounds of the river and the stories of the chance encounters with helpful strangers. The river draws a special kind of people; hard working, honest, warm-hearted, selfless, respectful, and humble people. People who honor the river and revere its majesty and fury...well, except for the people who built Hanford.

They were only interested in building bombs and not at all concerned for the welfare of the river and certainly not the people who lost their homes and property or their health as a result of the toxic waste.

I suppose it's easy to sit back now and criticize since we won the war with Japan and enjoy a life of freedom in the most powerful nation on earth, but one should take pause to ponder what might have been had we not won the war, bombs or not.

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Perhaps we would have tried to build a more powerful or destructive bomb had we not learned how deadly our actions were.

The facts and figures about Hanford and the monumental effort involved in building such a secret facility astounded me. If our government has the resources to develop a 560 square-mile area for scientific research to build nuclear bombs, then why can't they apply the same concentrated efforts to cleaning up the site and finding a viable solution to all the nuclear waste still in storage? The site is still a real threat and it's only a matter of time before catastrophe strikes. How long will they wait? Until it's too late? I appreciate the fact that they are working to find the right solution versus a short-term solution, however it's time for action not analysis!

Once again, I was surprised to learn how little I actually knew about the history of the river; the fact that the Grand Coulee Dam is the most massive man-made structure in the United States and the largest concrete thing in the world blew me away! It's only a six-hour drive from Portland, yet I know so little about it!

I guess I'm grateful to learn about this now; I plan to visit many new places along the Columbia River this summer. I've had quite an epiphany in realizing how little I know about the history of the river and its people. How can anyone live near `Nchiawana and not ask, "where does all this water come from?"

I think my favorite part of the book was the chapter on Celilo and Tsagaglalal - She Who Watches. There is a certain romantic nature to Indian folklore and I wanted to learn more about Tsagaglalal and see her image for myself. I have always been intrigued by goddess symbols and am learning a new appreciation for our native Indian tribes and their culture and customs. In fact, this chapter inspired me to change my research project; I was fascinated with the story of this ancient petroglyph guardian of the Columbia River Gorge and sought to study the Wishram, a band of the Chinook tribe, and the legend of She Who Watches.

Nearing Astoria, Robin's Voyage of a Summer Sun was coming to an end, a welcome relief from what likely seemed a million paddle strokes taken during his extended outing. I enjoyed his tales and history lessons along the way and felt a part of me was right along in that canoe with him; that part of me wasn't ready for this story to end. I wanted more!

I admire Robin's courage for completing such a challenging, unforgettable and unbelievable journey and extend my gratitude to him for taking the time to share a glimpse of it with those of us who are faint of heart but mighty of spirit. I'm sure it was an awesome experience and one that likely altered his life and how he thinks about the world. A three-month, near solo, canoe adventure from source to mouth on the Columbia River could hardly not change a man...or a river.
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