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by Dan Rogers - Eastern Washington – USA

Of course, it helps a whole lot, if you go looking for it, too. Thursday morning, as Kate was leaving the house for a trip to The Big City for her women's group meeting; I casually mentioned that "I think I'll take a boat, and go someplace today. Aughta' be home later this afternoon."

Like I was sayin', that was Thursday morning. As it turned out, I didn't get home until after dark, FRIDAY night. Let's see. That was three or four lakes ago, about a half-dozen launch ramps, and over 250 road miles. What I call a "boy trip." Still wearing the same clothes, and pretty much unkempt by the time I rolled back into the driveway. But, what a grand time!

I'm in the initial stages of organizing a movable messabout for next September. The week right after Labor Day, to be more precise. My excuse/reason for heading out (and staying gone longer than planned) right now - it's the third week of September - is to check out some of the places I want to show other folks come next year. In "real time," so to speak. And, for certain, this is a fabulous time to be out messing around in boats. I had everyplace I went just about all to myself. The "back half" of Washington State is not all that densely populated, in the first place. But, shazzammmm, the minute school starts, the lakes, campgrounds, back roads, and launching ramps are just about deserted.

There's just one problem with all that solitude. Yep. It get's plumb lonely. That's where I came up with the notion of organizing a messabout. With a whole year's advanced notice. To maybe get some company out there when I'm enjoying all that solitude.

There's still plenty of time to distil the list down to the top two or three places. But, let me tell you about the few absolutely delightful puddles I visited on my really long "afternoon out."

Last week I took a run up to Priest Lake, with Ladybug, the road warrior sailboat who has followed me something like 25,000 miles all over the place, the past 6 or 7 years. Priest Lake is certainly the Crown Jewel of lakes in this part of the world. And, certainly, this will be one of the destinations next September. But, this particular trip took me west to the upper-mid Columbia River impoundment known as Lake Roosevelt. Officially, Lake FDR is over 150 miles long and has over 600 miles of shoreline-all a National Recreation Area.

And, since it was just a "quick trip" I didn't think I would add the added burden of rigging and unrigging a sailboat. Besides, I had to traverse some of those "scenic' highways. And, when ever I see that word on a map of the West, I immediately translate it to its component parts: "twisty, wind-ey, steep, with no shoulders or turn outs." Hey, I'm recovering acrophobic; and an avowed chicken where sliding off a mountain while towing a sailboat is concerned.

So, after stealing swing stove, mooring lines, life jackets, anchor rode, and a bunch of other stuff from Old Salt and Ladybug, I hooked up the stretch trailer with Shenanigan and Kokobot aboard. I pointed Big Ole out of the storage yard quickly. Before the other boats had time to figure out they might be already "in for the winter." Hey, you can't be too careful. Sort of like bringing your girl friend home to meet your wife. There are some things that we of the simpler sex just don't always foresee when it comes to petty jealousies. Know what I mean?

While this wasn't exactly a well orchestrated outing; it was more or less programmed for when it was. The weather window had looked good for a while. And, that's certainly what turned out. Clear skies. The most beautiful full moon at night -a classic harvest moon. Day temps in the 80's.

The run from home out to Roosevelt is about 60-odd miles. A couple tiny burgs, a cross roads or two. And, just lots of trees, farm fields, cows, horses. I even had to slow down for a coyote who sauntered rather insouciantly across the highway out past the "metropolis" of Loon Lake. I stopped at Eloika Lake to check out water levels at the ramp, and there was one guy fishing from the dock. No boats out.

After winding, swerving, and climbing uppppp and downnnnn a few times, the highway drops down into the little community of Hunters, WA. There are the required two churches, two taverns, one grocery-and-auto- parts-store. And, the most wonderful Old Truck and Tractor Museum. I stopped in at the store to ask if the museum is ever, actually, open. The guy behind the counter offered a non-committal "now, and then." But, nobody seems to care if your stroll the grounds.

Hunters has a real nice Park Service campground and launch ramp. As I found my way down to the ramp, there was this white SUV with lights and antennae sprouting from the roof following me rather closely. When I pulled up to get ready to launch, these two park rangers stopped and offered the almost-routine "Say, that's a really cool little tug boat ya' got there." For a rather crudely built, and hastily thrown together little spit kit, Shenanigan really turns heads, as they say in the Craigslist ads. In fact, as I was coming out of the store back in Hunters, a school bus passed and every kid had their nose pressed to the window and was pointing at little Shenanigan. It seems to happen all the time. This trip, I was pulled over by the side of a farm road and was checking the tie downs, trailer lights, and all that sort of stuff. A guy in a pickup came screeching to a stop and jammed his rig in reverse, and backed up for a second look. There we were (me standing) in the middle of the road talking about boats. A horse pasture on one side, a wheat field on the other. Seems to be a great way to meet people.

Heck, a couple months ago, when I was just starting to build and test the stretch trailer I was out with it on one of our local county roads - without lights, license plate, and that sort of formality stuff - trying to avoid driving on the highway. The highway is where the State Patrol is to be found, hereabouts. Anyhow, I came to a stop sign. Who should be parked right next to that sign, but a State Patrol officer. I cringed and waited for the worst. He just smiled, pointed at Shenanigan, and mouthed the words "cute boat." How 'bout that?

I took the opportunity to ask the park rangers about messabout-friendly places on Lake Roosevelt. In addition to a paved-site camp ground at Hunters, there is a similar facility at Porcupine Bay and at historic Fort Spokane as well. And, as long as you stay ½ mile away from the developed camp grounds, you can camp for free on the beach. And, as I was saying, there's over 600 miles of beach around that lake. It'll be hard winnowing this list down.

I think there were four other truck and trailer rigs in the launch area parking lot. In the summer months, this place probably looks like Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve. I backed in and had Shenanigan floating, and underway, without much fuss at all. It was a beautiful afternoon to be underway. Except, the tub of "shipwreck stores" I tossed aboard from Ladybug was an odd-bits collection of rusted cans. There was a partial jar of peanut butter, and a small container of dog kibbles. I saved the kibbles for when I might bring the dog, and dug the PB out with my pocket knife. I got a bit concerned with that pointy and sharp blade, so switched to my finger. See? I told ya' it was a "boy trip." I went around the near area checking out beach camping spots and generally being glad to be on the water. In those few hours, I saw exactly two boats. One came from the south. The other from the north. Headed in from a day of fishing. That was it.

Once back on the trailer, it was time to think about driving back over that "scenic" highway. As I was checking the trailer load, blinkers and lights, I discovered that I had a headlight out. The nearest auto parts store was probably 75 miles away-using Lewis and Clark's route. When I tried to call home and say that I just might not be heading that way until daylight; I was reminded why it's called wilderness. No phone service. So it goes.

After cooking a rusty can of Dinty Moore on the swing stove in Shenanigan's cabin, I gathered up my emergency sleeping bag and turned in aboard Big Ole. I've always referred to Ole as my "homeless van." And, while comfortable enough for me while out adventuring, things are far from plush. Certainly, a boy trip. Other than watching the moon rise, there was absolutely nothing to "do" after it got dark.

Next morning, the spectre of another rusty can of Dinty and the delight of launching at another ramp on FDR was superseded by a growing need to sit at a table and have somebody bring me breakfast. As it turned out, that required another traverse of about 50 more miles of "scenic" roadway. But, quite worth it. I discovered a delightful little cowboy restaurant in Davenport, WA. And, then it was time to look for another puddle.

This sector of Washington is composed alternately of something derisively referred to as scab lands and alternately some of the most productive top soil in the entire world. And, in much of the spots not actually employed in growing your morning bagels and wheat toast; there is a cacophony of puddles, ponds, streams, and lakes. This part of the country reminds me a lot of the Lake Mohave, Havasu, Powell chain on the Colorado-except without all those Californians, and their jet skis.

One lake in particular, I have passed literally hundreds of times - without ever actually being on it. Sprague Lake is pretty much the way it was John Wayne was chasing Cochise around it in 1875, or so. Except since about 1960, the east-west freeway connecting Seattle with Chicago and passing through Spokane in the process, clings to a hill along one side of the lake. I have been wondering what it would be like to explore that shoreline, now, for about 60 years, off and on, give or take. Soooooooooo.

That's where we went. And, that's what we did. Of course, I had to stop and take some pictures of one of the largest collections of really old farm trucks I know of. It's about the only thing left in "downtown" Sprague, WA. One of those places The Freeway Forgot.

Sprague Lake is about 5 miles long, and not real wide. I think there is ONE house along the shoreline. Mostly it's just bull rushes and basalt. And, from the sailing perspective. I don't think the prairie wind ever actually stops out there. So many places to messabout. So little time.

I'll be getting back to you on that.

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