Swain swims past HR

Columbia River swimmer paddles through locks Friday

Christopher Swain stroked past Hood River this week on his epic swim down the Columbia River. Despite battling high winds for several days as he made his way mile by mile from The Dalles to Lyle to Mosier, and finally on to Hood River, Swain was happy to be here for a single reason: it is the home of ProMotion Wetsuits, one of his most important sponsors.

Swain’s ProMotion wetsuit was chafing his neck and he desperately needed help.

“The chafing has motivated ProMotion to do some surgery,” Swain said Thursday, hours after the wetsuit manufacturer did some custom alterations to the neck of Swain’s suit, providing the swimmer much-needed relief. “We’re off into custom suit territory now. They’re great. They’ll do absolutely anything.”

Swain has about 150 miles left before he reaches the Pacific Ocean west of Astoria. He began his swim on June 4, 2002, at the river’s headwaters in Canal Flats, B.C. He will be the first person ever to swim the entire 1,243-mile length of the Columbia River.

“I set out to put the river in the public eye and I feel like I’ve succeeded in that,” Swain said. He is swimming the Columbia to raise awareness about cleaning up the river and restoring it to its natural, free-flowing state.

During the past year, he’s met more than 13,000 people living along the river, and talked to more than 8,000 school kids.

“So far, I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t want a clean, free-flowing river,” Swain said. “Everybody loves the river.” Swain’s quest for the river will continue after he’s done with his swim — although he intends to “go home, be a dad and keep my head down for a while.” But he promised every school group he met with that he would return next year, and he plans to keep his promise — and continue being a “champion” for the river.

“The kids can do much more than I can by just bugging their parents,” he said. “Kids aren’t wondering if they want clean water, they want clean water.”

Swain also has come to realize that the diverse groups of people who use the river — from hunters, fishermen and jetskiers to windsurfers and kiteboarders — need to come together as allies.

“We should be careful to avoid entrenchments,” he said. “Don’t get stuck in the politics of it.” When it comes to the river, “you’re all on the same page,” Swain said.

“I think we’ve got to look out for our natural allies and make friends,” he added. “That’s when it’s going to happen.”

Aside from getting his wetsuit altered, Swain said it was nice to swim through Hood River and see “people actually using and enjoying the river.”

“It’s important we have a presence on the river,” he said. “Every time we windsurf, kiteboard and swim in the Columbia, it’s a small act of taking back the river.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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