"I believe it is human nature to do things simply because they are available--sort
of a default behavior.
We do things because we can."
In 2003, I walked the entire length of the Columbia River, a distance of 1,264 miles, from the headwaters in British Columbia to Cape Disappointment in Washington State, where this great waterway flows into the Pacific Ocean. I walked along the several highways adjacent to the River, approximately 20 miles per day, for 66 days, over a six-month period. Rain or shine.
I dedicated my fund-raising effort to Karen Turner, friend and colleague in the Department of Language and Literature, who passed away from breast cancer in August 2003, on the day I walked 20 miles just south of Vantage, Washington.
Funds collected from my effort went to the Lower Columbia Regional Mammography Clinic for mammograms for women in need.
As Carolyn Norred said, this endeavor was "the defining moment of my life."
I wrote a book about my walk, titled Walking the Columbia, based on my journal of the experience.
The book contains poems by the American Transcendentalists: Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. These poets represent my affinity for the Columbia River.
Excerpt from Walking the Columbia
"As I once aspired to walk the entire thirteen miles into town, and as I once aspired to walk the entire lake trail at Lake Sacajawea, in 2003 I aspired to walk the entire length of the Columbia River, a distance of 1,264 miles--the longest distance I found in any geography text or other journal about the Columbia. You will see how I measured the miles I walked. And, as we say 'walk the lake' in Kelso-Longview to show intimacy with this pretty body of water, I like to say,
'I walked the Columbia.'"
by Alex Emerson, 2003