Columbia River swimmer Christopher Swain isn't sure which is more challenging: whitewater, freezing temperatures, or fending off comments of KUFO afternoon jocks Porkchop and Craig the Dog-faced Boy.
Swain is about 200 miles into his 1,243-mile quest to swim the entire Columbia River to raise awareness about pollution (see "Swimming to Astoria," WW, May 29, 2002). Last week, he reached Lake Revelstoke, in British Columbia, the reservoir for the first of the 14 dams he'll hit along the way. So far he's averaging about five hours in the water per day, covering about 10 miles, on the days he swims. His pattern has been two to three days swimming, then a day or two off. On the off days, he meets with locals, updates his website, raises money and talks to the press.
Will he hit the U.S. border by August as planned? Swain thinks so: He's slightly ahead of schedule from what he first mapped out, though he's taking more days off for fundraising and media appearances than he'd planned.
Canadian Broadcasting Company checks in with Swain regularly, as do KOIN-TV in Portland and the libido-focused guys at KUFO. "We'll be having a perfectly normal conversation about all the clear cuts I'm seeing from the river in Canada, and they'll slip in something like 'Seen any beaver up there?'" says Swain. "But at least I'm reaching everyone--even the heavy-metal crowd."