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TOLEDO — Cool, wet weather dampened — but did not drown -- what was supposed to be a warm, sunny Saturday on the Cowlitz River.

Organizers of "Clog the Cowlitz," a four-mile float on rafts from the Blue Creek boat ramp downstream to the Front Street ramp in Toledo, had selected July 16 as the date for their event because their research determined it had the greatest probability of producing a temperature of 90 degrees or more.

Instead, they got 70 degrees — or less.

With rain.

"It took us about four hours to float and I’m sure we got rained on at least three times, maybe four," said Jared Booth, a participant from Winlock. "You’d think we’d get used to it, but each (shower) really did feel worse than the one before."

More than 230 rafters had signed up for Clog the Cowlitz. Only about 30 started and finished the float.

"But we didn’t all finish on the rafts we started with," noted Brandon Hughes, who’d travelled from his home in Albany, Ore., to spend the day on the river with friends. "I lost mine and I ended up with somebody else’s. I think we lost a total of three rafts, but no people."

Booth was almost a casualty, striking his left hand against a rock at some point during the float.

"It’s kind of purple-colored now," he said while giving it a visual inspection. "When I warm up, it’s probably really going to hurt."

The Cloggers finished in a bedraggled pack, most of them sprinting off the ramp to the closest dry towel.

"If this was Man and Woman vs. River," said one well-chilled finisher, "I was definitely on the losing team today."

While the 65 entrants in a Steelhead Fishing Derby sponsored by the Friends of the Cowlitz didn’t spend as much time in the river as the rafters, they did spend more hours on it.

"Up until about 10 a.m., all we did was get soaked," recalled Ron Nowlen of Toledo. "Then, the sun came out for a little while and the fishing suddenly got real hot."

Hot enough for Nowlen to land a 12-pound, 4-ounce, first-place trout, the heaviest of the day by more than four pounds.

With a prize-winner in his cooler, Nowlen was able to come off the water early enough to miss a few afternoon rain showers.

"I have to admit," he said, "there were a lot of times when all I was thinking was ‘Since this is July 16, why I am out here wearing half a closet of cold-weather gear?’"


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