Man traveling length of Columbia River paddles through wildfire smoke

POULSBO — While much of western Washington was experiencing cleaner air Thursday, albeit with cloudy skies overhead, John Kuntz, the North Kitsap man traveling the entire length of the Columbia River, is still dealing with the smoke and haze of the wildfires as he makes his way toward Washington as part of his “Eri’s Adventure” trip.

The 1,250-mile journey by kayak was undertaken in honor of Erica Reith, the 19-year-old daughter of a family friend who died tragically years ago in an accident. “Eri’s Adventure Project,” named in her honor, encourages younger people to get outdoors and works with schools to create an educational component to adventure.

On Aug. 23, Kuntz checked in with Kitsap News Group from a beach near Nakusp, British Columbia.

Approximately the first 100 miles of his journey had been clear. He first encountered wildfires as he entered Golden, British Columbia.

Since moving into areas with higher fire danger, he has been using a mask during the day to filter out the smoke of the air he breathes. He noted that most mornings his tent and kayak are covered in ash.

“It makes for great sunrises and sunsets, but the rest of the day is just fog,” Kuntz said.

But other than the smoke, and a day of thunderstorms, the weather has been mostly calm. Kuntz noted that he has seen quite a bit of wildlife. But even on the beach near Nakusp, which is surrounded by mountains, visibility is quite limited.

“I’m sitting right here, and there should be mountains all around me,” Kuntz said. “All I see is the dark shapes where you should see huge peaks.”

Kuntz said he is about three or four days ahead of schedule and should be arriving at the Washington border in a week. His next major destination is Castlegar, British Columbia.

Click here to keep up with Kuntz’s trip, track his latest whereabouts, support his fundraiser and send him mail that he will receive at various points along the way.

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at