Out of Eugene, Dean Hall will swim from Harrisburg to Monroe

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - That tiny dot in the center of the photo-- near the opposite bank-- is Dean Hall, a Gresham therapist and double-cancer patient, who swam through rapids and perilous conditions on the first days of his effort to swim the length of the Willamette River. Gresham swimmer and double cancer patient Dean Hall begins his fourth day of swimming the length of the Willamette River today, Thursday June 5, in Harrisburg.

He plans to swim 10 miles today until he and a team of kayakers reach the Irish Bend in the river, north of Monroe.

So far, Hall has covered 23 miles of the Willamette River, and traversed the worst sections of the river out of Eugene.

On the first day, cold and shallow water drug Hall through rapids and over rocky gravel beds. He took two hard shots to the tail bone and acquired goose eggs on his knee and left hip. If it wasn't for his wetsuit, miraculously unscarred, Hall said he would've been in much worse shape.

But his attitude remains unshakeable.

“It's been going beautifully,” said Hall, 54. “Even better than I would have thought.”

Hall is diagnosed with both leukemia and lymphoma and is doing this swim as a fundraiser for people with blood cancer and to prove it can be done.

At one point, gliding with the current in less than 2 feet of water, the river bed inches from his face below, Hall said he reverted to a childlike state.

With his arms out and head down in Superman pose, he watched the rocks fly by beneath him.

“It felt like I was flying 100 mph,” he said.

While Hall was having tons of fun, the kayakers he was with — who have become good friends — worried Hall had been knocked unconscious.

“I guess they've never seen a 54-year-old act like a 9-year-old,” said Hall, who caught up with The Outlook Wednesday night from his Eugene hotel.

By the end of day one, Hall swam six miles, his energy sucked from the adrenaline of the rocks.

He covered nine miles on the second day.

That day Hall said things got pretty hairy five or six times. The river would take a sharp turn and all the currents went slamming against the corner of the river, taking with it logs and debris.

“If you get caught in those logs, it's a death trap,” he said.

Kayakers were yelling at Hall to swim for his life.

“Seeing those huge crags looming, that really got my heart pumping,” he said.

Wednesday was less crazy, and Hall covered eight miles.

He said swimming under the Harrisburg Bridge was “kind of dicey,” because it was under construction and there was a massive crane lifting a several ton beam above his head.

Despite all the bumps and bruises, Hall said, “It was just a really good swim,” and “It went much better than we would have thought.”

Hall said at 79-years-old and kayaking white water rapids, his father, Dick Hall, is having the time of his life.

“I am really proud of my dad,” he said.

After one day's swim, Dick said, “I've never done anything quite this crazy.”

For the most part, the water has been down in the 40s and the weather's been cool and cloudy. The sun tends to break out as Hall's getting out of the water around 2 p.m. each day.

“If I drink hot tea when I stop, it really warms me up,” said Hall, who eats a big breakfast and fills up on protein bars and water when he stops to take a break.

From here on out Hall plans to swim nine or 10 miles a day, and take off every Sunday to go home and rest. After pulling out at Monroe, Hall will swim to Albany the following day.

Monday he'll be in the water and swimming the Willamette through Albany for three or four days until he reaches Salem.

Hall said he couldn't find a barrel sponsor in time, so he will be swimming as far as he legally can until he reaches the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest (by volume), the Willamette Falls.

Then he will get out and drive around it and dive back into the water at Clackamas Park.

Stay tuned for more updates from Dean!

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