Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 6–Saying Goodbye

Saturday Sept 5th- This was to be our last day on the river. We would raft just over 5 miles in the morning, then have lunch and get to our takeout point - the confluence of the Middle Fork with the Main Salmon-  by 1 pm. Fred joined me, again today, in the oared raft with Koni.


Knowing that these would be our last few hours on the river, we took a bit of time to just soak up the experience. Rafting trips are a unique combination of easy, luxury camping, combined with the realities of outdoor living – coping with weather, lack of toilets, limited clothing changes, no running water, etc. You encounter remoteness, though you experience it with a group. Skilled guides take you down a river  that you lack the skills to navigate on your own.You are thrust into an association with people who start out as strangers and quickly become friends. 

There is beauty, and wildlife, and nature…….and real danger. And it is amazing!


But, this was not going to be just a lazy float on our last morning. We had some real whitewater left to navigate! There was Rubber Rapids and Hancock Rapids, and the ominous sounding Devil’s Tooth Rapid- where it seemed that every raft but ours got stuck going through. Finally, House Rocks Rapid with huge boulders to maneuver around and through.

With that last bit of excitement behind us, we stopped at Goat Creek Camp for lunch. The weather had continued to be chilly today, and by lunchtime, we were all seeking what little sun and warmth that we could find. We enjoyed a final lunch, and then the guides popped open a bottle of champagne and we all made a final toast to new friends, a wonderful experience…..and to the river.


With just over a mile left to go, we took one last look back at  ‘Impassable Canyon’.

At the confluence, we were met by the bus from ROW, and loaded up our personal gear and settled in for a 2 hour drive over some very bumpy gravel roads to the town of Salmon and the Stage Coach Inn. Our guides would take the rafts out a bit further downriver, unload the gear and pack up the rafts, then meet us for a farewell dinner at 7 pm.

As we approached the town of Salmon, we were surprised to see snow on the mountaintops. The weather report had said that the nighttime low temperature in Salmon was down to 39 degrees. No wonder we had been so chilly on the river!

We arrived at the Stagecoach Inn, where we had left our camper a week before, and to where our truck was being shuttled. Everything was there waiting for us – including a hot shower, clean clothes, and a hotel room!We met our group and the guides for supper at the Last Chance Pizza House where we said our final goodbyes over an all you could eat pizza party!

The next morning, we would hitch up our camper and start the drive home.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 5–Hikes and Hidden Waterfalls

Friday Sept 4th- Today, the guides promised a day for hiking, and a lot of river miles. This would be our last full day on the river, and we would try to squeeze all we could from it.


After having gotten thoroughly chilled yesterday, Fred decided to ride in the raft with me today instead of taking the ducky. Due to the way the fishing guides and the interests of the guests had worked out, Fred and/or I had ridden with Koni as our our raft guide each day. It had been fun to spend the time really getting to know him. As I have said before, rafting guides tend to be a unique and interesting group.   : )


We would spend all of today traveling through ‘Impassable Canyon ‘, which lived up to its reputation for being the most beautiful stretch on the Middle Fork.


Mile 77.8 – We stopped at Waterfall Creek for our first hike.



We reached the top of the falls after a pretty good scramble over a rock field to get there. You can see the wooden bridge that spans the falls……


Where we posed for a picture.


Mile 79.6 - We stopped for lunch at Elk Bar Camp.


It is hard to say enough nice things about the guides who pull up at a beach and immediately begin to get out the kitchen stuff and start fixing lunch. (Shown here – Kirk and Koni) It is a wonder and a luxury to not have to think about food preparation for a week!

After lunch, we rafted on a ways and stopped at Veil Falls – mile 80.7. The destination for this hike, I was assured, would be worth the effort. I did not get any pictures on the way up…..I was too busy scrambling up the rocky hillside to think about pictures.


After what seemed like a straight up climb to the very middle of the canyon bluffs, we reached this bowl shaped patch of green.


Veil Falls was  finely cascading over the rim above our heads and creating an oasis below.


Down in this depression seemed to be where the best view of the falls was to be seen. Fred joined the rest in scampering down to the oasis, while Inger and I decided to enjoy the view from where we were.


At the bottom, laying down and looking up…….


Water droplets caught in the sun…. a picture could never really capture it!


On the way down, Koni offered his hand as I made my way over the rocks. We were able to return by a somewhat easier route – one that we had not used going up due to another group having occupied that site for lunch.


As we pulled away from Veil Falls, we spotted these long horned sheep.


You have to look close, as they almost blend in with the rocks!

9 more miles on the river….And several more rapids.


Dave, who had been in the duckies some of every day, was getting pretty skilled. Though at Upper Cliffside Rapids, where the river sweeps along a sheer cliff, Dave got caught by the rapid and his ducky flipped over. Dave managed to keep the kayak between him and the cliff and not get raked along the cliff side. At the rapid’s end, Dave managed to get out of the water and back into his kayak. This flip, and ‘Gator’ who had taken a spill the day before, were the only two incidences on the water. Nothing serious, and everyone kept smiling.

We got into Cliffside Camp around 5:30 pm. A very full day! The temperature had dropped over the afternoon and the sky had looked threatening. Just as we pulled up to our camp, it began to rain.


Mostly a sprinkle, but cold, with a real threat of a possible downpour. We quickly put up our tent and tossed our gear in to keep it dry, and scrambled inside.


Dry…and warming up in our sleeping bags……we felt a whole lot better. The weather, being as unpredictable as it is, cleared up! We emerged to explore the campsite and enjoy a bit of down time.


This campsite had this amazing tree, with massive roots that stretched clear out to the river bank!

Our last evening on the river seemed suited to a bit of quiet reflection…….

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Day 4 on the River–What a Way To Celebrate A Birthday!

Thurs Sept 3rd (Fred’s Birthday!) – We had been a bit restless last night. Fred and I had awakened in the night to a fierce wind blowing and a strong smell of smoke.

I think that I had mentioned in my blogging about our time in Grand Teton National Park over the previous week, that visibility of the Tetons was affected due to fires burning in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Some of the fires that were burning in Idaho were around the Salmon River area. The fires were not directly threatening us, and had not affected any activities along the Middle Fork, but the guides, and all of us were aware of the ongoing fire concerns.

With the smell of smoke, the blowing wind and the background ‘roaring’ of the river, it was easy to let our imaginations conjure up images of wildfire sweeping down upon us. I got up and looked around. No tell- tale glow of orange……no crackling of wood burning…..the guides were all asleep and not looking alarmed. I reassured myself that we were not in imminent danger and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I mentioned my concern to several of the guides (just in case they might want to check a news report?) They seemed a bit amused and noted that the smoke was most probably just more noticeable as the changing weather had settled the smoke lower in the canyon. Besides, they said, if there was a problem, the forest service would send a boat with orders for mandatory evacuation far ahead of any danger. They were right, the smoke cleared as the day progressed. OK – I guess I did get a little carried away.   ; )


Fred started out this morning in the oared raft with me. We had just a short ways to go before we stopped to explore a bit of local lore.


The Mormon Ranch patrol cabin. Built in 1847 and named for 2 Mormon settlers, the Beagle brothers, who homesteaded there. It has since been used as a patrol cabin for the Forest Service.


On our way up the embankment to see the cabin, we spotted this mule deer. She seemed pretty unconcerned about us.


This cabin stood on a much wider patch of land than Daisy Tappan’s cabin did. It looked a lot more possible to picture grazing cattle and making a living in this setting.


Old farm implements, and a few wild flowers graced the place.


After leaving the Mormon ranch, we rafted on a bit, passing the Bernard Camp Landing strip where Sam and Zach with our supply raft had stopped to pick up some fresh supplies that had been flown in. We stopped for lunch shortly after Bernard landing.


After lunch, Fred took another turn with the ducky, having been promised that upcoming Haystack and Bernard Rapids would be a lot of fun!


And they were…..


With rafts and duckies maneuvering around rocks and squeezing through tight spaces.


Unfortunately, the wind had picked back up this afternoon, which had everyone digging in and trying to make headway on the calm stretches of river.


And had those of us who were riding, bundling up against the chill.


Jack Creek Rapids - a series of constricted drops over half a mile – and the final rapids of the day, marked the entrance to ‘Impassable Canyon’, so named because no trail or road exists along this 27 mile stretch. Running these rapids gave a final dousing to all of those in both the duckies and the rafts!


We arrived at Wilson Creek Camp – mile 72.9 – with Fred soaking wet and chilled to the bone. The duckies are a MUCH wetter experience than the rafts!


We quickly put up a tent, and Fred put on some dry clothes. It felt good to be warm and dry and out of the wind.


We enjoyed a delicious dinner, even as you can tell from the pictures, we were all still pretty cold.


We had let everyone know that it was Fred’s birthday, and the guides surprised Fred with a well rehearsed ‘Birthday song’…….


And a candle in his apple crisp. Not a bad way to spend a birthday!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day 3 on the River

Wed Sept 2nd- Our mornings began to fall into a comfortable rhythm. Fred and I would usually wake around 6:30 am to the dawn light and the quiet stirrings of our guides around camp. We would then pull on our warm clothes (it was getting pretty chilly at night) and pack up our sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Then, we would venture forth in search of a cup of coffee. Our amazing guides usually had coffee ready by 6:30 each morning and were busily working on breakfast by the time we emerged.


THIS is the true luxury of this kind of trip- amazing meals appeared three times a day (plus snacks!) and we did not have to even concern ourselves with what was on the menu!   : )


After coffee and breakfast, we would finish getting ready for the day - teeth brushed, face washed, hair brushed? and our rafting clothes on. Next, we would take down our tents, and pack up the rest of our stuff in our dry bags and be on the beach ready to get in a raft.


Meanwhile, the guides would be packing all the camp gear onto the rafts and getting ready for the day.


The guides said that today was going to be a good day for those who had a bit more skill with the duckies and wanted the thrill of the larger whitewater. Fred was all in!


I, on the other hand, did a realistic assessment of my ducky skills and decided to just ride in the raft with Koni..


Inger joined me in the raft, while her husband Dave jumped at the opportunity to take on a couple of rapids in the ducky. Note the rain suits with the hood pulled tight. It was CHILLY this morning and the wind was whipping!


Just a couple of miles downriver, we came to Tappan Falls. All the rafts and duckies stopped to scout this rapid and talk about how to safely run it. Inger and I climbed the rocks just above the rapid in order to take some pictures.


Fred smoothly navigated this rapid …..


Looking like a pro!


Inger and Koni and I got a bit splashed, too!

The morning held a good bit of exciting water – with Tappan Falls rapid as well as Tappan I, II, and III rapids.


We stopped around noon at Camas Creek and went for a hike before lunch. There are a number of forest service trails that extend out from the river. Also, the Middle Fork trail system follows along the river and crosses it from time to time over foot bridges such as this one.  We would pass a number of these foot bridges as we made our way down river.


We hiked into the canyon along Camas Creek, finally hiking down to the creek level before turning to head back.


When we got back to the beach, we had lunch and listened to Sam give us a talk on some of the Middle Fork history.


We rafted on a bit…..This is a good picture of the river with Landon in her raft. Note that the weather had warmed up a bit.   Short sleeves felt pretty good if you were not soaking wet.


We stopped for a quick look at an old hermit’s cave. It was small and cramped, but once had a sturdy door to keep out the weather.


Last set of rapids for the day – Aparejo Rapid. Fred was still going strong!


We stopped right after Aparejo Rapid for the night at Trail Camp – mile 64.5. I took the picture of the view from inside our tent because it was so beautiful to lie there looking up at the bluffs across the river (though the picture really does not capture it).

We settled in for snacks and a nice glass of wine and enjoyed the scenery before a wonderful dinner of lasagna baked in a Dutch oven and a Caesar salad..