Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Salmon River Trip, Day One

Floating the the main fork of the Salmon River is like a trip to the Bahamas as one of my fellow rafters said. We spent our mornings drinking tea and coffee watching the water flow by, our days rafting and swimming, our afternoon playing ladderball, volley ball or bocci ball and our evenings eating communily cooked dinners and drinking cocktails. We camped on sandy beaches and curled our toes in delight.

Our trip started on Tuesday with a camp out at Corn Creek campground at the end of the road leading into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The afternoon was a flurry of unloading rafts and gear and prepacking them as much as possible so that they would be ready for an "early start" the next day. Mike and I packed fairly light and didn't have a lot of gear to huck around. Still, we were both new to the overnight floating trip and strapping everything down in dry bags was a bit of a challenge. We picked up some group gear that was a bit clunky like the ash can, propane canister and boccie balls; all of these things needed to be strapped down well because you don't want them flying off and whacking you in the head in a nasty rapid. We didn't get much of a chance to acquaint ourselves with the 11 other floaters ( 5 other rafts, two duckies and 3 dogs) but we knew that we had long hours of floating and soaking up sun on sandy beaches to do that.

Wednesday morning set the pace for the rest of the trip, easygoing. Laurie, the permit holder had to go to a meeting with the 3 other launch groups at 9:00am to sort out camping locations for the rest of the float. We had some ideas about where we wanted to camp, but nothing that we couldn't live without. The rest of us did some final loading and strapping down. We had to top off the boats with air and show the Forest Service that we had all of the required group gear: Toilet, also known as the groover, ash can, fire pan and bucket and shovel. Then we had to listen to an orientation talk about how to poop in the groover and pee in the river and pack it in pack it out. She also had some bear and wildlife anecdotes as well as how to keep the hornets away from your beer. She had some history to share as well including the miner who wore stove pipes on his legs to protect himself from rattlesnakes and about the many moonshiners that made hooch illegally during prohibition.

And then we pushed off! Our first rapid was Killum Rapids and then Gunbarrel. I was nervous for all of the rapids but those two were good teeth cutters. Mike has rowed a bit in past and is a great river reader. We went through those class twos with no problem and had some fun. The rest of the day was an easy float with more class two rapids and lots of swimming holes. We pulled out a beach for lunch and swam and through pine cones for the dog.

I took the oars for awhile and tried to get the feel for pushing and pulling and turning. You always face danger and row away from it.When it was time to eddy out for camp, I got flustered and couldn't make the boat go in the direction that I wanted it to. We started getting pulled by the current into the next rapid and I got even more flustered. Mike jerked the oars from me, turned the boat and started rowing backward with all his might. He got the boat into the eddy and back to camp, phew... I practiced eddying out a lot the next day.

We set up camp and had a long happy hour. Brooks and Cammie, Salmon River pros from Salmon, ID waited for the weather to cool before grilling Mahi Mahi in the fire pan and whipping up mango black bean salsa, rice and coleslaw.

In the mean time, Mike and I took a walk to Lantz Bar, a historical homestead with lots of fruit trees and an old cabin. The River of No Return, a historical book about the Salmon settleres had a lot to say about old Lantz. First he tried to row a scow down the river with a years supply of food but capsized in Gun Barrel Rapids. So he went back to Salmon collected on a couple of debts, bought more supplies and packed them down the trail on mules. He planted an orchard and built a cabin on the bar. He fought forest fires and worked for the Forest Service building trails. He built over 200 miles of trail. When he got older, he sold his property to the Forest Service under the condition that he could still live there and that his orchards would be maintained into perpetuity. A volunteer accidentally burned his cabin to the ground and the BNF Supervisor diverted funds and employee volunteers to rebuild his cabin. He eventually died there and was buried in Hamilton with his wife, Jesse. His orchard is just coming on with fruit now!

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