How do you fill the gap created by not posting for five months? Simply buck up and get on with it, is what I have come to realize. With that, I will jump from the lush jungles of Ecuador of my last posting, to the alpine setting of the Middle Fork of the Salmon.
For many years now we’ve been running two trips on the Middle Fork Salmon in Idaho, with ECHO providing excellent raft-support. Our trips start June 25th and July 3rd. These late spring dates allow for friendly, playful water levels and stable weather- key ingredients for a six-day camp trip
This year while our home state of California had a short-lived spring melt, spring in Idaho was dragging on and on! Cold temps and late-season snow delayed the run off. When it did begin to warm, the charted daily flows of the Middle Fork looked like the EKG of a recovering heart patient. Our concern, should the trend continue, would be high water -in the 7 to 8 foot range. We were getting mixed reports about the amount of snow left in the Sawtooth Mountains, the headwaters of the Middle Fork. We wouldn’t know for sure until we got to Stanley and saw for ourselves.
Much to our relief, and none too soon, we watched the gauge tip and the level begin to slide slowly downward. Arriving in Stanley, we were comforted by the diminished amount of snow we saw remaining in the mountains. Our put-in flow was a fast but manageable 4.44 ft on June 25th and 3.63 ft. on July 3rd. Previous years we’ve had anywhere from 1.88 ft. to 4.25 ft. This reminded us of two things; Idaho is unpredictable and normal isn’t normal anymore.
With these flows it would have been easy to make our miles and get into camp early, had it not been for the abundance of play. People arrived in camp each night tired and smiling from the day’s paddle, proclaiming that that day they had found a wave that bested the one they had surfed the day before!
There was news of wildlife at our first night’s camp- a mother bear and her two cubs were on the prowl. Word from the Forest Service was that Mom was teaching the basics on scavenging from raft trips. ” O.K. kids, I’m only going to show this once. What you’ve got here is a Coleman Mark III cooler with twin opposing latches. These can be tricky, so the best thing is to just hook a claw right under the lid and rip it off.”
The Echo guides nighttime strategy was the formation of a “cuddle puddle”, which is a catchy term for a kitchen-based slumber party. While the bears did pay a visit, our intrepid crew adequately protected our food. Said bears were last seen ambling off to a neighboring camp.
In addition to all that the river provided us, we were also treated to some great music by the Echo staff. Guitars and mandolins were the instruments of choice.
On the second trip we were treated to even more music. Jack and Rob brought their guitars and Brent his “melodica” (think breath-o-lizer with a small keyboard). There were many a late night jam session held around the campfire under some beautiful, starry skies.
Kayak guide and yoga instructor, Dennis Eagan, was with us again this year. All were invited to join the morning yoga sessions and work out the prior day’s kinks. I’ve said it before- Denny is a great instructor. Check out his site Wild Yoga. He does yoga sea-kayak, ski, and river trips and has a wonderful, gentle energy about him.
For those that had been on the Middle Fork with us before it was like paddling a new river. As we entered the Impassable Canyon, two days above the confluence with the Main Salmon, we were riding on 8,000+ cfs. Another 7,000 cfs and some was added as we turned the corner the last day onto the Main Salmon- a combined flow of over 15,000 cfs! Cramer rapid on the Main was pretty much washed out for the first group and just starting to show it’s potential by the second trip down.
Our weather on both trips was perfect, not a drop of rain! Thundershowers between the two trips made the sky over the put-in at Boundary Creek look imposing, brought the river up a bit, and washed the skies clean for a second, perfect trip. We’ll be back on the Middle Fork again next year with the help of Echo. They’re already open for business, taking reservations for 2009. Give them a call at (800) 652-3246 and request the “DeRiemer” trips. We hope to see you there!
Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking, all rights reserved.