Here’s a guest post written by our young friend Connor Dixon. We first met Connor and his family on a Rogue River trip a number of years ago. On that trip he was too small to kayak but just the right size to pick up by the back of his life vest and throw out into the pool in front of camp. Being a kid he would sputter back to shore and ask to do it again and again. Connor has come a long way from his watery beginnings. This summer was a busy one for he and his twin sister, Savannah. They paddled the Middle Fork Salmon, Grand Canyon, took a river rescue class from our friends at Sierra Rescue and, although too young to receive their full certification, took an ACA instructor course from Mary- all at the ripe old age of 16!
My trip started with excitement, daring, and luck (getting my boat and paddle passed the luggage handler before she thought to call over her supervisor). In Boise, I was picked up by Phil and we drove to a friend’s house who was very kind and let us “crash” there. Everyday, it was from here that we would begin our drive to the diverse whitewater Mecca known as the Payettes.
The first few days were spent warming up on the South Fork with runs on the staircase section and the canyon section. From fun boofs on Little Falls to the slide on the Staircase section, the South Fork of the Payette is pure fun.
On the fourth day, it was time to scare myself a bit. Every time we had driven up to the South Fork, I craned my neck to take a look at the famous North Fork. Definitely the hardest run I had seriously considered doing, after a conversation with Phil about it and a quick call to my mother (also a kayaker), we had the green light to do the lower 5. After about an hour of scouting, I came to three conclusions. The first, road side scouting is great! The second, construction of the road on one side and a railroad on the other had blasted sharp rocks into the river causing me to think being upside down would be a really bad idea. The third and final conclusion was that I had to run it (a very unpopular decision on the rational side of my brain).
The attribute about the North Fork that most concerned me is the amazing length of the rapids. Swimming would be disastrous. A “rapid” seemed to just be a period of higher gradient change between some class III. At the put we ended up joining forces with a local paddler, Mike Copeland and a few of his friends- it never hurts to have the extra company on the North Fork. Favoring a warm up instead of a beat up, we decided to put in below Hounds Tooth, a class V drop. After some North Fork boogie water, the first big rapid, Otters slide was run successfully (and successfully got my heart rate up). A short distance afterward, Juicer appeared on the horizon, or lack there of. On our scout, Phil and I had decided to go left (punching through a weird v wave/boil/hole) and drive right afterward to avoid the nasty Juicer Hole waiting for us below. I was feeling really confident… until I flipped in the entrance. All I could think was “there is a really ^@#$%*& big hole below me”.
Rolling up (which seemed to take forever, like rolling in molasses) and getting some idea of where I was pointed, I drove right, avoiding the sure swim that is Juicer Hole.
After a creek line in Cruncher where I hugged the right side a little tight, my first run on the North Fork of the Payette was complete. My personal comfort had yet again been challenged and pushed to a larger scale. After a final day boating the Staircase section, Phil and I parted company to meet a week later on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. One thing was for sure, I definitely had to come back and boat on Payettes again.