The River of No Return

The River of No Return

** sorry we are so behind! We have been without wifi for quite some time. We will be catching up over the next few days so expect a few posts of our last few weeks.**

The day was finally here for our big rafting trip! We showed up in Idaho at Mark and Patty’s house (Rob’s aunt and uncle) the night before to unload our stuff and just do any last minute preparations for the trip. Once we starting gearing up we felt VERY unprepared. Mark and Patty had everything one could need for a rafting trip and all we had was a measly little dry bag, our clothes and our tent. :/. No worries, they hooked us up big time. They lent us anything we didn’t have and we were ready to roll out in the morning.

Off we go! We met up with our group of about 20 – most of which were complete strangers except Rob’s family. We loaded up a school bus and a trailer and headed out. I was surprised at how quickly the “stranger” phase just faded away and everyone was friends. It was about 3 hours of very bumpy roads to the put in for the river. I was sure the bus was going to fall apart at times on that road, but we made it up there. We unloaded all the boats – put them together, filled them with gear and lowered them down the ramp into the water… but we weren’t heading out until morning. I was very confused by this at first, but then once I saw the time it took to get all the boats down the ramp I realized why we did it the night before. The next morning we’d be able to quickly load tents and hit the water. Once the work was all done, and we had eaten the first of many delicious dinners, the group talked of a rumored waterfall nearby which would offer the chance to see some jumping salmon. We hopped in the back of a pickup truck driven by someone that was reportedly known to the group and took off down the bumpy road. The driver ended up making record time to take us comically off course, and the road was so bumpy that everyone just held on tight and tried to spill less than 50% of their wine/beer/drink of choice. We did ultimately make it to the waterfall where we enjoyed watching the salmon swim and bravely hurl themselves at the falls to get upstream. Apparently they travel 800 miles in order to reach their spawning ground, WOW! The bonding with our new friends continued while watching the fish and afterwards with some continued drinks around the campfire. Mark’s ER background came in handy the very first night as someone stumbled in the low light around the campfire and separated their shoulder- foreshadowing, never a dull moment on this trip. No more than 24 hours prior, Mark had warned us that camp is the most dangerous place on the river. (probably because that’s where the bar gets set up)

The next morning we awoke early to head down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Wow! I was actually pretty nervous. We have 9 boats total, our boat has Rob’s aunt and uncle, me and him and all our gear so it’s a pretty heavy boat. Rob and I sit up front. The weather – cold. rainy. AWFUL. (I was previously informed that it almost NEVER rains in Idaho… well I guess we picked the few days of the year that it decided to rain because our first two days were rainy and cold) Oh boy and that water is FUUURRREEEEZZZZZZIIINNNNGGGGGGGGGG. Especially when there isn’t a lick of sunshine for the day. It was pretty brutal. But we made it through. We went about 20 miles and conquerred our first class 4 rapid (a 4-6 ft. straight drop) on our first day to camp and then began set up. I have never seen a camp set up like this – full kitchen, gourmet meals, fancy mix drinks, even hot showers! Dang! Sure beats the PB/Js Rob and I have been eating on the daily… Day 1, although cold was a success.

The trip continued successfully – every night getting better than the last. On the final night there was even a marriage proposal between the permit holder – Sarah and her now fiance Kirk. Even the weather cooperated. By day 3 it was HOT during the days and the cold water was actually a welcomed respite from the blazing sun. We would go anywhere from 10-27 miles a day on the river to each camp and then set up the same each day. I think everyone would agree the best meal we had was the stuffed game hens made on day 4. Man! Delicious. What a shock that we could make those while camping. We had a few theme nights as well… tie night and toga night – apparently we had red, white and blue night but only like 3 people knew about it so I’m calling BS on that one.

The day to day rafting was filled with some awesome rapids that kept everyone on their toes. Though officially only one person “went swimming,” Athena went over the raft’s edge to about knees up underwater and was yanked back in by her ankles. One day which was largely filled with fly-fishing and beer drinking, at a moments notice we had to step up big time in order to rescue a boat which was stuck bouncing violently in one of the few rapids on the schedule for the day. We noticed trouble up ahead and sprang into action! I (Rob) was oaring at the time with Sam, an experienced oarsman, was up front fishing. In light of the trouble, and the possibility that we would need to assist, we switched places. Sam steered us into the perfect position and I used the rescue bag to toss a rope straight over the heads of the ensnared boat. The two passengers remaining of the original three grabbed the rope and tied it to the first things they could grab. Our boat continued down, and the rope got tight in a hurry. Our boat spun, the rope snapped against my legs, (Ouch!) but our momentum and the water pulled them free. Kyle and Suzanne were thankful to be done hanging on for dear life in the middle of the officially named Jackass Rapid, and Tiger (the swimmer) was happy to be able to reboard his boat. Injuries were minor- in the flurry of activity, Kyle had his thumb smushed between two bars, but he was ok to go. Even the “easy days” were filled with excitement!

In addition to the excitement from the rafting itself, we also saw some beautiful scenery and a fair amount of wildlife. We had a huge herd of sheep come right through camp one night which was very cool. We saw a fair amount of mule deer alongside the river’s banks, and saw many an osprey. I managed to catch a plethora of trout (cutthroat and hybrid “cut-bows”) on the fly rod. Athena learned some fly casting and did very well with it, I was quite proud. I believe she will catch a fish next time we take out a fly rod, she nearly had one almost immediately, but as a novice she didn’t quite know what to look for from a rising trout. Sam and I exploded with excitement and nonsense when we simultaneously saw the subtle bite of a fish on her dry fly, but as it such a soft take with many of these fish, Athena hadn’t realized that she had one on the line. Like I said though, next time! We closed out the last day with some fun, up and down roller coaster style rapids and the sighting of a bald eagle. Other highlights include multiple hot springs which were Godsends on the cold early days, side hikes to a couple waterfalls which poured water into our path and some Indian petroglyphs which were fun to see and attempt to decipher.

The raft trip was as fun as we hoped it would be. We intend on applying for the permit next year in hopes to do the trip again – and likely bugging some of our friends to apply for it along with us as well. It was an awesome experience and we are so glad we were able to make it a part of our journey.

3 thoughts on “The River of No Return

  1. Okay, so I apologize if this is a repeat comment but somehow I lost the last one before hitting “post”. I can see you laughing Athena! So, I think what I wrote was that the pictures were beautiful. After reading the blog and chatting with you the pictures really help me visualize your trip. You are doing a great job. I have always wanted to go fly fishing so I loved that part. Those trout looked amazing! Dad and I used to catch them upstate NY and have them for breakfast so I know you are eating well…and by the way…Duck-Athena!? Wow!

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