Hi there! We’re going out of order now, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. The Wynns do it, and I still love reading their blog. So I’ll hopscotch over a few states to show you some of our recent rafting trip while it’s still fresh in my mind. Part 2 will come when Chris gets his pictures in order (and then you’ll see some of me.)
These first pictures give you a pretty good sense of what the Middle Fork looks like, although it does change a lot from the top (higher in the mountains, more trees, wider banks, less water flowing) to lower down and where it meets the Main Salmon (deeper canyons, more dramatic rock formations, faster water, more rapids, smaller banks, and fewer things growing). This is about halfway down.
We travelled with four boats.
The two blue blow-up “duckies” you see above (and one of them below) were shared among us all but were mostly used by Chris and one other man in our group. You had to be okay with getting wet (and a little chilly), and to be brave about your ability to navigate the rapids.
The rest of us vacationers (there were 5 of us total, Chris, myself, and a father with two sons, aged 17 and 30 – we really liked all of them and it was great to have a small group of awesome people) mostly travelled in the paddle boat, otherwise known as “mama duck” because the “duckies” were supposed to follow behind “mama duck,” especially in the rapids. The paddle boat was a great place for conversation, relaxing, and a moderate amount of rowing.
The final boat that you see in the background below is the “sweep boat,” so named for the long rudders in the front and back that are used to steer when there’s a good current, and are also used as paddles when the boat gets laggy in a slow moving pool. Sometimes, we would row in the paddle boat as hard as we could, too, to give the “sweep” a good push and get it moving again. This boat was how ALL our gear was transported … personal bags, beer and food for 6 days, cooking and camp equipment, and everything else. It was packed pretty well. And navigating it sure is an art.
Every time I saw Chris in the “duckie” he was smiling!
He smiled a lot in the paddle boat too, although I didn’t see him much in there.
Here’s a funny little video that shows how hard the sweep boat driver worked ! Our two guides, PJ and Brandon, took turns on the sweep boat and paddle boat each day to spread the love.
… and a close-up that gives you a better idea what this behemoth looked like.
When we got to camp, PJ and Brandon worked hard to unload gear and set up the cooking tables and fire pit. One of the duckies would be slightly deflated and propped against a rock as the “couch.” We would hang around, drink beer, talk, snack, read, nap, play music or cards, go for a hike, or lounge in the hot springs (when we lucked out with a hot-springs camp).
All breakfasts and dinners were cooked over a fire … we ate extremely well, with french toast, pancakes, bacon, frittatas, and other treats like fruit and yogurt in the morning, and dinners including “fiesta night,” stir-fry, locally-raised steak, wild caught salmon, mashed potatoes, salads, and lasagna. They baked cakes for desert! For lunch we ate sandwiches or salads, with plenty of snacks.
After dinner, PJ would tell us what to expect for the next day. Our days varied from a short day of 10 miles (we arrived at camp at lunchtime and napped in the afternoon before taking a looong steep hike at sunset) to a long day of 20 miles (it went pretty fast because the water was flowing quick and we paddled hard). When we would set off in the morning or after lunch, PJ would describe any upcoming rapids (here he is drawing a diagram in the sand for the guys). We made occasional stops to see waterfalls, hot springs, or other historical/interpretive sites.
Here’s the view from the hike we did one evening. It might have been the steepest hike I ever did … or at least ever in recent memory. We all picked up walking sticks on the way up, to assist on the way down. We huffed and puffed and felt our calves burn. We passed a rattlesnake. I wondered (and I think others did too) if it would be worth it. And … yes … it most certainly was!
It was an amazing view spot with clear sweeping perspectives both up and down river. We lucked out to arrive just as sunset was getting really good, and we watched the colors change above these beautiful canyons and mountains. But the best part for me was simply to get the “birds-eye” view of where we had been and where we were going. We had been seeing the landscape one river bend at a time, and this allowed a chance to step back and understand the grand perspective and majesty of the place.
Then we put our head lamps on and walked down very carefully in the emerging night.
I think there are a number of ways this trip changed us. Both Chris and I agreed that disconnecting for 6 days — not only from devices, but from civilization in general — was really good for us. We have talked now about creating that space for ourselves on a regular basis — maybe a few days a month. We will need to be intentional about it.
I learned a lot from our traveling companions, who were all smart, curious, and a lot of fun. All people with a travel bug, so we have lots of new inspiration about places to go, both on the U.S. and abroad. And we learned a lot about the area and its history from our guides. It is so amazing to think of literally thousands of years of use by Native Americans … and sad to think of how cruelly and selfishly we ended their time there.
I was exposed to a totally new kind of outdoor adventure … Chris had been rafting before, but I had never done anything but tube down a local river, and neither of us had done anything this extensive. It was an amazing way to get really “out there” — no roads, few people, hardly any civilization. We saw a couple of ranches that had been grandfathered in from before the area became wilderness, but that was literally it. Even those spots were only accessible by plane. We also saw other rafters, but even those meetings weren’t that often considering how much the river is used for these trips. It was really weird to come to the end of a trip and see trucks with trailers rattling down the road. A little shocking … and we were disoriented for the first few hours back in town … but we got used to being back in the world pretty quickly.
I know Chris has more impressions to share, so hopefully we will post those soon.
Our 6-day rafting trip couldn’t have been better. We just landed today are are still cleaning ourselves up, sorting through pictures, reliving memories, and deciding what was best (everything!).
But I thought I’d pop on here to let you know that we’ve updated our map tracker to show our awesome, winding route along the river (in blue) — and including a ride on the Kodiak airplane (in red) to get to our launch site. The final path (in orange) is the ride into town from put-out. Note that this river flows north.
We also updated our Cricket Campsites page and are fully caught up (except for the nice hotel room from which I am writing this). Thanks, Chris, for being so diligent about these pictures, even on the river!
More coming very soon,
Assateague State Park, Maryland (continued)
Without further ado: more seashore!
Coffee and morning pages on the beach after sunrise.
Kayaking in creeks and marshy areas on the bay side.
Ocean side, the waves were big because the season’s first mild hurricane was sputtering up the east coast. We got no rain, only waves as tall as my tall guy.