Our first lunch stop was on a nice little beach and we had just busted out our food when a startling yell echoed across the river. "HEY! What are you guys doin!? What are your names?! You're both named Tom?!? Where are you goin?! Do you know how many mountains over 10,000 feet I've climbed?! Do you like Nascar?! How about A-Rod?! I've been to 33 states!" And on, and on....and on. We had unwittingly bumped into the Salmon River Rainman. Once we understood what was going on (it took me a bit) we tried to be a bit more patient with this odd conversation being yelled back and forth across the river, but we didn't linger. As we left I saw his companion, and.....a goat. Huh? "What's up with the goat?" I asked. "Pack goat." (He was as taciturn as his buddy was chatty). I have heard of people using burros, mules, and llamas, but one goat? "Yep, had three.". A pregnant pause as I waited for more info before asking what happened to the other two? "Dead". Wow, edible pack animals? "Nope, they wandered off. Now they're dead." Uh, sorry, I guess......and onward we paddled.
Paddling the main salmon was uneventful, though we did get a chance to try the boats in whitewater, as the "new" Salmon Falls rapid (formed when a landslide came down, created the new rapid, and backed up the water enough to "drown" the old Salmon Falls) was steep enough to be fun and require some moves. The boats performed quite well; pivoting is, of course, their strong suit, but in the thick of things they also were drive-able without a ton of effort.
And the stability of them is extraordinary; no real need for a roll in class 4- whitewater.
|I agreed to jump off the bridge with this kid, but on his count of "1-2-3".....I was duped!|
|But the next time he was game|
The morning of our hike was the most salient example yet of a trend that had been appearing; Tom was way more efficient than I was and was constantly waiting for me. Maybe it's a characteristic developed as an ER doc (and a busy parent who still gets after it outdoors!) to maximize movements, but literally I was puffing on the twigs of a fire for my morning cup o' tea when I looked over and he was literally packed and ready to go. Oy, I better get on it. But between the still-long days of an Idaho summer, more or less consistent movement once we (actually I) got going, and Tom's easygoing nature we were still able to make good time.
|Looking down the south fork from our pre-hike camp|
|You can take the doc out of the ER, but you can't get his scrubs off him!|
|Why is it so onerous to get a river permit, but these guys have absolutely no limitations?|
|Hard to escape lightning exposure up here|
|proving that long held adage|
and Tom - ahead, as always - surprised one of the large local residents mid-shit and he (the bear) bounded frantically down the trail.
|the first person we've seen in days and - go figure - his name is also Tom. Note the sidearm. "Fer barrs, wolfs, and mooze" Really? a pistol?|
|meeting back up with a rio. Looking forward to floating again and let water bear the weight!|
to a major trib that added maybe 30 percent more water, which was a bit tough; floating seemed a lot nicer than increasing the shoulder and hip discomfort. But finally we arrived at the trib, quickly changed from backpackers to floaters (at least, Tom was quick!) and we recommenced bobbing merrily along in our little boats.
|Happy to be bobbing again|
It was here that the shallow draft of the packrafts came into play; Big Creek is aptly named and it's mostly pretty wide without much water, and while a few more inches of water would have been much appreciated, we were able to float along without getting out, which would have been impossible in a hardshell boat.
After miles of flat but scenic floating the walls of the Big Creek canyon rise up and close in for the last plunge to the Middle Fork, which almost invariably means "good rapids". And it was super fun class 3 technical creeking, with the "intensity" (well, maybe just "drama") pushed up by a ferocious morning thunderstorm right on top of us as we bobbed and weaved through the gorge.
We popped out on the relative "sea" of the Middle Fork (sporting all of about 1000 cfs) and started stroking downstream towards the Main Salmon.
Another couple of hours down that and we were back to our put in to complete our first-ever river loop! Here are a couple of reference maps:
|Our route in yellow. Pink is our July bike tour. |
Stats......oh, like any baseball game we had plenty of statistics from our trip thanks to the handydandy GPS that were of mild interest to us - and I alluded to some earlier - but the reality is that it was an awesome adventure with plenty of paddling in goofy little boats connected by plenty of charging around the mountains on foot, and the stats....they are of no matter.
And wither the wayward wheel and tire to be repaired? Sure enough, there was Tom's wheel with a tire on it, and a note underneath saying "We found a slightly-used tire and had it put on, so we didn't need to use your credit card number. You owe me a six pack of Gatorade and a box of donuts"
You gotta love the folks you meet on the river!
Thanks again to Andrew's Team from last year for coming up with this great trip, Bruce Tremper for his generous loan of his little boat, and Tom for figuratively driving the bus on this trip and literally driving the considerable distance to the adventure from SLC and being a great (and patient!) pard
|Nothing quite like "Loaded, Baked" local "Buds" to keep a guy moving efficiently!|