Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Running the Middle Fork Salmon

The Middle Fork of the Salmon river is - next to the Grand Canyon - arguably the 2nd mostest premier river trip in the United States, and as such it can be hard to get a permit to float it. However, after the spring runoff the river level drifts gradually downward towards basal flow the popularity wanes, but there is still enough water to float a boat and there are dramatically fewer parties to negotiate with to share the amazing camps and iconic hot springs .  And fortunately brother Paul had the foresight to patiently wait out last year's government shutdown to get a late-season permit but still ahead of the hunting season.  Over the summer we met a crew who had done the trip the same week last year and had steady cold rain for the entire trip, but the rain hit before we arrived and with a nice forecast our motley crew of 7 leapt into our motley array of small rubber crafts into a couple-hundred cfs of water at Boundary Creek on September 21.
High culinary delights greet ID diners on the way to the rios.....
At high water the MFS can be fairly exciting, especially in the first few miles....
It looked scary at the put in! 
but it's mostly a bump-around at low water, even at notorious Velvet Falls a few miles downstream and the Pistol Creek rapid that looms 20 miles in.  We scouted each and bobbed through with aplomb.

The Middle Fork's notoriety comes from the float trips, but interestingly enough seems to get very little attention for its amazing plethora of backcountry trails.  There is a nice trail that parallels the river for 80 miles:

and there are a bunch of tributary drainages that have trails down to the main stem.   And there are approximately 1.24 million miles of game trails in the area that "game" have developed into pretty dang nice trails that wind up the barren ridges:
The game wasn't around apparently in anticipation of the imminent hunting season, but they make nice trails
So even a very leisurely float trip can be conducive to geeky aerobic types; I went for a good handful of amazing trail runs, including a fast 14 miler up and back on Loon Creek that finished with a great soak in its famous hot springs.

Paul charging up a ridge
Zin and Drew on the same ridge

"Zin!  You're going......too......fast....again!!" 
Colin wisely showing the way
Then charging down the trail!
Zinnia scrambling high above the river
Bear scat provided incentive to keep looking around as well as down whilst running
The hiking/running possibilities in that area are so vast that it's quite reasonable to have a river/raft supported running trip, if one were geeky enough to be so inclined.  And the packrafting potential - especially with the presence of Big, Loon, and Camas creeks that are all floatable in their own rights - is high with great trail access to all.

But most of the time was spent bobbing merrily down the river:
Quacking along in the double-duckie
Bruce on the left in his oar-framed Fat Cat

and fishin'
another nice ponderosa camp; Colin fishing on the left
The Crew:
some homeless guy in the soup line!

Zin, who's hair attracted these little blue flies
Bruce, happy to be on the river
The Cage Fighter
Normal wife to Cage Fighter!
The thinker
The goofball
We had a little bit of whitewater action; this is Rubber Rapid:
This is a pretty exciting rapid at high water; sorta hard to believe.  But there was plenty of water to float a boat. 
And a bit above this I got a bit cocky in a bit more challenging rapid and flipped and swam!

Thanks again to brother Paul for yet again being a great trip leader and to the excellent crew for great yaps and yucks.
Pondering life high above the river

No comments:

Post a Comment