Every now and then we are told something that is so true that we just can’t quite bring ourselves to believe it.
This is the case when speaking of our guest satisfaction on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Everyone loves their experience with Idaho Wilderness Company and their experience on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Sounds like just another sales pitch, right? You would be correct and yet it does not change the truth of the statement. Every one, every time, for over two decades, regardless of gender, outdoor experience, age, preconceived notions, in the end, the response is the same. Yes, I know your thinking: “You don’t know my wife, my kids, my???? That is true and then again it isn’t. If we were batting 500 I might agree with you. But with our track record so close to perfect, the reality is, I think I know them quite well.
I was recently asked by a marketing professional; What makes a float trip with Idaho Wilderness Company different than a trip provided by our competitors.
That’s simple, “Me”. This answer may sound egotistical and or self consumed but I assure you its true.
Now had the question asked been:
What makes our trips better than those provided by our competitors? Well that’s a different story, sort of?
Providing a service like outfitting guests on a 6-day wilderness float trip on a hundred miles of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, through the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, will involve some very extensive interaction with our guests, involving details including everything from financial, travel, diet, safety, comfort, quasi-psycho therapy, day care, all-day care, night care for children ages 4-104, fishing advice, whitewater advice, history lessons, entertainment and on and on. These and much more will be dictated by those who actually run your trip not necessarily those who sell you your trip. Nearly everything you do for a week will be somewhat, and often predominately impacted by those providing the service for you.
Outfitters on the Middle Fork Salmon vary from far removed, large adventure travel corporations to local Mom & Pop businesses.
Some have steady season-long crews that actually run their trips for them, some crews come and go or change with each trip. Some Outfitters are very hands on and participate in most trips, as well as dictate exactly how things should be in their absence, while others leave those decisions up to the guides “de jour”.
Regardless of which company you choose, there will be a “Me” or several “Me(s)” dictating how your trip will be run. In most cases the personality of the “Head Honcho” permeates the entire theme of the trip whether he is present or not. And this is what should most interest you when making your decision.
1. Family, family, family.
My boys were raised in the wilderness. My guides are either family or quasi adopted. Most have been with us since they were in their mid teens or younger. They know the Zettel way and walk that line when I’m not there. Because our boys were raised in our business, we have always been careful about who we hired. If they’re not good enough for my family, I won’t allow them to be with yours.
2. We are locals.
We don’t just talk the talk, we walk it as well. Half of our business is on the land adjacent to the Middle Fork. We live on the Salmon River. Most of our guides have worked on the river and on horseback in the fall. Our knowledge of the river and the surrounding wilderness is not based on some pre-scripted dialogue learned days before your trip. Our guides tend to be the perfect combination of youthful spirit and seasoned expert. Wilderness experience well beyond their ages. (Sometimes I’m baffled by the thought of someone choosing a wilderness provider based on a picture of flowers on a table, over the incredible value of experienced guides!)
3. Folks that know me tend say that I’m a bit “energetic” (outside of nap time of course).
I expect and demand the same from my crew. They embrace enthusiastic service beyond anything you have or probably will ever experience, especially in the outdoors, under any conditions, time of year, time of day or night.
4. Freedom to do what you want, when you want.
Many operations tend to be quite anal by nature. Lots of rules, almost as if no decision can be made without the blessing of both the accountant and the attorney and the entire Board of Directors.
Idaho Wilderness Company (Me) refuses to take this route. You are coming to experience the wilderness and with us you will. We have a few guiding principles, which when followed, allow for maximum guest freedom, relaxation, enjoyment and safety, without detracting from the original goal of having an unbelievably enjoyable wilderness experience.
Here’s the deal:
The Middle Fork’s magical powers will impose themselves. You will have a fantastic time on your Middle Fork float trip regardless when you go, who you go with, how much money you do or do not spend.
Great question with no real solid answer. Unfortunately, 35+ years of experience has taught me that what concerns and or drives guests most in their initial decision making, is rarely what will ultimately be their favorite takeaway from the trip. Knowing this and trying to be honest with potential guests can be a bit tricky.
For example; Bob (before) wants to fish every waking moment on the trip. I know he really won’t when he actually gets here. He will enjoy the fishing for sure but will be extremely pleasantly surprised at how much he enjoys other aspects of the trip that he never considered. Bob (after) recounts how he’d never been in a paddle boat or a kayak before and loved it so much he chose to paddle most of the trip, then opps for an afternoon hike to the top of the mountain with his kids.
Bob (before) wanted solitude and alone time. I know the folks that Bob is trying to escape and they are not on this trip. We tend to picture other folks as the crowds at christmas time shopping malls or Disney World. The other guests will be like minded wonderful people as a rule. Bob (after) recounts how the new friends he made on the trip will last a lifetime and many of his fondest memories of his trip will be the sunset and campfire conversations with others.
Bob (before) was concerned about his children getting bored, not liking the food, being too young, the trip being too long, I know how we handle children and without exception they will say this is the most amazing trip they’ve ever been on. Bob: (after) “What kids?”
Bob (before) Says his wife won’t enjoy the trip, she’s not a camper. Yep, hear it all the time. As Mrs. Bob sits with her glass of wine with her toes in the sand, watching the sun set and her family having the time of their lives, all the while having to nary raise a finger for 6 days. Bob: (after) “What wife?”
There is not enough ink or paper to complete the examples of Bob’s preconceived notions compared to the positive realities of his experience.
I repeat: You will love the Middle Fork trip you’re on!
Don’t get caught up in who’s better than who. All are different for sure. So I guess its more the differences that matter than to speak of superiority. There are some differences that might very well be important enough to base a decision on. Cost for sure. More doesn’t mean better, it just means more and probably some differences as well.
If you are considering paying more than you might—ask why? What are you actually getting that cost so much more? Is the extra worth it, even necessary? Is there really any extra at all? And worst of all, the extra you may be paying extra for may actually detract from the experience your striving for.
The same goes for a “deal”.
What aren’t you getting? Maybe it is just that—a “deal”—and you’re not missing out on anything at all. Great! Grab it! Some companies have very specific boat arrangements, very specific fishing arrangements, with limited or no flexibility as the trip goes on. If fishing is important to you, then be sure not to book with someone who doesn’t allow fishing.
As the water level drops all companies have their own protocol as to when they will quit taking guests from the top of the river and choose to fly guest in at a lower point. If floating the entire river is important to you, then floating with a company that has a track record of flying earlier (at higher water levels) than others would be foolish.
All outfitters have specific launch dates, so if your vacation dates are specific it is fairly simple to find those outfitters with dates which match yours.
At Idaho Wilderness Company, we keep the rules to a minimum.
Flexibility to go with the flow of the group and the river at the same time is paramount. We provide options and flexibility because we know most guests (especially first timers) don’t truly understand what they will really want until it presents itself. If you wish to fish, fish, to relax, relax, to hike, hike, to swim, swim….
Our underlying rule to everything we do at Idaho Wilderness Company is “Common Courtesy”.
And all the while, keeping the “Wild” in Wilderness.
My standard line for our river guests during their pre-trip orientation is; “There are two and a half million acres of wilderness where we are going. If what you wish to do something which is not appropriate in front of others then go find one of those acres and be wild.” Our crew live with a “No Problem” attitude. If we can make it happen for you, we will.
Enjoy your Middle Fork experience! And remember; the only real mistake you can make is not booking a trip at all.
40+ years of guiding Idaho, Alaska, the Florida Keys and PA
Steve Zettel & Sons
Idaho Wilderness Company
Idaho’s Finest Wilderness Excursions