Once upon a time, in July of 2008, I traveled west, all day, over hill and dale, through clouds and rain to join a couple of dozen people to float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Can’t say once upon a time anymore. Just back from my 4th time with the 5th reserved.
The minute the Sawtooth Mountains are spotted one can feel themselves slipping into a “time out”. An adrenalin that can’t be bottled takes over. Emotional baggage slips away, and the gear you haul gets lighter with each subsequent trip. A quiet descends upon your soul or so it seems. In actuality, it is the result of no cell phones, no car horns, no Pandora, no electronic notification interrupting you regularly, no television, no mail, no news. You are no longer beholding to the technology in your life.
The perpetual ache in your elbow eases since you are no longer doing cell phone calisthenics. You are forced to converse with fellow travelers, awkward at first, some reticence before those old social skills take over.
Very soon, giggles, guffaws, stories (mostly fiction), dares, jumping quite literally out of your comfort zone, and competitiveness take center stage and continue day and night.
You have relocated the 10 year old within.
From the moment introductions are made at orientation we begin to bond.
We are given a brief tutorial on how to – and – how not to.
This is the point of no return, you’re in, we are all equal now.
As promised by Steve Zettel (Sacajawea reincarnated in a male form) time and time again, no two trips are alike. A family reunion of sorts. Some familiar faces among the new ones.
We started out with fairly low water levels, some may have noticed this more than others depending on ballast. Some boats “stalled” a few times and had to wiggle a bit to loosen the grip the river had on them.
As I’ve discovered from personal experience, each trip has its own distinction. We had best friends, daughters, nieces, Dads, sons, brothers and a Grand dad. Pranksters, enthusiasts, daredevils, musicians, and artists. Memories made, unique to us.
- Big D leaping from a cliff of great height into the frigid waters of the Middle Fork, multiple times, kayaking and spilling out.
- A daughter cuddling a snake.
- The high school jock providing regular “jock”-ularity.
- The trainee instructed to wake a fellow guide with a hot cup of coffee, misinterpreting the order by dousing his face with it, rather than offering it to him to drink
- The old dog learning some new tricks, catching fish on a fly, branded with a blister.
- Joel overcoming his fear and accepting the challenge of dinosaur rock, over and over again.
- The duet, violin and guitar, serenading the group under a blanket of stars.
- The niece laughing so hard she fell over while in a chair, slow motion, twice.
- The other niece following her Aunt’s previous example and jumping off a bridge. A really high bridge with no visible reminders, unlike her Aunt.
- Margarita night and the coco bra.
- Our own Esther Williams performing swan dives to everyone’s amazement. Well done.
- Banana grams
- Sunflower falls
- The walk of anticipation and hope
- Solar heat8-)
- Finding urgent caretakers on the river for one of our own who had dislocated his shoulder while trying to lessen the impact of his fall, without grace. Two seconds of physical manipulation and he was once again beaming.
- Images of a feeding trough, while a few slurped, guzzled and sucked up strawberry shortcake…I think the jock won?
- The pig sisters, you know who you are;-).
- Getting as close to a forest fire as I will likely ever get. To the guides: you make this journey a wonderful memory, seemingly seamless, which we know is not the case. If there were issues we never knew, if you were not happy, we never knew, not feeling well, we never knew, bored to tears, we never knew, annoyed, we never knew. We can only hope to be considered the among the BEST group you’ve ever hosted.
To Michelle, Steve, Steven and Joel:
My sincere thanks for continuing to provide this opportunity year after year, for allowing us to experience a life altering trip. As Mad Dog noted very few people get to take this trip. It is the best kept secret despite my blabbering about it.