While this trip was not listed in The
Eddy Line, there were twenty-one
(21) GCA members who participated, so I felt the trip deserved a
write-up. The trip was organized by ex-President Stewart Stokes and
our outfitter was Canyons, Inc. owned by Les Bechdel, formerly of the
Nantahala Outdoor Center. We ran the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
in The River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.
100 mile trip lasted six days and five nights, with parts of the
first and last days being reserved for travel to and from Boise.
Allen Hedden and Gabriella Schlidt drove out with a trailer load of 9
boats and I drove out with 3 more boats. Everyone else flew to Boise
and those who had left their boats in Atlanta used boats provided by
members participating included Allen Hedden, Gabriella Schlidt, Susan
Levine, David Martin, Mary Vachon, Brannen Proctor, Oreon Mann, John
and Tee Brower, Mike Rachelson and myself in open canoes; Mark Levine
in C-1; David Ashley, David Asbell, Jack Weems, Elaine Jensen,
Stewart Stokes, Barney and Sherry Spurr in kayaks; and Michelle
McNichols and Elizabeth Martin in duckies. In addition there was a
couple from Germany (Lorenz and Erica) and their long time friend
from Finland, Paul.
paddled a foldboat he had built in the 1950’s and managed to keep it
in one piece on the rocky river. He even had to roll it on the last
day. Erica spoke excellent English, but even though Lorenz and Paul
were shy about talking, Gaby Schlidt was able to speak with them in
German so they didn’t feel too left out. Erica and Paul rode rafts,
along with anyone else who was tired of paddling.
hearing the tales of adventure experienced by some of the group who
flew out (misplaced tickets and travelers checks, lost paddles,
missed connections, etc.) I decided that my drive out had been
relatively uneventful. Eventually everyone arrived at the put-in at
Boundary Creek via small plane and bus, where we were introduced to
our six wonderful guides who had already been hard at work for
several days preparing for us. They manned four rafts with all our
food and gear.
of the rafts was called a “sweep” raft — a large raft
with large “sweep” oars at both ends. The raft goes
downstream with the oars in the bow and stern and moves from side to
side to navigate through the rocks. Early sweep boats were made of
wood with very high sides. The oarsman stands in the center of the
guides switched off with the various rafts and a kayak and a duckie
so they could keep an eye on everyone and move us along when we
played too much. (I don’t think the guides were used to twenty-one
boats plus four rafts, but to us it was nothing unusual — after all
we have the Ocoee.)
trip began at 7,000 ft in a high walled canyon with technical rapids
much like we have here in the Southeast. The water was chilly and a
little on the low side for some — 2.45 ft — but plenty high for
some of the less experienced boaters.
miles into the trip tragedy struck — David Ashley’s Pyranha 270
Acrobat cracked under the seat. We tried all the repair materials we
had, but no patch would stick to the outside. Finally we patched the
inside and used the old faithful patching material — duct tape —
on the outside. This worked great and David finished the trip before
we ran out of tape. David commented that he and Lorenz “bonded”
because they were always patching their boats. Velvet Falls was a
spectacular rapid on this section.
two had milder rapids and we resupplied at the Indian Creek landing
field. There are a number of private holdings on the Middle Fork
which were there prior to the Wilderness designation and there is
also a hiking trail along most of the river. There are several
ranger station and swinging bridges which cross the river and are
used when there are forest fires and other emergencies.
camp on Day 3 was at Big Loon Creek. About a mile up this creek is
the prime hot springs on or near the river. It holds about 10 people
and if you get hot you can jump into the nearby creek. The springs
were a welcome relief for sore and tired muscles after three long
days of paddling and everyone felt much better the next day,
especially after the Sangria prepared by our gourmet guides.
food for the entire trip was spectacular — there was something for
everyone and it was very well prepared.
day four the river picked up speed and the rapids were bigger. This
day we ran Haystack rapid. This was a named rapid on the river, but
there had been a recent “blow-out” (flash flood) and the
guides had heard that it had changed but they had not seen it. We
all got out to scout. It was a long rapid and a swim would not have
been pleasant. However it looked worse that it was and everyone who
ran it did well.
though it very interesting that after we scouted it, several of us
got our throw ropes and positioned ourselves along the banks while
several of the more experienced decked boaters positioned themselves
in strategic eddies. That night in camp, the guides let us know that
safety was their responsibility and that we should have waited for
all the rafts to get in position. It never occurred to me or
probably anyone else not to do what we did — it’s how we run rivers
and how we have been taught.
day five we finally entered the Impassable Canyon (impassable on
foot, not by boat). The biggest rapids were here and the canyon
walls were high. We saw a bear and bighorn sheep to go along with
the Indian pictographs in the caves. This was our last night in camp
and it was “party night.” Even if you hadn’t brought a
costume, the guides had something for everyone.
paddled very well, although there were a few who did some “trout
scouting.” This was easy to do because the river was so green
and so clear. Special mention needs to go to Mike Rachelson and
Elizabeth Martin who were the rookies on the trip. Mike had been
paddling less than a year and really did well in his Encore.
Elizabeth Martin, who was in training to be First Lady of the GCA,
and had only run the Nantahala a couple of times, mastered the duckie
and looked like a pro at the end. If David Martin can be believed (he
was adding in his head after a number of beers) there were about 598
years of paddling experience on this trip, including Lorenz and the
highly recommend this trip for everyone, including families. Canyons
is a first class company and the Middle Fork is a first class river.
the river trip ended, many of us continued our vacations. Oreon and
the Germans continued down the Main Salmon River with Canyons and ten
of us went to Yellowstone for a couple of days. Then eight from that
group went on to the Tetons. Some even stayed longer. It was really
hard to come back to the real world, but I need to work if I want to
go again. GREAT TRIP!!!
August 22-27, 1997.