Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Salmon River - A Boaters Paradise

There is one place that I never had on my bucket list and having just been this summer I now highly recommend every kayaker out there add this trip to their list. The Salmon river in Idaho is stunning. It is without doubt a boating paradise, remote, pristine, wilderness, whitewater everywhere, blue, clear, clean water. Its just amazing. Its like a mini grand canyon. In fact if your planning on a grand canyon trip this would be a perfect warm up. Or if your trying to learn to Macho move and need almost 100 miles of non stop perfect practice waves this is the river for you.

This summer I had the chance to lead a trip of a lifetime with Jez. Seven days of non stop adventure down this beautiful river with 22 kids from Falling Creek Camp. Super talented all these kids took the rapids in their stride styling it the whole way. A relatively easy whitewater trip, mostly class 3 with just a handful of super fun big water class 4's. It was the distance and remoteness that was the main challenge. Almost 100 miles in just 6 days. For most of us 100 miles in playboats!

We flew in our tiny planes from the Idaho hub of Boise across snow capped mountains and through stunning mountain ranges to a tiny airport in Salmon. We then jumped on a yellow school bus and took the only road into the valley as far as it possibly went and then meet our kayaks, guides and rafts to begin the water part of our trip.

On the water the days varied in distance with us hitting 3 miles the first day and then 28 miles the next. Yes 28 miles that is more than a marathon in just one day it was insane. On the water we mixed it up boogie'ing (loose formation) our way down the easier rapids and then training up (paddling in a super long line) down the rest.  Rapid after rapid there was boats everyone, flying of waves, boofing small holes, kick flipping and wave wheeling everything safe. Over the course of the 6 days we found hundreds of the most amazing macho move wave trains we had ever seen. It was like a downriver play boating paradise. Off the water our guides looked after us well finding us beautiful campsites and cooking up 5 star meals. They showed us really cool local mining areas, insane bridges and trading posts along the way talking us through the history of this amazing place. One of the guides paddled a classic Dory (a traditional river expedition boat) a unique experience in itself to be on the river with such a craft, the rest in kayaks and rafts. Along the way we saw several bald eagles, a dozen or so mountain goats, wild horses and loads of other wildlife including snakes. About 3 days in we paddled amidst the remains of a forest fire burning along the river bank for about 5 miles in the middle of the trip. Then on day 4 a massive lightning and thunderstorm huge storm hit. It really was surreal being deep in this remote canyon just paddling our way along.

The days although long on the water actually felt short and we had a lot of chill out time at each campsite on the beach. We swam, sup'd, fished, played frisbee, climbed mountains and generally just hung out and had time to chat. The 22 kids we had were teenage boys. All super talented gentleman who had earnt themselves a special invite to this trip. For everyone involved it was a very special experience, life changing in so many ways. Each night we would sit around a camp fire and reflect on the day. Sharing our favorite and stand out moments. It was very special to be part of this especially in modern society where modern, electrical items, internet and phones dominate. To be fully remote. Living this life was such an important reminder of how valuable these experiences and moments are in a young persons development and life.

All too soon the trip was over and we found ourselves at the take out and back to the reality of life, back in a bus and on the road again, with cell phone service and other people about. A quick stop for ice cream in McCall, followed by another to check out Jakes Rake (a white water extreme race section) on the Payette River and we were back where it all started in Boise once again. Just in time to grab some pizzas and head to watch the Boise Hawks (baseball game).

Luckily Jez went the extra mile to capture the magic of this expedition in a video. As well as shooting loads of photos along the route. Enjoy watching our expedition and if you can I would highly recommend you make your own journey into this magic place.