Monday, August 15, 2011

River Time

I have discovered over the years that it is much harder to blog the events of river trips than the adventures we have while on the road with the camper. We are not able to sit down each night and pluck away at the computer noting the happenings of the day. On this trip I tried to keep notes each evening using a little spiral bound notebook and pen that I kept in a small dry bag. Even with this system I found it hard to get myself to sit down after dinner and write. Also keep in mind that when I write, most of the time I can’t read my own handwriting.

As I sit here at home and transcribe my scribbling another important hurdle that makes the writing about river trips harder has been discovered. My memory is not as crisp as it used to be! With all this as background, here are the notes from our Lower Salmon River trip as I recall them almost a week after the adventure began.

We spent three rather aggressive days getting the river cat and all the gear out of our cluttered garage and storage port. I would love to be able to keep everything together by area of interest, fishing with fishing, rafting with rafting, and biking with biking; but we have so little space to work with that it all runs together and by the time we need the equipment it is one big yard sale on the north side of the Bennett ranch.

To get the boat ready I had to move the fishing boat out into the street, then pull the cat and trailer out of the back yard storage area. That was a job because I had to move the neighbor’s huge snow blower, our bikes, the small Bill’s Bag fishing cat, and numerous gardening tools out first. Once the cat was free, I dragged it to the car wash and sprayed the year’s dust and dirt off.

I returned from the boat wash and unhitched the cat, hitched the fishing boat and backed it into place beside the house. Then I re-hitched the cat and moved it back into the space in front of the fishing boat so we could load it with river gear. I accomplished all this using the Jeep and the only thing I damaged was the right front plastic fender that I caught on the bush by the edge of the driveway. That’s a story for another day.

Ask Ben about his Iced Beer Method someday.
Once we were all loaded, Sherma and Ben Higgs came over and we loaded their boat onto ours. They pulled the boats on our trailer over to their house and then the next morning we pulled their trailer back over to their house. We parked the Jeep and trailer and loaded into their truck and were off.

The trip down included one stop in Moscow at Northwest River Supply. The Higgs bought Paco Pads and Linda bought some shorts that were on the sale rack. Back on the road we made it to Whitebird in no time where we dropped off the check for the shuttle and left them a set of keys. On the way down to the put in we got to witness something none of us had ever seen. A mother raccoon and her three little raccoon babies scampered across the road in front of us. It was so funny. They looked just like a bunch of cartoon critters bouncing and stumbling across the pavement.

At the put in we unloaded and launched the boats. We floated down about 8.6 miles to a beach around Demon’s Drop. We ate dinner and were sitting on the beach when we saw a pigeon being pursued by a Peregrine falcon. The pigeon did all it could to avoid the inevitable but the falcon matched each maneuver and before long the prey tired and the falcon’s death grip took it down. We watched the entire match and when it was over the falcon sat down on the far side of the river. Immediately after setting down a huge hawk dropped down from the hillside and pushed the falcon off its dinner. The falcon flew away as the hawk enjoyed a peaceful meal.

It was a great beach camp. We saw the bird chase, a river otter swam by and when Linda was using the restroom a hummin bird flew within five inches of her face and tried to get nectar out of the wishy washy sprinkle head. The next day we packed up and floated down below Whitehouse Bar and camped between Harm’s Hole and Bodacious Bounce rapids covering about 18 miles. We had a great evening and everyone turned in early watching the stars that were not washed out by the full moon.

Just a little rattler that we found in camp.
Mon says jump, baby jumps!
We ran the big rapids, Snow Hole and China, without problems and made our way down to a beach with some locust trees that provided shade. It was just below Skeleton Creek and after the sun set and we were eating dinner, five deer came out and crossed just behind camp. It was the second group of deer we were able to watch today. The first group of five was in the water at Eagle Creek. That group included two baby deer, one of which launched itself into the river as we passed. It looked to us like mom was giving swimming lessons and the little one wanted to show her it had learned what she was teaching.

Next day we floated through the Blue Canyon leaving the Salmon River joining the Snake. We were able to make it about a mile down river when the afternoon upriver wind hit and slowed our progress immensely. We made some mileage but it was hard and both Ben and I were getting very tired. Just above Jim Creek we met some folks from Canada who were sitting on the beach waiting out the wind. One of them introduced himself as Rick Green from Red Mountain and we talked for quite some time about boating and the area around his home. When the wind died they packed up and pushed on down river. We set up camp and settled in.

This beach was not the best. In fact it was the dirtiest beach of the entire trip and maybe the worst I have ever seen. I blame it all on the jet boaters and here is my reasoning. The past four nights have been spent on beaches located on the Lower Salmon that jet boaters cannot reach because of the rapids that stop their upriver progress. The beaches on the Salmon have the same amount of nightly use, but the people using them are mainly rafters who carry and use their toilets and trash bags. They have a very different ethical view about keeping the beaches clean and pristine.

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
Suborder Polyphaga (Water, Rove, Scarab, Longhorn, Leaf and Snout Beetles)
Superfamily Chrysomeloidea (Long-horned and Leaf Beetles)
Family Cerambycidae (Longhorned Beetles)
Subfamily Cerambycinae
Tribe Rosaliini
Genus Rosalia
Just in case you were wondering! 
Jet boaters are required to follow the same rules as rafters, but there ethics are very different. They don’t care about the beaches or the river like rafters do. They are on the water to go fast, play loud music and party. They are all required to carry a toilet, but they would rather use the beaches as their bathroom rather than using their toilets and having to dispose of the crap when they get back to town.

The stark difference in the cleanliness of the two river beaches tells me that this is true. Why would rafters who have used their toilet and trash stop using them just because they are now on the Snake? They wouldn’t, but the jet boaters are a different breed and the beaches consistently show this.

We slept well and got up very early on Sunday to beat the upriver wind on our row out. It was an easy end to our trip. The take out was uneventful despite a guy who cut in front of us on the left boat launch forcing us to use the right one and then carry our gear extra distance. Not all rafters are perfect and follow proper etiquette.

We drove to Lewiston and stopped for lunch at the Main Street Café. It was a great meal and topped off our adventure nicely. The river was beautiful as usual our trip had very few hitches and it was a great end to our summer break.

Rubber rattle snake found at Coon Hollow.

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