Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cast and Blast

The Cast and Blast took place over the past weekend.  It was a great trip with OK weather, good friends, lots of laughs, and a wonderful river.  We launched  on Friday, September 20th from Hammer Creek boat launch at Whitebird, Idaho.  The river level was 3600 cfs, but the water was muddy from an up river blow out.  (I talked to a commercial guide at the take out and he said that it was blown out way above Corn Creek.)

I love the Lower Salmon in the Fall!
At the ramp we joined up with Mike Beckwith, Mike Fhurman, and Paul Harris.  They were already in the water and rigged when we arrived so Steve Fitzgerald and I took our time and unloaded our gear.  It was a warm and sunny day so we really enjoyed the leisurely pace at the launch.

We floated down to a beach below Bigfoot Island and set up our first camp.  I slept our under the stars that night and enjoyed the full moon at its brightest.

 First blood.  At this time our hopes were high!
Saturday we moved on down river past Pine Bar and stopped at Killer Goat Beach for that night.  The weather was changing and we all set up tents.  It sprinkled during the night but in the morning we had mostly cloudy skies for our float through Snow Hole Canyon. We tightened everything down on our boats and dressed for the whitewater.

The rapids were different at this lower water level.  Each one was a read and run situation even though we knew the usual make up of the rapid entries, holes to avoid and paths to follow.  The river level was at 3400 cfs when we went through Snow Hole rapids and it was boney.

Evening Mulie across the river at dinner.
As we got nearer Snow Hole Mike B. had a conversation with a jet boat guide.  The operator asked if we were comfortable running Snow Hole at this level and inferred that this was our last chance to abort the run.  Mike thanked him for his concern and said we were “never comfortable” running Snow Hole but we did have the necessary skills to get our boats down though the rapid. After we had floated on and the jet boat was long gone we wondered what he could have done if we had not had the experience to get through the rapid. Take us all back up river?

It was very nice that the boat operator showed his concern, but it also added a bit more tension to our upcoming run through Snow Hole.

Fitz and Mike getting ready for dinner.
Beckwith went through first moving left center to avoid the tooth rock at the bottom right of the rapid. As he moved past the first rock on the upper left his motor mount bumped on a hidden rock that sat just below the that first rock. This sent him sideways into the meat of the rapid and he fought the boat back in line for a safe run through.

 I followed and used basically the same line but my boat missed all the rocks and I had a smooth run past the tooth rock.  I pulled to the right eddy and waited for Fitz.

Steve’s run was smooth and free of problems.  His boat is huge and it is always a wonder that we don’t have him bumping off more rocks.  I guess we have to give him credit as a good boatman for clean runs like that.  (LOL - That was hard for me to admit.)

Mike Beckwith in his LAST boat.
Mike Fhurman was sweep and as he pulled left to avoid the tooth rock his boat hung up on the rocks on the left.  It was a bit tense for about five minutes as he sat there while Paul jumped up and down trying to free the boat.  Mike was in a predicament, if he moves forward to adjust the weight so the boat would slide off the rocks, he would not be in a position to pull once the boat was free.  If he didn’t pull when the boat came free, then it would certainly ram up against the tooth rock. Paul jumped and Mike pulled and the boat finally came free. As soon as they were free Paul clamped down on some straps and Mike pulled hard barley avoiding the tooth rock.
Beckwith, need I say more?

We floated on down letting the adrenalin die down and our nerves settle. There were lots of stories at lunch; we were glad to get down past that rapid.

Running China Rapid was business as usual.  The route through the rapid was tight but everyone did a good job. We floated down to our next camp at Billy Creek.

We set up our gear and ate dinner.  Each night we sat around the fire until someone could not keep their eyes open or it started to rain.  In all instances we were lucky if we made it to 9:00 PM.
Rafting buddy Fitzgerald. Doughnuts anyone?
At this camp both Steve and I heard quiet sounds around the camp at about 11:00 PM. I was in my tent and didn’t want to get out of my warm bed to look around.  I hoped, if given a choice; a wild animal would choose one of the other guys. I had a 1 in 5 chance so I went back to sleep.

The next morning we looked around and found fresh coyote tracks around us in the sand. Those guys must have been coming into camp and checking for goodies when a boating group used the beach.  They were real quiet, but fortunately they didn’t find any midnight snacks in our camp.

Paul (the Bouncer) and Mike (Mr. Calm) enjoying the canyon.
We got up and pushed on down river for our last camp.  We grabbed the beach at Skeleton Creek.  I fixed dinner and we sat around the fire watching deer across the river.

Tuesday morning arrived and we moved on down to the Snake River where we motored out.  The weather was off and on rain and wind. It didn’t bother us because we were on our last leg of the journey.

The barn above Whitehouse Bar. Beautiful!
We reached the takeout at Heller Bar and ran smack into a closed take out ramp.  We had to use the rock beach next to the ramp where the heavy equipment worked.  It was a bit of a mess, but we got by.  Once we were loaded we all said our good byes and hit the road home.
It was a great trip!  Only five birds were shot and the fishing stunk, but being on the river far outweighed all those little disappointments.  I really love fall river floating, it is one of the best times to be on the water.  (If you don’t have constant rain and wind that is. LOL)

Rattlesnake Ridge in the mist.
Mike Beckwith on the oars.
Canyon floating.
Motoring out on the Snake.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Because We Can!

It was up the old St. Joe again for this camping trip.  We drove down via Rose Lake and immediately hit road construction.  They are resurfacing the highway from Rose Lake down to the turnoff to Harrison.  We followed a line of cars moving at 15 mph all the way through that entire section of road. After that it was smooth sailing all the way up to Huckleberry.
At Spruce Tree Campground.
 We drove through the campground and noted that all the nice sites were filled so we headed up to the areas beyond Avery. 

Driving through the zone where all the contaminated soil had been we saw that all the digging was complete and the equipment was gone. The land next to the river was smoothed flat and had been graded to let nature try to take back over.  It was nice to see all the heavy equipment gone, hopefully the earth can recover.

Not too concerned about finding a camp site, after all it was a Tuesday after Labor Day, and people should be out of the woods and back to a normal existence. The first noted camp past Avery was Packsaddle. It was empty and since we had never camped there we stopped and claimed the first spot. Site one is the biggest and right close to the water, the other spot is smaller and a bit harder to get into so we hoped we would have privacy for a few days.
"Take the lens cap off the lens!"
Got our camp set up and cooked hotdogs over the camp fire.  It was a good night and we went to bed at about 9:30 pm.

Wednesday we took a long drive up river to the end of the road. We used to come up the St. Joe a lot when we were younger, we would drive up to camp, fish, and many times raft this part of the Joe.  It had been probably 16 years since we had been up this far.  There were a lot of changes that we noted, biggest being that the road was paved all the way up to Spruce Tree Campground.
When you come to this sign, you just have to go there!
We turned around at that last campground and drove back down checking out all the campsites as we returned home.  Linda noted them on the map for future visits and gave them the thumbs up if they had potential.

Ate lunch on the way back and when we arrived back at camp, I set up my fly rod and went fishing as Linda read her book.
Fishing was slow and there wasn’t much of an evening hatch coming off the water.  I caught one good one and called it a night.  We ate dinner played cards and went to bed.

Our Thursday adventure took us down river just past Avery on the south side of the river.  We hung a right up the West Fork of Fishhook Creek (Road #201) and followed it all the way over to the Lake.  Dismal Lake was the butt of our jokes all the way there.  When we arrived we saw a cute little lake that a logging operation had made into a dismal place.  These people had placed their two trailers next to the road which was next to the lake and then they had brought every kind of junk used for logging into the nice area. They had dragged logs into the lake and created a dock for their camp which ruined the whole mystique of the quaint little lake. The whole campsite made the area take on the literal meaning of this lakes name, Dismal.
Doing our best to look dismal.

Mammoth Springs Campground was a mile further on the road according to the map.  We drove till we saw a sign showing that Bear Jaw and Mammoth with one arrow pointing to the right.  We followed the arrow and wound up at the top of Trimmed Tree Hill.  No campground up there, so we backtracked to the fork in the road and read the sign again.  The arrow pointing left to the Mammoth Camp Ground had been shot off and that section of the sign was in the bushes so we didn’t notice it.  The campground was about 50 yards beyond the sign.
Looking Northwest on Trimmed Tree Hill.
Mammoth Springs Campground is a testament to our Forest Service dollars at work.  There are pit toilets, running water and campsites scattered throughout a roughed out area. The camp is there, but it looks like it is seldom used.  Most all the sites are grown over with brush and grass.  It actually looked like two sites had been used this year. Lots of money spent to put in the camp, but little thought of how far and how hard it is to get to, a little ghost town of a campground.

After that stop we drove down Bluff Creek to the main road and back to camp.  The round trip was about 60 miles of good gravel road. We were dusty but enjoyed the whole adventure.  We ended our day by driving into Avery for ice cream at the Idaho Fly Fishing Company shop.

On Friday we drove to the North Fork of the St. Joe River and went up to the Squaw Creek Campground.  To get there you go through three tunnels which were real cool.  At the campground, which was almost completely empty, we parked and hiked up the Squaw Creek Trail to the top of the ridge. We figured the hike was a little over a mile and a half out and then back for about three miles total.  It was a good trail but very steep in places.

After driving back to Avery we stopped in to the shop for an ice cream lunch and then drove back to camp.  At camp we noticed that an RV had taken the second site so we were now not alone. 
On the hike up Squaw Creek.
We sat out and read and then built a fire.  As we sat playing cribbage I finally recognized our new neighbors as a former NIC student that had gone on an Olympic Coast trip with me over spring break many years ago.  I goofed up by forgetting that Kobi was not tied up and I went over to their camp to introduce myself.  Kobi followed me and since they had two dogs, all hell broke out.  It wasn’t a pleasant meeting.

Our neighbors were Scott and Colleen Thompson from Rathdrum.  They are teachers in the STEM Academy which they set up a few years ago.  Scott said he remembers the Olympic Coast trip very fondly and complemented me on the entire experience.  We talked and tried to remember common things from his NIC experience.  It was nice to meet them again.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Cruising Alaska - Juneau to Ketchikan

Packed up the Miata and headed West.

Jeff saved our butts by playing taxi in Seattle,
Linda is in there somewhere.

Leaving the hotel to start the adventure.
In the ship terminal ready to board.
A look at our room for the trip.

On deck in Vancouver BC.

The Aft deck with all the sun (lol) chairs.
Tennis anyone?

Aft deck pool.
Fish cookies.
The theatre where we saw some cheesy but fun shows.  

A toast to a fun adventure.

Vancouver BC as we leave port.

High five to the Moose!

Couldn't leave it alone could you?

The art gallery on board.
Our boarding photo, they wanted a fortune for it so...
Missing Kobi!
Yes, we have been everywhere.

A mail delivery on the Inside Passage.
Whale tail.

Coming into Juneau August 30th.

Juneau Alaska!

Carrie and Elora on the bus to Mendenhall Glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls with Linda.

Red Dog Saloon, Juneau Alaska.
Carrie, Elora, and Linda in the Red Dog.

Couldn't let it go, could you?

Patsy Anne on the dock in Juneau.
Coming into Skagway Alaska.

Thought this was a great use of old backpacks.

This is for Kenyon and Al Dee.

Another photo for Kenyon and Al Dee.
LOL, she didn't even suspect anything.
Reid Glacier , Glacier Bay National Park, Sept. 1.

Reid Glacier

The Grand Pacific Glacier.

Carrie and Elora

In front of Reid Glacier.

Marjorie Glacier.

The Grand Pacific Glacier.

Note: I was tricked into wearing this Jacket! I still don't own one!

Ketchikan Alaska, Sept. 2.

Eagle Grave Marker
Thunderbird and Whale
Man Wearing Bear Hat

There is a resemblance, isn't there?

Kadjuk Bird Pole (Totem on right!)

We call this Linda's first official day of retirement.