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.

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