Friday, August 05, 2016

River Trip

We had several date changes, along with a few cancelations, but all that did was make our lists more complete and our schedule better thought out. Linda and I left the house at about 7:00 AM driving down to the put- in for the Lower Salmon River run. We would be on for five days and we hated to leave Kobi, but he was in good hands with Steve and Jodi

When we arrived at Hammer Creek the place was a zoo! Boaters from all over the country were rigging their boats and launching. We were able to get on the ramp rather quickly due to the fact that we didn’t need to rig our boat, we just needed to back the trailer in and go. As we pulled away, we counted over 50 + boats on the river in varying stages of readiness.
Our five-day plan was to travel about 15 miles for the first four days and then do the last 12 miles on the final day. It was a beautiful, hot day and everything was going smoothly.   After a few miles of floating, Linda looked at the watch I gave her to keep on her day bag and noted the time. Wow, we were later than we wanted to be, it looked like we left the launch at about 2:00 PM. We pushed on and when the watch hit 5:00 PM, we decided to call it a day and make camp. We found a nice little beach on river left just before you entered a rapid called Demon’s Drop.

We set up camp quickly and took a swim. It was hot, but the water was perfect.  I prepared dinner and then Linda beat me in cribbage.  Linda looked at the watch and saw that it was about 9:00 PM. She looked at me and told me the time. Then she said something about the sun staying up longer on the river. After a bit, Linda said that something didn’t seem right and she walked to the boat and dug out her cell phone from the dry box. When she fired it up, she started laughing. The phone said it was two hours earlier than the day bag watch.  She looked at me and I immediately checked the watch. Sure enough, the watch had been bumped and the screen was set to world time. The world time just happened to be set for Central Daylight Time which meant it was two hours fast!

We had launched at our goal of 12:00 Noon, but we had thought it was 2:00 PM. This meant we got off the river two hours early, and this put us behind our intended travel mileage. Linda looked at me and I looked at the watch, shook it, and started to laugh. In the end, we had a great beach and all we had to do was make up the lost mileage by extending our days by about three miles.

Day two we left camp at about 9:20 AM and floated on down past Pine Bar and beyond, doing 18 miles.  We really started looking hard for beaches just after White House Bar and passed up two good ones that looked to be fine for us because we wanted to make our mileage goal.  We set up for the rapid called Half and Half and I told Linda that if we could spot a beach we needed to take it, because if we didn’t we were going to have to run Snow Hole rapid to find a place to camp. We made the rapid and spotted a super beach on river left where we pulled in. Beaches on the left bank tended to get more shade and this little spot was out of the sun, an ideal pick for this evening.

With the second day of whitewater under our belts, I was tired. All the prep work, the excitement of putting on the river, the two days of rowing rapids and of course, a night in a new bed, can make a person tired. This tired puppy was glad that he didn’t have to run Snow Hole with weak arms. A night’s rest was the best thing we could do.

Running rivers is a wonderful adventure anytime you can go. For most of our trips we are accompanied by great people with many years of river running experience.  Each person looks after the others and everyone is very aware of the dangers the river possesses. We love these trips with our friends, but we also love to do solo river adventures together. The Lower Salmon River is by far our favorite destination for these one boat experiences. 

Solo trips have great advantages, but we also know the risks we are taking by going alone. I myself have run the river more than 60 times and we know exactly what to expect in each rapid and any particular level. Saying that, we also amp up the concentration level when we are soloing the river. At each rapid, we talk through the entries, dangers, and moves needed to make it safely through. Nothing is taken lightly because it is just us and the river.

On the third morning, we had just over a mile to row approaching Snow Hole, one of the two infamous rapids on this stretch of water. My general rule for running Snow Hole when we are solo, is to find a group, let them go through first and then follow them shortly after. This gives us a bit of a safety net in that if something happens and we flip, then we would have help righting our boat. Today we were the first boat through and we were alone.

Linda sat in her spot on the front of the cat as I stroked us down towards the rapid. She was calming herself by singing. Linda is not a singer, but when she is nervous she can belt out “The Impossible Dream” as good as anyone. I calm myself by visualizing the rapid and running through the moves it takes for a safe run. Being alone ramps up the adrenaline level and by the time we rounded the corner to look into the rapid and spot the tooth rock, we were jazzed!

We rounded the corner and stroked toward the entry and as we got closer I noticed on the big rock on river left entering the chute, was a white boat gnarled and wrapped around the rock. Someone made a bad decision or something went wrong and they paid a big price. Those rocks are not forgiving. That side of the river should be avoided.  Our run goes nowhere near that area. Seeing the lost boat stuck on the rocks didn’t help our nerves as we approached our entry one bit.

I entered Snow Hole on the right and pointed our nose toward the right side rock wall. The tooth rock loomed below the water smashing around its base. I pulled two good strokes sliding the cat to the left just under the surface rocks located at the top of the run. With three more big sweeps of the oars, we were set up below all the top rocks and far enough left of the current smashing into the tooth, so I swung the nose downriver just in time for the cats right tube to lift off the cushion caused by the surge hitting the tooth and bouncing us down through the rest of the rapid.  We made it clean and both Linda and I let out some yips and some well-deserved high-fives.

After the excitement, we stroked on downriver around the oxbow to China Rapid, our next big test. We watched as the rugged scenery drifted by, noting the many birds along the way. Chukars were the most prevalent variety we noticed. There were so many; the most we have ever encountered.

China Rapid can be another boat flipper. There is a big rock at the bottom right that can cause major problems. If you go anywhere left, you are in a rock garden that takes a lot of precise maneuvering. The classic China run is to start at the top left center in the rapid. As you move past the top rocks, you pull hard left and keep your tube just off the bank. You have to pay attention to several boat-grabbing rocks on the left bank, but once you get by them, you point your nose down the left bank chute avoiding the big rock and the huge hole hidden behind it.  We made the right moves at the right time and threaded our way through the rapid unscathed.

Our next beach camp was just past Birch Creek on river right. It was a great spot; we loved the quiet and view it provided. Shade came early on the sand, so we ate dinner and watched deer walking to the water to drink.

We moved on the next morning, entering the Blue Canyon and drifting down. The morning was cool and the water seemed warmer than the air around us. That only lasted a little while; we were deep in the canyon walls.

I think we look just like this!
Approaching Checkerboard Rapid, we tightened up our life jackets. The rapid is one of our favorites because it has big waves and that reminds us of the Grand Canyon.

As we followed the entry line, both Linda and I started shouting and yelling "Whitewater!"  If you ever played pinball in bars, you would recognize the phrase. "Whitewater" is shouted every time you enter the triple balls part of the game and your point total grows rapidly.  We have always remembered that and a shout of "Whhhitewatterrrrr!" brings a lot of memories back. If I ever could buy a pinball machine for home fun, it would be Whitewater by Williams. Always remember to "Go with the flow!"

When we got to the bottom of Checkerboard we both started laughing, Linda turned and gave me a kiss, turned back and a tail-out wave smacked the tube drenching her with water. She screamed and I hollered one final "Whitewater" and we were off.

We floated through the last of the Lower Salmon and on down the Snake River. We picked a nice beach on river left just past Cottonwood Creek. The beach got early shade and we were able to have a nice afternoon and evening when jetboats were not passing (which was most of the time until dusk.)

We were up early and rowed the last 12 miles relatively quickly. Our truck arrived at Heller Bar at the exact same time we did. I got the truck and trailer, we loaded up and were off in less than 30 minutes. Our drive home was slow, there was a lot of road work. Just outside of Moscow, a chip truck hit a vehicle and we were stopped there for about an hour. Take away the road delays and our trip was just about perfect.

1 comment:

Al Dee Sollinger said...

Sounds like a great trip.