Wednesday, July 26, 2006

119 Degrees and Cashews

Some times modern technology makes life very good. In the case of this trip down to the Hammer Creek boat launch, the development of air conditioning was key. We left NIC at about 6:30 am and had no problems on the way down through Moscow and Lewiston, it was hot out but the ride was very comfortable due to conditioned air in both vehicles. We arrived at Hammer Creek and rigged the boats. There was a private group setting up, and one commercial group pulling out as we hit the ramp to unload. Things went remarkably smooth and our launch put us on the river at about 1:00 pm. The plan was to float down past Pine Bar and pick up a beach some where between that launch and American Bar. The river was running well so we moved along pretty fast. The Hammer to Pine Bar float took about ? and we were close to American Bar by ???. All the good beaches already had parties on them through this section and even American Bar was taken when we got there.

So we pushed on down to the area around Packer Creek. There are four beaches in that area so we hoped one would be open. We came to the first beach on river right and it looked good. Big enough for our group but not so huge that other parties would look at us with daggers in their eyes. The paddle boat hit the beach and so did Linda and I. We checked it out and gave each other the thumbs up so we started unpacking. I guess Paul C. didn’t like something about the beach because he didn’t have Ryan pull in! The went down river a bit and pulled in to shore. Then they started pulling the boat up river! Wow, this was different, guess they needed exercise or something. We were just about to go help them pull when Paul jumped behind the oars and pealed on down the river. Man he must have seen something about this place that he didn’t like. So the group headed down river to a beach on river left just above Killer Goat Beach. It was a good beach and had some real nice spots to set up on so that's what we did.

Dinner was served within the next hour, steaks off the bar-be, salad and cookies, a meat lovers dream. Cashews were brought out while the meat cooked and everyone joked of flying cashews. Linda and I didn’t get the joke but that’s ok, we ate the nuts without comment. It was dark by the end of dinner and most folks headed off to bed within the next hour or so.

Morning brought coffee and a breakfast of Egg-McChivvis’s. Man, were they good and there was plenty of food, oh boy! We packed the boats and were on the river by 11:00 am. We hit the big rapids today so everyone was excited. Ryan was in the IK, followed by the paddle boat containing Tami, Bob, Betsy, Todd, Erna, and Jon. Paul and Ron manned the gear boat, Linda and I followed. From what I heard Tami was the only victim of the river when she bounced out. She didn’t stay in long because they immediately brought here back onto the boat, almost faster then when she left. Ryan, soon to be known as FLASH, had a couple of swims during the canyon section. He flipped on the tail out section of Lorna’s LuLu and then bounced out of the lower half of Half and Half. Both times we were there with our cat to pick him up and get him back into the IK.

Everyone cruised through Snow Hole and China with no problems. We took the second beach on the left after China, a huge beach with massive flat sand. It had shade up in the Locust trees so we set up the kitchen there. Hors d’oeuvres were served via a floating snack table while everyone sat in the river trying to keep out of the heat. Jon told the story of the cashews, so now Linda and I were “in”. After a while Jon announced that it was time for the telling of the Flaming Banana story. I guess we had consumed enough beverages by then and we were comfortable enough to understand the sheer magnitude of the event he was about to recount. Jon is a story teller and by the end of his recounting we could almost see the flames, smell the burning rubber and personally know each character involved. If you ever get a chance to hear his recollections of this historic event, buy him several beers and sit back for some great laughs, but be sure you go to the bathroom first.

Dinner was Chicken with noodles and salad. We woofed it all down and sat up by the kitchen with the ladies challenging the men to “toss” the cashew. Some cribbage was played and the kitchen was cleaned up. Just another day on the Lower Salmon!

Packing was becoming faster, but we still were getting off the beach by about 11:00 each day. Our boating goal was to get into the Blue Canyon and hopefully find a camp some where around, Toad Beach or Sin City. This would get us off the river in time for a rousing horseshoe tournament. We floated along and the sun warmed up the canyon to a condition that many would call infernal-istic. I know that is not a real word, but there is really no word that describes how hot it was as we floated. A beach with a shade tree became our lunch hideout. I brought out my GPS to see if I could get a temperature reading that was somewhat accurate. I placed the GPS on the boat seat, in the shade, on the water, on a pad that would not have collected heat from the sun. We ate lunch. When I returned to my seat and looked at the thermometer reading. It read 119 degrees, on the boat seat, in the shade, on the water, on a pad that would not have collected heat from the sun. Ouch! I then placed the GPS out in the sun and in a few minutes it was reading 130 degrees and climbing! I shut it off. We didn’t need to know how hot it was in the sun. So we pushed off and continued into the Black Canyon.

During the day you try to keep in contact with the boats that pass you to find out where they are thinking about staying. We were able to do this a couple times, but we could only really be sure that the beach at Checkerboard Rapid was taken for sure. We had had several groups pass us and that wasn’t good. The straw that could be the camel breaker came when a big group of rafts motored by as we ate lunch. Yes I said motored! In all the years on the river I have never seen anyone raft up and motor through this section of the river. In fact I think this is the most scenic part of the float, with Rattle Snake Ridge to the east, it’s an amazing view. So as the sound of their motor faded down river we counted the beaches possibly available and the number of groups that have passed and it looked like it will be close!

We entered the canyon and to our left Frog Beach was taken. Yep, the motor heads got it. To our right the beach we though would be there was very steep, it might have been ok, but we moved on. Sin City was taken by a group and Checkerboard was captured by an outfitter. We moved on through Eye of the Needle and looked down river to see that the Pullman Mine Beach was taken also. So Linda and I pulled into the beach at Eye of the Needle to see what everyone else wanted to do. Eye of the Needle Beach is a smaller beach that fits two or three boats, may be six people very nicely. Eleven boaters was a little close, but everyone liked it so that where we stayed.

First item set up was the horseshoe challenge pit. Four the next three hours the sound of horseshoes clanging and people grunting filled the air. Pit etiquette required that no one crossed the tossing area during team turns. This rule was established early for safety sake and everyone was very good to abide by the sanction even though it meant no cooling off during the tossing of the shoe. Jon T set the rule based upon an unfortunate event involving Paul Cs’ wife and one of his better tosses.

As the teams competed FLASH did the prep work for dinner and when this was complete Paul joined in to create a fajita dinner with taco salad complete with all the trimmings. After dinner it was time for the days big surprise. Lindas’ birthday was July 24th and we had managed to purchase and pack a cake to commemorate the event. Now cakes are sort of fragile items, and rivers are filled with raging whitewater. Add the mix of beverages and the final product is a soggy cake, missing candles, and a squish mark where a can of Blue Ribbon kinda landed. So we served the mint frosted chocolate chip cake up with the best birthday decoration we could find, a cold sausage from the morning’s breakfast. Linda loved it, everyone had a good laugh, asses were exposed and the cake remained semi uneaten.

The tournament raged on and everyone enjoyed the evening, turning in early. Paul had gathered us together and requested that we break camp and leave as early as possible in the morning. So everyone scampered off to bed to toss and turn in the sweltering heat.

The next morning brought a quick cold breakfast, speedy load up and a relatively quick down river float. When we weren’t rafted up with the motor the current moved us quickly along and when we had the motor going it was very relaxing. Once the boats were connected and the motor started we kept the boat together through all the rapids on the Snake River. Deer Head and Wild Goose Rapids went by with no problems and before we knew it we could see the last corner, Oregon and the Grand Ronde River.

As we approached the confluence of the Grand Ronde and the Snake we could see the launch and the mass of boaters, both raft and Jet, jockeying for position. Looking up the Grand, a boat came cruising out on to the Snake that looked very familiar. It was Mike Washmuth, Tom and Sarah Husby, who had put on the GR at Bogans and floated down on an over nighter. Man what small world!

Take out was a cinch and we were on the road with no problems. Did I mention that it was hot? We all drove to Asotin and ate the place out of ice cream and jo jo’s. Linda and I lead the way and we were off through Lewiston up to Moscow and to the rest area north of town. I needed to use the rest room and we were a bit ahead of the others, so the stop was appreciated. Once the van stopped I knew immediately that something was not kosher. Everyone piled out and fell on the ground in a pile. Remember the technology we appreciated so much on the way down? We it had give out in the van and they had to ride all the way up to this point with only windows open. It was only about 105 degrees out there, my god, what do they want! So we rearranged our truck, held a cage fight and the three winners got to ride in air conditioning back to Coeur d’Alene. Erna, Betsy and Tami were great company on the return trip. Did you know Erna sucked up their canary with the vacuum cleaner? That is one story you will have to ask her to tell.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lower Salmon at 12000

The Lower Salmon River is one of our favorite river runs. It provides Linda with her sun and sand fix, and me with whitewater and fishing. We left Cd’A and drove down to Pine Bar on the river arriving at about 9:30 pm. Nothing eventful happened on the drive down, we got our river permit and found a spot to park just above the boat launch ramp. The rest of our little group was to arrive sometime before noon tomorrow, so we put the Paco Pads on the truck bed, pulled the covers up and went to sleep.

During the night John and Loretta Sutherland arrived and found a camp spot in the BLM camp just down the road. I didn’t even hear them!

We rolled out of bed, Linda went running and I messed with the boat. We launched just as the Sutherlands pulled into the ramp. Launch went perfect and in all it both of us about an hour to get on the river. The last of our party, Mike and Caroline Beckwith, was to arrive some time in the morning so we launched and headed down river to wait where they could see us from the road. We found a spot in a large eddy about a mile down and had just pulled in when the Beckwith’s were spotted on the road to the boat launch. Within the hour we were all united and the group moved on down river.

We camped for the night at Upper Packer Creek. The site was just the right size and setup was a breeze. It was our night to cook so Linda and I through together some chicken fajitas with all the fixings. It was a warm night and everyone settled in early for bed.

Next morning we got up and had coffee, packed up the boats and launched by 10:30 am. We floated on down and entered Cougar Canyon. The best rapid of the trip turned out to be Bunghole Rapid. It gave us a ride on huge waves, one after the other. Snow Hole Rapid was washed out enough to make it an easy run. We stopped a Mahoney Creek and decided to make it our camp for the night.

The Sutherlands cooked a dinner of Halibut and rice and we pigged out. Once again we were in bed by 9:30 pm.

Next morning we were having coffee when we heard a bunch of coyotes barking and yipping. I think they were trying to draw Scout out away from camp so they could have a snack. We were on the river about 10 am and were getting ready to run China Rapid in the next mile. When we entered the rapid and turned the corner we noticed that the big rock on the left was gone! As it turned out all the runs at 12000 cfs were nothing to worry about. We floated on until we came to Burch Creek, across form the jumping rocks was a huge beach that was open, so we pulled in. It was early, but we hadn’t seen many boats go by so we weren’t quite sure how many were below us in the Blue Canyon. We decided not to take the beach and pulled out on to the river. A few minutes later a group of dories pulled up to us and we asked where they were planning to stay. They said Toad Beach and then left us, moving on down the river. We had a dilemma and that was that we didn’t know how many boat groups were below us trying for the four beaches in the canyon. We rounded a corner and I saw a red boat disappear around the bend at the end of the strait stretch. That was two groups ahead of us with few beaches and the lack of knowing if others were already past. I signaled for everyone to head to the left bank and hit a beach we were almost past. It was a real hard pull and mike was the only boat to make the beach. The other two had to pull their boats back up stream about 50 yards. It was not hard work, just a pain in the ass. We decided to stay at this beach. We felt it was in our best interest and later we found out that we had made the right decision because the next day as we rowed out we could tell that all the canyon beaches had been used the night before. Luck was on our side!

Beckwith’s cooked a dinner of steak, brown rice and salad. It was great and we pigged out once again. The weather changed a bit and some thunder rollers covered the western sky. We had to put our rain flys on in the middle of the night and with the cloud cover it made for a very uncomfortably hot nights sleep. It cooled off about 4:30 in the morning, but up to that point we didn’t sleep well at all.

Morning was cool and lazy, we packed up and got on the river for the final float out. The rapids were fun but uneventful; we hit the Snake River and also hit the upriver wind. Mike had a boat motor and at the beach where the mine was we had rigged it and were ready for the wind. We started the motor at the Nez Perce Cave, motored down and hooked up with John and Loretta. It was the windiest I have even seen it on the Snake. We felt bad for the boats we passed that were rowing out. We hit the ramp at about 3:00 pm and were loaded in fifteen minutes. What a great trip we had! We drove home with no problems, eating in Lewiston as we went through. We got home and unpacked things keeping them together for our trip back down in two weeks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jordan Creek Camp

We got off earlier then expected and were able to cruise up the Coeur d’Alene River with out any problems. The Shoshone Creek road had little traffic, except the occasional bear and such. Yes, we were on the paved part of the road came around a bend and there it was right in the middle of the road. It was a small black bear and he wanted nothing to do with our truck and camper. He scampered off the road to the right and we didn’t see him again. He wasn’t a big critter but it sure had long legs.

We passed the camp site we had a few weeks ago and started up over the pass. As we gained elevation we came upon another sight. In the middle of the road was a moose! It took a look at us and started running up the road. I fell in a ways behind him and we followed it for about a quarter mile. It looked over its shoulder and took a hard left up a spur road and was gone. Man we haven’t seen game like this for a while.

We arrived at Jordan Camp at about 5:45 pm. There was no one in the area and the only sign of people was one tent in a site just down from the one we set up in. We figured it was set there by the big red Dodge we met as we were driving into the camp. Our spot was the same one we had the last time we visited two years ago with the Beckwiths. We set up the screen tent for the second time since we bought it and it turned out to be easier then we remembered. It’s good sized though 10’ X 12’, we ought to be able to live in that I would say. The shower went up after I fixed one of the poles, we filled the solar shower and when it heats up we’ll be all set. Dinner this evening was on the road so we read a little and hit the sack for a peaceful night rest.

Morning was cool but that felt good, we ate breakfast and had our coffee/tea. My plan was to go fishing before the crowds of the weekend and then lay low when they set in to beat up the fish. Linda hung around camp and read; I kept in touch with her by our radio set. Fishing was good and I found that I was a little bit rusty. The currents were placing drag on the fly at inopportune times. Notice how I blame the current and not my lack of practice. I caught three big fish and about eight smaller ones. The biggest I estimated at about 18”, but remember I am rusty and my judgment could be off. I fished until I was so thirsty and hungry (another lack of experience move, no food of water.) I waded back up to the camp for lunch which Linda had ready for me when I arrived. Modern radio technology at its best!

Everything has been quiet up at Jordan Camp, not a sole around but we figure that will change this evening when folks get off work. Our campsite is a nice one, there is a small deer that is set on following us around but Baka doesn’t like that. About every half hour he takes off running and we have to call him back. He’s a good boy and hardly goes very far even when he is in hot pursuit.

The first to arrive was a red truck pulling about four ATVs. He took the far campsite and set up a big guide’s type tent. Not a problem, we knew we wouldn’t be alone up here. At about 9:00 pm things changed. Two vehicles pulled into the spot next to us where the tent had been set as a place holder. The sounds of loud music and swearing started immediately as the drunks set up camp. In about 30 minutes another truck arrived and more testosterone ridden drunks poured out. The chainsaw started at exactly 9:35 pm and the bearer made a close circle around their camp and ours. For the next half hour the quiet woods was filled with F#&% and the continuous revving of the saw. It actually sounded like the blade on the saw was so dull it could hardly cut a twig, but that only added to the noise.

Linda and I were ready for bed by 9:30 pm each night but it sounded like the party was just getting into gear at about 10:30 pm. Flash lights swishing across the night as the boys walked out from the fire to relieve themselves in the woods just outside of our camp. Baka growled at the movements even though he was in the cab of the truck, I wish I had let him stay out and attack the intruders if they came into our camp, but I didn’t. The music continued punctuated by Yahoo and F#&%! This lasted until 2:30 am when they finally passed out.

We slept very little, most of my thoughts were Rambo based “pay back time” dreams and Linda tossed worried about intruders into our campsite. One of my thoughts was to get up early and start the generator, grab my chainsaw and cut down a tree, right on their tent. But I remembered I didn’t have the chainsaw and the quiet was something I figured would be a valued commodity.

We got our hiking gear together, water, food and the GPS and set off to do some maintenance on the Jordan Creek Cache I had established in 2003. The hike was about 1.6 miles over a very good trail. We had to cross two small streams and walk through some very high groundcover, but we found the cache and it was right where I had hid it.
I read the notes and looked the box over to see if it need any repair, all was good so I hide it in the exact spot I had placed it two year ago.

We crossed a small creek and continued up the river for about another quarter mile and then turned around to follow the trail back to our camp site. The trail moves along the river and gains elevation several times as you hike. The last 1000 yards climbs up the side of the river to an overlook and as we reached the rock out cropping, we were greeted by “F#&%” and the sound of “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” blaring from the pickup below. As we walked back our weekend plan was beginning to change.

In camp the road was filled with ATV’s and new arrivals to the, what I had dubbed “Animal House” campsite. Women! The noise level escalated and the boys were now very pleased. Linda and I looked at each other and nodded, it was time to leave. As I packed Linda walked over to the newly arrived trailer family that had set up next to Animal camp and let them know that there was wood at our campsite if they wanted. She also warned them about the party in her subtle way.

In 55 minutes we were out and on the road out of Jordan Camp, hoping we could find a place to camp, if we were not lucky we could always go home and pack for our river trip down the Lower Salmon where we knew there were no cowboy rap parties taking place.

We drove up over the pass and as we went we checked for sites to set up camp. We stopped at one but it was very buggy so we went on over the pass and down Shoshone Creek. When we came to the area where we camped with the Sutherlands, we slowed down hoping it was available. Both sites were open, so we took our usual. We set up quickly and tried to get into the river, boy it was cold. The sun went down and it cooled off so we took a hike up Rampike Creek. Just before we left camp the folks from up at Jordan Camp that had set up next to Animal house drove by, obviously the party continued. We didn’t see any game but the hike was sure nice. Back at camp we made a dutch oven dinner, ate and went to bed. We both agreed that we made the right decision in moving and we’ll get the sleep to prove it.

In the morning Linda and Baka went running in the cool morning air as I sat and drank my coffee. My goals for the day were to go fishing and read my book. Linda and Baka stayed in camp as I hiked up Shoshone Creek. I fished hard and caught quite a few fish; I used a Stimulator with a dropper nymph. We ate dinner that evening and went for our usual walk at dusk.

I returned to camp and we all sat in the shade until the sun set. We cooked dinner over the campfire and went to for another walk, this time we headed the other directions up the road. The road up Shoshone Creek has a thick cover for several miles after our campsite. We entered the cool dim area and spotted something we have never seen, two owls were perched in trees high over the road. They were very nervous and watched us carefully for several minutes until they flew up the road and into the woods. It was real cool to be able to watch them for those brief moments. Later back at camp we heard them hoot several times, it made us smile. We sat around the fire and watched it burn, our talk was about the upcoming river trip so it looked like we were switching gears from camping to boating so off to bed we went for a quiet nights sleep.

In the morning we got up, Linda and Baka ran, and I had coffee again. When the joggers returned something strange was in the making. Bees, hundreds of honey bees had moved into our camp. The bees were not aggressive but they were everywhere! So we talked for a bit and decided that we should pack up and head back to put things together for our next trip. I stayed our side, with the bees and packed up there while Linda took care of everything in the camper. Baka, who is usually a bee dog, was a bit overwhelmed and just sat there as we packed. It didn’t take long and we were on the road back home. We stopped at the Shoshone Work Center and dumped our tanks, stopped at Wolf Lodge and got rid of the garbage and arrived home in time to get started packing.