KAYAKING KRONICLES GO WEST by Richard Dabal

KAYAKING KRONICLES GO WEST by Richard Dabal

KAYAKING KRONICLES GO WEST by Richard Dabal

That’s Because…”

 

It all started with an email from a Bob Bailey in March. As I read the message his name sounded familiar. Bob said he got my name from Keel Hauler SBRG’s Steve Ingalls and that Terry Markoff and was looking for a boatman to do a trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho in late June. Steve and Terry were already booked for a “Grand” trip in August. If they ran the Middle Fork in addition to the “Grand” trip…well there would have been potential for non-harmonious disconvergence on the domestic home front. To avoid that, my name came up.

Bob’s email explained the trip as a private seven day float on the Middle Fork (“MF” for short). Most of the folks were from the Portland, Oregon area. The Trip Leader/Permit Holder was from Portland and needed another boatman to run the fourth raft. I immediately responded to Bob asking for more info. He sent back the trip leader’s name and phone number. The next day I called Brant Collins in Portland. Brant gave me all the details on put-in date (June 25), number of folks, logistics, estimated costs, etc. The next day I e-mailed Brant saying “Count me in”.

The first time I was on the MF was 25 years ago, in low water. Going back this time to the hot springs, the clear running water, Loon Creek, Velvet Falls, Pistol Rapid, Impassable Canyon… and this time, in high water.

The trip was to be the last week of June, seven days, four rafts, two/three inflatable kayaks and one/two hard kayaks. A lot of the folks had previous raft experience: the “Grand”, Tatenshini, Rogue and Selway. The initial down payment was $400, which is really cheap for a MF trip. Final costs from the shuttle and food supplier were estimated at possibly an additional $350-$400. Still, a great deal. I found out later on that the average commercial trip on the MF for five days was $1500-$1600 per person. We would up paying less than a $1000 for SEVEN days and that included the shuttle and a place to stay in Sun Valley at the end of the trip.

The folks on the trip were: Art and Art (father and son), Andre and Jennifer, with their raft, Bernard or Rocky as he preferred to be called, Brant (the Permit Holder) and Lisa, Bob and Joanne, Eileen and Greg, Patty and Tim, Patrick, Bob and myself. As mentioned earlier most of the folks were from Portland but there were some easterners as well: Bob and Patrick were from Maryland, Bob and Joanne were from Miami, Art Senior was from Syracuse NY, Patty and Tim were from the Bay Area. Art Jr, Brant, Lisa, Greg, Eileen, Rocky, Andre and Jennifer were the Portland folks.

Trip logistics took a while to iron out; who was flying in to Boise, when, who was driving, who had room in the car and so on but it all worked out. Bob and I flew into Boise on Thursday afternoon, the 22nd. We had never met but he picked me out the crowd. I had my two black river bags, red baseball cap and that SBRG appearance. (Side note; I had not told anyone on the trip I was an SBRG). We were staying in the same motel, the rest of the folks were coming in that night or tomorrow. The plan was to meet at one location tomorrow (Friday) morning and head north to Boundary Creek, put-in for MF. The room I had looked over towards the mountains north of Boise. Bob called me and said his room overlooks a junk yard. I went over and saw, indeed his view was a junk yard. I said what view I had and his response was a very direct two-word response. The second word of this response was the personal pronoun “you”. The first word was the acronym from old King’s English…Initiate direct physical contact with the other guy’s wife Upon Command of the King. I tried to laugh but the laryngitis made that painful. Later at dinner Bob and I talked river stuff; I answered his questions and at one point he said….How do you know all that stuff…My response was “That’s Because” I am a Boatman. He gave me a strange look.

 

Now, it should be noted that the day before I flew out I came down with laryngitis. I could barely speak, forget about laughing. Of all times to get this, at a time when my voice and abilities to project above the background noise would be most definitely needed. By Thursday afternoon my voice was returning to semi-normal…but laughing was still out of the question.

 

Next morning we met up with the rest of the group. The cars were packed, my voice was slowly returning but no laughing. Bob and I headed north in Art, Jr’s car with Art Sr. During the ride we talked, they laughed, I couldn’t (unable to laugh was real drag in the first four days of the trip. When it was possible to laugh, near the end of the trip….It felt great, now more folks are aware of my laugh and its ability to be heard above all else). At one point during the ride, Bob related the junk yard view comments. I couldn’t laugh at Bob’s way of explaining it. But Art Sr.’s comment to the story was “That was a perfectly appropriate response”. I cracked up on that one. It hurt my throat but it was worth it. Most of the discussion was on trips all of us have taken and stuff. Bob would ask questions, I would answer them, followed by “That’s Because” I am a Boatman.

Going up Idaho Rte. 21 we drove half-way from Lowman to Stanley through the Challis National Forest. About twenty miles north of Lowman a non-descript sign on the right side of the road saying…Boundary Creek turn here. You have about 50 feet to slow down and turn. What followed were 25 miles of dirt road. It was a pretty ride and not all that dusty.

Boundary Creek, put-in for the Middle Fork. Elevation is about 5800 feet, pine trees, pine tree smell in the air and a decent campground. The outfitter supplying the rafts, food, kitchen, etc., was already there. The food was taken out of the trailer and packed into the large coolers and labeled with each day’s food was in there. Everyone on the trip had a task: Bob took on the task of setting up and taking down the Groover very day, for that he didn’t have to do any other task. Joanne and Eileen were the food Czars, Tim and Bob were the Kitchen crew, as in setting up the tables, gets the boxes from the rafts. Me, I volunteered to be the “Groover Transport” raft. I had the biggest raft on the trip, so that “gave me that honor”

The rafts on the trip were three Avons and a Moravia. The Avons were a 16 footer (mine), a 15 and 14 footer and one six man Avon paddle boat. The Moravia was a 14 footer. All were self- bailers. The support rafts all had centered mount oar set-ups. Two of them had oar locks. I have never used them before so I asked for pins set up, like what I use on the “Grand”. The ladies were in the paddle boat most of the trip. Rounding out the “fleet” were three inflatable kayaks and one hard kayak. The inflatable’s turned out to be the most popular thing on the trip. Art, Sr was in one for six days, never paddled anything before and he had a blast and did really well. I paddled the kayak for one day and an inflatable. I managed to front and side surf the inflatable.

 

Now the “MF”. It was running about three feet above normal most of the Spring. I was watching the gauge daily. The ideal level would be 4.0 – 5.0 feet. As the put-in date approached the rate of decline was increasing. By Sunday, June 25th the level was 3.9 on the nail. The river at the put-in is the size of the Slip at Eckarts Bridge. The water flows clear and cold and feels really good on the skin. The rapids were rated on the Class I – IV scale. Most of the rapids at this level were Class II-III+, with a few Class IV’s.

The Boundary Creek put-in is a unique place. A good analogy would be…Imagine all the Upper Gauley put-in activity in an area the size of Harris Bridge take-out on the lower Slip and lining up across the bridge. Only seven trips per day can put on the MF, upwards of six (or seven) rafts per trip. A maximum of 30 people per trip. That trip number includes private and commercial. Commercial trips are limited to five days…Privates can go for seven. Getting campsites is by lottery. You pick the sites you want and the Forest Ranger picks them “out of the hat” and writes your name on that site. If another trip wanted that site the same night, they can challenge and then negotiations start to resolve it. Challenges are not often and there are so many sites one can get another site very easily. After the sites were chosen all private trips go through an orientation…just like on the Grand.

The “assembly” area at the put-in is about 60 vertical feet above the water. To get the rafts down, a BIG log ramp was built and all rafts slide down it. Controlling the raft’s descent is one thick rope tied onto the “D”ring. You push the raft to start it sliding and hold on. Once in the water you take your raft and look for a parking spot to tie up to. The eddy fills in fast with loaded boats and folks are pretty cool about it, especially when rafts are tied three deep from shore. Folks walked on other’s boats with no issues. It took a few hours to get all the gear to rafts. We lucked out in getting our boats tied right on shore. The stream banks are fairly steep and all loose rock/talus, we set up “belay” lines to hold onto when walking the heavy stuff. Once the gear was tied in, we re-grouped set-up running order and cast off lines.

Pushing off into the current, it felt great to be on the oars again. It felt great to be back on the Middle Fork. It was a sunny day, good water level and let’s see what happens. This was the first time I rowed a self-bailer. I had heard they were slow to move, they are right. I did some spins, pushed and pulled on the oars; it took a few more oar strokes to get the boat to move than a “tub” boat. Okay…just allow more time to make those moves. The current in the first 15-20 miles are fast flowing, technical drops and very scenic. Besides me having run it once, Andre ran it two years earlier. He and I were designated the lead boats. The river as said earlier is narrow, as in lower Slip narrow and was flowing at 3500 cfs at 3.9 on the gauge. I had my waterproof, multi-colored Middle Fork River Map and marked off the drops as we moved.

This was an ideal level. Everything was boat scoutable. The technical nature of the drops on the first day was not that difficult. One drop I had forgotten about was Sulfur Slide at River Mile 2.5. You float through a short pool and the river disappears to the left. You round the bend, the current accelerates very quickly and you have about five seconds to set up to run RIVER RIGHT of the large boulder in the middle of the rapid. Other than that Sulfur was straight shot. The one drop I do remember is Velvet Falls. It’s actually a steep sloped wave hole (Swimmers on major steroids). I forgot how fast this drop sneaks up on you. By the time we support rafts got there the paddle raft and the inflatable’s had already run it. I do remember a steep drop to the left.   I come around the bend, see a major horizon line and shot past the huge boulder on river left. I am in the middle of the flow heading for the center of Velvet…bad place to be. I pulled on the oars, bending them actually under the strain and got the raft to the left and made the left slot through the falls. As I went through it I noticed a gray object in the backwash, it was one of the inflatable’s getting re-circed. I eddied out below fortunately no one was in the re-circ. Brant the TL was in the eddy and waiting for the boat to pop out. It was too far away for a snag line throw. After maybe ten minutes it popped out. Patrick, the “lucky one” to hit the hole was okay, had paddle in hand ready to get back in. The rest of the drops were easily boat scouted and many times a straight shot, little effort to maneuver around rocks was needed.

First camp was Greyhound Creek. A nice gravel beach, nice pine groove and plenty of places to pitch a tent or sleep under the stars. After the kitchen and tarp were set up the chairs and cocktails came out and all took a break. Art, Jr was rowing one of the rafts today recounted how he knew he was at Velvet Falls….I was following Richard and I saw his oars become windmills at high rpm, and he disappeared below the horizon line. Later Bob Bailey asked me how I made that move at Velvet…my response was “That’s Because” I’m a Boatman.

The MF is a great kayak river. From 4.0 feet and lower there are tons of play spots. On this trip we passed two other kayak only trips. Meaning 10 -15 or more kayaks and the support rafts. The kayak trips had a blast. They were playing every wave and hole. And…they were all wearing dry tops, that water is cold despite the intense sun. Our first day was the longest day in river miles, 18.

The second day would be shorter…14 miles. This was an easy day drops wise, only three, Artillery – III, Cannon Creek – III and Pistol – IV. Artillery was a straight run and waves and holes, Cannon Creek was similar to Artillery. I was getting used to the slow response the 16 foot Avon would show. I got my timing down and was starting to practice some moves, like spins, downstream ferries. It was nice to not have to bail and let gravity do the work of moving water out of the boat.

Passenger wise, welll the entire trip I never had a passenger, folks were either in the inflatables and the ladies were in the paddle boat. This was the first trip I was “solo” the entire time on the raft.

The other big drop this day was Pistol at River Mile 21. Pistol has a long lead into it. The river starts wide and then chokes down to about 30 feet wide in one spot where the current makes a “chicane” type move. Rock piles and cliffs constrict this chicane route. In addition to very strong eddy lines and crashing waves about four feet tall that push you into the cliff wall. This was shore scouted.

Andre was first, me second. He disappeared around the bend and not seen till the bottom of the drop. The rest of the trip was on river right overlooking the drop and had cameras ready. The approach was simple enough…stay in the green, pull on the oars to slow it down a little and get ready. I approached the top of the chicane, the rock pile on my right and reaction waves coming off it. I hit the bigger waves head on, kept the raft straight and was shot right towards the cliff. I dropped the oars into the water to act as brakes and still facing the cliff came to a near stop and the flow started moving me away from the cliff. Plenty of room. I eddied out below waiting for the rest of the trip. While waiting, a kayak trip came through and they all did pretty good. There were some back enders, eddy line spins, attempted splats, mystery moves and only one swim. After Pistol was Pungo Canyon at River Mile 27. The river narrows down, no drops but fast boogie water, cross currents, sleeper type pour-overs and a neat section to row.

The second night camp site was Little Soldier on river right. Another nice spot with thick pine tree canopy and level spot for the kitchen. Bob set up the Groover in a scenic location over-looking a small creek. Not to be sexist but some of the ladies commented one needs a rope to get down the slope to the Groover. The answer was…walk carefully down the slope to the Groover.

Third Day: We past one of several dirt landing strips along the MF. Some are owned by the US Forest Service, some by private land-owners, none-the-less plane activity in the canyon itself is not much. This was the quietest day rapids wise. There were two only of mention, Marble Creek and Jackass. Both of these are Class III’s at 3.8 on the gauge. As usual they were boat scouted and good little rides. Art, Jr was in the Kayak today, His dad; Art, SR was in the inflatable. It was really neat to see father and son paddling together. The paddle boat with the ladies was getting more water fight practice with the other rafts and I just vegged on my raft. My voice was coming back, not to full volume but the laugh was still pretty quiet. This section of the MF, mile 34 – 48 are great for a practiced beginner kayaker. Tons of on the fly play waves, eddy lines for squirt moves, and just floating and take in the scenery. One of several signs of civilization we past this day was the Middle Fork Lodge. (Where the USGS gauge is). There is a pack bridge here, a dirt landing strip and several guest lodges for hikers and fly-fishermen. These lodges cater to “well heeled”. AKA---yuppie gumbies living on their credit cards.

So far the drops run were mostly ledge type with boulders lodged on them and constrictions from large side creeks coming into the river. All the drops were easily run. One thing about the MF is when a creek goes into flash flood tons of rock and LARGE trees flow into the river. A week after our trip, the creek above Pistol flash-flooded and poured so many trees into the river they “clogged” the chicane at Pistol Rapid. Raft trips on the river had to portage around the blockage, some trips hired packers to get all passengers and gear out of the canyon by horse, others waited for the blockage to clear itself. The National Forest Service came in with TNT and blew it apart. It was cleared out in one shot.

The third night camp was at Loon Creek. A prime spot to get. Reason is ½ mile up Loon Creek is a great hot spring. We got to camp early so we could get maximum soak time in the hot spring. That night the first of what would be a nightly ritual took place. The late afternoon thunderstorm/shower. They lasted about 10 minutes but packed some pretty strong winds and moderate rain. A few times all of us were holding down the tarps. If you weren’t holding a tarp you were going tent to tent putting heavy rocks in them to hold them down. We had some laughs during those moments.

The fourth day.   We floated from the 48 to 62 mile marker. This day we ran Tappan Falls. Actually there are Tappan I Rapid, Tappan Falls, Tappan II Rapid and Tappan III Rapid. All the Tappans were easy to run. We shore scouted Tappan Falls, mainly for photo-ops. Tappan Falls was an easy right side run. Easy entry long wide ramp into the drop and a series of waves and crashing waves. No really powerful cross currents and no pour overs in the right side run. Rocky (Bernard) was in one of the inflatable’s this day. He took a river left entry, attempting a slot move. The sequence of shot documenting his run were best shots of the trip. Rocky at the top of the drop, Rocky flipping over in the slot, Rocky goes submarine, Rocky re-surfaces next to his boat with his eyes WIDE open.   After this Camas Creek came in from river right and Camas is one of the larger side creeks. We camped at Funston this night and got the usual later afternoon thunder/lightning and rain show.

Fifth day.   We floated from the 61 to 75 mile marker. This was another fine day of moving water and only two drops of note; Haystack and Jack Creek. Also, and something that is very important to a lot float trips is we would float past the Flying “B” Ranch. The biggest dude ranch resort in the canyon and a source of ball caps, tee shirts, ice, ice cream and beer. All of this flown in and sold at premium prices. It was light rain when we got there and did not want to stay long. We got ice, I looked around taking note of the dude ranch guests with their “B” ranch shirts, caps and beer can in hand. The kind of folks that populated this enclave of yuppie-ism arrogance looked exactly that. “Lets fly to the wilderness, sleep in air conditioned cabins, drink more beer, get fatter, go home and tell our friends we were in the wilderness”. Yuppie swine.

Below the ranch was Haystack Class III+, River mile 68. This can be shore scouted on river left. At the level we were running at, one could do a far river right run or start left of center and run to the left. There were large boulders throughout the drop (kind of like the drops in the Cheat Canyon). It was easy to imagine the drop at higher water, the boulders covered and creating some big holes.   I took one look and saw my line. I was going to have fun with this one. I started left of center, downstream ferry into the eddy behind the first boulder, spun around and pulled for the next eddy, got that one and downstream ferry into another eddy. It was a good ride. The other folks went river right which was a straight shot. Later Brant and Bob said I was really working on that rapid. I said….That’s Because….I am a Boatman.

It was in this part of the canyon one started seeing the effects of the forest fires from a few years ago. Entire ridges burned clear of all trees, isolated groves of spared trees from the fires, and the skeleton like remains of burned trees still standing.

After Haystack you float through Jack Creek Canyon. The MF canyon narrows down into a tighter gorge. At higher water this would be fast ride with no eddies. The next rapid was Jack Creek, River mile 70, Class III+. At high water it’s a roller coaster of big waves. At moderate levels it was right of center run and easily boat scouted. Again the kayaks were having a field day and the paddle raft used running this drop as an escape from the raft trip of Boy Scouts. The paddle raft made the big mistake of getting into a water fight with the Scouts. Big mistake. Once one Scout raft was “attacked” the other five Scout rafts joined in.

After Jack Creek, I, Patrick, Rocky, Art, Jr. and Tim hiked up to Johnson Point, on river left. The trail was typical western…graded and switch backs, a relatively easy hike. The views were worth it ands we saw in the distance the thunder heads building up for the usual afternoon thunder, lightning and rain. Just a few miles down from here was the fifth night campsite…Survey Creek.

Survey Creek was on river left after a long calm stretch. It is a flat area, in a pine grove and really not much of a beach to land on. Plenty of rock though. Over time folks have cleared rocks out for a kitchen area and tent sites. Overall…a nice place to camp. The tarps were set up when the rain hit. This time the winds were pretty strong. All of us had to hold the tarps down and there were small white caps on the river from the downstream wind. It was over in fifteen minutes.

Sixth Day. Today we floated from the 75 to the 90 mile marker. We past through four drops of note; Waterfall, Redside, Weber, Upper/Lower Cliffside. So far we dropped close to 2000 feet and the terrain was much drier and fewer trees at river level. But up on the ridges one could see the effects of the recent forest fires. Along the river this day we stopped at Waterfall Creek, a nice place to sit for a while. The river side pack trail goes through here and the pack bridge is just downstream of the falls. That water fall water was cold, All the large creeks are cold this time if year. We could still see snow on the mountain peaks.

After Waterfall Creek the Forest Service has a rule of only one night at one campsite. So one cannot do a layover on their site. Everyone has to move one. In this section of the MF Canyon sites get a little tight and most trips are getting off the river the next day camp sites in this area. Hence the rule.

A few miles downstream on river right is Veil Falls, a short walk over some boulders and onto a good trial. Veil Falls is a neat place to stop. It’s shaded, quiet, only the sound of the wind and the falling water. There was a trickle of water off the falls, like a shower only a bit larger. All of us stood under the water at the bottom of good 100 foot fall. It did not hurt, didn’t sting as the water hit you. Rocky practiced his yoga standing in the falling waters. It was good, different and refreshing. It was a good place for lunch.

The drops were more of the same. All boat scoutable. Waterfall, Class III, River Mile 77, straight shot, Redside, Class III+-IV, river Mile 82. This is short, steep drop through large boulders stuck on a ledge. It was pretty straight forward. It was the first MF drop where the waves were getting powerful and larger…five-footers and crashing. Next was Weber, Class III, River Mile 83. Weber at this level was a wave train and easy. The last drop(s), Upper and Lower Cliffside, Class III River Mile 88. The drops are like Upper and Lower Staircase on the Lower Gauley, back to back. Easy to run, you have time to set up. Just be ready because there is a sharp river left bend hiding your view of Lower.

Camp for the last night on the river was Otter Bar…a prime place to camp.

Otter Bar at River Mile 90, is a long and wide sand beach. Plenty of room. The Groover had a nice view of the river. (SIDE BAR…by the end of the fourth day, my voice came back to normal. That said, When Bob, the man in charge of “Groover Management” made his “Last Call for the Groover”…He said it at “normal” tone of voice. Well, no one heard him. So me with the experience of informing folks about the Groover made that call…..”LAST CALL GROOVER…..LAST CALL”. That got everyone’s attention and from that day on there were no more “Groover” related delays to leaving the camp site). Afterwards, Bob asked me why I would announce like. I related to him my Canyon experience followed by…”That’s Because ….I am a Boatman”.

The last night on the river was a good meal, nice fire, the last of the wood was burned up, and most of the guys took part in a bocci ball tournament. The tournament was almost cancelled when Andre, the half of the Andre-Jennifer team threw a bocci ball a little too close to her and she promptly confiscated the ball for a while until the tournament folks calmed down.

Last Day.   We headed downstream, a little bummed knowing this was the last day. We would go from the 90 mile marker to Cache Creek on the Main Salmon at River Mile 99. In those nine miles would be the biggest drops in the whole trip; Rubber, Hancock, House Rocks and Cramer on the Main Salmon.

It was a typical day as the past six, sunny, clear sky, 85 degrees. By now the cold water at Boundary Creek put-in has warmed up to cool and comfortable. The clear water at Boundary Creek had given way to a bit cloudy. You can see a few feet below the surface, not the 8-10 feet like at the put-in. Over a hundred miles of river and sediment comes in clouds the views.

Rubber was the first drop, Class IV, River Mile 91. This is a long involved, technical rapid. It has a right dog leg turn in it and one has to be set up for that lower half just as you round that turn. The entrance at moderate level was kind of messy; there were a lot of pour-overs you had to maneuver around. The current was really fast in this one. There was little time to make these small moves and still pull right of the BIG boulder in the center. As always the main flow took you towards that BIG boulder. I started center/little bit right of. I pulled hard on the oars to move the boat towards the right and still avoid the pour-overs and other potential wrap rocks. The waves in here were the largest on the trip/river. They all crashed over the bow and that self bailer was really nice to have on this run. Shooting past the BIG boulder I angled into the waves and hit them head on and still got several face full’s of water. I eddied out below and waited. I knew the inflatable kayaks would have trouble. I was wrong. They made it through and they were all smiles ear to ear.

Hancock at Class III-IV and River Mile 92 was longer than Rubber but not as technical. I ran the center. The last drop of note on the MF was House Rocks, Class III-IV, River Mile 94. More BIG boulders choking the channel as you go over a ledge. Again as in most every drop on this river at moderate flow, you can boat scout and pick the line and go for it. It was straight shot at this level. Just a few pulls on the oars and a little to the left and that was it.

Before we hit the confluence of the Main Salmon and the Middle Fork, Andre, Jennifer and I waited for the rest of the trip. It was warm but the water was cool to walk in, nice sand beach to hangout on, some shade from big pine trees. After a while the rest of the group showed up and we started down to the Main Salmon.

Hitting the Main Salmon the flow more than doubles and the increase in power is very noticeable. The water color also changes to a dull green, no more partly clear water and it is warmer. We past beneath a pack bridge, the last bridge of any kind for the next 130 miles. Below this was Cramer Rapid. Andre was talking of this drop all week. He flipped in it two years ago. Cramer was previously a gravel bar, until two years ago. Cramer Creek flash flooded and drop a huge amount of debris into the river. Overnight Cramer became a Class IV+ drop. His experience with the new Cramer Rapid was asking a raft guide from a commercial trip…Which way? The guide said RIGHT! As he floated past him. So Andre and Jennifer in their 13 foot raft run right...and promptly flip…in sight of the Cache Creek takeout. There is a nice long pool to the takeout from the bottom of Cramer so recovery is pretty easy. With that as a lead-up, we tied up and shore scouted the drop.

Cramer turns out to be pretty simple drop at moderate water (4,000 cfs). The center has a pyramid shape wave, about six feet high, that builds and crashes. The left side is very trashy and looks like a lot of sharp shallow rock. The right side, where Andre flipped, has two sharp irregular, diagonal ledges. The backwash from these two ledges will be enough to stop a raft and flip it. The line to run was simple; downstream ferry to right of center, avoid the pyramid wave and run a slot between that and the wave train to the right of center. Andre and I would run first. I was first to cast off. I set up and then waited for that moment to pull on the oars, the rest of the trip were on shore, cameras ready.   I drifted down the ramp, started pulling, hit the eddy line from the two ledges, spun the raft to the right and hit the wave train head on. Looking up stream I saw Andre approach facing forward, pushing hard on the oars to make the right of center move. He made it. The rest of the trip came through in fine order.

One mile later….Cache Creek take-out. That was it; it was over, seven days on the Middle Fork. Within an hour we were all de-rigged, boats washed out and ready to be rolled up. There was a lot of room at the take-out, picnic tables, shade and a concrete ramp from the water. The outfitter’s van arrived and it took another good hour to overload it. Fourteen folks and river gear jammed into a 14 passenger van. Brant, the trip leader pointed at the last camp for everyone to have a fresh tee shirt for the ride out.   Good point, four hours in a cramp van with smelly poly pro would be grounds for making you ride up on the roof rack. Speaking of which the roof rack very top heavy…It made the 4 hour ride to Sun Valley interesting. The van more than a few times drifted across the double yellow line. I noticed the driver really holding onto that steering wheel.

Patty and Tim had a place in Sun Valley and graciously offered it as a way station back to civilization. Shortly after we got to their house, their driveway and yard was covered with tents, sleeping bags, clothing drying out in the sun. Their neighbors gave us some strange looks. Later on at dinner Joanne, Lisa and I were talking and they asked questions on where I learned all the river knowledge, etc., I said….”That’s Because….I am a Boat man”. I looked over at Bob and he shook and head and laughed. We spent the next day in Sun Valley, I did some hiking, some folks went window shopping, and some had to leave later that day for home. Well the good byes went out, the emails exchanged and the hugs, handshakes and folks left. For me I had to leave 4:00 AM the next day for the 2.5 hour drive to Boise for an 8:00 flight. It was a pretty sunrise over the mountains to the east. But all too soon, I was on the interstate, at the airport and checking baggage.

 

I’ll be back there. Maybe in a few years but I’ll be back there.

 

And….Remember what Sargent Esterhouse always said….”Lets be careful out there”.

 

 

Author Biography:

 

I am Richard Dabal, I lived in Pittsburgh from 1989 to 2000. In those years I did a lot with TRPC. I was club vice-president for two years then president for two years (1992 -1993). During that time the club made big strides in getting more scheduled trips, the newsletter grew from a three pager to, at times 16 pages, the Slip Clinic started the “Kids” Clinic, I started the “Sunday Safety Seminars”. I ran boater safety classes on the “Slip” three, four times a year for the new boaters. Other things I did were…point out the bad attitude, the little squirter, keep the club open to one and all, talk loudly, laugh a lot and have a good time paddling with the club. A quick side bar: On my first club trip to the Gauley, we ran the lower and we were at the top of Pure Screaming Hell. Carl Erbe was leading us. He pointed out an eddy way down there and said…”Rich, you see those folks in that eddy down there?” “Yes.”   “Well paddle down to that eddy.” “Okay”. I paddle down there and see at the last second that large hole (no one told me about) on the outside edge of the last chance eddy above PSH hole. I got around it and into the eddy. Now I look upstream and see Carl with the group pointing in my direction. I was the landmark for the rest of the group. To this day I still get a laugh out of that.

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