Bucket List trip: Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon for 6 days. We luck out with only 6 other guests and essentially a semi private trip. A jaw dropping 23 minute flight from Stanley to Indian Creek ends with a tight 180 degree turn and fast landing kicks off the trip. On Middle Fork River Expeditions you get highly experienced guides (minimum of 11 years on the river) and you pitch in. This means you get more done and seen in a day and the guides are happy. I also like this aspect as setting up and packing up camp is somewhat therapeutic for me and good learning for the kids. The guides are fantastic, and I’m fascinated by the path these folks have chosen for they are fulfilled and have perhaps one of the best offices around.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon is in deep wilderness accessible only by bush plane or raft. Peaceful and magnificently beautiful, the emerald green river churns through narrow canyons and spreads out slow and serene in wider soft stone canyons that erode more easily. I adore hiking, but there is something deeply soothing about going with the flow of the river each day. I’m in heaven away from news, technology, schedules. As much as I love pretty clothes and fancy hotels, I am equally at home camping on the bank of the river with or without a tent. With the cold river and the remarkable hot springs we don’t miss our daily showers. What I love with rafting vs back packing is that you can dine very well for the raft can carry a huge amount of fresh gourmet food and of course some wine too! The guides are creative, talented chefs and somehow whip up restaurant quality meals on the fly.
The kids are beaming. With the exception of some ridiculous name calling and competition while they are in the duckies (inflatable kayaks) they are friends again and adore this form of travel. Bebe declared “I love camping!” And Will “Mom- can you book this for next summer too?!” They cliff jump into a crystal clear pool off an ancient boulder. They leap on and off the raft at any calm stretch. They chat with the guides and older guests and help wash dishes at camp. They prove to be a pleasant surprise to all the guests who in the end said the kids actually enhanced the trip. We are proud. This makes up for the bouts of name calling and fighting which make me insane. We take turns in the tents and minus the early morning back ache sleep very well.
The hot springs are remarkable. One if a series of pools that end in a big beam that creates a shower below. Steaming hot. Another is a swim across a big pool to a sandy hot pool with a piping hot waterfall streaming from the rocks. One more is a beautiful hike up Loon Creek and turned into a proper soaking tub with wooden beams. The group meshes easily and chats during these stops. There are plenty of opportunities for solo hiking and fishing at camp. Each camp setting is more stunning than the next.
Will says that he is already sad that the trip will end. I agree. This is good. I love being in the wilderness…especially when it comes with good food that I don’t don’t have to cook! I love watching the light change on the river over the course of the day and week. I love the fresh air and endless beauty. The curative sounds of the water and wind and birds.
I’ve been so in the moment that I haven’t written or read until a small period each evening. I tore through Daniel Silva’s Black Widow, another fantastic book in his Gabriel Allon Israeli spy series. As ever terrifyingly prescient in his topic of middle eastern terrorism now come to Europe and the US. And what could be further than all that than the middle fork of the salmon!
The only time I even thought about cancer was last night under a full moon and a blanket of stars. And as I admired the heartbreaking beauty I had a momentary thought of why me? Why pick the person who loves life so much? For now that I’ve experienced this magically beautiful river I want to come back every year that I’m alive. Bebe was the one who suggested we bag the tent. As a kid that’s how I camped out. Just me and the stars. So I loved that she was the brave one who brought me back to that. At first I was mindful of every tiny sound and movement. But when I awoke to the starry sky and another moon beam night with fresh air on my skin I felt pure peace and contentment.
I’m writing this completely out of order so bear with me. It is our 5th and final night and camp is in a canyon at a roaring white water turn in the river. Our pads are laid out on a sandy circle. The kitchen is set up on a sand bar. An eddy provides some safe swimming and a fun tide ride. The view in every direction is of craggy cliffs sunlit or in shadow. And on command a huge bald eagle glides past the camp and up to the cliff top. Majestic. Magnificent.
Each day we cover about 15 miles on the river. Given that we lucked out with a small group we have just 3 rafts and 4 duckies. Today was another opportunity for me to enjoy the Duckie as there were some long calmer stretches. I was very proud of myself on the small whitewater. A bit of whooping and laughing got me through the turns. I got out for the big Rapids. August is a wonderful time to experience the river as the weather is divine, the water warm enough to swim, the rapids moderate enough to enjoy safely, and the air warm enough to dry quickly. Middle Fork River Expedition guides live up to their reputation….dependable, capable, fun, resourceful, great cooks, and wise river guides. We adore them all.
The scenery is endlessly beautiful. Strikingly beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. It is all I hoped for and more. A brochure for the middle fork has been sitting in our kitchen for a long time. For years it motivated me to go to work. And when cancer hit it was one of the first trips I booked. I know I will be here for several years because this river is calling me back. The kids haven’t missed technology for a second. They pitch in on chores. They socialize with the guests and guides despite being the only kids. They revel in the rough and tumble days, the fresh air, the glorious wilderness. They chat and laugh and entertain us. Will holds my hand and my life jacket to keep me safe on the Rapids. It is adorable. Bebe cuddles close like a little puppy at night. Creighton fishes his heart out. Literally he wakes at the crack of dawn and heads into the stream. He fishes from the raft as do I. He fishes at the end of the day into sunset. He is in heaven. There is no “I’m bored”. It is a wilderness playground. If you’re not doing then you are blissfully just gazing at the natural beauty. I don’t need my usual earplugs as the river is my sound machine.
The only negative is the wasps. And the bees. I particularly hate the wasps. They suck. Useless creatures.
We are blissfully sans watch and so we wake up when we wake up to the smell of coffee and breakfast. The guides churn out delicious eggs, biscuits, frittatas, pancakes over the course of the week. We stuff our sleeping bags and quickly pack up our river bags before enjoying breakfast. And then we are off. Another day on the river. Lunch is always at a scenic stop and often allows for a hike and Oreos. Evening is a swim, cocktails, and delicious fare. One night costumes. Always laughter. I can’t even say I’ve done so much reflecting. It is more that I have just been HERE. Utterly present and enjoying every minute.
The geology here is stunning. Millions of years of the river carving these canyons after upheavals of volcanic rock. Ponderosa pines. Smooth river rocks. Big rainbow and cutthroat trout in emerald green pools as clear as glass. I think that is one of the things that really grabs me here. The water is so mindblowingly gorgeous. Clean and clear and such a jewel green. It moves from crystal clear wide pools under cliffs that beg you to jump to tight turning Rapids of whitewater waves. As the songs say it just keeps rolling along. As much as I love clothes I don’t miss them here. I have a few simple pieces and mostly live in a bikini and water shoes with my hair in a bun.
We have seen little wildlife although I think the place is teeming with it. A few herds of mountain sheep, some huge bald eagles, a few grouse and golden eagles, river otters, loads of swallows and other small birds. Present but not seen….Cougars, bears. I did see a rattlesnake and I jumped about 3ft when it rattled its warning.
On one of our last hikes we reach an incredible waterfall streaming over a giant archway. Sacred to the Indians and understandably so. It is like a garden oasis in the high desert. We wash our cares away.
It was one of the best family trips we have ever taken and one that we will certainly repeat. I’m forgetting a million details, but it was really refreshing to put down all technology for a week. Worth it.
We also enjoyed getting a taste of the tiny town of Stanley the night before. First we hiked to 4th of July Lake. This was about 45 minutes from sun valley and then a 10 mile drive up a dirt road. Worth it for a short but lovely 3 mile round trip that took us to a serene lake which we had all to ourselves for fishing and a swim. Then another 15 minutes to Stanley bee stayed at the simple but comfortable cabins at Triangle C and dined at the remarkably gourmet Sawtooth Hotel. Our meal was fabulous and with a view of the Tetons and affectionate dogs. When we pulled back into Stanley (a 4hr very scenic bus ride from the end of the middle fork) it felt like we had been gone for several weeks. I couldn’t have asked for a more refreshing trip. And I wrapped up my Sun Valley time with a flat bike ride (victory!) and another short but fabulous ride on my friend’s magical Icelandic horse Loki. Naughty but……Fantastic!
Hard to believe we are down to the last week of summer. We will see friends in Tahoe and otherwise get organized for school. Despite not going back to work I still find myself wistful at the end of summer. I will miss the adventures with the kids. I am spoiled that for once I don’t have to go back to a desk even if it is for a sad reason.
At GS September meant the kick off to the last quarter and a big push into year end. It could make or break the year. We hoped for loads of ipo’s and an active market. We wanted to see our clients’s performance strong into year end. Yet this also coincided with all the kids bringing home new germs and fall colds so everyone would push push push while trying to stay healthy. I found it both invigorating and crazy. It was a chance to improve upon everything and a mini fresh start after summer.
I have a few fun closet streamlining/styling projects as we enter this final quarter of 2016. A chance to clear out and edit for fall fashion and for an uncluttered 2017! I continue to focus on stable scans. I can clean up my diet after an Oreo and icecream heavy summer!! I will keep trying to give my body a better chance to fight. And finally very exciting we will be allocating the $1.1mm raised at Give Breast Cancer the Boot to the awesome variety of compelling grant proposals. We will report back on that around year end.
So I wish everyone an excellent q4 in every way. And I say a huge thanks for the wonderful summer I experienced.