Middle Fork, Tuesday

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Since I was early to bed, I was early to rise, at 5:30, but Steven (Steve’s son) was already up, making coffee and starting breakfast. The chairs were all rearranged and a fire was going in the middle. Coffee was ready at 6:00. I almost stepped on AJ, who was sleeping on the beach, between rocks. In fact all the guides slept out every night. Soon Cathy got up and got a hug from her old friends Tanner and Steven. Then a huge skillet went on the fire with sausage. This “roughing it” isn’t going to be bad!

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As I wandered around camp, I found Bob shaving! This would be his habit every day. Another VMI grad, ’74 I think, I could see he was setting a standard. We would soon learn there are options every day. This morning, we could hike 3 miles to a hot pool and meet the boats. It felt good to stretch the legs and walk. However, the trail is very narrow with loose footing, sometimes along a cliff over the river. Not great about heights, I tried to keep my eyes on the trail. Besides the river, this is the only way in or out. Well, there are a few fly-in places. Later in trying to learn more about this trail, Steven said he, and some of his high school buddies, ran it! 90 miles! They stayed at camps with the outfitters.

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There were boat options. You could fish, sit back and enjoy the scenery, ride the paddle boat where you take a greater role in navigation, and get more thrills in the rapids, or you could kayak in one of three inflatable boats. llydia and Sarah opted for the kayaks that morning. On the River of No Return, I watched these 14 year-old, best friends forever laugh, play and handle all the rapids just fine, despite never having been in a river kayak before! I was smitten. Over the next six days, these girls would take on every challenge, jump off every rock and bridge, laugh and pitch in and help with any task. They led the way with kayaks in the morning, so Bob and I tried it in the afternoon, while they went to the paddle boat.

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Ancient pictographs are found all along the river. Imagine hundreds or thousands of years ago, the salmon running up this river by the thousands, trout, sheep and mule deer everywhere and a wide variety of berries. Cool summer days and great campsites made this an ideal place. It’s so crazy to think of Lewis and Clark coming across the country in 1805/6 and what has happened in the short time since then. Chief Joseph led his people through here, trying to escape the US cavalry in 1877. Outnumbered, he managed to elude three cavalry units for four months before being caught 40 miles from the Canadian border.

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