2016-07 Middle Fork Salmon Trip Report
WHAT WE DID LAST SUMMER
By Sandy Snyder
In July, a group of 24 Chota members, friends, and family traveled to Idaho to enjoy the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and the surrounding Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. Some of us drove out, carrying boats and gear for ourselves and others, and some of us flew. We all joined up in Stanley ID for a six-day, 100-mile trip of a lifetime.
Tom and Sandy Snyder and Angela and Scott Wood left first, hauling their own boats and gear, plus stuff for Randy Bigbee and Gunny Wiser.
Lisa Lemza and Mike Shillinger pulled a camper, Tara Lee and Mike Marksberry made her first road trip ever, and Trey and Jen Medbery traveled up from New Orleans to join the gang. Doug Johnstone and Bob Eckhardt and their wives turned their trips into RV adventures.
We began the planning for the trip early – about 18 months early – because the outfitters book early. We chose Canyons Inc. based on earlier experiences and were able to score a mid-July date. Because we were a “group”, we got a discount, and were fortunate to fill all 24 available guest spaces of the trip with friends. Canyons gave us good advice and packing tips, so with the addition of info from members who had been on the river before, we all managed to pack what we needed. Even beer – Canyons brings some, but we discovered that we had expensive and particular tastes, so bought more of what we wanted. That red truck even hauled a case of Sweetwater IPA for Gunny.
Put-in day was chaotic, of course, and made you think that the people who bragged about wilderness were liars.
Canyons provided a “sweep” (read “huge”) raft to carry supplies, three oar rigs, an oddly warped shredder-like craft, three duckies (inflatable kayaks) and a kayak guide. Some of us rented kayak or canoe from Canyons, and they were OK, though Wendy Arthur, a small person, had to paddle an Outrage X the first day. That’s a big boat! The variety of rubber craft gave us the opportunity to change boats whenever we wanted.
We started the trip with Jen, Trey, and Joane Farrell in the duckies, Bob Eckhardt and Reid Evans in the shredder-thing, Sandy Snyder in her Outrage, Wendy in the OutrageX, and everyone else in the boat they’d brought. Soon after, we began to exchange boats. Scott broke his Jackson kayak on a badly placed rock, and the combined efforts of three riverside repairmen failed to fix the nasty crack, so he moved to Tom Snyder’s Remix 69. Tom moved to the strange shredder clone with Rebecca Harris. Sandy and her new hip and Joane moved to oar rigs, and Wendy moved to Sandy’s Outrage. Although it looked like musical chairs sometimes, everyone was happy with the available options.
As always, Canyons provided great food, “lodging” (riverside camps) and beautiful views from the bathroom facilities. For those who haven’t been on a multi-day trip in a protected wilderness, your experience with the “groover” will be cherished forever.
The river delighted us all – not too hard, not too easy, beautiful clear water and great scenery. The level (2.24 feet) was typical for late July, and the weather was perfect: warm days and cool nights.
The best thing? We were lucky to be able to make the trip with Chota paddlers. We began as a group of folks who kind of knew each other. We ended the trip as friends. Many times we’d heard that you don’t paddle the Middle Fork for the white water alone. You paddle it for the experience.