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This River Trip started as a disaster with a Forest Fire preventing the Boys from driving from Missoula to Salmon Idaho. So after a day in Missoula, the next morning the Boy's took a Puddle Jumper (almost literally!) Taking off felt to Mike and Bone like flying in a washing machine in the spin cycle. Flying up to 11,000 feet in a non-pressurized cabin gave Bone the same kind of light-headed nausea he had experienced the prior summer on Mt. Rainer. As the boys flew through the Lemhi Pass, in the Bitterroot Mountains, they could see the fog and smoke caused by the forest fire.
The Not So Mighty Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Finally the Salmon Valley came in to range and Bone could breathe both figuratively and literally again. Now it was time for River Running!
Once they landed they were met by Earl Keating and his wife, a very nice older couple in their sixties. They were much relieved to see Mike and Bone, and since it was pushing Noon, quickly shuffled them into their beat-up pickup truck, and headed to the river for the rafting trip. Mike and Bone were under the impression that the Keating's would be taking them both on the river and horse back riding. Both Mike and Bone were taken aback when Earl unexpectedly dropped them off with total strangers, and said he would see the boys the next night. As it turned out, two of the strangers were simply set-up men for the rafting trip, a third older gentleman was named Clark Duncan, an owner a trailer park lodge on the North Fork of the Salmon River, who sub-contracted the river trip with Earl Keating, unbeknownst to Mike and Bone, the first sign of pending trouble. As Mike and Bone bid a bewildered farewell to Earl Keating, Clark introduced the boys to a very annoying child that was the the ill-advised progeny of his daughter (his grandson), stating that "The boy is coming along for the ride." The notion of spending the rafting trip with a troublesome eight-year old, along with the barely audible musical strains of the banjo from the movie, Deliverance, and the boys realized that they were in big big, trouble.
Riding the One Rapid on the Salmon River's North Fork
Mike and Bone have faced big white water many, many times before, for example, riding the Gauley River in West Virginia, however after two hours of "floating" past beautiful mountains, but no white water, they began to wonder if the North Fork had less rapids than the Rouge River. To their disappoint Clark said, that is was a very safe river "without too many bumps".
However, to occupy the time Clark tried to "sell" the boys on coming back to the North Fork for a fishing trip. After telling Clark 5 TIMES that they did not like to fish, he kept telling the boys about all the fun and fish they could by returning for a fishing trip, thereby making the boys nauseous, but not due to the (lack of) river rapids.
Since this was the Lewis and Clark Adventures, Bone kept asking questions about Lewis and Clark's trip in the Lemhi Valley, Sacagawea, the Bitterroot Mountains, things one would expect a guide to know, but nope !!!! Clark didn't know nor cared about that stuff, he kept talking about fishing, "the boy" (his annoying grandson), his Son-Law's motor-crossing, and his campground, which led to the next debacle .. . ........... . ..
Day Two : River o' Mud
After changing their shorts (only figuratively), the boys walked down to the river with Clark to a surreal site. The river was less than half of its normal size, being dammed upstream from debris, and what was in the river, really could not be called water. It was a thick, viscous mud with huge trees (bigger than telephone poles), and rocks churning through the water. As Mike an Bone looked onto the churning mess, they were told by Clark that not only could they not raft for several days, also based on the fact that the road wasn't just washed out, but gone, that they all might be stranded for 4-5 days !!!!
Unfortunately for Mike and Bone, the Duncan's house was halfway down the only road that followed along the Salmon River. Twenty miles downstream the road ended and it was over 120 miles until the Salmon River came back into "civilization".
As Mike and Bone trudged back to their "luxury trailer" they faced the dawning horror that they were trapped, like rats, at the Duncan's !!!! With that horror on their minds they drank a few more beers to calm their nerves, and went back to sleep.
Mike and Bone having "big fun", floating in the muddy North Fork
(See the fun on their faces)
As the boys rafted down the river, a few things became abundantly clear:
The Idaho Salmon River Country is incredibly beautiful,
There is about as much white water on the North Fork of the Salmon River as their is in your bath tub,
Clark was not going to let Mike and Bone do any rowing or anything else, other than sit in the boat.
And Clark was as interested in the "float" trip as the boys were in coming back for a fishing trip.
Since Mike and Bone didn't want to come back for a fishing trip, Clark was stonily silent during most of the late morning ride. They did stop to enjoy a beer with a local whose property Clark took care of during the winter.
A Very Clear (and Unclear) Meeting of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Salmon River
After 3 hours of quiet water and quieter conversation (to the point that Mike and Bone were dozing off !!), Clark put in for lunch where the still muddy North Fork and the pristine clear Middle Fork merged.
A "Chocolate/Vanilla Twist"
As the boys munched their lunches, they were able to observe where the two branches of the river met and just what a mess the landslide had caused. Afterward the boys hiked around the area to see the beautiful countryside and stay away from Clark.
"Hey, Bone !! Go Ahead have ANOTHER Donut, Dough-Boy!!"
Mike, jamming on the day
Bone, tryin' to suck it up
The Smokey Mountains?
After lunch, back on the river Mike and Bone observed many still smouldering forest fires. The fire season had been particular harsh due to the uncharacteristically high temperatures that summer. Many of the fires had been severe and as recently as a day before Mike and Bone arrived, a fire fighter (or smoke jumpers as they are called there) had been trapped and killed in a fire. As they continued to float downstream there were smoke jumpers in bright yellow jackets sprinkled sporadically in the mountains through the valley watching contained fires, ensuring that they did not flare up again.
You can't have more fun than floating in an Icy Rain !!!
As they finished up their lunches the weather took an unexpected turn. It started to cloud up and sprinkle, which caused it to drop from very comfortable 90 degrees to a very uncomfortable 60 degrees in less than half-a-hour. This was great for the smoke jumpers fighting the fires, but pretty darned uncomfortable when you are just sitting in a raft with a sunburn, doing nothing but sightseeing.
The sprinkles turned to a drizzle, and then to a steady icy rain, being sun-burnt without much clothes Mike and Bone began to freeze. By 6:00 PM being thoroughly soaked and numb, the "merry" band finally put in at the last take out on the river.
Fortunately Clark's Pickup Truck had been dropped off, and after a half an hour of helping Clark disassemble the raft, they were finally able to head back to the Clark "Compound." A very un-fun trip!