There were fires burning in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Salmon River runs through this wilderness of over 1.3 million acres, the largest contiguous wilderness in the US. It is rugged and remote, and there is the double edge sword. It is so beautiful and pristine and a perfect place to get away from everything for as long as one wants. But the terrain and summer weather are perfect for lightening storms and fires. The Policy is pretty much hands off, but there is some active fire control.
As we climbed into our tents on day 2, the smoke was noticeable, and I smelled it all night. By morning it was pretty thick. It was eerily beautiful as the smoke covered the sun and turned the river to liquid gold. We went on plan and ate and packed up, but it was basically a very smokey paddle all day. At one point in a narrow canyon we saw flames right on the river bank. Mickey was looking up when a huge bolder wedged loose and smacked into a large tree. The cracking noise made everyone uneasy and the order was given to paddle hard and get out of this area. We kept hoping we would go far enough to clear the area, but the wind would shift and sock more smoke at us.
Around Lunch time we stopped at Buckskin Bill's and made a big Taco salad for lunch. Everyone explored the old historic area while lunch was being made, and Breanne had some news for Jim and family. Because of the smoke, the bush plane scheduled to pick them up on the morning of day 5 was not going to make it. Breanne made plans for a shuttle to take them to mcCall and then fly out the next day. That meant we would all finish the trip together and it all worked out well.
We also took a hike in the afternoon to A River of No Return Homestead. We explored old cabins and learned some history of the Pioneers who sought to tame this "Merciless Eden", and in fact, there is a well written history of this and called Merciless Eden. Some of plan to read it as soon as we get back. While walking around with a caretaker, I was mentioning that I had done this trip before, but instead of camping each night, Steve and I stayed in remote fishing and hunting lodges. I was telling her about one of the best ones, and how much we enjoyed the family that was there. IT WAS HER! So we had a nice visit and caught up on a few things that had happened in the years since we did that trip, like her young children were now grown up!)
We camped that night on a part of the river that had a huge beach and also a rapid that was accessible. It was a fun evening as the smoke lifted, and it became very warm. Most of us went swimming. Joaquin, and guides Trenah and Silas all took on the rapids on air mattresses and even just body surfing thru the waves. We had a great chicken dinner with fresh bread made in the Dutch oven.....and out came the S'mores after dinner. Amanda had brought her guitar and was an accomplished musician. She played for all of us, and then I took a "strum-a-long' turn, followed by Joaquin, who surprised the heck out of all of us! He plays great! The hard way...picking! Everyone was pretty impressed with our 16 year old. Despite the smoke, we had another great day on the river and it was a "rapid after rapid" kind of day, so the kayakers had a lot of fun!
|Paddling thru the smokey canyons|
|Exploring A River of No Return Homestead|