The Same River Twice Part II

The River… It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!
Kenneth Grahame
Time doesn’t follow a linear progression on a river.  Like the river, it races forward and then magically slows to a stop, sputtering and splashing it’s way forward just as the river flows downstream.
 
I have not been on the Middle Fork Salmon for decades, so while it is the same river, in many ways it is a new river to me.  There is just enough familiarity of what I remembered to take the edge off of newness but it still feels like a different and new river.
 
It is July of a high water year so the flow is still a perfect 3.5+ feet on the gage when we start.  The bustle and madness of the put in quickly fade as we push off from the crowded ramp and lose ourselves in the beauty of the river.  We are a group of 30; 24 passengers and 6 guides traveling together for different reasons on a river called “The River of No Return”.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River begins in a lush high alpine forest setting and makes it’s way over 100 miles to the confluence of the Main Salmon finishing in a dramatic and deep desert canyon.  Geologically, the earth is roughly 4 billion years old and the Middle Fork has carved it’s way into the present day canyon for 2 million of these years, making it both young in the context of the big picture and ancient relative to our own existence. 
We are using a variety of crafts to float the river.  There are 5 hard shell kayaks—3 Jackson Kayak Antix and 2 Zens, a 22 foot sweep boat named Toby piloted by an elf of a girl named Audrey, 2 paddle rafts guided by Ali and Newman, 2 gear boats guided by Michael and Mel, a kayak paddled by Nikko, a Shredder paddled by the legend Charlie Walbridge and his wife Sandy, and a brand new Maravia raft piloted by Tony, the kayaking/rowing cowboy from Tucson who is EJ’s partner at Jackson Kayak.  His goal for this trip is to tune up to row the Grand Canyon in 2018.
All river trips are a game of odds; pluses and minuses of how everyone will do, how well we will blend as a group, what the weather will turn out to be, how the river levels will accommodate our abilities, etc., but this trip seemed to come together into one of the special ones.
 
 
It is hard for me to put into words how wonderful the Middle Fork Salmon is as a week long river trip.  I have very high standards about Outfitters and guides and I can wholeheartedly recommend Northwest Rafting Company and the incredibly talented and personable guides that showed us the river.  Zach and his crew have created an incredible river experience that would be hard to top anywhere.
The Antix and Zens were perfect kayaks for the river, one more stable play oriented and the other more stable river-running oriented.  In all too short of time, we all did return to the outside world, contrary to the “no return” label of the Middle Fork, but I think it is safe to say that each one of us left a piece of our hearts in that beautiful canyon.
 
Thanks to Northwest Rafting for their excellent expertise, and wholehearted  thanks to Tony for his vision, his gracious manner, and his love of rivers.  Jackson Kayak, and the Maravia raft are in good hands!
 
Happy Paddling,

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