I spent this year’s family summer vacation on a river in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of old people. My parents and I traveled 82 miles in five days via a rubber raft and a river guide. We traveled with 21 people all together, including five river guides with five rafts.
We traveled the wild Snake River through desolate, but beautiful Hell’s Canyon. I realized that for the first 60 miles of our journey, the only way in and out was by boat, or foot! There was no escape. Once our escapade began, we were committed. We were in an area considered primitive and wild.
What a voyage it was! I have never had so much fun in my life! I learned about the history of our great northwest along the way too! The river guides gave us thrills navigating over the rapids and took us on side treks into the wilderness on shore to show us remnants of Oregon and Idaho’s past. Our river guide’s name was ‘Big Wave Dave;’ that should give you an image of the water fun we had! Our river travel began after a safety orientation. We were introduced to the river guides, given our flotation vests and boarded a raft.
At last, we were on our way down the river! Two guides left before us in a gear boat with all of our clothing dry bags, tents, food, etc needed daily. For five days, our guides would set up and tear down camp, cook all of our meals, clean up, play games and visit with us each night. I knew right away this was going to be an exciting excursion.
Within the first 10 minutes of our voyage we hit our first white water called Wild Sheep rapids, a class IV! We got soaked. I spent a lot of river time crouched on my knees in the front of the raft for safety and my parents held straps in order to keep from taking a swim. On two occasions I did get bounced out into some rapids and body surfed the waves for a downstream rescue.
That was thrilling! I got to jump off of 15 and 30 feet cliffs into the water. Sometimes, while sitting on the front of our raft, our guide would jolt the raft just enough to dump me in for fun. We hit so many exhilarating splashes on stretches of whitewater that it felt like we were on a nature made rollercoaster! During a ‘quiet portion’ of the water, we were shown the pit house remains of ancient Indians along the shore.
Each of the first 3 days, we hiked when we stopped for lunch. We were shown ancient Indian pictographs on rock walls. These are made from berry juices and deer blood. The drawings were strategically placed to be protected from weather.
We explored the remains of cabins built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries where people attempted mining, sheepherding, hunting, fur trading, and even moon-shining. We even stopped at two homesteads that were turned into museums for river travelers to see.
This isolated area of our country seems to only be successfully inhabited by the Nez Perce and Shoshone Indians. We saw the place where the Nez Perce Indians were forced to cross the river into Canada, where they were massacred before they got there. Louis and Clark also spent some time on the Snake River.
We didn’t realize it, but it got over 100 degrees outside sometimes and our guides were very diligent about making sure we drank plenty of water. The canyons stayed warm because the rocks both reflected and absorbed the heat of the sun. The evening breeze was even warm.
Fortunately, the river averaged 75 degrees and felt quite refreshing. Many types of wildlife were witnessed on our trip including a bald eagle, bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain goats, terns, herons, chuckers, a wildcat, and a coyote. The wildfires were in their beginning stages during our trip so the wildlife were coming to the shore for safety, allowing us some close proximity.
One thing I realized was that being in the middle of nowhere with no electronics isn’t bad! If I ever travel again, I don’t think I’ll ever have a thrilling, educational voyage like the one I had this summer. I am so lucky that my parents took me on this journey with them. It was what I call a once in a lifetime experience.
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