2009 Middle Fork Salmon

July 01, 2009 at 8:15 AM

Middle Fork Salmon in July, 2009 by Brenda Bunce

So how does one have the best river trip ever? It starts out with having well-organized and experienced trip leaders. Carol Beatty and Don Jacklin have clearly run a river or two and knew just how to organize the camp chores and facilitate the cook teams. Our crew was full of gourmet chefs and entertainers throughout the trip.

We were 13 people and10 boats and had a perfect river level of 2.83 on the gauge. We had the energy and fun spirit not to be surpassed. Randy and Cheryl Ford kicked off the fun at the put-in camp of Boundary Creek. With Randy on the guitar and Cheryl holding rhythm with percussion instruments, we attracted all the nearby campers and had quite the party around the campfire.

We got all the first picks for our camps at Scout Camp, Pungo Creek, White Creek, Funston, Survey and Otter Bar and headed down river at 12 noon. We scouted Sulphur Slide and everyone avoided wrapping on Wrap rock. Since I was the newbie on this river, I followed Jody Bammann down towards Velvet Falls and was eagerly anticipating locating the identifying marker of the huge triangular boulder on river left. This rock tells you that you have arrived at the falls, which spans the entire river. It is almost always run on river left and I was gearing up for the fancy maneuver to run it left.

Suddenly, Jody apparently bounced off a rock, causing her to abandon the river left line. In a very controlled manner, she bolted across to river right. Watching Jody, I began to seriously question weather or not we had arrived at Velvet falls, and so not knowing, I followed her line on river right. Then to my horror, I saw her completely disappear below the horizon line. That was my second hint that we were INDEED at Velvet Falls. Gripping my oars and repeating my college motto of “feel the fear and do it anyway”, I prepared for some serious action and consequences. The slack water above the falls allowed me time to find a good line and set up for a slot. To my total delight, I slipped into the slot and didn’t even blink. I dropped down and then looked up to see that Jody and I were both cheering and smiling at the outcome of “cheating death”. (Okay, so the guide books like to tell you how one wrong move and “you’re a goner”.) So if anyone is wondering about options on this rapid, at this river level, I recommend trying the right.

On Day 2, we scouted Lake Creek Rapid which has evolved into a huge hole in the center. The current tries real hard to take you into the middle of it but pushing or pulling hard to the left, will allow you to narrowly miss it. That is, unless you are like Peter Staples, who prefers to run right into the guts of big holes. He took his 16 foot boat smack into the hole and came out smiling…..and right side up. At Scout Camp, Jan Bottjer and Paul Minear made a million dollar recipe dinner, (literally a former cash prize award winning meal), that was truly delicious. Hint: it has raisins in it.

Day 3 was spent soaking in Sunflower Hot Springs and another big day for Ryan Fenwick, Lori, Don, Christine and Peter to fly fish like there was no tomorrow. Day 4 was a BEAUTIFUL hike to Loon Creek Hot Springs and home of the threatened Helleborine orchid that lives only near thermal springs. It was also the day for some anxiety about the newly changed rapid of Tappan III. Relief came quickly upon scouting it as it ended up being an easy run on far river left, right down the tongue. But the biggest event of this day was our evening entertainment provided by Walt Bammann. After our tasty gourmet meal of Jumbalaya and dutch-oven cornbread, prepared by Ryan and Lori, Walt the skilled joke-teller, told his story of “Jump Froggy Jump”. Walt had the perfect combination of good story telling skills and just the right amount of alcohol to make this story a laugh-out-loud memory for years to come.

By Day 5 we had all survived the previous night of exhilarating rolling thunder, lightening and rain. We knew we were “living right” as it turned out to be dry and sunny for the rest of the trip. We hiked up to the Shark Fin Petroglyphs and stopped in at the Flying B Camp. Haystack, Bernard and Jack Creek canyon proved to be a fun series of constricted drops and class II/III series rapids over a mile long….lots of fun maneuvering and confidence building from this section.

On Day 6, our energy and team spirit was still on a high. We hiked up the Nugget Creek trail to the beautiful water falls and home of the river hermit, Earl Parrot. Veil Falls and cave was equally spectacular. It is well worth the 400 foot climb over the boulder field to reach this amphitheater like cave that was once used as a ceremonial site for the Shoshone tribe.

On take-out day, our goal was to leave Otter Bar camp before 8 a.m. in order to beat the sweep boats to Cache Bar boat ramp. We almost made that goal but for one small glitch; Rubber Rapid got in the way and it apparently got really nasty, just as I was going through it. I didn’t hit the lateral wave square on and flipped before I could say “time for my bath”. Luckily I wasn’t wearing my dry suit, so I could get a thorough cleaning! A quick swim through two big waves and three strokes to the shore, made it all pretty easy. But not before a sweep boat took us over….Argh!  As it turned out, we got to the take out just behind the sweep boat, which proved to be no wait at all. We had an easy de-rig and the MF Salmon was definitely my all time favorite trip…..thanks to having such an incredibly fun group of people.

Tags: Middle Fork Salmon River
Category: Trip Report

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