Bees, Whining and Whitewater

Day One: In late-August my fellow Customer Service Rep (CSR) Virginia, her brother Peter, my dog Scout and I started our adventure waiting at the Red Lion Hotel parking lot for the rest of the crew to arrive. Due to their tardiness, Virginia and I lost a precious hour of beauty sleep before our 4-day expedition down the 'treacherous' Lower Salmon River here in Idaho.

Tyler finds our a NRS PTK Paddle makes a good shovel.<br /> © Ashley Niles
Tyler finds our a NRS PTK Paddle makes a good shovel.
© Ashley Niles
We were an hour behind schedule by the time most of the folks finally arrived. Fellow CSR Tyler, e-News Editor Clyde and Clyde's buddy Dave came dragging in with all kinds of excuses. Our one extremely late straggler, Robert, had over slept and only caught up to us near the put-in. At the put-in Clyde thought it would be a good idea to drive the fully loaded truck and trailer down across the sand to the water's edge. We unpacked and set up our boats while being viciously attacked by bees.

Only one out of seven of us went through the whole trip without being stung. Peter, with his popped collar and ball cap, had a strategy to keep the bees from stinging him. Of course, if you saw him from across the river or just a boat passing us by, you might think he was practicing some sort of martial arts moves. He was dancing, waving his cap and getting totally medieval on those pesky bees. Whatever it was he was doing it worked, he weathered the whole trip without being stung. Then, there was me, who got stung seven times in the first two days.

Scout assumes her pre-whine boating position.
Scout assumes her pre-whine boating position.
© Ashley Niles
Liz, Dave's wife and our gracious shuttle driver, was ready to get on her way. However, over time the truck had slowly sunk into the soft sand and stayed put. (Smooth move, Clyde!) We ended up spending another two hours or so digging, pushing and laying rocks to get the truck onto solid ground. Our late put-in, forced us to hastily make up miles. Despite all the mishaps, as soon as we pushed off the river bank, relief settled in and the beauty engulfed us.
Everything was perfect…except for the annoying whine of someone's dog. (Yes it was Scout). I figured she was whining because it was the first day of her first river trip. Boy was I wrong. Every morning Scout serenaded us with her whining as we pushed off from the river bank. Clyde and I had many talks with her about whining. We would tell her, "Scout, let's talk about whining." She'd look at us and stop for a second, then continue with her serenade.

Tyler and Virginia styling the run through Snowhole Rapid.
Tyler and Virginia styling the run through Snowhole Rapid.
© Ashley Niles
Arriving later than we'd planned at our first camp site, we immediately unloaded the boats and Clyde promptly started mixing his famous clam diggers. They helped ease the pain of the bee stings and the sore muscles from the first day of rowing.

Day Two: The morning started with the nice musical buzzing of the early morning bees. I'm surprised they didn't have their way with us while we were sleeping. We would have been easy targets. We quickly ate breakfast, packed up and moved on down the river away from the bees. It was a beautiful day, but Virginia and I had a nervous excitement of the upcoming Snowhole and China Rapids. Since Virginia and I were new to rowing, we both had butterflies in our stomachs. We pulled over to scout Snowhole and with the water being so low this time of season it was bony and required some technical moves. Virginia and I decided to let some of the more experienced group members row this rapid. They made it look so easy.

A few miles downriver we came upon China Rapid and again pulled over to scout. River Left was a clean chute with no technical moves needed. Just one big, man-eating hole to avoid on your right. Virginia and I decided that we would both try and row China.

Clyde, Ashley and Scout submarining in Snowhole.
Clyde, Ashley and Scout submarining in Snowhole.
© Tyler Harris
Our first brave soul of the group to head through China was Tyler. Watching him from the scouting point it looked like he was going to try and run right of the big hole down at the end of the rapid. Then all of a sudden he was rowing with all his might to get far left to miss the hole and we were all holding our breaths hoping he wouldn't hit it straight on.
Luckily he skimmed the left edge of the hole and made it through with no problem. Watching this daredevil move made Virginia and me a bit nervous. It made us remember to make sure we stayed far, far left to avoid any mishaps.

Dave followed Tyler through with a clean run. Virginia was next and had a very clean run on the left side. No problems at all. However, she scared the bajebers out of her older brother sitting behind her! Next, it was mine and Clyde's turn. My plan A was to stay as far left as I could without hitting the bank, just like we decided when we were scouting.

Virginia at the oars and Bee-Tamer Peter riding shotgun.
Virginia at the oars and Bee-Tamer Peter riding shotgun.
© Tyler Harris
I was rowing Clyde's boat, which was kinda big and very heavy. So darned if it didn't try to follow Tyler's run out through the upper rock obstacle course and away from the safe left hand slot! Since I was so new on the oars I was yelling at Clyde to tell me what the heck I should do. We were heading straight for the man-eating hole and I was seriously freaking out. (Clyde needed to slap me but he was busy holding onto Scout.) I thought for sure I was going to kill Clyde, my dog and me. Strange how your imagination goes wild when you are in an intense situation. However, with some great "coaching," aka yelling back at me from Clyde, I was able to get us far enough left of the big hole.

Just goes to show you that you should always try to have a Plan B before you're in the heart of the rapid. After China, the rest of the afternoon was relaxed and lazy; which I was very grateful for after that adrenaline rush through China Rapid.

Chunks of columnar basalt stone render the
Chunks of columnar basalt stone render the
appearance of ancient temple ruins.
© Tyler Harris
At this camp we discovered another of Virginia's many talents. Upon running into a bunch of spiders in the beach's sand, she performed what we called "Virginia's Spider Dance." It was similar to one of the leg pumping moves that Jennifer Beals performed in the movie, Flashdance, only more spirited!

Day Three: Once again we woke up to a beautiful morning with clear skies. We had Clyde's yummy breakfast burritos and started getting our boats packed up to head into the Blue Canyon.
Robert in the MaverIK and Virginia and Peter entering Blue Canyon.
Robert in the MaverIK and Virginia and Peter entering Blue Canyon.
© Tyler Harris
For those of you who haven't been on the Lower Salmon you start out in the desert foothills west of Cottonwood and wind down the river into Snow Hole Canyon and then back into the desert and then into Blue Canyon, which is unique because the rocks have a blue tint to them. Finally, when you reach the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers you leave Blue Canyon behind and merge into the desert foothills upstream from Asotin, Washington.

Although the canyon is fun and beautiful to be in, the heat is more intense and makes you want to float in the river instead of being in your boat. Luckily, there weren't any big rapids we had to worry about so we did a lot of swimming. We arrived at our camp really early, around 2 p.m., and immediately set up the NRS River Wing to escape the heat. Some of us laid around in the shade of the Wing and took a dip to keep cool. Robert, marching to his own drum, rowed across the river and hiked up the canyon wall until he was just a speck on the horizon.
Tyler paddled upstream in the IK, doing who knows what, Virginia read her book, the 7th Harry Potter, and I slept on my Paco Pad that was attached to the back of the raft and floating in the river. Clyde and Dave just sat around and talked. It was a very, very relaxing afternoon!

The River Wing shades Tyler as meal preparation gets underway
The River Wing shades Tyler as meal preparation gets underway.
© Ashley Niles
Day 4:
This was our last day on the river and the day we merged with the Snake. It was the party barge day! After getting the camp packed up, we headed out to maneuver through Checkerboard and Eye of the Needle Rapids. By this day Virginia and I were feeling very comfortable on the oars and didn't feel there was a need to stop and scout. It was about 5 miles downriver from camp when we reached the confluence of the Salmon and Snake. We rowed through Salmon Falls Rapid and then shortly after we barged together and started motoring out. We were relaxing in the sun, enjoying the view and hoisting a frosty beverage!

There were a few rapids we had to detach and row through but nothing that got the blood pumping. We pulled into the Heller Bar take-out around 4 p.m., packed up as fast as we could and headed home for a seriously needed shower and soft bed to sleep in. This was such an amazing and exciting trip. It will be one I remember and cherish forever!



Ciao & Happy Boating,

Ashley Niles

NRS Customer Service