Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: On the River Days 5 & 6

Once again, I am turning the clock back to August and finishing the day-by-day recounting of my river trip. Photos of the dessert party and other more timely posts will follow. But for now, I would like to reminisce about warmer weather for a few minutes.

Day 5

Day 5 started a bit slower than other mornings on the river. By retiring early I apparently missed a very late night of carousing. But I was grateful for the sleep because Day 5 was the longest day on the river. We paddled against a head wind the bulk of the day and while we did have a long pre-lunch break, most of us spent it on a hike under the bright noon sun.

Somehow, the scenery was even more spectacular that day:
And the hike offered a slower and closer look from a different angle of all the beauty we were floating past:
Unlike most of the group hikes, I ended up at the rear on this one. When we got out of our boats I ended up at the back of the line to pump-filter water to replenish my supply and while I waited I somehow got sucked into a push-up contest with the teenagers of the group. They were challenging one of the boys to doing those pushups where you clap in the middle and I dropped the challenge of doing a few side planks. Oh, and the very in shape sometimes model 18-year old kid couldn't do them . . . yeah, I rock. By the time I finished showing off and pumped my water and arranged my backpack, I was hiking at the rear with the last guide and one of the older moms from England. She offered to let us pass her but we agreed to let her set the pace and we made a slow ascent which allowed me more time to drink everything in and take photos. When I reached the top, most everyone else was heading back down the trail which gave me plenty of time to soak in the view in relative solitude. And what a view!
After a few photos and a chat with a couple of guiedes I headed back down on my own and stopped to check out the pictographs:

I found them fascinating, even if all I really know about them is they were made by the Sheepeater Indians.

After our hike we were back on the river paddling against that headwind and encountered a remarkable sight:

Big Horn Sheep! Oh, they were beautiful creatures. And more than willing to pose for photos.
Unfortunately for us, none of them were feeling terribly fiesty so we didn't see any head-butting. I once saw (and heard!) what I believe were Desert Bighorn Sheep butting heads in Zion National Park. My sister and I watched for a long time - it was riveting and surprisingly beautiful and exciting. These guys just wanted some water and didn't pay much attention to us drifting by.
By day 5, I was obviously feeling relaxed and completely enjoying myself, although by this point I was ready for our later than usual lunch.

We stopped at this beautiful sandy beach:

My only complaint there was how quickly I kept losing my shade. It was a hot afternoon and I was pretty engrossed in my book so I spent the lunch break moving further and further up a felled tree trying to escape the sun.

Our last camp site for the week was on another beautiful sandy beach. And by this point, the only reason to put up a tent was to create a private space to change and provide a place to dry wet clothes. I no longer bothered with the rain fly and I don't think I shut my tent door and I know I did not actually climb into my overly warm sleeping bag.

That night the guides hit it out of the park for dinner and created an amazingly sumptuous feast. When I collected my dinner plate I claimed there was no way I could eat it all.
And yet, I finished all but a small portion of the steak and indulged in dutch oven brownies for dessert. We had a subdued campfire that evening with quiet and sometimes serious conversations as the teenagers among us piled their sleeping mats and bags into a single heap near the edge of the beach for one final slumber party while parents grew concerned and decided one last night was more than enough.
My last night was difficult. For whatever reason my muscles ached and ached and sleep eluded me. I tossed and turned and made a number of attempts to stretch my fatigued muscles. I would have done anything for an ibuprofen. It was sheer misery and I blame my position as lead paddler pushing against the headwind on an extra long day. And maybe the fact that my muscles just weren't prepared for so much paddling all at once.
Day 6
The final day was a bit sad. I believe we were all ready to shower but most of us were not yet ready to leave the wilderness behind. We had bonded as a group in an unexpected way those last couple of days and formed a unique community.

A community that felt comfortable enough with each other to leave surprise photos like this on my camera:
It was an incredible week. I was disappointed with how short our paddling day was when I saw the convergence point where the Middle Fork flowed into the main Salmon
and knew it was time to leave the boats behind.
We pulled the rafts out of the water and loaded our gear into a school bus waiting our arrival.
We said some preliminary farewells to the guides
and I turned back for one last glimpse of the Middle Fork as the yellow school bus bounced along the dusty road toward civilization.
I was greeted at the hotel (after I took a lengthy shower that still left sand embedded in my toenails) by my parents who love me enough to drive to Salmon, Idaho to collect me.
We shared some nostalgic memories with my dad and joined him for a drive to a nearby camp ground he frequented as a kid. And I scolded him for keeping the place a secret from us all these years. It was unbelievably beautiful and the campground was almost completely empty - surprising for an August weekend to this Utah girl.
I had one more chance to say goodbye to my fellow river trip paddlers at a farewell dinner. My parents joined us and caught a glimpse into why my trip was so enjoyable. It was hard to say goodbye to the guides and I'm disappointed to say that here it is December and I have not made good on any of my promises to stay in touch . . . or send photos. I guess that is the next step, right?

1 comment:

michele said...

i'm still jealous of this trip!

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