For a 23-year-old I've had a fair share of outdoor adventures, but floating the Middle Fork was an incredible and unique experience. Though it was my first river rafting trip, it was soon apparent after talking with returning guests, experienced rafters, fishing guides, and our own guides, that this river with this outfitter is the cream of the crock. I found this easy to accept as truth. The Middle Fork of the Salmon runs strait through the second largest wildness area in the continental US (after death valley) and is endlessly scenic. Were there nothing else to do (very much not the case) I would have had an amazing week just enjoying the mountains, pines, and waterfalls. And the stars. Like you wouldn't believe. I slept outside more than in the tent!
Over the course of the week I tried to take in the experience in many ways. I had a great day floating, nice and easy, on an oar boat with my brother and mother while a guide navigated the roaring rapids with ease. I spent most of my time in paddle boats (usually 6 guests and 1 guide), which is a considerably more involved way get down the river. The paddlers all work together to ride through the white water, and in the calmer areas, exchange stories, jokes, riddles, etc. On my more adventurous days I would hop into an inflatable kayak for a wild ride. This is how one gets up close and personal to the raw power of the river. It takes some guts, guidance, and a rush of adrenaline to make it through some of the monster rapids. Or you do your best and still get thrown into the torrents and froth. All part of the adventure! There really is something for everyone.
Also for everyone: the food. Ahhhh the food. I would have been thrilled with trail mix and PB&J's. So, of course, I didn't mind Ahi tuna steak, gourmet salad, carrot cake, etc. Absolutely delicious. Every meal. I would also like to note that although I cannot eat dairy, every meal, despite my protests, there was a fantastic non-dairy option for me. Same went for the pescetarians, and, I imagine, any dietary needs. The guides were happy to accommodate, and were all very good cooks.
Which brings me to the guides. The GUIDES! Ahhhh the guides. If it's possible to pick one thing, the guides were my favorite part of the trip. They are all such kind, interesting, down to earth, intelligent, and talented people. I know it was only six days, and that we were just one trip of one summer, but they really are like friends, or family. I know many of the guests shared this opinion. They always helped make the time on the river fun, and I especially loved sitting around camp in the evening sharing a beer, playing cards, or guitar, or just telling stories. They work incredibly hard from sun up (or before) to sun down (or after), and are, nonetheless, always of a pleasant disposition.
Should I ever get the chance, I would ride the Middle Fork again with IRJ in an instant. Incredible, incredible experience.
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