I survived – and may have found love – rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River


I survived. Period.

Source: National Geographic
*This isn’t actually me…I was fortunate to be with some very ahem, skilled navigators while only got stuck on a rock that jumped out of nowhere!

Let me rephrase this so you understand the victorious sensation I am living in at the moment. This past month I faced one of my biggest fears and not only did I survive, but I lived to tell the story of how both myself and my relationship with my ever so wonderful – and never again responsible for packing the necessities when we go camping again – boyfriend made it through 100 rapids in 100 miles during the course of six days.


Now on the outside looking in, that is six days of waking up every morning to the sound of birds chirping and the sun peaking up over the tree covered mountain tops as it sparkles upon the flowing water. You’ll wake up next to the love of your life and he’ll kiss your sun kissed nose as you both make your way down the sandy beach hand in hand to enjoy a pancake breakfast and a beautiful sunrise with the rest of the crew. You’ll then spend the rest of the day in awe of the beautiful scenery, exploring waterfalls, hot springs, historic monuments, and nature that has been preserved. Then you’ll end the day at another beautiful camp where you set up for the night, enjoy a peaceful evening dinner after skipping rocks along the shore, and fall asleep to crickets chirping while you lay under a star filled sky.

Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of moments like this. However, on the contrary, you may instead find days where you wake up to a bear roaming around your camp because of the bee traps that you had to set out so you could manage to eat your dinner without it being topped with bees. And your nose will be so sunburnt that you won’t want anything or anyone even near it, even if they have showered after rowing in the hot sun all day.

MF Salmon 2014-7037-1[1]

Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

Speaking of the hot sun, don’t let it deceive you. That sun takes a good couple of hours before it pops up to say hello, leaving you layered up with your teeth chattering and wanting to do anything but get in freezing cold water. Freezing water that isn’t just flowing prettily along the shore, but rather thrashing itself against your raft that is just big enough to carry you, your partner in crime, and everything the two of you need to survive for a week in the wilderness. And that water is icy cold and is out to drench you – but not necessarily the boyfriend who somehow sweet talked you into taking time off to go on this adventure – from head to toe before the sun has even had time to pop over the mountains to dry you off.


Source: Patty Howarth Photography

Before you know it, you’ll be wishing that sun would make its way back behind some mountain or cloud somewhere as it basks down on you for the remaining six hours you’re floating down the river, being attacked by swarming bees that have a thing for stinging you in the most uncomfortable places, like underneath your armpit. Really? Of all places, you’re going to go there? Just add that to the massive spider bite that is swelling up a quarter of your hand and collection of mosquito bites that have began to look like a connect the dot picture on your sunburnt back. Reason number one why I’m going to be responsible for compiling a list of things to pack next time we go camping. (I love you Luke, and it’s nice to know you are only human, too.)


Source: Patty Howarth Photography

When you finally do make your way to camp for the night, it’s time to set up camp. The same camp that you just took down that morning and will have to take down again the next day. It is exhausting but by the 4th or 5th day in a row, you could probably make a game out of it by seeing who could set up and take down the fastest while blindfolded. Not to mention the added challenge of avoiding being stung by the swarm of bees and the fact that despite the gallon of water you drank during the day – resulting in you having to stop every couple of miles to find a spot to relieve yourself – you still managed to end up feeling dehydrated. By the time the day is done, both you and the love of your life just want to pass out and call it a day. But those chirping crickets have another idea in mind, and they don’t want you to miss out on their symphony they’ve put together designed to keep you up until just before sunrise.


Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

No one mentions the little things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about. Such as finding a way to cleanse your entire body under a tiny stream of water coming out of a bag that has been laying out all day on your boat as you pray it’ll be warm enough, yet not scolding hot, by the time you take a shower that night. Or that you’ll be spending roughly eight straight hours with just you and another person stuck in a tiny raft together and you have to trust that person with your life as they maneuver the two of you through rapids that are up to levels 4 and 5 even. And I’ll spare you the details, but you have to be wondering at this point about the bathroom situation. Let’s just say you will have a difficult time adjusting to civilization when you get back due to being used to going wherever your heart  bladder desires.

MF Salmon 2014-6964-18[1]

Source: Patty Howarth Photography

Now that’s more what the week looks like. But looking back after all that, I found myself eager for the next trip. Why? First off, despite what I may have made it sound like, I am a huge outdoor enthusiast and love nearly every detail that comes with being in the outdoors once you look past some of the, not so pleasant aspects (like being eaten alive by mosquitos).

MF Salmon 2014-7072-42[1]

Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

I love the mornings where you do get to enjoy the sunrise over the mountains while eating a delicious pancake breakfast along the river after exploring the area during a morning hike and finding an old airstrip landing.


Source: Patty Howarth Photography

Even going through rip roaring waves while you fear being smashed along the face of a rock – the rushing water was my biggest fear as I have a slight phobia of water after a bad experience – ended up feeling more like being on a roller coaster as I found myself laughing and shrieking in delight.



Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

And being “stuck” on a tiny raft with my other half for roughly eight hours a day was actually a highlight, as we found ways to entertain ourselves. Often times this included singing in funny voices, getting stuck on rocks and figuring out how to get off of them, and simply just being in the middle of nature and basking in all its glory.


Source: Patty Howarth Photography

You start to truly enjoy simplicity and find yourself smiling at life itself. You find yourself engaging in conversation with a cowboy as he leads his horses back to his ranch on the trail above your head, and for a moment you almost feel yourself being absorbed back in history.


Source: Patty Howarth Photography

And you are responsible for your own source of fun. There’s no electronic devices, no wifi passwords, and no “what should the caption of my photo be” and #yolo with my #bff. Instead, you’ll play games like “Elephant Croquet” and find yourself bent over in some serious belly laughter when you find yourself actually engaging in a real conversation with real people with no distractions between the two of you. It’s a beautiful thing.



Source: Doug Lincoln and Patty Howarth Photography

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth that I have ever seen. And even though you find yourself having to get creative in how you cleanse and relieve yourself, no other restroom facility will have the same scenic view as you’ll have while you’re on the river. There’s also nothing quite like waking up in the middle of the night- regardless of how comfortable you are in your sleeping bag – and standing hand in hand with your best friend as you both find yourself mesmerized by just how many stars fill the sky. The same sky that makes it near impossible to even find a solidary star during an evening in New York City.Tent under a Star Filled Sky

Source: Talk Camping

MF Salmon 2014-6902-5[1]

Source: Doug Lincoln Photography

Yes I left that trip sunburnt and covered from head to toe in all sorts of insect infestation. But both Luke and I went to Tom Petty that night with smiles stretched across our sunburnt faces and more calm than I’ve felt in probably years. And yes, I said Tom Petty. How’s that to top off a week of rafting down the Middle Fork before heading back to the city that never sleeps? That’s another story for another day though. For today though, my rafting experience reiterated a couple of posts I’ve had on just why being in the outdoors and stepping outside your comfort zone adds depth, happiness, and overall balance to your life.


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