Planning ahead is not my strong point. So, yet another spring passed by where a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River would elude me. This life-list trip sells out every year through Rocky Mountain River Tours, usually in the middle of powder skiing season, and for good reason. Rated the #1 Wilderness Trip in America, the Middle Fork is on the bucket list with the Grand Canyon atop many river runner’s dream lists; my own included.
I began running rivers over a decade ago in Colorado and Utah on the Green, Gunnison and Colorado rivers. Scouring NRS catalogs (a popular river equipment supplier) the Middle Fork was always featured in their photography. The crystal-clear water of the Salmon is a stark contrast from our muddy desert rivers, as are the towering trees and hidden hot springs.
A few years ago, we were able to join a group on the Main Salmon for a week, a highly worthy sister river to the Middle Fork. Not quite as competitive to secure dates, especially when you wait until two or three weeks prior to call the nice folks at Sawtooth Adventure Company. The Main delivers, but teases at the same time. The Middle Fork called even louder after priming the pump on the Main. A typical scene on the Main:
But once again, I hung myself out to dry by not checking available dates on rafttrips.com until May to book the Middle Fork for this summer. Save for a few random single seats, all sold out for the season. I added our names to the waitlist, assuming that was about as likely to happen as winning jackpot on the penny slots.
Like the Chicago Cub’s World Series chances, there is always next year; even if they’ve been saying that for over a century. At least, that is how I rationalize another missed Middle Fork season. Summer fills quickly: food events, bike trips, climbing trips, weddings, beer festivals and more fill the calendar in nicely. You almost don’t realize it until you phone rings and the conversation goes something like this:
“Hey, this is Jared with Rocky. Can you make a Middle Fork trip next week? We had a last minute cancellation. Your name came up on the waitlist.”
Me: “Wait, what?! There actually is a waitlist?”
Jared: “Haha. Yes, there is. And your name came up. So, you can make it to Stanley next Friday for a 6 day trip?”
Me: “YES We are in!”
I, of course, said yes without realizing I had a dozen work meetings schedules, tickets to an (expensive) pre-paid dinner event, family coming a visit and a few summer league softball games. My fiance had just as many work meetings and no vacation time at her job, plus we have a dog who would need to be cared for. In less than 4 hours everything was cancelled or rescheduled. Other commitments we just ignored, such as our softball team to fend for themselves, because this. Is. The. Middle Fork! We even found a dog sitter with the promise of Idaho beer being transported back to Utah. Game on!
The river is calling. And we must go.
I’m also buying a lottery ticket tomorrow. Luck seems to be on my side.