Six Days on the Middle Fork. Six Guides. Six Experiences.

In between rapids, our six guides would put on their history and biology hats to explain flora and fauna. river history and point out landmarks. They also play the part of luggage handler and gourmet chef each evening – incredible and strong people.

Each day we made it a point to get in a boat with a different guide, as each are passionate and experts at different things, our experience would be as varied each day.  

From L to R:  Frank, Chris, Sara, Aaron & Fritz.

From L to R: Frank, Chris, Sara, Aaron & Fritz.  Not pictured: John (he was piloting the gear boat ahead of us).

There was “Party Barge” Fritz, who captained the boat storing all of the beer: we became fast friends, even after discovering we root for baseball rivals. I’ll be photoshopping his Red Sox cap out of all my photos.

“Dry-boat” Johnny was were you wanted to be on the action days, as this native Idaho boy has rowed nearly every river in the state and knows each bend in the river. He could probably row this river blindfolded, and has paddled the entire Middle Fork in a single day, as well as the entire Salmon River system spanning the entire state.  

Chris and Sara own a guiding company specializing in winter backcountry skiing and summer rock climbing in the Sawtooth’s, as well as a ski hut. Living the dream, anyone? Their stories of adventure in Idaho and globally were enchanting. Talk about power couples and these two define it. I’d take Chris and Sara over a dozen Tom and Giselle’s or Kimye’s anyday.

Frank is a high school teacher for 9 months of the year and guides a few river trips each summer. He won’t say which is tougher – two dozen high school kids or the same number of river-goers – and his expertise of local and national history could fill volumes of books. He knows two sets of history: what is traditionally taught in school and they way things actually happened. His students are lucky to learn from him.

The lead guide on this trip was Aaron, more affectionately known as “Bird Dog.”  Our second morning he pulled out a giant Idaho map and could point to and name any river or mountain, in a state with countless numbers of both, in an instant. I would bet he could re-draw the state topo map from memory, as well as recall when and where each rockslide occurred in the 100 river miles on the Middle Fork. The knowledge and love for the river the Rocky guides possess is second to none and it is infections to the guests.

Gallery photos by Paul Richer / Richer Images

The guides make the trip happen, but it is the guests who “make” the trip. Over twenty personalities can come together over very few things: a river trip in the heart of a wilderness is one. It almost sounds like the start of comedian’s one-liner: A New York stockbroker, a German couple and two college-age sisters from Idaho go on a trip titled the ‘River of No Return.’ Check out the trip video and you’ll see how easy it is to bond with complete strangers on inflatable rubber rafts.

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