Photos by Paul Richer / Richer Images
Yes, you’re on a river trip, but there are endless other options beyond boating.
Looking up from the river while floating down the Middle Fork the views are stunning. But you are also only seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Akin to seeing a national park from only a passenger car, you are missing out on so much. With the power of your two legs, and the cooking you can get high above the river and see things from a different perspective. One of those most amazing views is Johnson Point, accessible from Little Pine camp at about mile 71. This 1200 foot hike in just over a mile puts you on a saddle with 360 degree views. On a clear afternoon you can see upstream at least dozen miles to the Flying B Ranch and downstream to the start of the Impassable Canyon and the Bighorn Crags, with high peaks of the Sawtooths rimming the horizon.
Another great option is to jump on sections of the Middle Fork trail which parallels the river’s first 70+ miles. One great spot is the Little Creek Guard Station at mile 36. You can check in at the guard house, where Bruce, a Forest Service volunteer lives for 100 days each summer. Bring him a beer and you’ll be treated to some great Middle Fork tips. The hike continues a few miles down to the Jackass rapids, where the guides have graciously rowed the boats to meet you avoiding the walk back.
The Middle Fork is one of the best streams for Cutthroat Trout fishing, as well as one of the few rivers that feature spawning salmon from the Pacific. To keep these sensitive species intact fishing is limited to single-barb hooks and to flies and lures. The salmon that make it here are few, but hardy, as stair-step ladders at downriver dams must be climbed to reach the “Wild & Scenic” Salmon River. I’m not much a fisherman, but some folks in our group, as well as other groups we passed are. They had a fair amount of action on our late-June trip. When the river level drops in late summer you’ll be in rod & reel heaven.
This is a tough one, since the days are pretty long in northern Idaho. Dusk and dawn last for hours, making for great nights hanging out at camp, as well as early morning hikes hot springs or reading. But if you answer natures’ call in the night hours, better keep a star map handy – the sky glows.
Soak in Hot Springs.
My favorite one, Sunflower Flat Hot Spring, is river right on day two, marked by a pipe 10 feet off the river pouring a nice warm shower for passing boaters. When you climb up to the upper pool and sit with your toes out over the lip, this pool has an infinity pool look to it, with the horizon line of the spring giving way to the river a few hundred feet below. The river maps the Rocky guides use highlights springs close to the river, plus the guides know all the secret spots.
In addition to cards, checkers and frisbee, the official Rocky Mountain River Tours game is called Kubb. An ancient game from the Vikings equals hours of fun! Check out more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubb and beware of any guide who loses the first game, then bets dish duty on a rematch.
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