Donnerstag, 4. Oktober 2012

The South fork of The Salmon River

Dropping into the wilderness of the South Fork. Photo Paula Volkmer
I came to the States in the middle of August to attend a friend’s wedding and with me were Erika Sprunck and Paula Volkmer. After a weekend of parties it was time to hit the river. Idaho and Oregon has great rivers but due to high temperatures and no rain in a long time, most of the rivers in the area were running really low. What should we do? The local paddlers in Banks, Idaho, strongly recommended us to do the three-day wilderness run on the South Fork of the Salmon River even though the river would be low.

The South Fork!
All of us had been on multi day trips before, but as we started sorting out the logistics, we realized that none of us had been responsible for planning a multi day before. And, last but not least, none of us had ever been on a multi day trip without any guys. How embarrassing! It was time to step it up and take some responsibility ourselves.  

Camp life
The South Fork of the Salmon River is a classic Idaho mountain river with pool and drop rapids that runs through a remote wilderness canyon where only a few scattered ranches are the only evidence of human presence. 

Beach camp
We put in at the Secesh River and decided to camp on the first big sand beach. A couple of rangers stopped by our campsite in the morning, highly surprised to see three female paddlers by them self in the wilderness. They had just seen a black bear upstream of the camp and advised us to hang up all the food in a tree.

Sleeping beauties
Due to the low water level the paddling was pretty mellow with a few easy grade IV rapids in between the grade III. We scouted a few times, but that was mostly to make sure that the water was going around the rocks and not just under them. We were expecting to arrive at the confluence with the Main Salmon at the end of the second day, but after a long day in the burning sun, we realized that we were not going to make it. At the third day on the river we finally reached the confluence after 7 hours of paddling. Dinner that night was a random mix of the last food we found in our dry bags, but after a long day on the water, everything tastes good!

Photo Paula Volkmer

On the fourth day we ran out of iodine and most of the food. I didn’t have any clean water left and wasn’t exactly looking forward to 6-7 hours of flat water paddling in the burning sun. After a few kilometres of paddling on the main Salmon, we overtook a group of rafts. It didn’t take us long to charm the rafters and they gave away lots of clean water and booze. As if the European girls hadn’t been lucky enough, suddenly a speedboat appeared around the river bend and we raised our hands to flag it down. The speedboat stopped, picked us up and gave us a memorable ride all the way to take out. God bless America!

Even if the paddling itself wasn’t that challenging, I learned a lot from this trip. Reading maps, planning routes, organising logistics and shuttles, leading on the river, setting safety and taking important decisions are tasks that from my experience, a lot of guys like to dominate. I’m not saying that female paddlers are not able to perform these tasks, but paddling in a strong group of guys, it can sometimes be hard to front your opinions and take decisions. Most likely, there will be more experienced guys on the river with you, and in general, they like to lead, not to be leaded. All of us agreed on that the trip had been an outstanding experience and that we would like to do more expedition paddling with female kayakers because it made us understand that we can perform all the tasks and take all those important decisions our self.

Hitching a free ride with the speed boat!

On the way back to civilization get some food!

- Nini