Family Adventures on The Salmon River Rafting
Toil and water mixture on a raft trip; A Salmon River run offers something for the whole family, together with berry picking, campfire singing, cave exploring, even pedicures.  Going to such trip will allow you to explore while learning the different needs of survival and camping gear.  However, we mostly purchased our camping gear in a military outdoor gear where all our needs were granted.

From John Muncie

When the cool, deep shaft of this abandoned copper mine finished in a wall of stone, direct Mike Thurbert turned into the group and said, "Switch off your own flashlights. "

We were about 100 yards into an Idaho hillside.  The lights went off as instructed and, at a moment of solemnity, 19-year-old Thurbert quietly asked us to consider the phenomenon of utter darkness.  For the moment, each of us had been an island, alone in the black tunnel.

Then somebody made a spooky ooooo-ing audio and, to squeals of laughter, all the flashlights clicked on, most of them shining up under chins, turning faces to grotesque Halloween masks.

Solemnity is in short supply on a river rafting trip full of children.

In case you're wondering exactly what a walk at a copper mine has to do with river rafting, you'll likely wonder the same about blackberry picking, hurtling down sand dunes, Wiffle-ball and toenail polishing.

Our white-water rafting trip on the Lower Salmon River had to do with conservative family fun as it do with running rapids.  It had been the warm and fuzzy things -- singing around the campfire, eating meals together, devising games, telling bad jokes, debating huge problems with know-it-all adolescents -- we recalled long after the white-water excitement disappeared.

My wife, Jody, and I chose this specific adventure for family reasons.  Friends of ours, the Fullers, had researched the trip -- four times, three nights on the Salmon and Snake rivers beginning in Idaho using the Outdoor Adventure River Specialists, or OARS, rafting company -- and asked if we wanted to combine them.
Our trip began on a Monday, when we took a bus out of Lewiston to the Pine Bar put-in stage about the Salmon, 62 miles off in our final destination, Heller Bar.  We pushed out to the river around 11 a.m..  Our little flotilla consisted of three rubber rafts, three wooden dories, a significant paddle raft and three inflatable kayaks.

Barry Dow, 57, a 30-year veteran of the Salmon, Snake and Colorado rivers, was our trip leader, but the rest of the seven- man crew seemed surprisingly young.  In fact, three of these were in their teens.  When we asked them about their backgrounds, we discovered that rafting appears to be in their genes.

"My mother was pregnant when she had been on the lake," explained Thurbert, whose dad was a river guide.  Thurbert, who left his first ex-utero rafting trip when he was 3, piloted the passenger- powered paddle raft on this trip.  His directions were equally counterintuitive -- "Always lean to the tide, always lean toward the stone! " -- and simple -- "Listen to what I say and, when in doubt, paddle. "

Eric Shedd, 19, had a similar story.  His parents had been river guides and fulfilled on a rafting trip.  "My mother says I was less than a year old when I was first on the lake. "

The prize for the strongest river ties moved to Zak Sears, 18, who left his first river trip when he was 6 weeks old.  Sears pointed downriver and said his dad was at another campsite guiding another rafting trip.   "

Tossed to the drink

 The Salmon is your longest free-flowing river left at the Lower 48.  For sightseeing purposes it's split in the Middle Fork (the top part), the Main and the Lower Salmon.

Each has its own charms and its urges.  Based on water levels, our part, the Lower Salmon, usually has fewer and not as difficult rapids.  We faced just a few that count as Class III.
The lack of large white water may create the Lower Salmon a bit tame for thrill-seekers, but it was ideal for our band of youngsters and their parents that wanted to get them familiar with river rafting without the hazards of major water.

"This is nothing," said veteran rafter Jim Eisch, 40, of Tampa, Fla..  Eisch attracted his daughter Kelsey, 8, son Jimmy, 11, and dad, Ted, 69.  "But I didn't want to create them so scared they didn't want to do it . "

If we could have fast-forwarded a trip tape into the previous day, it would have shown Jimmy smiling extensively following his third back flip off a raft and saying, "I don't want to go home.  Next time I'm planning on a 17-day trip! "

With children as young as 8 on the trip, threat was on every family's mind.  Before we install, the guides gave us several security lectures, explaining what we had been to do if we went in a quick -- or "went swimming" as they state at river parlance.

There was lots of information to consume, between, among other items, head-patting signs, throw ropes, reverse lines and also the "La-Z- Boy" float position.  All of it washed from our heads when, individually, Jody and I had been thrown out of our kayaks at the Class III Bunghole fast on the next day.

Disoriented after becoming tumbled from the opaque wash cycle of Bunghole, we immediately bobbed to the surface.  In less than a minute we had been within grasp of a raft or dory, and at less than three, we were back aboard our kayaks paddling.

The vital things, it turns out, weren't only procedures but also the vigilance and unflappable character of our team as we got tossed overboard and forgot all our lessons.  That and also the bright orange life vests we constantly wore.

The inflatable kayaks -- such as beach rafts with sides -- gave the most heart-pounding ride.  It's only you and a tiny bit of plastic careering through the rapids.  When the waves of white water flake and assault, the key is to throw hard.  "No lily dipping," manual Marci Whittman told us before we put off the first day.  "No tea-and- crumpet maneuvering. "

Two days later Sam wiped out at the start of the very technical (river-speak for hazardous ) of the rapids, Eye of the Needle, sending him swimming through water.

At the bottom of the fast, he happily climbed back into his kayak.  The manuals were impressed.  His mom was unnerved.  Sam had a blast.  "That was great," he explained.

But the very best ride, as far as we were concerned, was at the dories.  Even Sam and 15-year-old Adam Mowery agreed.  "The dories were awesome," Adam said.

Since the wooden boats are inflexible , they don't bend into the waves, which makes the extremities considerably higher and the falls like a mini roller coaster.  And to find the best ride of the manuals let us ride the bow.  That usually means wrap your legs round the prow, catching onto a rope and riding the ship a enjoy bucking bronco.

Follow the sun.

Aside from the occasional white water, river days were soothing stretches of lazy leisure and rocking, framed by magnificent scenery of golden hills and deep gorges.  At the start, trip leader Dow had indicated we leave against our watches.  The sun became our clock, and the plaintive note Dow hauled on his conch shell our call to meals.

We would pack up and push off after breakfast every morning, then spend a couple of hours on the lake, sometimes falling overboard for a swim to cool off.  We would stop at a sandbar for lunch and more swimming or games, then return to the river to get a few more hours.

We usually pulled up around four or five in the day, which left lots of time for onshore activities.   A couple of dads tried their luck fishing while the rest of the adults sought relief in the 95-degree-plus heat and the children horsed around at the water's edge.  Afterwards, somebody started a Wiffle-ball game.  When breeze blew the ball to the river, 13-year-old Amy Fuller yelled, "Seventh-inning stretch! " and everybody jumped into the cool water.

Finally, large clouds boiled up, bringing shade and relief, thunder and a couple of drops of rain.  It had been clear and dry.

The first night, before we got down to the work of family enjoyment, Dow discussed the hazards of onshore life.  It was pretty tame stuff -- poison ivy, hornets, the rare brown recluse and black widow spiders, and the rarer rattlesnakes.   "Don't hurt the creatures.  This is their property.  We're visitors. " Some of the parents expected the guides' reverence for the lake and its inhabitants would rub off on their children.

"My children are city children," explained Susan Mowery, the Indiana mother of Adam and his sisters, Anna, 12, and Abbi, 10.  "I want to show them 's more to life than Disney World. "

Guide Matty Wilson, 28, aglow from the orange campfire light, pulled out a guitar and, together with fellow manuals Sears and Thurbert, sang pop and folk songs, some so old that even the parents realized them.

Soon the fire went out, leaving a soft night breeze, the sound of guitars, a major moon trying to glow through the clouds and a group of contented parents watching their children do something apart from playing video games.

That was just one of many unique shore-leave moments.  At the campsite, a lot of us had our toenails painted.  Whittman, an art instructor in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, when she's not a manual, set up a salon in her raft.  At the rear end was a studio in which the women and a few of the younger boys painted stones and made sand art.  In the center, she painted toenails.

Having science instructor John Fuller and the river trip was an excess treat.  For Fuller, details are enjoyable, and it wasn't long after his passing he got trip leader Dow to talk about the lake and its stream.  At the time, it had been running at a moderate 7,000 cubic feet per minute, or CFS, but through floods, it ran more than 100,000 CFS.  Dow pointed out driftwood trees on the banks and said, "Imagine the river that large.  It's like a wild animal. "

Fuller's favorite moment on the trip, scientifically at least, arrived at a blackberry patch just below the mouth of this copper mine.  He watched in awe as one manual tossed a berry 50 feet to the mouth of another guide.  Plus it gave him an idea for a science laboratory, between the physics of pitching grapes (in the lack of blackberries).

There was no requirement to educate the physics of fun; the children on the trip were experts.  From the next day, increasingly confident in their new environment, they were leaping off the rafts into the water to cool off.  From the next day, they had been swimming a Class III rapid.  Water splashing struggles often broke out.

 That night guides and customers met for a farewell dinner at a restaurant near Lewiston, even though two families needed to alter their travel plans to create it.

During toasts and testimonials, Dow climbed and spoke to the guides, saying, "We expect the river spoke to you and gave you a unique present, because it does to us. "

As we left the restaurant, families were exchanging e-mail addresses and Whittman was painting the few remaining sterile claws left on the little women.

Seconds earlier, if the Fullers had pitched the family rafting idea, Woody, together with teenage disdain, called it "the dumb trip.

"Today," he said, "it's the great trip. "