As I lock up my Airstream's trailer door, I am filled with a sense of pure excitement. Our silver girl has brought us to Idaho on a fun filled road trip and now, for two nights, we leave her safe and sound at the McCall RV Resort while we take a whitewater rafting trip. Our destination is Hells Canyon, which is home to the mighty Snake River, and the deepest gorge in North America.
We choose to take our trip with Hells Canyon Raft, because we learned after extensive internet research, that they have a deep-rooted family history of rafting and guiding the Snake for over 31 years. Their guides are also extremely knowledgeable about the Snake, and know it like the back of their hands, which was very important for me and hubby since we had B, our 10-year-old son joining us.
A shuttle picks us up and whisks us off to Hells Canyon. As I step out of the van, the air is warm on my skin and the sunshine sparkles like glitter on the water. There is a cool breeze; I notice that is very refreshing. It is coming from the river, and I can hardly wait to begin our trip!
We receive a brief introduction on the dos and don'ts on the river. We are fitted with our life jackets that will be ours for the next few days, and are led down to the water where our rafts await.
We slowly float downriver and take in the quiet around us while soaking up the warm Idaho sun. Our guide, Patrick, reaches into the cooler on-board and offers us up some cold drinks and then asks if we would like to fish. Our son, B, jumps at the chance, and Patrick rigs up a fishing pole for him. B catches and releases one fat trout after another, and hubby and I marvel over his fishing skills. The kid is in utter heaven.
When we begin to get a little too warm, we notice a whitewater rapid ahead. We have plenty of time to prepare before we go through the rapid, so I put my camera away in my dry bag and ready myself for the first rapid. B is between hubby and I, and he is hanging on. I turn around to look at our guide, Patrick, and he is calm and smiling. I sense his intuition to the flow of the river, and he glides our raft over the waves in perfect synchronicity with water. We plunge down, pop back up and are rewarded to a refreshing cool splash (or two, or three) from the river, and we feel invigorated!
Patrick then carefully maneuvers our raft and brings us to shore.
He, along with our other guides, Elaine and Katie, begin to set up a riverside picnic lunch for us. We have umbrellas to shield us from the warm sun and a gourmet lunch. We prepare sandwiches with all the fixings, and B can't get enough of the sweet treats. Cool and refreshing beverages are served, and everyone finds their own little spot in the canyon to enjoy their lunch.
We learn that we are picnicking on a historic pioneering homestead. The Snake riverside is dotted with many homesteads that were built in the late 1800s. Imagining living in the primitive conditions as the homesteaders did back in the 1800s sent goose bumps up my spine. It must have been a very hard life amid such wilderness and beauty.
We explored the homestead, which was called the Kirkwood Ranch, home of the Jordan family. In the depression years of the 1930s, the Jordan family was desperate and bought a sheep ranch in the Canyon to try to reverse their failing fortunes. They lived with their children at Kirkwood Ranch for several years, and had a few neighbors scattered up and down the canyon.
The Jordans left the Kirkwood Ranch at the beginning of World War II, and Len Jordan went on to become a U.S. Senator, which I think was quite a feat considering the hard times he must have endured during the depression and homesteading on the ranch.
As we continued to raft down the river, our guides explained to us that the Native Americans were the first humans to settle in Hells Canyon. For many years, the canyon provided a passageway and temporary home for the Nez Perce tribe, and evidence of their settling is still found in Hells Canyon today via their pictographs.
After our full day of exploring the canyon, it's time to head to camp. Our campsite is located riverside, under trees for shade, and everything is set up for us. Our tents are strategically pitched to ensure privacy and a breathtaking view of the canyon.
There is a complete kitchen set up with dinner underway and the sun is beginning to set. The sky is a beautiful shade of gold that reflects off the Snake.
While I head up to our tent to refresh myself and get ready for dinner, hubby and B choose to continue to fish and take a swim in the river.
As we settle around the outdoor dinner table, our guides bring out beautiful big plates adorned with Dutch oven melted brie that has been wrapped in phyllo dough served with delicious cherry chutney. Following this scrumptious appetizer were perfectly cooked steaks and grilled pineapple and vegetables. There was also dessert that made B smile big. We were never hungry on this trip!
From falling asleep in our comfortable tents under some of the most amazing star-lit skies and crisp cool canyon air, we were awoken gently the next morning with soft sun beans shining through our tents.
Sunny mornings at our riverside camp consisted of chatting with new friends from far away places, sipping hot coffee and hot cocoa all while enjoying some of the most delicious gourmet riverside meals.
After breakfast, Patrick offered up a "easy" hike to take. "Monica, the view from the top is one you'll never forget," he tells me as he can see I am questioning whether or not to go... because the hike is on the other side of the river and it looks steep. Very -- steep. I'm not a fan of heights. But, he reassured me that people of all ages and skill levels can easily take this hike.
I was so happy I went because the views from the top took my breath away. I could see for miles and miles, and for a moment, I closed my eyes and took in all at once -- this great beauty around me.
A trip through Hells Canyon floating the Snake River is a bucket list trip of mine that has come true. It is most definitely a trip I will never, ever forget.