Monday, July 30, 2012

Greetings from Sunbeam

Howdy Dear Friends & Loyal Blog Readers, We are writing this post from Sunbeam, Idaho (AKA: Sunbeam Village).  It's nearing 4 pm and we needed a break today.  Besides, it's hotter than blazes outside and I am now in a nice, cool, old place called the Sunbeam Village Grill. (You can click here to read about the place in an article at Salmon River News.)  Shannon Orr provides free WIFI here.  She's not here today but everyone here knows about the article and they were all smiles when I walked in wearing my Salmon River News name tag.  Yeah, can you believe, I am posing as an Editor/Reporter up here in Salmon Country.  Have camera and note pad will travel to tell stories.  )

NOTE: We just updated the Sunbeam Village Grill's article:

It's been a real whirlwind over the past week.  A week ago we were just getting into the Riverside Campground.  We came back home Thursday thinking I'd be leaving Friday.  Well, after 8 hours of rigging Friday, it was clear that wasn't going to happen.  So, we got up at 4:30 am Saturday and skee-daddled at 5:15 am for Challis, arriving a few minutes before 8 am.

We met briefly with Stephen and Natalie at their place near Malm Gulch and Deadman Hole and then we hustled on up to Clayton, Idaho, Population 7.  The Chili Cookoff Judging got underway late because a bunch of entrants didn't know what time the cookoff started.  They were all on Custer County Time (CCT).  You see, CCT is generally 1-2 hours different than MST, depending on how late they stayed in the local saloon the night before.


Well, while we were back at Natalie's Place, we all swore on a imaginary stack of Bibles that we wouldn't have anything to do with a chili that had hotdogs in it.  Wouldn't you know we got conned and named a chili with hotdogs the #1 winner.  Of course, we didn't KNOW it had hotdogs in it.  What kind of judges were we anyway?  It was a real blow to Natalie's and my self-esteem that we were stupid enough to vote a chili with hotdogs #1.  We both contemplated suicide.  It must be something about Clayton.  Our stand-in judges last year, Roger & Kathleen, also voted a chili with hotdogs #1.  Of course, we SWORE we would NEVER do that again!  Just goes to show you one should never use the word never.  The second you use the word NEVER, you are certain to do whatever it is that you swore you would NEVER DO!  YIKES!
Mike Kalenik presents the $50 first place award to Rachel.  Below, there was a tie for 2nd place so Mike totaled the prize money and divided by two and each of these ladies received $25. Clayton's Hoodoo Saloon provided the $100 prize money.

Well, I snuck out of Clayton with my tail between my legs.  I tried to leave quietly and succeeded.  I was feeling very, very low for the remainder of the day, actually.  When I called Susun from Stanley to tell her about it, she howled with laughter and, naturally, that made me feel even lower than low.  Frankly, I am still smarting about it a full two days later.

Well, somehow in the fog of travel, I forgot it was the Sawtooth Music Festival and Stanley was PACKED. People were camped everywhere.  I panicked and hurried to the Sunny Gulch Campground and got one of the last two open sites before it filled for the day.  Turns over that every campground anywhere NEAR Stanley filled Saturday.  People were camping beside the roads.

Then I went back into Stanley and waited for Heather and Tim.  They showed up not long after 5 pm Saturday.  I met them down by the river.  Heather unloaded all three of her horses and her mule and I got to lead one of them to teh water's edge so it could eat grass and tank up.  Then we drove down to the Sunbeam Village Grill and had a burger and fries dinner.  Shannon was great and let me take a lot of cool photos.  She joined us out under a shade trees and we all told stories and had a rockin' kinda Yankee Fork evening.  Sunbeam sits where the Yankee Fork joins The Salmon River.   Yankee Fork just isn't ANY tributary of The Salmon, it's called The LAND of The Yankee Fork.  You see, when a tributary gets to be called a "Land" that's kind of akin to a kingdom or something similar.  It's not just any old fork--it's The Land of The Yankee Fork.  Big deal, you see?

Well, Heather and Tim eventually decided that had to leave and I got back to Sunny Gulch close to 7:30.  Luckily, the sun goes behind the canyon rim at 8 pm and then it cools off.  It's been running in the 90's here each day and in the mid-30's each morning.  There's a great big forest fire burning not far from Stanley and puttin' up a giant column of smoke.  Somehow watching fire smoke always makes it seem a few degrees hotter than it really is.

Well, I woke up Sunday really, really, REALLY tired.  All the hustle of the past few days caught up with me and I kept thinking "I'm feeling my age."  It took me three hours to get ready for the river trip.  I arrived in the nick of time at The River Company's HQ and we departed promptly at 10:30 am.


Thus began yet another humbling morning.  If I thought voting a hotdog chili #1 was bad, well then I was really in for a much larger slice of Humble Pie.  We rigged our boats and put in the river and not even five minutes below the put-in, I flipped the inflatable kayak and went for a very long, difficult swim through very turbulent water and a lot of totally inflexible rocks.  Yeah, I guess I needed a major dose of humility or something this weekend because I sure got it in a one-two dose--BAM-BAM, just like that.

Here's what happened with the flip.  It's a rapid called Piece Of Cake and Little Yonni got his piece of cake stuffed down his throat.  I told the lead guide I hadn't had a chance to scout the rapid and asked his advice.  He said, "Oh, just follow me and you'll be fine."  Meanwhile, much to my chagrin, they gave me a kayak paddle with parallel blades--not the opposing blades I have used for 35+ years.  I'venever once in my life paddled with a parallel blade kayak paddle.  I had a feeling of foreboding when I picked it up but shrugged off the feeling and forged ahead.  They had no other paddle for me.

Well, I followed the raft right into the rapid and I saw it disappear in this really deep hole and I thought, "Hum, that's a really deep hole."  And, sure enough, when I got down in that really deep hole there was this really big wave on the far side and it turned the inflatable kayak sideways and I started surfing on the wave face.  Well, all my old kayaking instincts kicked in and I was actually having one heck of a surf there in the fluff and fury of that big ol' wave face.  Trouble was it was the wrong type of boat, wrong paddle, wrong wave, wrong paddler and wrong day.  The boat flipped a full 360 faster than you read this sentence.  Ouch!

Now's here's some funny stuff and some lucky stuff, too.  Onshore there was a professional photographer who takes pictures for The River Company so they can sell them on a DVD after the trip.  She was using a $1000+ digital camera and captured the whole incident for posterity.  Meanwhile, I happened to be wearing my GoPro helmet cam and, yep, I got the whole surf, flip and LOOOONG swim entirely on my helmet cam.  Talk about embarrassing.  It's all there for everyone to see.  Sure enough when we got back to the company's HQ, everyone was guffawing over the flip and swim while they stood around the big screen TV.  Yeah, it was Humble Pie Time (HPT).

Actually, I had a great run the rest of the day and didn't miss a line and didn't come close to having an incident.  The flip and swim had everything to do about karma and HPT--that was the driving force behind it all.

Now the lucky stuff is real simply.  Piece of Cake is a bad anatomy rapid.  I had trouble getting my feet downstream and there were three times I felt them hitting bottom.  I am so grateful I did not have an ankle entrapment!  I had nightmares about it all last night.  Likewise, I self-rescurd myself and didn't need anyone's help and got all my gear together and didn't lose or destroy anything.  Now, that's lucky.

But I did bang a knee and it really wore me out.  I arrived back at camp yesterday really "feeling my age." and was just total bone tired.  Trouble with camping at these latitudes is that the sun doesn't go down until it danged well feels like it.  So, I limped back into Stanley to spend the evening promoting the Salmon River News and checking out various places I'd never visited before.  We were so happy when the sun finally went down and we could crawl into the tent and try to sleep.

We didn't have much success sleeping so we got up in the dark at 5:30 am this morning and broke camp and drove out by 7 am.  We've already had a really long, full day today and it's not even 4:30 yet.  First, we drove way upriver looking for some obscure canoe run popularized by Boise's Idaho Canoe Club.  Then we got to the Sawtooth Hatchery just after they opened at 8 am and hooked up with the "trout stocker," an affable guy named Jason.  I tagged along as he readied his truck and then filled it with 500 rainbow trout.  Then I followed him to a stocking point and watched as he let the trout fly off a bridge into Valley Creek.  Then it was back to the Hatchery to meet with some more of the staff and get photos and facts for a story about their Kid's Fishing Pond.

Then we headed off to Stanley for a one hour interview with David D., owner of The River Company.  Our other stops included the Stanley Chamber, McCoy's Tackle, the Stanley Library and The Forest Service Ranger Station.  Seems like there was a couple of other stops in there but I can't remember them.  Then we headed down river and started taking photos of all the places we've been wanting to capture.  That's actually pretty time consuming.  We stopped off here at Sunbeam to talk with "owner" Doug Fenn about how Sunbeam Dam was blown up and then headed up The Land of The Yankee Fork to photograph the dredged wasteland up there and try to find some Tribal fishermen to talk to. Finally, we coasted back down the Yankee Fork to roost for awhile here at Sunbeam in the cozy confines of Shannon's Sunbeam Village Grill.

We're tried, these long days take their unique toll, especially in the high heat of dog day summer.  We're going to drive a short distance down river to the O'Brien Campground complex.  It's the only campground with actual, genuine TRUE shade. It's also deep in the river canyon and so the run drops over the rim realy early in the evening and it gets blessedly cool.  Likewise, it's the only campground with an honest, actual, real BEACH!  Honest, a real beach that's not river cobbles the size of your head or bigger.  It's not actually a sand beach but the granite has been ground down so fine it almost seems like a sand beach.  That means we will be able to put on our swimming suit and get in the water and cool down.  Ah, bliss.

Tomorrow is more of the same.  Get up early, take tons of photos of obscure places, see lots of people, make lots of stops and don't stop until you wanna drop.  That's the way it is with trips up here--ya gotta get yer stuff while the gettin's good because it's a long way from Tipperary to get here and home again.  There are a lot of times on trips like these where I just wanna stop and do nothing.  Trouble it that I really kick myself when I get home and realize what I coulda, shoulda, oughta, mighta done but got too lazy to do it.

We're probably gonna have internet sometime tomorrow cuz we think we'll be down river at least to Challis by then.  Who knows, we might even make it to least the Heaven we know to exist at Duane's Place--the BLM Cottonwood Campground near Ellis.  But there's a lot of miles and a lot of people, places and big ol' river between here and there.

We shall see.

Have a great day and Many Cheers!

1 comment:

Marti Spudboater said...

John: Sorry you had to swim Piece of Cake at your tender youthful age. The real lesson learned here is never travel to go run a river without your own paddle. When I've flown in to run river trips with borrowed gear I bring my own paddle, my own spray skirt, my own lifejacket. You should know this by now. Those flat blade paddles are worthless unless you learn to paddle that way. Opposed blades or paddles that can be set either direction should be the norm for any river company. Shame on those commercial guys. Glad your only pain was the humiliation of swimming a Class III rapid in front of folks. Glad you are okay and only a bruise and bump here and there.

As for the hot dog chile, well, I stand with your original intent that hot dog chile should never ever be allowed in a chile cookoff.

You seem to be having way too much fun this summer. See you in October for COR.

your spuddy buddy