Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters and Aim for the V! Trying my Hand at Whitewater Rafting the Lower Salmon River


Daryl and I did time together.

He was a correctional officer at the Idaho Correctional Institution - Orofino while I was serving there as a Volunteer and Religious Services Coordinator. We’ve both since moved on from working at the prison, but we’ve stayed in touch through The Clearwater Trekkers. 

I’m glad we did, too, because last month Daryl offered to take me rafting down the Salmon River and teach me how to steer the raft!

I think the last time I went whitewater rafting was at a summer camp back in high school. I enjoyed it then, so I figured this would be good, too. I was not disappointed.

We put in near White Bird. It was hot out, but not excruciatingly, and the water was sublime. Daryl got us going and took us through a few rapids, then he gave me the oars and took a seat in the bow. The best way to learn was to do it.

The water was still pretty high, so we were moving fairly fast and had a lot of clearance over rocks that are jutting well out of the water by now. This helped because I was able to concentrate on reading the flow of the river without having to worry about so many obstructions. I also had a lot of practice spotting rocks just under the surface. 

I did alright if I do say so myself, and I had a ton of fun! Daryl is an exceptional teacher who apparently thinks time is relative because we always seemed to have “plenty of time” in his opinion. I thought the jutting rocks and cliff faces approached rather quickly, thank you very much.

But seriously, if I did well, it is in large part to how well Daryl instructed me and maintained an even calmness that gave me room to process what he was saying and adapt to the river. He would have me “read” the river to him as we approached a rapid, and then he would tell me what he saw and how he would approach it. 90% of the time he simply said, “Aim for the V!”

It’s when we didn’t aim for the V, that point where the current brought the force of the water together, that things got interesting. That’s when we were avoiding rocks and holes and a whole other level of adventure than we were gunning for. Eventually, I began to get a feel for the flow of the river, to feel more confident about my approach to the whitewater, and to relax and enjoy the ride.

Except for that time when I went over the one rock in the middle of the wide river. I had one spot to avoid. One. And I hit it. Of course. Fortunately, it was a small enough rock under high enough water that we simply road over it. It was a steep enough drop to make Daryl jump out of his seat, though!

By the second day, I began to judge how well I hit the whitewater by how wet I got Daryl and his wife. And you know, your passengers get wetter if you go in a little sideways. Daryl showed me that numerous times.

Amanda and the kids were able to meet us at Pine Bar Recreation Area on our first day. That was fun. The kids got to walk out on a sandbar and ended up jumping into the water fully dressed! They had a blast. Soon enough, though, we were off again, dropping down between two rocks on our way.

I really enjoyed being able to see parts of the Salmon that I’d only known on a map up to that point. The Salmon and Snake Rivers border the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area where I’ve been hiking a few times. It was neat to see those mountains from the bottom up finally.

There is so much Chinese history carved into the mountainsides down there from roads to gold mining to Chukar, a game bird brought in from Eurasia. Daryl has been rafting this river since childhood and proved to be a wellspring of knowledge about the area, only half of which I know for sure he wasn’t making up on the spot.

We made good time on the Salmon, but the Snake was a different story. The Great Snake Lake, they called it. All the water of two rivers regulated by dams made for long hours of rowing through little to no current. It was nearly impossible when the wind picked up and pushed us back upstream. Daryl ducked out on the paddleboard and let me row the raft.

It was alright, though. I enjoyed spending the time talking with Daryl’s wife, Darcy. Our conversations roamed from rivers to Scriptures, and we got to talking about a passage in Ecclesiastes that says to “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” I mentioned how I thought it was an old way of saying, “Pay it forward.” Give without regard for return, and trust that the river will bring you what you need at the right time.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I could not have asked for a better teacher or more pleasant company. I came away from our voyage with a great appreciation for the sport of rafting and deep respect for the way Daryl and his wife treated each other and the way they treated me. 

I look forward to our next trip!

What new adventures have you been on recently? Or, are you planning any new adventures in the near future? What new skill would you like to learn, or something new you would like to try? Thanks for reading, friends. See you on the trail!

#SeektheClearwater

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