Pres and I flew this morning through Chicago to Missoula, Montana. We've been invited by Preston's long time friend Joel to join he and his family and friends on a river rafting trip. Joel and Preston grew up next to one another. In fact, it was Joel's dad Dale that married Preston and I :)
Things got a bit dicey in Chicago when our flight landed REALLY late. We had a small window to catch our connecting flight to Montana...and it was the ONLY flight departing for Montana that day. We had to RUN through the airport, which was no easy task with my still aching foot.
Fortunately, we made it onto the teeny plane that would take us to Missoula.
My cousins grew up in Montana, so I'm no stranger to its beauty, but never tire of it or cease to be amazed!!
Joel picked us up at the airport, which was INSANELY kind since his house in Idaho is about THREE hours from there!!
We joined Joel in running some errands around town...getting last minute supplies for our trip...and grabbing a quick sandwich at the local Whole Foods-like grocery store.
We left Missoula and traveled on the long, winding, mountain roads to Salmon, Idaho where Joel lives with his wife Willow and their two boys-Jesse and Cash.
Joel and Willow's house is down a dirt road and sits on a little creek that is right along the route that Louis and Clark followed. Preston always speaks so highly of Joel and Willow, so I was excited to get to know them more.
We arrived at the homestead ;) and were greeted by Willow and the boys. Cash and Jesse are melt your heart cute. Also staying at the house and joining us on the trip are:
Gerhard and Colleen-good friends of Willow. Gerhard and Colleen are from Flagstaff, where Joel and Willow used to live.
Colin and Liam-grandsons of Joel's stepmom Sue-who is married to Dale and lives next door to Preston's parents. Colin and Liam are teenagers (to a tee:P) and from Austin, Texas.
Seth-Joel's good friend who is currently living in Bangkok, Thailand
Kevin-another friend of Joel's from Illinois, but he currently lives in Flagstaff
Sheba-Joel's sweet, old dog who is going on the river too :D
We are all camping out here, since there's not much room in the house with all these guests!! Preston and I set up our stuff on the deck and I crashed for a much needed nap.
When I woke up I got to meet the rest of our rafting party:
Ginny-Joel's mom, who also lives in Salmon
Ann-Ginny's good friend, also from Flagstaff
Jay-Willow and Joel's neighbor and good friend
It should be a good group...with ages ranging from 3-70 or so!! Pretty amazing :)
Willow threw together a dinner of tacos for everyone and we got acquainted under the stars on the front lawn.
The sky started to look like rain, so just in case...we all put tents together to sleep in tonight.
Tuesday 12 August 2014 Happy Birthday Zak <3
We woke up today to a warm pot of oatmeal on the stove and fresh coffee. Willow and Joel are incredible hosts :)
Everyone is running around trying to get last minute stuff together for the trip. To our dismay, it started POURING early this morning!! And the weather is unseasonably chilly. We were all advised to bring cool clothes, because life on the river would be dry and HOT.
Willow has run rafts down the Salmon River as a job for years. She no longer does it professionally (she's now a Nurse Practitioner), but she knows her river stuff. It just seems as if the weather isn't cooperating. Willow quickly began to dig through boxes to outfit us all with warmer, waterproof clothing.
The guys loaded up the truck. I helped where I could...got our stuff all packed in waterproof containers (ammo boxes) and dry bags and played with the boys. SO cute.
The sun actually came out right before we were to leave!! The men set off early in the truck to drive the 2 hours to the "put-in" spot. The rest of us followed in 2 cars...returning only once to the house for something we forgot. We made a quick pit stop for some home-made granola bars at the local general store and were on our way.
We drove along the river out of town and into the hills. The rain had stopped, but the rain had been hard and consistent. The river was muddy and we passed a pretty big wash out in the road.
We grabbed some pizzas at little store in the middle of nowhere and me the guys at the put in campground. Everyone got busy assembling the four boats that would take us down the river. I played with boys and got our tents set up for the night.
The rain held off and we sat for a while in the boats on the water looking at the stars before turning in for the night :)
Wednesday 13 August 2014
We were up early and had breakfast on the beach along the river. We got everything packed up again and loaded up the boats. This is quite a process!!
|Cash is SO cute <3|
We have coolers and coolers of food. A local woman in Salmon puts together a menu with recipes to make along the river. It turned out to be way too much food, but too much is better than too little. I was amused at how elaborate some of the meals were (taco salad for lunch? Ever heard of PB&J?! Who wants to be browning ground beef and chopping up lettuce in the hot sun next to a river?!)...to be cooking on a camp stove in the wilderness, but Joel and Willow explained that things are competitive in the business of river rafting food. Many of the professional outfitters pay big bucks for this service, so things have to be kept new and impressive. Hmm.
We couldn't push off until Willow returned. Jesse has had a cough and was having trouble breathing in the night...so Willow rushed him back into town (a 4 hour round trip) to make sure all was well before we set off into the unknown.
Willow finally returned and Jesse was OK!! Poor Willow got no sleep, but she was ready to go. I'm tellin ya-she is one tough and impressive girl!! We had a quick meeting with the rangers who warned us of some hazards on the river...notably Idaho poison ivy and a few fires being fought further down.
|Ready to go!!|
I was with Joel in his boat today. Sheba was with us too :P We have 4 captains, so there is lots of room. Preston, Colin, and Liam are down in little 'duckies'-which are inflatable kayaks.
It even started to thunder. Despite the cold, I really enjoyed the weather. It was kind of cool to be on the water in the rain. It was just SO cold and impossible to get dry.
We are in the 2nd biggest Wilderness in the contiguous US. In fact, it's called the River of No Return Wilderness...dum dum dummmm.
It was just beautiful...we are in the cut of the river with increasing hills on both sides.
We didn't go too far on this first day, mostly because people were wet and freezing. Poor Ann was nearly blue.
We set up camp along a beach. Preston, Joel, and I got to work on our night of kitchen duty. The deal is that if you cook dinner...you cook breakfast the next day and make sure things are ready to go for lunch. Everyone takes a turn.
|Lancelot helped too :P|
It started to rain really hard again and we all went to sleep to the sound of raindrops on our tents.
I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to the brilliant glow of a full moon-so bright that it woke me up. I left the tent to stand along the river and gaze up at it for a while before the clouds and rain returned.
Thursday 14 August 2014
Back on the river this morning!! We have some ground to cover. Luckily, the sun is out (for now!!).
|I mean, this kid. Adorable.|
I rode with Jay today and enjoyed his conversation and expert boat handling. I hardly got splashed at all. It's funny to be on a rafting trip and avoid getting wet in the rapids...but it's just SO chilly!! :P
Liam fell out of one of the kayaks and so chose to hop in the boat with Kevin, trading with Seth...which was probably a good idea for the big rapid anyway.
All the captains (Willow, Joel, Kevin, and Jay) got out to go and scout the rapids. I waited on the boats with Gerhard, Colleen, and the boys. There was a lot of built up tension, but we were off!!
Jay and I went first and he handily navigated the rapid...I only got a little bit wet in the splashing. Kevin was REALLY nervous, b/c he is new to steering these big boats, but he did AWESOME!! Willow, of course, did a great job. She's one cool girl :) And Joel came through with his mom not getting a single drop on her!! The duckies did an amazing job too!! Preston looked GREAT out there :D
Colin did so well in the rapid that Seth named him "Black Crick Colin" for the rest of the trip. You see, here in Idaho...Creeeek is pronounced 'crick'.
After the big rapid, we docked the boats on a little beach and climbed up a hot spring fed waterfall. At the top, someone has built a hot tub!! The tub pools the water from the waterfall. When each group is finished with their soak...you just pull the plug out and let it drain. The next group pops the plug in to refill again. SO sanitary!!
The climb up was pretty steep and treacherous with the slippery rocks, but we made it and the water felt WONDERFUL in the chilly air :)
|Haha. Oh my gosh...we are PUDGY...for us, I mean.|
I can't get enough of Cash and Jesse. I spend most of my time talking and playing with them. We've been singing lots of songs. My Mom was such a GREAT mom and was always singing and playing with us. I had to dig deep to remember some of my favorite songs she'd sing to my brother and me.
The boys are SO fun to talk to :) My favorite Jesse story so far was when he was upset about something because he 'wanted it' but couldn't have it. I can't remember exactly what 'it' was. But, I explained we can't always get all the things we want in life. And he said, 'why?'. So I said, 'well, you're really cute!! What if I wanted to take you home with me and keep you at my house!! I couldn't do that!!' and he said, 'well...what does your house look like?'. Lol!! I guess he was open for bargaining that deal.
It was Colleen, Gerhard, and Willow's turn to cook dinner, so Pres and I took our time setting up our tent. We sat by the campfire and read and talked with Ann and Ginny.
They are really into this personality test involving numbers and it was interesting to hear all about it.
We had DELICIOUS lemon bars for dessert. Mmm Mmmm.