Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hells Canyon, McCall, Idaho, and Boise, Idaho

Some of what you are about to read and see happened and some did not!

Pictures and Video below

Here we are in Idaho much different then Botswana. The plan is straight forward drive to Cambridge, Idaho about 2 hours from Boise, Idaho. We are staying at the Frontier Motel in Cambridge, Idaho.

I am meeting 17 other people at the motel I invited a few and they each invited a few so some will be complete strangers. I am so happy the wind generator manufacture is footing the bill and my village is not even going to buy their generator since we are building our own.

Here is the break down of who is on the trip, myself and Chuata are the only folks coming from Botswana. You may remember Chuata along with Nami are the two highest elders in our village. When this trip was first announced Chuata filled me on some history. In the 1970’s he attended the University of California – Berkley on an exchange program set up through the United Nations, much like Barak Obama’s father though Obama’s father was in the 1960’s. Also much like Obama’s father Chuata planted some seeds at Berkley, to my surprise Chuata has a wife and three children in the United States and they are going to join us on this trip. Chuata refers to his wife as Mom I never did find out her real name. He also has two daughters Rosetta the oldest and Mel the middle child, his youngest child is a son named Music Man.

Mel invited a friend A-rod (not the baseball player) A-rod then invited her family, which is made of up her Dad, The Colonel, her mom Mrs. Peacock and her brother The Drew Man.

Rosetta invited her friend Flower.

I invited Limo Lady and Hemingway long time friends you may remember from my Florida trip.

Limo Lady and Hemingway invited two friends of theirs, both with Native American roots. Fancy Pants and Swimmer of Rapids

I also invited my niece, Laney, actually she invited herself, after reading about the trip I took my nephew “Z” on, she wanted a trip. I did tell her no drinking, no gambling, and no hookers’ yes there is a double standard. Ok so there was a little drinking for Laney.

Lastly there were two folks I did not know Mike and Ginseng they said I would understand the connection shortly.

Cambridge, Idaho is a town with a population of just under 400 people. In fact last year’s graduating class from the high school was 6 students.

We all met up at 7:00 pm. The rafting company Hells Canyon Raft Inc was giving us our orientation. Heidi and Curt the owners gave us the run down. They would be picking us up the next day at 8:00 am we will drive about 1.5 hours to the Snake River and raft for 3 days. There will be 3 kayaks 2 singles and a double. A gear boat, 2 oar boats, they call limousines and a paddle boat.

As a surprise Margarite showed up, she was in Seattle at an orphanage tradeshow and heard about the trip so she flew over from Washington State. Now the group is 19 plus 5 guides. It was also explained to me that Mike was a high school buddy of Margarite’s back in Amsterdam. Mike and his girlfriend Ginseng now live in Washington, D.C.

We all got 2 water proof bags one large for our gear and a small one for our day stuff. After the orientation we headed to Mrs. G's Ranch House for dinner, 19 people for a grand total of $105.78. Cambridge, Idaho is almost as inexpensive to live as Botswana. After a great nights sleep we all had breakfast at Bucky’s CafĂ© and Motel. I think we overwhelmed the waitress as she was the first person we meet in Idaho that was not super friendly.

The drive to the river was winding up over the mountains past a couple reservoirs and dams. All fed by the Snake River.

Once we arrived at the launch site we were introduced to our guides.

Derek – The father of the group he has been a guide on the Snake River for over 18 years. In the off season he is an artist.
John (Jersey) – The partier of the group, from New Jersey has been a guide for 4 years. In the off season Jersey is in construction back east.
Chris – The baby on the block, this was his first year as a guide, he works ski patrol during the off season
Eli – Who we actually did not meet until that night, since he took the gear boat down the river ahead of us. Eli was the fun loving guide and also worked ski patrol during the off season.
Heather – The mother of the group, she made sure we had our safety briefing and got the proper nutrition during the trip. She made great desserts. Heather is just back to rafting after managing a ski resort for 5 years.

During the safety briefing Heather warned us about rattle snakes (more on that later) and Poison Ivy. She said if you touch Poison Ivy make sure you quickly wash it off in the river.

Margarite and I shared a double kayak. Swimmer of Rapids and Chuata went in the single kayaks and the rest were split among the other boats. As I mentioned Eli went ahead in the gear boat to set up camp while the others were here to help us navigate the river.

I have rafted on the New River in West Virginia the Nile in Uganda, Africa the Taylor in Colorado. The Snake River
through Hells Canyon Idaho seems to be a faster river then the others or maybe I just do not remember how fast the other rivers were. The flow of the river is controlled by Idaho Power who owns the dam which generates electricity if more power is needed they release more water less power less water.

One thing different then the other rafting trips is we scouted the river before we went over the rapid. We would pull over before the rapid and hike ahead to see the level of rapid. I think this was a mistake. Who wants to know the hell they are about to encounter before hand I rather just hit it and hope for the best.

The first rapid was names Wild Sheep about a class 3 we all made it through fine. The second was a class 4 called Granite the guides gave us very specific instructions, go down the middle whatever you do, stay to the right of the first bump. So the first oar boat went down and made it look like magic then the paddle boat went second again a perfect line. Next was Swimmer of Rapids in a single kayak. Remember I said we were told whatever we do stay right, Swimmer of Rapids went left of the bump he made it about 2 seconds or 10 feet and flipped Margarite and I were right behind him but to the left. We could see the fear on his white as a ghost face as he wondered when his next breath of air might come.

We passed over Swimmer of Rapids and I mean right over him we made it another 20 yards Margarite felt a huge bang on the back of her head it was Chuata in a single kayak we went over (swimming) and Chuata went blowing by us. When you dump they tell you make sure you hold on to your paddle. I am sure the person that made that rule has not been dumped. Who cares about a paddle when you have no idea when you will be able to breathe again? Swimmer of Rapids finally got a hold of Chuata’s kayak but Chuata quickly smashed Swimmer of Rapids's hands with his paddle as Chuata was afraid Swimmer of Rapids would tip Chuata over. The last oar boat which was following us did fine. Swimmer of Rapids, Margarite and I resurfaced about 1 mile down river. Chuata made it through unscathed.

This is some video of these rapids I found on Youtube.

We would raft some and then we stopped for lunch along a rocky beach. Some of us went on a short hike were we got to see a small rattle snake sitting in some bushes. Chris and Margarite were the first to spot it and got to hear it rattle. After lunch it was back on the river.

We scouted the next rapid much shorter and steeper then the last. Margarite and Laney went in the double kayak and executed the rapid flawlessly I was right behind them in a single kayak watching which was the wrong thing to do. As quickly as I entered the rapid I entered the water. I was swimming again I was starting to enjoy the swimming part of rafting, in fact this time I even held on to the paddle.

Once back in the kayak we hit some class 3 rapids and boom I was back in the water. A good time was being had by all, me dumping and swimming and the rest of the group just laughing at me. A few more miles and it was time to camp and swim.

Many of the ladies claimed they had touched Poison Ivy and had to wash themselves off in the river, but I think they just had to pee and did not want us to know what they were doing.

All day A-rod kept talking about wanting bake beans for dinner. She said it is a great food with just one somewhat bad side effect. Laney was hoping for s’mores for desert.

The camp site was great, there was a hang out area / kitchen area and then 2 sleeping areas a lower area and upper river view area, I went for the river view next to the toilet tent. I was able to get a good feel for who was regular and who was not.

Dinner was Salmon with a Cesar Salad, homemade bread, and pineapple upside down cake for dessert. After dinner we were just hanging out talking war stories from the day when Eli jumped up and ran for the river. He had set a line fishing for sturgeon. We all went to the bank of the river The Drew Man took the rod from Eli, after about two hours of burning muscles The Drew Man landed an 8 foot sturgeon. To unhook the sturgeon, Eli laid the fish on its back in the water and then stuck his arm up to his elbow into the fish’s mouth and pulled out the hook. Then The Drew Man had to kiss the fish, name it and release it.

Even though The Drew Man was the only one fishing it seemed to wear us all out, because we all hit the hay after the fish was landed and released.

Great night sleep woke up once when Laney and Rosetta had to use the bathroom and stomped the whole way from their tent to the toilet tent, which means they walked right by my tent. The guides had warned us the area was full of rattle snakes. They said the snakes were deaf but would get scared and run away if the felt the ground vibrate. Thus the reason for Laney and Rosetta’s heavy feet. In the morning I had some bad news no camper belly I didn’t even make it 24 hours.

We had a great breakfast and then we were back on the river. Laney and Margarite took the double kayak The Drew Man and Mike took the singles. Everybody else was enjoying the oar and paddle boats.

Mike dumped in the first class 3 rapid everybody else made it. The Drew Man looked as if he was born in a kayak.

The rapids were slightly calmer then the first day but still a great day.

We passed a group of Russian rafters drinking vodka doing beer bongs. They were very drunk and rafting without life jackets, not very smart.

We stopped at a rock coming out of the river. It was a great jumping rock we all took turns jumping into the river. It was about 10 feet above the river but from the top it looked like it was over a 100 foot jump. No fear Swimmer of Rapids went first. Laney wanted Margarite to jump with her as Laney was a little scared of heights. It ended up Margarite had more fear and Laney had to pull Margarite in.

The Colonel who did not plan to jump and had been video taping the jumps finally had to jump because of the peer pressure.

After that jumping rock the winds picked up, close to 70 miles an hour. What was wild was the winds brought very hot air with them almost 30 degrees warmer then the current air temperature. It felt like someone had turned on a huge blow drier.

Hit camp at about 5:30, camp was just as nice as the first night Steaks for dinner.

Jersey had taken the gear boat the second day and had to set the tents up in the howling winds not an easy task. In fact it was so windy Jersey could not get the toilet tent to stay up, so he had to set the John up out in the open.

After dinner we all played Catch Phrase. Laney kept wining about not having s’mores, being our last not out and all. It ends up Heather the only female guide had flagged down a jet boat earlier in the day and asked them to pick up some marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. So Laney got her wish and we made s’mores.

Boy did this set A-rod off no bake beans apparently in small tents the negative effect is not worth making A-rod happy, at least that is what Heather said.

The weather had cooled and the sky was crystal clear. I chilled out in one of the kayaks closing my eyes for ten minutes and each time I opened them there were more and more stars.

The first night Laney, Flower, and Rosetta shared a tent which made for a hot tent but also left an empty tent. So this night Laney used the extra tent by herself.

About half way through the night we got a rain storm with some great thunder and lighting. About the time the rain came we heard a loud scream, what had happen is Chris and Jersey were sleeping outside, when the rain hit they went for the empty tent, but we all know Laney was in the empty tent. To this day we do not know who was more scared Laney when Chris and Jersey blew into her tent, or Chris and Jersey when they fumbled over Laney as they entered what they thought was an unoccupied tent. In fact we still do not know which of the three that let out the blood curling scream.

On our last day of rafting we had Eggs Benedict for breakfast. The weather had cooled to about 50 degrees and very over cast. No one wanted to kayak so I took the double as a single. The day started out as a 1 mile raft to a trail head where we hiked to the top of suicide cliff about 2,000 feet above the river. Hemingway and Limo Lady stayed back we are not sure why but when we returned we over head them talking about shrinkage (the water was 50 degrees). The hike was wild we could see way up river. Swimmer of Rapids lead the way back with 1,500 foot drops being clumsy like he is he fell a few time once I think it was on purpose just to give Fancy Pants his mistress a heart attack. No pain for Swimmer of Rapids this guy has no fear. His Indian blood really shows when we did anything extreme.

Next we rafted to the history Museum. This was a homestead that has been converted to a museum with artifacts used to farm the land. Also there were flush toilets which got everybody excited.

Mom twisted her ankle getting out of the raft, not bad our third injury for 19 people in 3 days.

Next up was lunch group pictures and then another 1 mile to the pull out and the end of the trip. The trip was great the guides were great and the group was great.

The highlight of the trip was Mel earning camper belly. Camper belly is when your belly becomes as hard as a rock because you did not do number 2 the whole time you are camping in this case 3 days.

Some Pictures and Video more below:

After the rafting trip we headed to McCall Idaho for a few days of R & R Laney needed a ride to Boise to fly home I volunteered not realizing it was a 3 hour drive so much for R & R, 7 hours in the car.

The next day Chuata rented a pontoon boat to take out on the lake Payette we headed to North Beach where we did some tubing and hung out on the beach.

I drove the boat as I had owned a ski boat and lived on a sail boat some time back. We first put A-rod and Mel on the tube the pontoon boat had a 75 HP outboard engine we had enough power to have fun but not enough to dump the tube. Next Rosetta and Flower went I was able to dump Flower as she tried to stand up.

The Drew Man went next and then Music Man, I was able to dump Music Man, but it was more Music Man hot dogging rather then me doing a good job of pulling.

We took a ride around the lake there sure are some huge lake houses and high end ski boats both Master Craft and Ski Nautique. After boating we headed to Chuata's and he grilled chicken and guess what A-rod got her Bake Beans. The Drew Man was not happy apparently his room is across from A-rod’s and he will have to deal with the effects of A-rod's Bake Beans.

Then we had s'mores ice cream just for Laney even though she had gone home

Thursday Margarite and I went out to Donnelly, Idaho to rent some mountain bikes. We drove the 10 miles to Donnelly, not thinking how we are going to get the bikes back. So we left the car and biked the 10 miles back to the house.

Then most of us headed to town (McCall, Idaho) to walk around and shop some.

Hit all the highlights. Knit shop, Quilt shop, Health Food store, and the Thrift shop.

In the afternoon half the group drove to Ponderosa Park, Margarite and I biked there. On the way to the park we went by the Smoke Jumpers Training facility. This is by the McCall Airport and is where the Forest Service trains its pilots and smoke jumpers for putting out forest fires. My nephew Austin plans to be a smoke jumper pilot. You may remember him he helped us do a survey when he was visiting me in Botswana.

What a great park hiking trails and biking trails. The biking was tough almost as bad as Mont Ventoux.

We meet up at the trail head for the Fox Run Trail but hiked the Meadow Marsh Trail what a beautiful trail lined with wild huckleberries you could just pull the huckleberries off the bush and eat them. The only issue with the hike was if you slowed to a walk you would instantly be attached by swarms of misquotes the size of small birds, thousands of them. So we did a very fast speed hike.

After the hike Margarite and I biked to Osprey Cliff Overlook and Narrows Overlook. It was a 2 mile bike ride straight up a gravel road not easy. Going down was much better.

The rest of the group went to Hops and Grapes a local beer and wine bar just down the street from the house.

For dinner we went to a nice Mexican Restaurant. Flower ate enough refried beans that we are all worried about Rosetta’s health, would she survive Flower’s refried bean farts. We ran into Jersey one of our guides from the trip. We all played bocce ball until midnight.

Friday, got up and went for a short bike ride through Jug Mountain Ranch in McCall Idaho. The couple of miles were nice paved road then the road slowly turned to gravel then dirt while at the same time got steeper and steeper what a work out. The ride down was awesome could have used a higher quality bike with rear suspension.

After lunch we all went to Gold Fork Hot Springs about 15 miles south of McCall Idaho. It is owned and operated by a retired college professor and his daughter there are 6 pools all feed from a natural hot spring the hottest is 108 degrees and each pool drops (cools) in temperature by about 4 degrees.

We hung out there for about 2 hours very relaxing and revitalizing. When we returned back to the house Chuata and I rode the bikes back to Donnelly, Idaho to return them to Gear and Grind, the bike shop / coffee shop we rented them from.

There is a huge blue Grass Festival in Rodenberry, Idaho each year and we hit the dates perfectly, so the plan is dinner at the Buffalo Gal and then head to the festival. Dinner was great they had all types of food from Sushi to Eggplant Parmesan everything was great and the bill was 67.43 for 9 people, Idaho maybe close to Botswana as far as cost of living.

The festival was great this is real America, great music, kids dancing every body having a great time. One mishap Chuata on his way out of the parking lot fighting the huge crowds of maybe 500 people, ran over a piece of rebar. The only real damage was to Chuata’s shirt which got very dirty when he crawled under the car to remove the rebar.

Saturday Chuata is heading to Botswana, Mom, Rosetta, Flower are heading home wherever that might be.

Margarite, A-rod, Mel and I are planning to spend the day in Boise then A-rod and Mel are flying to San Francisco.

Additional Pictures:

We arrive in Boise about 1:00 PM we caught the tail end of the weekly farmers market. What a great market all kind of locally grown and raised products. At the end of the market was a fountain that kids could play in with the temperature at 107 degrees the fountain was being used.

Idaho power was having a Green Expo. This was perfect as I was able to get plenty of tips I can use in our village. I saw a 1973 VW bug that was 100% powered by electric. When we left the expo we came out to the fountain and witnessed pure mayhem. Every body had water guns from hand guns to super soakers. It took a lot of maneuvering not to get wet. Everybody was just having a blast. I do not think this was the first time this happened.

We found out Boise was hosting a bike race, during the day the armatures raced, we saw the kid’s race. After the race we sat outside and people watched I think the girls would have rather been in the air-conditioning while I was enjoying the low humidity as the temperature in Botswana is often above 100 degrees with higher humidity then Boise.

We dropped Mel and A-rod off at the airport at 5:00pm. As I mentioned there was a bike race in town it is called. The Twilight Criterium there is a women’s professional race and a men’s. Kristin Armstrong who won a gold medal for cycling at the Beijing Olympics was competing in the women’s race and won. The course is a loop course 3 blocks long and one block wide. The women’s race is one hour in length and the men’s race is one hour 20 minutes. We watched the start of the women’s and the finish of the men’s having diner in between.

We also found an Eco Brew Fest going on with live music. Boise has a population of fewer than 200,000. Yet seem to have a lot going on. Here we are on a random Saturday and we saw the Farmers Market, Eco Exp, Water Gun Fight, Bike Race, and Eco Brew Fest with live music. All well organized and busy, but not overly crowded.

In the Morning I found a great running park called the Green Belt. It runs on both sides of the Boise River going through Boise State University on the south side of the river. It made it easy to get a ten mile run in. Then I had a big breakfast and on to my 24 hours of flying to get home.

Rest of the Pictures Cast of Characters Below:

First and Quotes:

The Colonel
First time I have ever been rattled by a rattlesnake.
"One of the greatest vacations ever- I can’t wait for the sequel!"

Mrs. Peacock
First time I have ever seen “The Colonel” go three days without negotiating a deal!
“What a way to spend great time with family and friends.”

First time I have ever washed Poison Ivy off me in a river.
First time I have ever gone three days without brushing my teeth.
“What a great trip the best part is there were no mirrors, but why did I have to wait so long to get Bake Beans!”

The Drew Man
First time I have ever caught a sturgeon.
“I hope my dad will go camping and fishing again”

First time I have ever survived a class 4 rapid in a kayak.
First time I have ever enjoyed a toilet with a beautiful 360 degree view
“The trip could not have been any better. We were blessed with great friends, beautiful country, tremendous hospitality, and excitement.”

First time I have ever had my kids and Chuata take care of me because I hurt my ankle.
“Idaho is a beautiful State.”

First time I have ever done most of the things I did on the trip, to many to list.
“What a way to spend a vacation, I wish I did not have to go to work on Monday."

First time I have ever went three days without doing number 2 (camper belly).
“Could you, Please take a picture of me and A-rod?”

Music Man
First time I have ever had to listen to a top 40’s radio station.
“I got sunburn on my sunburn”

First time I have ever gone three days without running.
“Wow, Cool”

Limo Lady
First time I have been on a river for three days and not fished.
First time I had to build my own Carrion
“It is nice to relax while on a river and not worry about fishing.”
“Acquaintances warm to good friendships”

First time I ever kayaked on a river in a class 4 rapid
First time I let “Swimmer of Rapids” show me up.
“I love to Kayak, as long as the water is not rough”

Fancy Pants
First time I ever kayaked down a river rapid.
“Oh my God, the word is”.

Swimmer of Rapids
First time I ever saw Indian Paintings in the wilderness.

First time I have ever eaten an Idaho potato in Idaho, Delicious!
"This trip was life with nature."

First time I have used the bathroom without a "room".
First time I have taken a bath in a river.
"Great friends and guides...experience of a lifetime!"

First time I ever pooped in the woods.
First time I ever slept in a tent.
First time I ever peed in a river.
First time I ever bathed in a river (before I peed in it)
First time I ever kayaked through rapids.
First time I ever jumped off a rock into a river.
First time I ever ate a white cherry.
First time I ever had a Mexican Beer (Tecate).
First time I have ever been to Idaho and Oregon.
“I hope it is not the last time for many of my firsts”
“It is not Sh’mores! It is S’mores!!!”

First time I ever showed DUG up (rafting)
“What a beautiful state (Idaho)”



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