The Clearwater National Forest of Idaho is perhaps one of the most unimaginably beautiful places I have paddled yet. I can't decide if it was the enormous flows, endless whitewater, abounding creek tributaries, countless hot springs, falling asleep next to the river every night, or the extraordinary new friends we made that made this 4 day trip so unforgettable.
Kirsten, Roy, and I left Leavenworth early Sunday morning, with a 7 1/2 hour drive ahead of us we stopped at Palouse Falls on the way. I was in awe of the massive 186ft of powerful hydraulics nestled in this huge black basalt canyon. It is hard to believe Tyler Bradt set a world record kayaking off of it. The evolution of the sport never ceases to amaze me.
We finally arrived that evening at the Wilderness Gateway campground on the Lochsa River in the Clearwater National Forest of Idaho, we we're in the middle of nowhere and it felt so good! There are sections of the rivers out here such as the Selway River that are inaccessible for at least 50 miles, giving one a true wilderness experience. There is nothing like this in Washington, I look forward to coming back out here as soon as possible and doing a self support multi-day mission.
It had rained hard all night and the river was high. The gauge was at 8.5 ft, which is about 14,000 cfs. At this level the river is at Class IV/IV+ flows developing enormous holes, becomes extremely pushy, and the white caps of the waves are the size of 2-3 story buildings. Of course this is information I learned through experience after I had already put on. I chose to take out my play boat on the Upper Lochsa and I had a high endurance adrenaline rush like none other. Several times I had to ferry away from massive holes as the river flowed into a huge left hand turn or running the gauntlet of wave trains unable to see anything and surfing across the whitecaps away from said holes or directly into the pillows of some them. At about 5 miles in I found a massive boil line that was part of a hole and I was unable to surf or roll out of it; I swam. The swim was not bad as I was close to shore once I got out of it. Lesson learned: Stay in the meat of big water, as soon as you try and skirt features you risk entering massive boils which are not a good time!
It was Kirtsten's birthday so in true Cinco de Mayo fashion I made margaritas for everyone and tequila in tow, we headed to the hot springs. It was a full moon and we hiked under the moonlight along a raging creek all the way to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. It was incredible up there in the woods overlooking the river, I feel so lucky to be able to visit so many beautiful places.
The next day we ran the Middle Lochsa through Lochsa Falls...and I took my creek boat, it was HUGE! We had a blast and hooked up with our friends we made the day before. Watching our tiny plastic boats get munched and ride up and down these gigantic towering powerful waves was mind blowing to say the least.
Later that afternoon, Kirsten and I took off on a mission to check out a flooded Fish Creek. After a scout, I felt good about it and opted to run the last 1/4 mile of it. It was awesome being able to scout the run, make the call on what I felt comfortable running, pick my line, and execute it.
I had to seal launch off the top of a log jam and ferry into extremely fast moving current, run a couple ledges, dodge a few holes, and run a large hole at the bottom. It went by so fast and was so much fun, I went for a second lap!
That evening we headed up to Weir Creek Hot Springs, it was perched up on top of the Creek like a treehouse and again the full moon was shining bright in the sky. It was my last night in Idaho before I had to head back to Leavenworth; it was tough to leave this. These types of trips always seem to be too short and always far more fun then you could have possibly anticipated.
Since moving to Leavenworth 8 weeks ago I have been able to kayak almost everyday, get on countless new rivers, started playboating, had a gnarly swim, and a TON of fun; I'm doing what I love! I'm constantly inspired by those around me, the places I get to travel too, and the journey along the way. I've found my balance. #shegoes