Posts Tagged ‘Idaho River Journeys’

      Into the heart of the my soul.


The campfire crackled in the cool evening air alongside the banks of the swiftly flowing river, as I read out loud from my pieced together notebook pages.

I wanted to get it right.


This was less of an attempt at hitting the perfect pitch for a personal travel essay, but more my chance to say what I really thought about him.


As they say, this time it was personal.


The “him” was Tim Cahill. And the fireside reading was my final assignment of our five-day white water raft trip and writing workshop hosted by Cahill, along with the highly regarded and world recognized travel writer Michael Shapiro.



     Yes, that's a Miller High Life in my hand.

             Enjoying the high life on Johnson Peak: Michael, Owen, Tim, and Frank


You may have read the earlier piece I did immediately after the voyage. That was about the trip. This story is about my longtime love affair with the written word that both inspired me to travel the world and attempt to write about it to move others.


The following is more-or-less verbatim from my chicken-scratched handwritten river trip notebook pages. I had to interpret a few passages that were scribbled during late night insomniac writing sessions.


As you will soon see, you could call this,


  *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

             My Ode To Tim Cahill 


Our 37-minute flight from the small airport in Salmon, Idaho, had me wondering if our trip to the storied Middle Fork of the Salmon River was going to be worth it.


Or, if our trip to the River of No Return would become the trip to the river of never got there.


While a white water raft trip was ostensibly the purpose of this flight, to one of the few remaining pristine rivers in this country, the impetus for my participation was similarly, crystal clear. I was there to learn the craft of travel writing from my longtime mentor and inspiration, the legendary Tim Cahill.


But first, we had to get there.


My initial cause for concern was when I noticed that our pilot, Jerry, was drying his hands from the air vent on the ceiling of the eight-passenger Islander aircraft, just as we were cresting the 10,000-foot jagged mountain range en route.


I thought, “Wait, our pilot has sweaty palms?!?”


Thus, I began to wonder, was this trip going to be worth it?


Then came our approach to the dirt landing strip at the Indian Creek put-in. A straight path to the runway was blocked by a small stand of ponderosa pine trees, necessitating the pilot to “crab” the plane in order to avoid them.


Then, to lose sufficient altitude to land the aircraft, the pilot had to make, not one, but two, hairpin banked turns that I thought would surely leave tire tracks on the steep slopes of the river canyon walls.


Was this trip really going to be worth it?


So began our five-day journey into the depths of the Salmon River canyon and to the heart of my 30-year relationship to the writings of Tim Cahill.



     Forget Waldo, where's Frank.


Between rambunctious river runs through foaming rapids, and daily gourmet table fare prepared by our tanned, young guides with their river-honed muscles, we wannabe writers got group and—more than ever dreamed of—personal one-on-one time with the master of the evocative travel adventure personal essay genre.


Cahill created a desire in me not only to travel to far off exotic locales, but a fantasy that I might write like him and make my readers feel like he made me feel.


This goes back to the early years, when Cahill was the founding editor of the groundbreaking Outside Magazine, when quality travel adventure writing was virtually unknown between the covers of a monthly magazine.


While growing up, our family car camping trips, and later as a Boy Scout, started me down the trail of adventure travel, it was Cahill’s writing that pointed a path to see beyond simply the mechanics of the travel. Cahill shown a light that allowed me to see how those special locations were not just places on the planet, but were the secret to my soul.



                      Secrets of the river: hot water, cold beer, good friends.


During my recent rafting adventure, I endured hours of writing in the middle of the night. Tim had done such a good job of inspiring my writing, my racing brain won the battle of not allowing me—though tired from hours of white water paddling—to close my eyes and get some much needed sleep.


So, was the not-really-all-that-harrowing flight getting there still worth it?


Hell, I got to hear the statured story teller, Tim Cahill, sing William Shakespeare dialog as a country-western song after consuming two fingers of straight Bombay Sapphire gin…O.K., it was four fingers of gin.

(I would know…I poured it.)


Yeah, you’re damn right it was worth it!


(Cue thundering applause, bring up the theme music, dim the river scene and roll credits.)


  *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thus ended the recounting of my blessings how I spent six decades of getting to this special place in my life.


And after all that paddling, fly fishing, drinking, eating, drinking and, of course, writing, there was only one thing left to do.


      Too much fun.


Finally, here is a fantastic video of our trip put together by one of my new river friends, Mark L.


Where next, everyone?

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I left for a five-day white water raft trip down the storied Middle Fork of the Salmon River as a wannabe travel writer.


And now I have returned, as a wannabe travel writer with a bunch of damp, dirty river rafting clothing, sore muscles, and short a full bottle of gin.


I am sitting here in the dawn of the next day, in our motel in Salmon, Idaho, along the same river that we took out from yesterday at lunchtime.


Our room has a color television, a refrigerator and microwave, a really nice soft bed, and a toilet that does not necessitate carrying a rafting paddle to use.


No more hard ground to sleep on; no more putting on cold and still wet rafting clothes in the chilly morning air, no more getting sprayed in the face—and other sensitive body areas—with freezing river water as we careen through foaming Class IV rapids; and no more concerns about rattlesnakes, bears, and poison ivy around every corner of the camp.


I miss being on the river.


     canyon rapids


I have many pictures to process, stories to prepare, and lies to tell, but this morning I wanted to thank the IRJ crew and the 13 guests who traveled from San Francisco and New York, from Montana and Alabama, all who put up with my stupid jokes, mindless banter, and late-night snoring.


Thanks to Skip, our trip leader, who at a third of my age, showed tremendous maturity as he bore the responsibility of keeping my sorry ass alive.


To his younger brother, Matt…I mean older brother…sorry Matt, Skip made me ask you if you were the younger brother after I had asked him the same question; thanks for making me feel I didn’t suck as much as I know I do at fly fishing.


To Nate, whose therapeutic massage technique hurt so good. Nate darted around the river in his bright little colored toy-looking kayak with tremendous agility and was quick to your side if you ended up in the river instead of in your water craft.


To Rachael, our someday-to-be flight nurse, who can get through anything and I would trust her to navigate any rapid on any river that I would care to float down.


To Marshal, our tall, tanned, semi-redneck, fulltime merrymaker, who kept us entertained on the river, as well as in camp.


And finally, to Mary, the heart and soul of Idaho River Journeys, whose broad and beaming smile has the brightness of a lighthouse beacon and the warmth of a cozy down comforter.


The impetus for the title of this blog post will become more clear in the upcoming days as I regale you with my not-really-all-that-harrowing river lies stories.


Here’s to paddles up after that run through a perilous rapid,

but to never a missing paddle during a urgent post-coffee run to the grover.


     paddles up

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