Let me tell you, my trip last week with Mackay River Adventures blew my hair back!
So much so that I put off writing this because I’m not sure there are words that will describe what it meant to me accurately.
That said, let me try.
One of the most important reasons why I named this experiment, “The Radical Living Challenge” is because I want to do things that feel radical to me. Clearly, selling my home of 20-plus years to live full-time in an RV is radical in itself.
But one of the goals that I set in 2022 as part of the Challenge is to say yes to things that ordinarily might scare me. And ever since my ski accident in 2020, I still have a nagging fear of falling or breaking bones. And to be honest, this really pisses me off. I don’t want to be afraid of anything. I want to choose what I will and will not try rather than let fear dictate it for me. And as river rafting has always been on my bucket list, I was excited to push myself out of my comfort zone! I wanted the experience, and I wanted to look at what I might learn about myself as a result, so that I can become more fully who I am meant to be in the world.
Spending 5 nights and 6 days on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River was exactly that!
- Idaho’s Salmon River runs through the rugged mountains of what is called the No Return Wildnerness. It’s called this because the current is so strong that the River is a one-way path. Being immersed in the power of this incredible flow, whether by boat or even in taking an evening swim, reminded me that life is unfolding in the same way. It’s how we navigate the current that determines the experience we will have.
- The Middle Fork offers 100 miles of Class II-IV whitewater thrills in which you get the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in its pure wilderness environment. (The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines these parts of our country as areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” ) This means we followed “Leave No Trace” guidelines from everything to how we spit out our toothpaste, where we could and could not pee and poop, and making sure that we didn’t leave what they call microtrash which includes things like crumbs. All that to say that we were 100 percent camping, and I absolutely loved the challenge of it all. And, since we were guided by some of the best river guides in America, it was incredible to also eat the delicious and healthful meals they prepared in the camp kitchen, drink the water they boiled for us each day, and learn about the breathtaking land as they led us through the terrain of the river. Waking up and falling asleep to the sound of the river was meditative. And even waking up half asleep in the middle of the night to pee, overcome with the light of the moon, woke me up to immense joy even in a state of absolute sleepiness. We saw a bear, tons of Bald Eagles, goats and a host of other River animals I had never seen or heard of before. To be this immersed in nature was truly awe inspiring.
- Over the course of the six days we climbed to a natural hot springs where we soaked in the water, took in the view, and chatted with new friends. We pulled to the side of the river and filled our water bottles with fresh spring water! We also took two incredible hikes, one of which was a climb to one of the most powerful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Navigating the steep “trail” (that wasn’t a trail, really) through the rocks and patches of poison ivy to this glorious setting was epic. The Veils Falls descends 25 feet from a Creek above and remains constant year round. To stand under it was life affirming. The other hike I said yes to was during a massive rain storm, and as we took the trail up and over into camp as the mud squished over my new hiking shoes, I marveled at my grit and determination, and that I didn’t care about the rain at all.
- Whether I was part of a crew of six paddling through the rapids or simply floating down the river in what is called The Champagne Boat, (you can opt to float or fish each day if prefer not to paddle!) time stopped completely in each and every moment. Floating, talking, listening to the sounds of the river, watching the water change colors, and noticing the striations of the canyon walls dip and curve. Taking in the majesty of rocks in the water both seen and unseen, and sitting in the boat in the middle of one of the most spectacular thunderstorms I’ve ever seen was an experience of total presence. And in this presence I felt enlivened, thrilled, connected and fulfilled.
- I met men and women who I fell in love with in the short period of time we were together. From the deep conversations we had where we truly shared ourselves, the moments of laughter that were almost non-stop, and the inspiring stories of how each of them were heroes and heroines in their own lives took my breath away. I left the trip inspired by each one of them and to be in community with people like this was a beacon pointing to me the type of community and people I want to surround myself with in the next chapter of my life.
- Sharing it all with my amazing husband was the absolute icing on an amazing cake. We giggled in our sleeping bags each night and held hands during the campfires, the embers gently falling into the sand nearby. I happily took his hand as he helped me in or out of the raft, and I marveled at his agility as I watched him navigate the rapids on a kayak on the biggest day! Each day I felt so grateful to have found this person with whom I can adventure and dream and laugh.
I also learned that the right gear makes a difference (so glad I took the time to get the right gear!), that I am capable of so much more than I think I am, that there are a lot of adventures and places I want to explore, and that it’s never too late to make new friends!
When the trip was complete we picked the cats up from the place we boarded them, (they had an entire barn to themselves where they apparently thrived as they returned happy as can be) and returned to Andi who had been waiting for us at a campsite with a view of the Salmon. I had never been quite so dirty, and quite so content. And so as I sat waiting for our five loads of laundry to complete, grateful to still hear the river quietly churning behind me, I recognized there is a part of that life on the River that runs through me. It always has, And in my radical adventure, it had been reawakened.
And for this, I am so very, very grateful.