O.A.R.S. at SNAKE RIVER


(all photos c/o Jon Martin)

In the beginning, 9 July 1965 I had a son, Morgan Bernard, 8 pounds 12 ounces and somehow he is celebrating his 50th birthday! And I wanted to celebrate with him. So after much research I found O.A.R.S. a white water rafting tour operator. And we agreed to go to the Snake River between Oregon/Washington and Idaho for four nights.
 

After months of obsession about my white water trip to come, I am now on the plane flying to Seattle and I must say very calm. I got up at 5 am dressed and finished putting the condo together and at 5:30 Yaz greeted me for my ride to the airport. We talked of Ramadan and the meaning of “God” at that hour .. oh My.. On the way to the gate, I stopped to buy a bagel and then immediately boarded the plane. As I sat down I went to get my water bottle and realized I had left it on the bagel counter. After a fret or two I went forward in the plane to ask if I could deplane to get my bottle. The flight attendant said NO. Instead, the pilot went and got my bottle! Can you imagine? Now that is service! I napped for a couple hours then began to write. I am amazed how calm I am. But thinking is not good. I will continue to read my book.. ‘the Greatest Generation.

Arrive and took a taxi to 50th Street and spent the afternoon with Grandson, Sammy Jo. Did take a good long nap; despite my sleeping on the plane. Sammy and I did some shopping for the lunch tomorrow and nothing else out of the ordinary.

The trip was amazing all that I expected and more. The five guides, Chris, Derek, Jeff, Abby, and Joan were exceptional. Each with a unique skillset and yet all the same when it came to the river. Their strength and endurance was used every day. Their ability to deal with the unusual was done with grace and tact. The instructions were always clear and direct. Then there was the cooking. The guides did it all. For dinner we had Salmon the first night followed by, I cannot remember and then a delicious pork meal and lastly a steak. For both the salmon and the beef I requested rare and Jeff delivered better than many restaurants! They made fresh brownies and upside down cake. Our breakfasts were hot with fried eggs, French toast, McRiver’s and Oatmeal. There were always several cereal choices and lots of fresh fruit.

Lunch was cold cuts, bagel sandwiches and all. Each meal had fresh fruits and vegetables.

After the day of rafting the crew had time to their selves. The guest had time to play in the water, read a book and have a beer and just hang out. Of course I had some Maker’s Mark with me. Just enough for one drink a day. On the last night I remembered Jeff had some bourbon and that day he had gather lots of mint. So at my request, Abby made me a Mint Julep! How grand was that! It was nice being so civilized in such an uncivilized environment. I was the only person who brought a person beverage. Some bought extra beer just before we boarded the rafts. The wine got hot and soured. I did not partake.

Each evening when we set up camp Morgan would go off for a hike. Usually about a thousand feet up. Upon his return he shared his views and how far he could see.

He was a very happy camper and when he was not hiking he was fishing. Caught lots but the rule was to return the fish to the river.

 

The river was calmer than I expected. I certainly could have handled more rapids; especially on the third and fourth days. At some level these days were boring. But then they allowed calming emotions to develop had these days not occurred. The canyon was dry, barren with ancient rocky (lava) soil and much the same the entire trip. As a result it was extremely calming for me. And when the rapids subsided the mood became even calmer. This of course was very good for all of us. “AlwaysHarriet” was very far away! I heard other making similar comments on how relaxed they were. The second effect of the last two nights was the group jelled! It was wonderful to participate in the comradely and to watch it happen. We shared stories and many performed dives of all sorts off a raft! I had been encouraging my son, Morgan to dive. Finally he did a double summersault better than anyone else, of course no one follow that! Then he proceeded to do a head stand on the floating paddle board! Then said to me “Are you happy now!” Of course I was very proud.

There are so many stories to tell of the experience. The first night the porta-poddy floated almost away! We had grand water fights. Once one of the buckets dropped into the water, and Terry from our boat dove into the river to retrieve it. It was very funny. Then there were the concerning stories. When Nick got caught in the river current and could not swim to shore. Away he went down the river. One of the guides hopped into a kayak and paddle after him. Finally a touring motor boat came by and he caught up with Nick and retrieved him. Then there is the story of Joan, who alone was carrying most of our supplies. On the last day she got behind all of us. It was so very very hot.. Clearly in 115 degree range or more.. She ran out of water and because the wind was blowing so strong against us and the sound of her whistle did not carry. None of the other guides knew she was in trouble. When she finally reached the beach for lunch she was dehydrated and exhausted. But being in the great condition the guides are in, she recovered enough to complete the journey to the end. It was her fourth time paddling the heavy supply boat. Each guide must perform four supply trips before they can become a full guide. It is a test of power and inner strength.

Much to my surprise the education and intellectual level of the group was very high. Not just people with degrees but with lots of knowledge and understanding. We had some great conversations! Jeff, the guide on my boat knew lots about the geography and history of the canyon.


Speaking of the canyon, I expected a much deeper, narrower ravine. A few times it did close in on us, but often it was wide open with lots of green along the shore. It was in these environs we saw animals; deer, doe and fawn, mountain sheep, male, female and babies! We saw eagles, ravens and lots of ground birds. I did not see the coyote.


The longer I am away from the adventure, the better the experience seems. Sleeping on the ground with a three inch air mattress was more than ok. It was getting up off the ground several time in the middle of the night to find my bucket which was not easy! And in the early morning the hikes to the porta poddy was often arduous to say the least. They were always hidden away for privacy! I was always very anxious about this part of the experience. I must say the bucket was better than I was anticipating. I will not go there! The other big concern I had before going was the camp chairs. All the pictures on the OARS website showed small low wooden folding chairs. Again being close to the ground is not easy for me anymore. But on the first day I saw regular four point folding chairs and my own blue bucket.. And I knew life would be grand!

Upon the last day and departure I was so emotional that I had indeed accomplished this adventure that in great relief I cried and had to give the guides a second round of hugs.



Hope someday you too gets to enjoy four nights, in the wilderness with a river rapidly flowing by.. peace, Harriet



Harriet H. Ahouse | Independent Travel Consultant
Vista Travel, Inc.
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Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
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