A Touch Stone To Salmon

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Often people on river trips do a lot of hiking and invariable get attracted by colorful stones they encounter along the way.  Many can not resist picking up some unusual  stone that speaks to them in a special way.   Later on with the passage of time and distance,  something happens when once again that same stone finds the palm of their hand.  Rubbing it is too powerful to resist, and not only does it feel good polishing the skin, but it also makes the mind take flight back to the canyonlands and river beds that sourced the stone.


It then becomes a touch stone, whereas, every time it is touched, it brings back memories and serves to keep lessons of the past moving forward.  It reminds us of the importance certain places and events have during our own life times and  contributes to personal journeys as being a part of history in the making.  One such powerful event we hold each year in a special place on the Salmon River,  is our annual Sacred Salmon Ceremony at Spring Bar.  It is a gathering of people from  two major cultures to join forces in appreciating the return of salmon to the Salmon River.   Not for political, economic, or religious reasons, but for a chance to collectively let the salmon know that all people recognize their importance as a gift to the people.   Rather, at some spiritually cosmic level, it is where an appreciation can be gained for at least the transference of various forms of energy as time expands. It gives us human life forces a chance to co-mingle with fish-nation life forces to help  strengthen a reciprocal preditor-prey bond that is the law of nature everywhere.

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Chinook Salmon is an icon not only of the Salmon River, which is its namesake, but also to the Nez Perce people (First Nation) who have depended on them for countless centuries as an important element of human subsistence.  Their worldview about nature is that everything is connected and all life forms have equal relationship with each other.  All forms in nature are a gift to each other, and balanced reciprocity is required for maintaining a perpetual level of harmony  between all economies.

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Unfortunately the wild fish are in jeopardy of potential extinction and thus protected by the endangered species act.  This is a policy developed by the other human culture (Second Nation) that arrived on the scene later, but had a more dominating world view about nature that led more to undermining it and thus required new means for potential restoration.

Consequently, with more means to harness nature’s bounty, dams were put into all major river’s  to help turn water into energy for a more industrial oriented economy and culture.  It was known that fish runs would suffer when dams would be put into place,  but a necessary sacrifice for the price of progress. Thus, hatcheries were spawned as mitigation for what damage dams were anticipated to create.

Hatchery fish are now the backbone of our current fishery, but long-range success is highly questionable.   Representative of a once significant natural resource that brought nutrients to the land and people before dams, their annual return is far shy of historic runs in number and contribution to the natural economy.

The long-range future is questionable, because wild fish are the vital gene pool keeping ecosystem function healthy.  Continuous dilution of what it took eons to create, is a big unknown. Speculatively, many of our scientists are not hugely optimistic for the long haul, as the more disruptive ways of the industrial economy continues squeezing everything possible out of all natural resources in the name of progress.


But part of progress is recognizing when to stop, or change horses mid stream, to avoid total destruction brought about by riding a run-away horse with no bridle.  But a bridal has its place in the grand scheme of things, when wisdom is practiced to let the wild horse run free at times. Likewise with the river, some portions need to run wild with no cement  bridle to prevent that pure natural flow.

So too, in a country composed of two sovereign nations tied to each other with treaty obligations and similar interests to maintain the integrity of all our natural resources, fostering mutual cooperation between them is very important. When two cultures have different world views towards nature, it becomes crucial to find as much common ground for the better good of all people, fish, and wildlife.


This is why we started a sacred salmon ceremony 11 years ago.  A big part of it is to recognize our differences, honor our treaty obligations, and develop better trust levels between all people’s who share the same planet. Face to face contact is the most powerful way to appreciate learning more about each other’s culture and is our “touchstone event”  to help remember the importance of our relationship to all of nature.


The 12th Annual Sacred Salmon Ceremony is about appreciation for our human dance with the  gifting economy of nature. It is free and open to all people. To learn more about the specifics: http://www.doryfun.com/uniquetrips.html.  Please join us on the Salmon River May 18, 2013 at Spring Bar – 10 miles upriver of Riggins, Idaho.  High Noon, Mountain Time.


Best Trip Ever?


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Best trip ever?  I just got off a 6-day Owyhee River trip that I like to refer to as the Estrogen Express on Little Grand Canyon North. Being the only male in a party with three females, has its challenges. But fun!  In fact, so much fun, that one guest (I won’t mention your name here Terri) told me it was her best trip ever.  This is always a welcome but troubling thing for me to hear after the completion of any river trip that people have enjoyed so much.

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It is a bit embarrassing and I am tempted to fudge the truth a little and agree, but then what about all those other super trips in the past I have been on? Like the trip where I proposed marriage to my wife by scribbling with a stick on a magnificent sandbar in an outrageous canyonscape.  Once someone in my profession  gets nearly 40 years worth of trips behind them, that adds up to a lot of trips and happy times.  I would not like to discount any of those other great experiences, or rank them in any kind of order.  Minus a trip or two from hell, most of my experiences have been highly pleasurable. And I certainly would put this past one up their in the high level redline of the fun meter.

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In fact, despite getting occasionally ganged up on,  almost all female trips I have led have been a real hoot. That is, at least gaged by the soreness of my guts during the trip of belly laughs that almost took me rolling to the sand. Good humor adds so much to an adventure that it is easy to send them to the top ranking positions of how much fun one journey can be.  It almost makes me think perhaps all female (or mostly female) trips might be a good niche market to consider.  Although, it might lead to early insanity and is always a risk for potential  male ill-mind health.

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In essence, what is really  fun for me is to see the transformation that takes place between launch and take out, especially for those whom are on their first time on a river or a new one.   These ladies had all  been on other river trips, and two of them, on the Owyhee before. But each water level is never exactly the same,  so essentially a new river. Of course, the group dynamics were different, and fortunately a great mix of compatible personalities, so that adds significantly to the pleasure principle.

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And of course, for Misty, who was rowing the other raft and guides for us here at the Wapiti Clan, had not been on this waterway before. The low water conditions were a far different experience than the big water of the Salmon River that she is used to.  But, being good on the oars and reading water helped her to successfully make good runs.  The technical aspect of bony boulder garden rapids actually makes one  better on the sticks when they get back to larger volume rivers.  I’m sure she will soon appreciate it once the dust has settled and her memory kicks-in to help finesse a good route through the challenging rapids of the Salmon River.

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The entire experience of this trip reminded me of a passage in a book I had once read: “The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream, and not a cross purposes with it.”  …  “So now I always tell my students about the Gulf Stream: that what it means for us, for writers, is that we need to align ourselves with the river of the story, the river of the unconscious, of memory and sensibility, of our characters’ lives, which can then pour through us, the straw.”

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And so it is with a river experience. When we align ourselves with all the current, not only of the river, but everything else that flows between the canyon walls, we become the vessel through which it all pours. We can absorb all the juices that leaves a stain forever on our inner walls…and add that much more to the next time we dip that same straw into the flowing waters.  Fortunately, there are a lot of best trips ever,  soon to be, laying there in wait for another vessel to appreciate it once again. It is the way of the river and waters magic.

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