The River’s Spell

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RYANS SON

Have you ever wondered why some kids, or the kid in us, is so drawn to the power of water that we are compelled to cast a stone into the middle of all that attraction? It is rarely just simple enough to only look at such an attraction. The magnetism is so strong that it compels us to want to be connected to it. The arch of the stone we toss is our tie to that body of water, like some invisible strand that a spider cast from the webs middle to pull us into its center.

It is like some Shaman putting us into a spell-binding state that our behavior is transfixed into that realm of some other worldly place, where we are so willingly sucked in. Tricked by such natural magic we often can’t resist tossing yet another, and another stone to see it splash again and again. When the stone hits the surface it ripples everywhere, including back to ourselves again, completing the circle and tightening the noose of our bond to it.

We can’t help ourselves, we do it almost without thinking. Water. It tricks us and takes us in to its enchanting power. Being thusly connected, we spin with the enchantress and enjoy every turn of the dance. At least until midnight, when the clock strikes 12 and we return to our thoughts and are grounded to earth again.

Maybe it is just that Spring is in the air and we feel its influence, like do all the other critters that are so possessed by the same juices this time of year. Perhaps it is a pent-up yearning to connect to innate feelings with the outside world and compels our deeper wishes to create behavior yet unleashed.

Like the toss of each stone, it is a force too powerful to resist. Better to just go with it. Create. That is what life is all about, an ever-moving connection of self to nature.

Gary Lane
Wapiti River Guides
208: 628-3523
http://www.doryfun.com
https://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Not Always Warm Inside Mother Earths Womb

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For us humans who view earth as a living thing, we often like to use metaphorical language to help shape our understanding of the mysteries of the natural world.  Of course, for me, taking a winter jaunt into the frozen landscape is just another seasonal variance to expand my consciousness into other realms of mystery.

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At this time of the year, in my neck of the woods in Idaho, that be Riggins area more specifically, high pressure has brought sub-freezing temperatures. That spells hunkering tight for wildlife and scraping out a means of survival when conditions get tough, but also some particularly interest works of art written by some unseen hand of nature.

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Just yesterday I had this urge to go out looking for nature’s artwork.  Locally, there is an unusual rock (limestone maybe) formations that contains a cave hidden behind a curtain of waterfalls. It requires a steep hike to gain access to the entrance, then a rope for the last pitch to actually get inside the cave.

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But on this day, the upper portion of the rope (a permanent one left behind from climbers of long ago) was frozen under a slab of what looked like a micro river frozen in time. And the lower section of the tilted wall was so slippery, without crampons it was impossible to negotiate. I thought my chances to get inside were over, so I settled for photos from the outside only. But, I began thinking maybe there was another way in, so scrutinized nearby potential routes. Never had I needed or even seen one before, but soon saw some potential. It was not easy and required some serious moves in two places that came with the risk of a near vertical fall of about 30 feet, as a consequence of a mistake.

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Why didn’t I bring a rope?  Of course, I didn’t think I would need one, but how many times do these sorts of things happen that by now I should have known to come more prepared. So, the next best thing to do would be  put  my “what would MacGyver do”  thinking into play and entertain another solution from my bag of mindful tricks.  I did have a tripod with straps for carrying it on my back to free my hands for climbing. Flash, that was my light bulb.  Take the straps off to use for anchorage, (expert climbers use petons in solid rock for a good foundation) albeit shakey, to be sure, but better than nothing all the same. I really didn’t want to give up too easily.

So I managed to get a 6′ cam strap around a giant icicle for self-belay (granted, a little marginal) but reasonable with careful negotiation. Whew, I made it.  But, it did remind me of the fact that often times it takes degrees of risk to find deeper rewards offered by nature. While certainly not an expert,  I did rely on some of my semi-serious rock climbing days to make the harder and very calculated moves required to gain entrance.

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I knew my chances for success were actually high, if I did the precise moves required. All it took was seriously focused attention. No distractions, just unadulterated laser beam concentration. But having the experience of using this technique to negotiate serious rapids by boat when the river is not frozen gave me a high confidence level.

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I knew it would be worth the risk, and it was. Inside was a room full of magic-land. The shapes and formations of ice reminded me of entering a well kept secret of enchanted fairy land, where I could run rampant in fantasy world. The sound of dripping water that contributed to building all the little elf and pixie like figurines also created a surreal feeling of being able to see and listen to the heartbeat of mother earth from the inside out.

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There I go again with that metaphorical thinking and anthropomorphism. Such is the inspiration  of natures beauty and mystery. And such is it to be merely human. Ah, the birth of a new year.

Note: for those who would like to see video of this awesome place, go to our facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

 

Why Are They Called Life Jackets?

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It would seem like the answer to this question is quite obvious, but apparently there are a lot of people who fail to understand the gravity of what it means to wear them or not.  As prima facie evidence for such, two recent drownings on the Salmon River near Riggins, on separate days (June 8 and June 10) bare this point out. In both cases, neither victim was wearing a life jacket.  The flows and water temps for those respective dates were – June 8 –  9am: 43400 noon: 43100 4pm: 42500 (11.5c=53f) and June 10– 9am: 41200  noon: 41100 4pm: 40400 (12.3c=54f).

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While I suspect alcohol may have contributed to the poor decision not to wear a life jacket, I don’t know that for sure. In either case, it was a costly decision for each person involved.  When this kind of news gets out, it sometimes scares people away from the river or running it when flows are high.  In reality, it high lights the fact that wearing life jackets is a crucial decision, that too many people ignore.

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I don’t know all the details to each accident, but heard that the first one occurred at Black Rock rapid, when one person fell into the water without a jacket on and lost contact with the raft.  But, what I do know for sure is that the hydraulics on the wall at the foot of the rapid are tremendously turbulent and powerful.  It reminds me of a huge coffee pot with boils and giant whirlpools, and even in a lifejacket would be a nervy swim. But, without one, a fatal consequence.

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The day before, I was in my dory boat and a violent eddy line grabbed my boat and pulled us into a whirlpool. The stern was sucked down with-in two inches of the gunnels (hand-rails) on both sides (on a boat with 28inch sides at the stern end) before spitting us out back into the main current.  Often the chaos water is as challenging as the big waves and dynamics of the rapids themselves. All parts of the river become plenty of good reason for keeping alert and paying attention.

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The second drowning I know a little more about, due to the fact, that my party was the one who rescued the body and performed CPR, but too late to bring the person back to life. The other person is still missing from the first drowning, but at least this second incident will offer some sense (sad as is it is) of closure to the family in at least not knowing where their loved one ended up. Closure is a relative term, as no one ever really gets over losing someone dear to them.

This person did not have a life jacket on, nor did any in their party of four guys, whom all tipped over in Lake Creek Rapid (at least is what the paper said) as opposed to Ruby Rapids which normally flips more boats, and apparently they luckily made it through right side up.  Correction (just learned it was indeed Ruby Rapid where they tipped, and that now makes more sense). Three in the party were able to keep a hold of the raft, while the one who drowned didn’t. Also, when he was found by the gal running a safety cat for my group and dragged to shore by a jetboat she flagged down for help in the process, he was in his underwear,  tee shirt and tennis shoes only. The river hydraulics had pulled his pants off his body.  With no wetsuit, his body was turning blue in places from the cold water and is precisely why we always where wetsuits in high water, even if it is over 90 degrees in air temps.

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It is also why we cinch life jackets on all our guests good and snug, sometimes to a little dis-pleasure to some, thinking they are too tight. But, better that than getting sucked off your body, which can happen if not secured properly.  High water trips are not for the timid, but plenty reasonable for those who like adrenalin and are properly equipped and prepared. So as intimidating as it is to hear about, or actually see the aftermath  of what poor decisions leave in their wake, it is no reason to not go boating.  Nature plays by harsh rules, but by paying attention to those rules with proper respect, your chances of having a safe, fun trip, are far higher when engaged in any adventure that comes with some degree of risk.

Another aspect to how people sometimes find themselves in trouble with the river is due to perception. Often, as an observer on the land watching the many guides and experienced river people running the river and making it look easy, can be quite misleading to them.  More than once I have salvaged a sunken drift boat that did not have enough floatation in them, or inexperienced  oarsman to negotiate simple water that experienced people have little problem with. Or helped rescue people who jumped on the river in their own gear but over their head in expertise and found themselves without a boat and in a precarious situation.

This is part of the reason I offer driftboat lessons for those whom have their own boat and want to improve their skill level, or wish to get a boat and learn how to read water and maneuver their boat through troubled current.  Using a mentoring service is a good way to improve on one’s learning curve.  It takes a lot of time to learn about the nuances of fluid hydrology and how to apply small tricks that make the big differenced in keeping a boat right side up and good stories as a conclusion to your trip.

As a commercial outfitter, we often get people who tell us they were thinking of doing a river trip, but in seeing the rapids from the highway, they thought they were too small and would not be much fun. When we convince these folks not to be deceived by the sense of scale (big rivers and canyons have a tendency to dwarf reality) and that they will enjoy it, (and if  we actually get them on the water), they will invariably ask: “is this the same river we saw from the highway?”  We have to bite our tongues and not make them feel like this is a stupid question, but common sense isn’t that common.

While we in the outfitting community would like to avoid bad publicity in the media and say it is perfectly safe to run the river when it is high, or at any other time, that would be a farcical claim.  In nature, nothing is free or without risk.  To us ecologist types who appreciate the reality of evolution, we call the consequences of choice and behavior  in the wilds, “natural selection.” That is how the real world works.

The moral of the story: there is no such thing as a risk free river trip, anymore than you can walk across the street without getting run over by a car 100% of the time.  Bottomline: pay attention. It increases your odds. But, don’t stay home. Two old saying I  I always liked are:  “those who do not do things because of their fear of dying, never  really live,” and “man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

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Gary Lane
Wapiti River Guides
http://www.doryfun.com
208:628-3523  (if calling us by cell)
or

800-488-9872

 

 

 

What Does The Devils Slide Have in Common With Colt 45?

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Nothing. Water and alcohol do not mix, especially when that water is funneling through the second deepest gorge in America where solid cliffs on one side and a rock slide on the other pinch the longest free flowing river within one state down to a narrow chute maybe 50 yds wide. You could shout at someone on the other side of the river and hear them quite easily, that is,  if it were not for the thunderous roar of the monster rapid created by this splendid geomorphology called The Devils Slide.

The Devils Slide is  only a nemesis of a rapid in high water on the Lower Salmon River, but disappears entirely in low flows. (less than 4,000   cfs) While some may need the liquid courage of one can after another of Colt 45 beer to muster up enough steam to run the fearsome rapid when it becomes fearsome, it in no way helps keep a raft right side up.  Such was the case in 1978 when I was working for Grand Canyon Dories and we had a commercial trip in high water and found ourselves where we didn’t want to be.  We had  one guest-guide (let’s call him Factor A) the company had hired to run a baggage raft for a three dory boat trip, who thought us dory people were elitist snobs and worried too much about getting our little wooden boats through a rapid he thought looked like just some big fun and no big deal.

He took one quick look at the same rapid we spent considerable time scouting in earnest, went back to his raft and began pounding down Colt 45’s as he waited impatiently for us dainty dory guides to figure out how to get through the whitewater chaos that churned our stomachs and wracked our nerves.

The 13 day trip started from Corn Creek, and was led by Clarence Reese in his dory boat, along with Barry Dow and myself in our dory boats. Normally one of the company guides would row a baggage raft, too, but this time we had to hire an unknown guest guide whom none of us had worked with before.  He was a nice enough guy, but had more of a caviler cowboy attitude at the time, that didn’t quite jive with the finesse fanatics that clean run attitudes in wooden boats require. Like alcholol, water and wood clash, and rowing boats is much preferred over fixing them.

Because of high water, which was hovering around 30000cfs-ish when we started off, we were worried about the Slide if the river came up much. The back-up plan was that the company was going to pull us off the river at Eagle Creek, which is the last place possible that has a bad access road into this remote area, if the flows came up too much. Before our trip a scouting mission of guides only ran some dory boats through the Slide at about 34,000 cfs and barely made it right side up. So, they assured us that if the river went higher than that they would come to our rescue.  But if is was above 30,000 cfs they would send a jetboat for an extra margin of safety for our runs with commercial guests.

Well, we had been keeping track of water levels vehemently, and knew it did nothing but rise. We guessed it was too high for us to run the Slide, so had a great time the night before, knowing we would be pulled out the next day…or s we thought. But, the next morning when we began floating down to our take out, there were no rigs. We waited around, in case they were late, but soon discovered they were not coming and we were committed to a different date with destiny.

All us dory guides were direly worried, but tried not to let it show, as we drifted on downriver. The sky was blue with not a cloud in sight. But as we stopped for lunch at the head of Blue Canyon on a big sand beach, we could see clouds starting to drift in from the west.  None of us guides could eat, as we were so nervous as to our rendezvous with a frenzied rapid, and as we got back into the boats and began drifting  closer dark clouds began creeping in from the west. The current was fast and as we pulled into the small eddy to scout, thunder and lightning clashed adding a bad omen as prelude to what was about to happen.

When we got up on the pile of boulders to see what was in store for us, it soon became apparent this was a serious situation.  It was the first time I had ever looked at a rapid and tried to figure out where the place was to be with an upside down boat. On the far side of the river (east bank) about a third of the river is a back eddy that itself looked like a river doubling back on itself. It contained two giant rolling ocean-like waves that we dubbed “The Things,” that surged upstream into the vortex of the middle where all the “mayhem” converged. Giant diagonals were rolling from each side of the river into a center collision that exploded sporadically high into the air.  Nightmare material.

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On the left side, there were two diagonals, one above the other. The upper one looked small, compared to the lower one, but was big enough itself to stand a dory high on its bow.  The larger one had a soft spot between the largest part of its curl and the vicious vortex in the middle. It looked do-able, but the consequence for error looked awe-fully troubling. Below it was a depressed eddy full of wild swirls, huge boils and bottomless whirlpools. They blended together like a giant mix-master that would be a “Forever Eddy” for any body or boat that got trapped in it. So my plan was to be in the very middle where we would get shot through between all the more dangerous looking stuff on both sides.

The other bad thing that happened was that there was no jetboat back-up. We had people, some women and children who did not want to run the rapid, nor did we want them to.  But we also did not want to run empty boats through.  So Clarence told the group that if there was anyone foolish enough to run this rapid with us, meet on “Fools Rock”, to scout and plan our runs. All this, while Chip pounded 45’s.

I still remember the dead salmon in a tiny pool on top of Fools Rock, where they got trapped when the water dropped.  Even at that, we were still maybe 10 yards higher than river level, so it was hard to imagine what the river looked like when the salmon were getting bashed. But, we were glad that there were enough volunteers to put two passengers in each of our boats for much-needed weight and high-siding. Also, the promised jetboat finally arrived, with company guides whom actually helped all the guests not wanting  to ride, do the class V climb-around over a treacherous maze of boulders, almost as bad as the rapid itself. In fact, a few minor wounds  that resulted when the smoke all eventually cleared happened there.

With jetboat in place, and butterflies in formation, we began the task of getting our flotilla through the troubled water. Barry Dow led off, with Factor A  following in the raft. Barry’s plan was to plow through the soft spot on river left. He had a good entry through the first diagonal and nailed the soft spot. But the soft spot wasn’t that soft. As his bow went skyward, he went stern ward with an oar in each hand as he left the seat and landed backwards all sprawled out. But the boat made it over  the top, then slammed down the back side, caught an ugly eddy boil and did a 360 degree spin faster than the blink of an eye (or so it seemed). The bow of his wooden boat missed the solid cliff-side rock by less than a foot, (which would have turned it into mere match-sticks) but he was able to crawl back into the seat and gain enough control to not get sucked back up river into the land of the “Forever Eddy.” Then made it to the first place downstream he could get his boat in to wait for the rest of us.

Factor A  followed Barry, but when he came around the blind corner of our eddy stop and could see the rapid from river level at full strength perspective, he froze like a deer in the headlights. He did manage to square up for the same not-so-soft spot that knocked Barry off kilter, but his raft flipped as fast as Barry’s boat did the 360. Fortunately, he too did not get trapped by Forever Eddy, and the jetboat was there to pick up the pieces.

My turn was next. Clarence would wait, watch my run from Fools Rock and then run sweep. While we normally run two boats at a time, for safety, this time was different. Having only one jetboat to collect us up, meant it would be wiser to run one boat at a time, so we didn’t have people scattered all over the river to make carnage even worse.

Watching other boats run bad stuff first can be good and bad. Good to see where to make corrections, but with better options lacking, it is more like lining up behind the lemmings about to make their last plunge.  Even though Barry made it through right side up, it was all so Russian-roulette and iffy looking , that I opted for the middle route. But,  when I round the corner to see the spectacle at real scale, that soft spot looked good.  I thought about taking that line, and in 20-20 hind-sight, that hesitation on my pre-determined line may have been my crucial mistake.

My original plan was to hit the vortex precisely where both left and right mega-waves slammed into each other, both capable of flipping a dory like a pancake on their own, so that each would hit me at the same time, thus off-setting each other. But, in my moment of hesitation, I was about 3 feet off of where I wanted to be, so my theory didn’t get tested properly. Instead, it was if some one on shore had a plunger connected to dynamite in the vortex and set it off when we arrived. At least that is what it felt like as the right wave exploded and we all went flying through the air as the dory tipped violently upside down.

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Luckily one guest had never lost contact with the boat and I felt his leg on my way down to grabbed it to crawl up alongside him, where we both then climbed on to the bottom of the boat, grabbed the other swimmer who made it back to the boat, then threw my stern line to the jetboat that held us in the current, so we could tip the dory right side up and recoup  before entering the next big rapid immediately downstream. Once we were ok, the jetboat went back to wait for Clarence.

He too went for the middle, but had the same result as me, though I don’t remember all the details of his run, because I was in similar shock mode, as was Barry, who I saw sitting on shore shaking his head when I floated on by him to find my own debriefing eddy.  We waited for the jetboat to help pick up all the aftermath of Clarence’s run, then met somewhere downriver in calmer water to reconnect with the walk-around folks and head on down to Cottonwood on Snake River for our last nights  camp and cathartic carnage stories.

As guides, fully responsible for the welfare of commercial guests, we were furious with the management end to having  sent us on this folly expedition when the river rose to such ugliness. They didn’t think a mere thousand or two cfs higher than the exploratory run at 34,000 cfs would be a big deal, at such high flows. But, they were wrong. It is. But that was a long time ago, and is how evolution works trying to figure out when to run or not run a river in question.  Educated guesses work sometimes. Sometimes they don’t.  Other than tippage, fortune rode with us that fateful day on the big water.

The date was July 2, 1978 and The Slide was at 35,200 cubic feet per second. (which is tons of Venturi Effect – or Nozzle Effect).  Since that time, I have run The Slide many more times and have other carnage stories to tell, as do many other people on various other trips that all add up to give this rapid legendary status in the river world. This would include one time when the Slide surfed my dory in the vortex. Notice, I didn’t say I surfed the Slide, because that usually means that was my original plan A intention.

An interesting side note about the Slide is that because it is located in a remote canyon it isn’t something that is run everyday. So, unlike day trips on more accessible stretches of the Salmon River, where all the nuances of various flows are possible to learn by those who spend a lot of time with back to back runs, the Slide isn’t seen as much. Some rapids are worse in higher flows, some lower. Yet sometimes, in-between flows can present weirdness that higher or lower flows miss-out on.

Many outfitters, with different kinds of craft, or private enthusiasts  who like hair-boating, have different cut-off levels that determine when they don’t run the Slide. My personal level, as an outfitter is now 25000cfs.  But there are those who have higher level cut-offs, and when the sun goes down, and if the rapid could speak, it would have much to tell.

But whatever the story, the moral they have in common is: from dory boats to 33 foot pontoons, to triple-rigs, highly beware if you ever have a date with the Devil.

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 PS – The only craft I would ever run The Devils Slide in at flows above 65,000 cfs is an aerial one.

See youtube video of the Devils Slide at 80,000 cfs from the perspective of a Hughs 500 helicopter:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ2mI8L4mqU%5B/embed%5D

For a good time:

Gary Lane
Wapiti River Guides
http://www.doryfun.com

 

Why The Sacred Salmon Ceremony in Riggins Idaho is Sacred?

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It is nearing that time of year again.  The 13th  annual Sacred Salmon Ceremony is planned for May 10, 2014 about 10 miles upriver of Riggins, Idaho.  This event was originally spawned during a controversial public hearing to consider potential dam breaching on four lower Snake River dams in the year 2000.  Save Dams or Save Salmon was the main issue, with about 140 miles of potential restoration of primary spawning habitat for Fall Chinook at stake, as well as addressing additional runs and downstream smolt mortality  as potential for improved survival  rates and overall enhancement of the salmonoid’s  fishery.

A group of five local Riggins river guides, tired of controversy and the never seeming end to every political battle being tied to the dollar sign, decided to pay attention to how First Nation, original native people  addressed fish before dams and colonial settlement industrialized the region.

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The Columbia River anadromous fishery is no small matter. It is of world-class  status and is historically  an epic migration route for salmon and steelhead. The spectacular cascading Celilo Falls, near The Dalles, Oregon was a nexus of salmon fishing and a time immemorial honored trade center where many indigenous cultures gathered to fish and barter for centuries. This was long before the arrival of alien explorers,  and continued annually until Celilo Falls was flooded in 1960 by another Columbia River dam. The Dalles Dam was the sixth dam of fourteen total dams on the Columbia River of today.

The native people always welcomed the salmon back to their home waters annually, for to not respect this migration and immensely important source of sustenance would be to invite diminished returns.  Part of that respect was a worldview that recognized the connections of all things, and that over-fishing is a result of no respect and thus eventual avenue for depleted runs.  They held sacred ceremonies annually for what became a major spiritual icon to their primal cultures.

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So, those of us river guides who also take guests fishing, see it in the same light, with great appreciation and as awesome respect for.   After all, we too are native to the planet, as no one culture holds a monopoly on appreciating nature. There is a reason rainbows contain all colors of the spectrum, and why all people can see them. The sun does not hide the light from some and shine on others, in the big picture.

But, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate something to be sacred.  Just as you don’t have to be religious to appreciate having morals.  Morality and sacredness can be religiously oriented, but seeing the results of Manifest Destiny of the early colonialism era  is testimony to prima facie evidence of hypocrisy and exploitation at the expense of others. No one culture is privy to being the most privileged to appreciate  the sacred.

Sacredness is about giving special significance to something that is highly important and worthy of properly being cared for.   Keepers of the Fire, Keepers of the Fish, Keepers of the River, Keepers of Wisdom or whatever it is that is important to them,  is how people collaborate and cooperate to help perpetuate things and make them thusly sacred.

Spiritual sacredness is different that religiously sacred things.  Religion comes with one creator, while the spiritual aspect of something can be simply the essence of that energy that flows through everything. When you talk to yourself, your personality becomes that spirit, or soul, that gives life to time in this world. All other animals and plants have a similar spirit or energy flow, too. When death arrives to human, only then will anyone know, or not, if spirit continues flowing in another realm?

At least, as a non-religious person, that is how I view the world, and  have learned over time the more I learn and know, the more I don’t. Increased knowledge always opens up more questions.  But, one thing I don’t question is how important salmon are. Based on watching people react to catching them, or just observing them, that is vividly apparent.

So, this is all part of the reason we continue to respect the fish and hold an annual ceremonial event to welcome these mighty Chinook Salmon back to the Salmon River, which is their name-sake and special place to return each season. The event is basically a bi-nation (First and Second Nation) affair, is free, and open to all people. Though, also a non-alcoholic function. Thank you.

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The Ceremony: Spiritual leader and Wisdomkeeper Horace Axtell, conducted all Nez Perce ancient ceremonies for this gathering in the past, but has passed that torch forward. We appreciated how he performed ancient ceremony along the river bank and in the boats out on the water with drummers and singers tuning into  the songs of their ancestors.

We are seeking other Nez Perce facilitators to conduct First Nations ceremonies to help unite all people to the land, water, fish, and wildlife.

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The Two Nations collective ceremony includes a riverside salmon ceremony, 3 sacred boat circles, a closing “talk circle,” and a final potluck. This friendship feast is an informal visiting session and get-to-know your neighbor finale.

The celebration is also a touchstone event to help remember treaty obligations and the importance of maintaining the integrity of all major elements that shape the human landscape of our area. This face to face event is intended as another personalized way to continue fostering healthier relationships between two sovereign nations with a stormy past. In today’s world, and the many human cultures that share common natural resources together, how we move forward to create a collective history together is important.

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This is all about the Seventh Generation Philosophy and Passing the Torch.

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Two Nations Fish Gathering

May 10, 2014   

High Noon (mtn time)

Spring Bar (10 miles upriver of Riggins)

For more Salmon Ceremony info go to: http://www.doryfun.com/updates.html

For a short video on “The Sacred,” go to:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1656629129682  An Indigenous Perspective

Gary Lane

http://www.doryfun.com

OR coast Sept 1-8, 2013 486

 

 

 

 

How River Guiding is Like Farming and Ranching

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If you like certainty in your life, then you won’t like guiding, farming, or ranching.  There are too many variable in all these ways of life to satisfy those who like or need black and white solutions to the trials and errors of any life style.  If you like the stability of knowing what will happen between 8am and 5pm of the common work week, then following a job that is more like a 24/7 proposition won’t be for you.

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All three lifestyles, guiding, farming, and ranching are enmeshed into the framework of nature and all the tribulations of adapting to constantly changing situations and challenges.   But that is also the beauty of not knowing before-hand what each day will bring, as the mystery is always just that. Something unknown waiting to happen, and not knowing for certain can be exciting and never dull.

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Climate, what is expected over the long haul,  and weather, which is what happens daily,  are the two things that are a baseline to lifestyles that are  foundationally tied to mother nature.  Each day counts. Going out in the middle of the night during  a snow storm to tend to a cow having a calf,  watching a hail storm destroy a crop of cherries, or rowing a boat in the middle of a down-pour to get down river are all a part of the bargain in these livelihoods.  Of course, it also includes cute little newborns in the spring sun, the sweet fragrance of a blossoming orchard, or the view of bighorn sheep drinking by the river’s edge as you float down stream.

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Sometimes, droughts control crops, be it animal or plant, and even the amount of water that rolls down the canyon, or not, that determines if a river can be navigated.  Whims of the weather shape behavior on our planet, for  all biological entities. Realities face isn’t always one we wish to kiss or a medicine we wish to taste. But, there isn’t a coin made that has only one side, so flipping it we must and live by the consequences that result.  Chance is always uncertain, while change is always a constant.

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The good, bad, and ugly all play out in  the grand uncertainty of it all.  Of course, the balance weights heavily in the positive aspects of the whole, otherwise, why would anyone wish to live this way? And why else would people who do these things wish to share it with others?  Seeing the smiles and content in the heats of others is reward enough, not counting the immense joy it brings to oneself.  Ears, eyes, and voice evolved for a reason. It wasn’t to be deaf, blind, or silent. All these things came about to share and develop community. Just like it takes all organs to make the body function properly, it takes a collective community to make a social system work well.

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Though I am a river guide, I have also worked in both other professions at some capacity during my years, so can appreciate the commonality between them all.  Though river guiding can be a lot of work, compared to the other two, I think I will stick to river guiding. Given the choice between shoveling cow and horse manure or viewing natural beauty of a river flowing through white-washed rocks from birds of prey, white always wins over brown in my world.

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Gary Lane
www.doryfun.com

Catspaw area Mar 8, 2013 013

 

It’s Hard To Find a Good River Guide These Days

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“It’s hard to find a good guide these days, “is an old saying we like to use when things go wrong out on the big creek.  But, contrary to the old saying, it seems good  river guides are actually quite easy to come by.  All you need check is most any river touring website to learn that most outfitters have only the very best ones working for them.  Apparently, it is much harder to find a bad one or even an average one.  If everyone is already a member of the crème del crème club, then it isn’t likely many will be reduced to the mere riffraff gang.

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Somewhere back in the beginning, everyone has no experience and starts off with a clean slate.  There are many different ways to get experience, but aside from that, there are a lot of rules and regulations to become a bona-fide river guide.  Initially, in Idaho it is required that 3 trips be conducted under supervision of a licensed guide for each river or section you wish to be legal for.  Now that doesn’t make a real guide, but, along with first aid it does meet the required criteria for becoming a documented one.

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Many hoops come with the territory to help gain official job status as a guide and access to experience is highly varied.  There are numerous books, whitewater schools, or private boaters with enough trips they decide to transmute over to guide status.  But teaching good relationships and developing healthy people skills is a bit trickier and time-consuming.

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A common malady in this profession is that  once  some potential guides develop the proper river skills to run a successful trip, or like  what happens to some of the  more experienced people whom have already guided for a few years,  sometimes egos morph over into self-absorbed show-boating.  Unfortunately, grandiosity is like a disease that makes everyone sick.

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Perhaps susceptibility to this big headed-ness is partially due to the “spotlight effect.”  Commanding attention is an attribute that comes with the guiding territory, as escorting people through the wilds requires such for good leadership. This aspect  can sometimes transgress into behavior for some, similar to a performer being on stage. There is a subtle temptation of always trying to keep the plate spinning and be the center of attention.   The power of theater and drama sometimes magnifies the scene into something more than it really is.  Place is the important quality people usually sign up for when selecting a river trip.  Movies are where you go to purposely be entertained by actors.
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When the run-away horse of such illusions show up, a smart guide should grab the reins to regain the essence of what guiding really is.  Any guide worth their salt should recognize it isn’t about being the focus of the beam; it is more about spreading out the light for others to see things they might have missed without a little help.  There are many things to read from nature’s manuscript, and those who are more familiar with it are better able to help interpret what it is revealing to those who live more sheltered lives while in pursuit of other things.  Attention is the grail by which we see the message. That is, wherever our attention goes, so go we.

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One thing I observed in my early professional years was that the language used by a lot of guides towards guests was often quite condescending.  Calling people degrading names like dudes, peeps, city slickers, or some sort of business referral like customer or client was always a little  embarrassing for me to hear.  If I went to the city,  and being mostly out of my element and lost, it wouldn’t make my experience any better by being called a hill billy, country bumpkin, or ignorant backwoods okie. To me the word “guest” seems much more appropriate in either case when referring to any kind of visitor. It is much warmer and conveys a more welcoming spirit.

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Helping people have an “ah ha” moment is the compound interest gained in an unusual outdoor adventure experience.  You never know when it might happen, but it helps when a guide is able to facilitate that potential by knowingly putting people in special places that are a rich seedbed for such growth to happen. Wisdom comes from nature, and once guides learn this value they can appreciate the importance of setting up circumstances where guests can be put into the middle of that garden of enlightenment.

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If you could ask Lewis and Clark what value a guide has, you would discover how important their guides were to the success of their mission. For example, on the 1806 return trip in June, Lewis and Clark had great apprehension about crossing the snow-covered mountains without guides. They felt they could not cross without them and luckily were able to persuade Speaking Eagle, Black Eagle, and Ahs-kahp, who were three of the very best Nez Perce guides to lead their way. Of course, these were not their only guides, besides them, and Sacagawea who led them a good part of their distance in uncharted territories.

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These guides were as excited then, as guides of today often get when taking modern people into some of the same rugged and beautiful landscapes of today. The Nez Perce were paid with guns which made their hunting easier, while guides today get paid in money which make their livelihoods possible. Though the more esteemed value to both was deeply felt in the heart and spirit where no material thing can be taken. What is life really about, if not to get out and see what there is to see? Inspiration keeps depression at bay.

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But, in the process of getting out and seeing things we have never seen before, it is only reasonable to find a good guide. It can be a writing guide, or human guide, but in either case it is the information and knowledge they contain that we seek. Sure, anyone can go out on their own without consulting any form of guide for true unadulterated exploration. But, aside from that goal, guides help us save time and offer more opportunities to see wonderful things we might otherwise miss. It takes a large chunk of time to make your own trial and error path trying to learn anything new. The learning curve is greatly reduced by piggy-backing someone else’s consumption of time to figure things out.

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Even guides consult other guides, maps, guidebooks, and any source that might provide additional insights into becoming more intimate to an area. Rather it is new country, or a different perspective in familiar country, one can never learn too much. So while adventure isn’t the map, a map still has the advantage to make the adventure less risky and a time effective endeavor.  Dead end trails eat away time and back tracking efforts might cut a designated time trip, to a shorter length, and possibly to even miss the final planned destination.

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Hidden dangers, and dangers not even suspected to be dangers that are known to guides, but not the uninitiated, can mean the difference between failure and success, or in extreme cases life and death. All through time humans have sought the advice of guides, from soothsayers to YouTube, people continue to seek sources to guide their way forward through the march of time.

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As a river guide, I often find myself in places, such as where the Nez Perce guides of yesteryear once stood in awe of their surroundings. Like a special place in the mountains where Speaking Eagle, Black Eagle, and Ahs-kahp stopped before a rock Caryn built by their ancestors to remind travelers to pause and wonder at the meaning of their world. It is said that the voice of Itsiyiyi,  or spiritual Coyote, would sometimes speak to those who listen:

“Frail Human, standing tall with head near the stars above,
Proud-standing, with feet on the birthing-place of rivers,
Safely have you come thus far through these mountains.
How could you tell which way to go?
Looking up, what do you see? Nothing but sky.
Looking down, deep canyons.
Behind – mountains. To right and to left – mountains.
Looking ahead – mountains. Mountains as far as eyes can see.
You, who are a mere Human! How can you find your way?
Something Greater than you has been your Guide.”

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Gary Lane
www.doryfun.com

 

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