Invisible Doesn’t Mean Unreal

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If you gaze up at the night sky with the naked eye and catch a glimpse of Jupiter, it would appear simply to be a  solitary bright object high above. But if you were to take an amateur back yard telescope and train it on the same planet, you would discover four moons on a parallel plain surrounding the planet. If you had access to a professional large-scale observatory you would enlarge that view to include twelve moons.

The conclusions we reach about the measure of reality thus becomes changed by depth and scope of additional aids to our vision, and it would soon become evident that things are not always as they seem. In fact, just because something is invisible at first, does not mean that it does not exist.

Nietzsche once said: ” the strongest ties are the invisible ones.”  This is typically true of many things in nature, especially that long-established recognitions by native people’s and ecologists, that all things in the world are interconnected. We might not see how all things are tied together,  but invisible threads do unite everything in natures web. Thus, when something happens to something else, everything is affected by the ripple. Nothing stands alone and can totally escape an impact,  no matter how small it might be.

Many things in nature can be correlated with other things. That is, anything can be correlated to some degree with any other thing. Why? Because everything is connected, rather we can see by how or what those ties might be, they are still there in some form.

A maternal instinct that ties mother to child is held together  by the bond of love. What is love? It is a thread, though perhaps not visible by any man-made means, but very real, all the same.  The thread is invisible to the eye, but can be felt by the heart.  The same can be said of romantic relationships, and many other emotional ties that humans experience during their life time. Human nature is just a part of natural nature.

In my world, this time of year is when I spend time steelhead guiding. When fishing, getting a line in front of fish for a potential bite, is the name of the game. While those lines may be hard to see, sometimes even invisible, they are still real. In fact, to a fish it  can mean the difference between life or death.

Why are unseen connections such an important principle of natural law?  Because it means that what we do as an individual or community, does matter.  It is the foundation for taking personal responsibility for our own actions. The significance of this might best have been described by  Chief Seattle: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

So it becomes relevant that we might also take a lesson from Zen: “the frog does not drink up all the water in the pond in which it lives.” This might be a more  philosophic way of applying one of the most basic laws of science:  Conservation of Energy. It says that  energy  cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one state to another. Fundamentally, the idea of paying attention to how man impacts (potential change) natural resources became the basis for the concept of “Conservation” and “Environmentalism.” It is the “change” part that we must pay close attention to.  Converting winter grounds for deer and elk to subdivisions for trophy homes, to  draining wetlands for farming, or shopping centers, everything we do matters. Our actions cause change.  However, nature cares not, as good or bad is always a human value judgement. The problem is  that  often  the good for a few , is bad for the  many.

Oil spills in the Gulf is a good example of this, yet some politicians and social pressures continue to fight for still more drilling there, as well as more  pipeline plans  to accommodate yet more extraction of the same energy sources that lead to climate change in a man-made negative way. All this ignorance of collective history,  rather  than to search for cleaner, safer alternative energy resources to invest in for the future, comes at a perilous cost.

Why does this matter to me, a simple river guide? I use wooden boats, and motor vehicles to escape into the river world to leave all my cares behind.  I still depend on extraction of natural resources to get me into areas left in their natural state. So,  escapism is a relative term. We can’t really escape from ourselves, no matter where we go. But we can find places to enjoy enough solitude to allow ourselves time enough to slow down and examine more closely our inner workings and who we are.

When we travel to the river to get away, we are still tied to the outside world by those invisible threads that binds all things together in one way or another. One web, but many strands. When people come to the river, they soon get connected to all kinds of invisible ties. They don’t leave them at home or get disconnected.

Often people on trips ask me what I do for a living in the real world?  As if my job is happening in an unreal world, I ask them to explain what they mean by real. It is easy for people to lose sight of these minute connections that bonds everything together in the one world we all share.  But it also brings home to me, how important it is to maintain the integrity of the ever shrinking wild places, because they allow us a crucial  place to temporarily escape and have a chance to  smell the flowers.  With enough time for  slowing  down,  we might catch up to our run-away selves,  so we can  ponder the question of rather we should leave the flowers alone, or pick them  all for a slow death in a vase. A conservationist would say leave a few flowers for a seed source.  A native elder might remind us about the importance of doing things during our life time with respect to how it will impact the “Seventh Generation.”

We might not see the invisible hand of nature, but it is very real, all the same. If we don’t want to get spanked, then we better  pay close attention to our own actions.

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Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Salmon Ceremony on Salmon River

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For thousands of years the Chinook Salmon have been returning from the Pacific ocean to spawning grounds in the major and minor tributaries of the colossal  Columbia River watershed.  The First Nation Peoples subsisted on annual returns of these monster sized salmon and always celebrated their seasonal gift of life.  Various ceremonies by different tribes were derived to welcome the fish back and promote good will between people and animals.

Indigenous Peoples often viewed animals  as their own separate nation of “beings”  and given respect for their particular place in the web of all life. Simply “being” is honored as an important significance for placement in the biological scheme of time and space on the planet. All Mother Earths creatures are important and have purpose.

Ah, that word “purpose”.   This fundamental idea that all things have purpose or meaning has given man a gut-ache throughout all time and had caused much bloodshed over millenniums. Revelations from one place or another, real or imaginary, gave rise to various customs and religions. Often group gatherings developed  many codes of conduct to suit each following and established behavioral systems to guide the followers.

Unfortunately, many belief systems caused people to become selfish over who belonged to the right club and held the correct ticket into an after world where rewards were awaiting those who were the best followers of the prescribed religion.  Even killing of fellow humans who were in different clubs was allowed and often promoted to  help gain perceived holy entitlements.

Historically, most primal Peoples placed a high priority on responsible behavior in this world, not an after world. Their worldveiw saw all life sacred, all with equal footing as a part of the whole, and placed here by the Great Mystery.  Anglo Peoples favored an etheral after world to shift their responsibilities to, and thus justified poor behavior in the real world by sins that were a born  inheritance  to man anyway. Why worry so much about this world, with paradise awaiting in the next one?

In European cultures with God as a centerpiece, and revelations that described man at the center of an earthly presence and all animals put on the planet strictly for  humans gave rise to domination and massive exploitations of most natural resources.  It also came at the expense of subjugating other Peoples and cultures as a means to ends.

In the US, as European expansion advanced across the nation, displacing one tribe after another under the umbrella of Manifest Destiny, a path of darkness followed.  In just a blink of geologic time, disruption of life processes that had been happening for thousands of years, suddenly changed drastically in less than two centuries.   Reservations were established to institute First Nation Peoples, forests were cleared, agriculture replaced nomadic inclinations for food, modern technologies mushroomed,  and fish and game in many cases became threatened with extinction.  The passenger pigeon did succumb to oblivion, the buffalo nearly did, and salmon are also still on the brink of questionable recovery.

Not until wisdom prevailed and a few concerned second nation people came around to establishing the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation to safeguard fish, wildlife, and habitat, through scientific inspired policies, did a bridal get thrusted onto  such a run-away horse. Many success stories of recovered fish and wildlife were gained, but many are still of questionable concern.

To this day, all Peoples still face great environmental challenges in keeping the biological systems in good working order.  The Chinook Salmon runs that has made the entire Columbia River a world-class fishery and life-giving source to people and other wildlife, is in peril.

Aside from treaty obligations with native people, whom could always fish for iconic salmon in their historic places, white culture was prevented from fishing for these same fish for nearly 30 years, due mostly to dams plugging up the river system. It was not until 2001, that white people were granted permission to fish again. Why?  Hatchery fish, is the simple answer.

When dams were first put in the Columbia River, it was known that the fishery would suffer, so mitigation dollars were established to build hatcheries and give an artificial aid to the wild run.  Though, wild fish are still endangered, ocean conditions in 2001 finally gave rise to enough hatchery fish to open a season for the white angler.

But for how much longer will the salmon continue to return?  Downward trending  wild fish  are the seed source for hatchery fish, and with each improvement of hatchery populations, integrity of gene pool propagation is diminished. Long term viability of sustainable annual runs is highly debatable.

A consensus of fisheries scientists that have been studying the decline for over 30 years account dams as being the biggest threat to run survival over time. They give an 80% chance of success if four dams on the Snake River are breached. That any suggestion that a dam, or four, should be taken out and was given serious consideration, was astounding to those of us who had always joked about the potential of yanking such concrete monsters out of canyons to let natural flow prevail.

But in 2000, ground zero for public hearing about such barrier removals happened in Lewiston , Idaho.  While those hearings are a story in itself, one of the over-all results of this public event, for the local Riggins community of concerned citizenry, led to what is now our 11th annual Salmon Ceremony on Salmon River.

I tossed the original idea out amongst the five  of us, “Free the River Cohort Conspirators” as we drove homeward towards Riggins from the controversial and adversarial official dam hearing, to establish a welcome home salmon nation ceremony locally.  The idea was to let fish know, by some unseen, spiritual, or Great Mystery connection, that there are still humans that recognize the salmon’s gift and appreciate their return. Politics and commericalism aside, this event was to simply be a ground zero appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things natural.

Since Indian Peoples have been doing this for centuries, and because the two divergent cultures share the same natural resources, it seemed appropriate to invite the Nez Perce People to participate. What better way is there to help heal old wounds and improve mutual understandings between different cultures, than a  face to face gathering to appreciate an iconic fish that is a common thread to all people?

Horace Axtel, a spiritual leader of the Nez Perce people, agreed to participate and is the official facilitator of the ancient ceremonial part of our salmon gathering.  We gather on the banks of the Salmon River, at Spring Bar, ten miles upriver of Riggins, Idaho in the later part of May each year. Actual dates sometimes change at the last-minute, due to circumstantial Nez Perce ceremonies that Horace is sometimes called upon to officiate at unpredictably.

Once everyone is present, those wishing to participate  gather along the banks of the river to  follow an ancient ritual, then hop into dory boats, (if interested and with enough room) to make three sacred circles in the giant eddy water of the Salmon River. My boat will lead off with Horace and other elders singing and drumming ancient songs welcoming the fish back. Other boats follow quietly behind for each of three circles, before landing, and anyone is welcome to bring their own boat or raft to join the eddy circles.

Afterwards, people gather in a circle on the beach, with a talking stick passed counter-clockwise for each person to say what comes to mind about salmon and people. Upon completing the circle a pot luck is held where food and visiting ends the day.  This year the ceremony is on May 26, 2012 at 2pm.

Last year, we incorporated a “Salmon Shield” into the ceremony to be passed back and forth each year between the two cultures. It represents the all inclusive salmon cycle, gifting, and a human appreciation between all cultures.

Please leave dogs at home out of respect for other participants, bring a dish of  food to share, your own eating utensils & plates and your non- alcoholic beverage. This is a non-alcoholic event, not a football game tailgate party. A pure heart is all that is required.

Does the Owyhee Country Cause Schizophrenia?

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I doubt that anything in the Owyhee air causes schizophrenia. However, based on some local history, it seems that it might have the ability to attract those with a split mind. At least, two characters of the 1800’s whom were attracted to this area were of a two world  mindset. The white world, and Indian World, both representing opposite world views. Thus, each side of the brain might have been at war with the other, in trying to make sense of the world.

One such figure was Jean Bapsiste Charbonneau,  son of John Touissant Charbonneau, and his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea. Being born of mixed blood, and having an  up-bringing which included schooling in America (via Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame) and Europe (via Prince Paul Wilhelm – Wuertmberg, Germany), all contributed to his life adventure in learning two worlds. And,  in more ways than just two.  He also left the high-minded aristocratic and institutionalized  world for a life of wild mountain man abandonment, for a while.  Then yet,  another time he accepted an appointment to be a civilian authority on rancheros to oversee Indian people. Later he was lured by   gold at the end of the rainbow in Montana, that may have his connection to the Owyhee Country.

Somewhere near Rome, where we launch our river trips of today, he may have fallen in the water, which later contributed to his catching pneumonia. You can pick between a couple of rumors  of what may have happened. One, the stage he was riding between Winnemucca and Montana, turned over in the river when crossing. Or, two, he got bucked off a horse and fell into the river, rather than the stage incident. Either way, it led to his death by pneumonia, and he was buried near Danner, Oregon (not far from the river) in May 16, 1866 at the age of 61,

The second person who may have been also afflicted by the schizophrenic Owyhee winds, was Sarah Winnemucca. Although mixed genes did not flow through her veins, having been born to full blood Paiutes, she did evolve into a blend of cultures. In fact, she was the first Indian woman to publish a book in the English language (Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims.).

Born “Thoc-me-to-ny” (Shell flower) in 1844, she grew up at the  same time in history when two cultures occupied the same landscape. Thus,  she also had a foot in two different worlds. Through  academia in the white world, it  helped her become an astute diplomate for Indian policy and important activist for her own people.  Her experiences, like Charbonneau, were widely varied and rich in color.

Sarah was the daughter of Chief Winnemucca (Poito), whom she claimed was chief of all Northern Paiute. This spawned her reference to the white press of the day, as the Paiute Princess. In reality, this was a stretch, because there was no centralized leader for the Paiute, and her father was only a leader of a small band.

She was also involved with the Bannock War, scouting and carrying messages for the Army. She documented such engagements and some descriptions were quite comical, due to the fact that both side rarely shot to kill because each liked the other, so much. At the end of the Bannock War, the Paiute people she advocated for, were forced to march to the Yakima Reservation in the Washington Territory. Though, she was not forced to live there herself, due to her connections with the military, and being there only as an interpreter.

This led to her lecture tours about the plight of her people, culminating in a trip to Washington DC with her father in 1879-80, which resulted in permission to  return for the Paiutes to the Malheur Reservation closer to home.  Though, it took many years for that to actually happen.

Later she met an Indian Department employee while lecturing in California, which gravitated into marriage and another lecture tour. Eventually tuberculosis caught up to her and she died in 1887, after four years of a life retired from public involvement.

The last two interesting antidotes to accompany this rather  schizophrenic oriented story: Charbonneau appears with his mother as an image on a the commemorative silver dollar, and Princess Winnemucca  has an honorary statue of her in our nations capital.   In both cases, they are  colorful icons and an appropriate historic reminder  of a mysterious  Owyhee  desert  dichotomy.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website:

or (more pics)  Facebook page:


Bigfoot of the Owyhee

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When dawn breeds a new day in the Owyhee country, it might be possible to get a glimpse of a desert Bigfoot.  It is known in these parts that there once roamed a legendary giant haunting the ridges and wild remoteness of this isolated  badlands.    Large foot tracks laid down  in many places for a good number of years during the mid 1800’s, give evidence of its presence.  Measured tracks were around 18 inches long and were found in far-ranging areas, often covering over 80 miles in a single night. Depredations against the local settlers and miners  were often a result of encounters with Bigfoot. But not, against the indigenous Indians in the same area.  Why?  Because this Bigfoot of yester-year, was actually an Indian who was almost the size of modern-day bigfoot, as so described by those claiming a hairy encounter with such.

Bigfoots real name was “Oulux” to his Indian friends. They also called him “Nampuh,” which is where the name of Nampa, Idaho, comes from. He stood 6’8″ tall, had a chest girth of 59 ” and weighed around 300 pounds – all muscle and bone.  No fat, as that would work contrary to the almost miraculous feats Bigfoot left in the wake of his travels. For years the whites were terrorized by his presence, with a little help from the repetitively  enlarged fantasies of their own making. Such is the mechanism that many legends are made of.  Filtering out truth from fiction is always a historical challenge.

But, no doubt, Bigfoot was real, and he made an ever lasting place for himself in the mirages  of the Owyhee landscapes.   His ghost might still be seen today, from time to time, by those with larger imaginations. He was also blamed for many murders and attacks on wagon trains along the Oregon Trail.  Some legitimate, some not. But, the rumor mill has always been a way to cast dispersion and unsupportable evidence for many irrational concoctions.  Specially so, in Bigfoots case, as was indicated  by the $1000 price tag on his head.

He also had light skin, and in reality was not a full-blooded Indian. He was part white, part black, and part Cherokee, none of which were of native blood to the area. But based on his mean personality, one might conclude this was a bad gene mix.  Before his Indian  name, he was known as Starr Wilkinson.  As a kid, he was bullied about his size by other kids, which boiled his blood and ignited  enough  anger that he almost killed a few of them. So, more likely it was by poisonous  social norms, than a bad gene inheritance that  rendered his inclination towards the darker side of character that  normally gets revved up by anger.

Later on he had troubles with a woman whom became his girlfriend on a wagon train heading west, when another man stole her away. One thing led to another, and soon he killed the rival ( a white named Hart), by choking,  then threw  him into the Snake River.  But only after having first  been shot by him in the side. Not long after that, near the Boise River, he met a french trapper named Joe Lewis. He had been in party with the Indians of the  Whitman Massacre at Waiilatpu, and still lived with them.  So Bigfoot joined this nefarious band of trouble makers and  continued on with them in their raids and murderous rampages.

Eventually, around 1857, Bigfoot and his blood thirsty companions attacked a wagon train at the confluence of the Boise and  Snake rivers. All of these immigrants were killed, including his girl friend of old, who,  by chance alone was on that wagon train.  Afterwards, many more raids were made over the years,  with Bigfoot having killed so many people, he soon lost count. Thus, spawned his “Dead or Alive” price tag, not to mention a raised level of fear for all who traveled through the Owyhee country.

He continued to amaze the brave souls who pursued him, with his unbelievable abilities to cover so much ground in such a short time. It also gave him a reputation of  being able to outdistance a good horse.  One time, he escaped capture when two of his compatriots were shot beside him, by jumping into the Snake River and swimming to the other side. His camp was found later on, where only the bones of two salmon remained, as Bigfoot had doubled back and re-swam the river again to escape.

Eventually, the consequences of cause and effect caught up to Bigfoot. He was killed in July of 1868, with 16 bullets that was required for such, by a questionable lawman named John Wheeler.  This lawman turned outlaw shortly there after, and has a personal history worthy of another story all its own.

Bigfoot is now gone, but his spirit still rides the scowling winds of the lonely Owyhee landscape. Even shapes of the landscape itself give stone  testimony to a hint of Bigfoots presence.

You might still get a chance to see his ghost. That is, if you are of the mind-set which favors a vivid imagination and is easily swayed by the legends and fanciful lore of times gone by.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website:

or (more pics)  Facebook page:

How Alone Do You Want To Be?


It may be true, you will always be lonely, if you don’t like the one you are with, because from the get-go,  that other person is always yourself  So you can’t escape your own skin. However, you can escape your situation, if the need arises, at least temporarily at the minimum.  For those whom are completely at home with themselves, yet get a stomach full of crowds and putting up with other people’s baggage, there is hope. There are places one can go to actually experience what good, healthy, “aloneness” actually feels like.

Why healthy?  When the body is sick, even with whatever medicine is taken, it still requires rest to help make for a good recovery. So when the ills of everyday, rampant living, gets overwhelming, what to do?  Vacation. Vacate. Get out. Far out.   And I know just the place for that. It is where I go that gives me that since of what aborigines must feel when they do their walkabout in the vast out-reaches, where one can almost outrun their shadow.

In the Southeast corner of Oregon is a river called the Owyhee.  It flows through a high desert plateau, that is so remote, even an Aborigine might get lost.  At least the Aborigines, in this case, ancestors to the Paiute people, found refuge here before getting lost in time.  The only thing left that gives  hint to their presence is their etchings in the rocks at various places in the canyon.  It is fun trying to figure out what their messages to the future meant, but real answers have  drifted away with their passing into history.

One of the biggest beauties for me, is the feeling of being absorbed by the canyon, and taken into a world filled with isolation.  Even when making side hikes to the rim of the canyon itself, on top, the mesa plateaus stretch far out into a distance where everything from you to the horizon line is filled with nothing but  raw nature. Not a sign of man, anywhere. Just sage brush, mountain mahogany, and rolling hills where even the far  off wind is lonely.

The mixing smell  of sage, flowering primrose, and arrowleaf balsamroot  on the upper desert floor, is an interesting contrast to the clean crisp aroma of air that is so far away from everything, it might have escaped the pollutions of society. Fresh air filtering through the nostrils is a simple pleasure many people have been away from for so long, they forgot exists.  It just takes the right place, to get the right smell.


The Owyhee River, for me, is the right place. It is one of my favorite rivers and escapes.  It’s unreal character is almost like stepping into the Twilight Zone, where another parallel world exists. One where each bend in the river, or step around every corner when hiking the side canyons leads into something exciting. Astonishment is perhaps the better word here. It helps give me that fulfillment of my expectations of what paradise must feel like.

Sometimes I even feel like whistling that famous tune from Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarfs, as the words “Hi ho, hi-ho,  its off to work we go,” roll through my mind as the song leaves my puckered lips.  Mixing my voice with that of the canyon help me feel like being one with the universe. It is like being in the smack  middle of the magic kingdom of my own making, yet is a stark reality, at the same time.

The closest thing I can compare it to for other people who have traveled the world, is the Grand Canyon. It is like floating through a miniature copy of that world heritage site. Yet, it has far less traffic than does one of the worlds most popular  destinations. That is the Owyhee’s saving grace. That, and the fact that this place can only be reached by river during the spring time. The rest of the year, water levels are too low to comfortably float. Unless walk and wade, line/carry your boat, and hardship expedition adventuring is your cup of tea, that is.

Having made over a hundred trips down this river drueing my personal history  of river running, my favorite time here is April and May.  On average, the river is runnable  from early March through the end of May. Though, in extreme snowpack years, the floating can extend into June.

While it is true, other floaters can sometimes be seen, it is not a river that sees congested use like most of the other well-known and popular rivers in North America. Another reason I like it so.  But words can only do so much justice to any thing or any place, so with that, and for now, I will let the pictures work their magic.

Oh. One last thing. If there is anyone out there in the blogosphere reading this post, and is inspired enough to want to make a trip with us this season, now is the time to make reservations.  We expect good run-off (some years there is not enough snowpack for good floating) and will be launching on Saturdays in April and May.  We are not sure about June, as yet??

Give us a call: 800-488-9872

6 days of bliss

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Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

For more river trip information, please go to our website:

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Great River In The Sky


On a moonless night, gazing out into the stellar trail of the Milky Way which stretches from horizon to horizon, I get a huge sense of smallness similar to what I feel when peering out over earthly landscapes that extend as far as the eye can see.  Often during private and commercial river trips, we make stops to explore side canyons and hike to vantage points with panoramic  view-scapes where one can see into the far beyond.

But, as small as an earthbound geology can make me feel, it pales in comparison to what i experience at night when camped along the river’s edge, staring out into a Milky Way that looks like an astral river of its own nebulous parameters.  It is only an oblong arm of our own spiral galaxy, on but one sun amidst that of 400 billion others.  Then by holding my arm out against the sky and looking through a hole made by my fingers the size of a dime, with the right telescope I could see over 100 other galaxies.  In Stanely Kubrick’s famous line in the movie 2001, it makes me feel ” like a tiny dust mote whirling about the immensity of space.”  The bigger the bigness of such numbers makes me appreciate the smaller my smallness in the world.

The language of the universe is the calculus of mathematics. According to Carl Sagan, if I were to count one number at a time, every second, for 24 hours per day, it would take me over a week to reach one million, and half a life time to reach a billion.  How unfathomable is that? Just how minutely infintestimal are we in the big picture, all-inclusive  scheme of things?    But it does take duality of the cosmos to help us appreciate the differentiation of our significance amongst the stars. You cannot have a true understanding of anything without knowing its opposite.  You can’t go somewhere if you came from no where. From elephant to ant, or glacier to silt, it takes the polarity of radical ends to make the comparisons possible.

If we did not have science and the ability to learn from its measurable evidence, when I gaze up at a star in the night sky, it would look like the size of a pin head, and I would think my own body size was much bigger.   Perhaps I would see the sun come up, stream across the sky, then go down, to return  habitually again every day, yet never know it was our own earth spinning that makes it appear to make such a  heavenly arc. Or maybe I would see the reflections of deer in the water and think that may those images were real animals living in the river?

A mind left unattended might go blank, but one working over time can conjure up all kinds of superstitions to make sense of the world. Perhaps the stars are turned on by some invisible creature in the sky, after the sun goes down, then turns them off when the sun comes up the next morning?  Our minds have a natural acclivity to find answers to any unknown mystery that confronts our physical senses.

Unlike world religions, which already claim to know where everything comes from and to where it is going, the un-absolutism of science is forever filled with a never-ending search for truth in an infinite universe.  It is hard to wrap a mind around the concept of infinity, as it is a mighty ponderance  trying  ever to understand a Great Mystery that has no final answers.  But, like floating earthy rivers, and the stellar ones in our imaginations, it is the movement  from point  A to B that provides the essence of the journey.  Similar to science, floating rivers is a joy of discovery and  enlightenment around each bend, and a  feeling of triumph at  the end of  each successful run through lively whitewater rapids that enriches  man’s mortal spirit. The Great Mystery lives around every corner and make me appreciate my home on the small Blue Dot.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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Skating For Goldfish


Are you kidding?  Goldfish in Idaho’s Salmon River? Well, not quite, but close.  A couple of miles, upriver of Riggins, is a place called Shorts Bar. It is a place where the river is mellow and has deposited a huge sand bar over the years,  that looks like something you would see in Hawaii.  This is part of the beauty of the free-flowing Salmon River – natural recruitment of sand each year all along the entire course of the 425 miles of river.

Many years ago, a large area parallel to the river and just upriver of the huge sand bar at Shorts Bar, was dredged out and made into a pond.  Water was pumped out of the main river into the new hole in the ground. It was used for storing logs, to be used later at the local saw mill.  The pond was also part of a gold mining operation, in those years of old.

Somewhere down the line, a person or persons, introduced some gold-fish into the pond. For generations these goldfish have been living in the pond for 60 years or so.  But, most amazing to me, is that I have been in the area for nearly half those 60 years, and have been going past this pond without ever knowing about the goldfish. (I didn’t go to school here, so not savvy to all the local insider’s  scuddle).

I have even used this pond for doing flip practice in dory boats and rafts.  Just in case we have an overturned boat during our whitewater season, it is always nice to be prepared for getting boats back to their right side up position, in a quick and safe fashion. Not that this happens very often (it doesn’t), but it is still best to be ready for even one tip-over.  Practice is the name of the game.

However, this winter, a friend began ice skating here and invited me to go, also telling me about his discovery of the gold-fish thing. (he didn’t go to school here either). But, when he found some skates for me, I took him up on his offer. Then he surprised me more with his scheme to actually catch one of these gold-fish to take pictures of. I guess he needed proof to other disbeliever’s??

A spaghetti strainer affixed to a ski pole with duct tape, like some sort of metalized butterfly net, turned him into an ice skating fish-hunter version of a lepidopterist. The gold-fish had grouped up in a shallow portion of the pond, where ice was thin, and easy for us to get close too. by team effort, we managed to catch one, for a quick picture on the ice and fast return back to  it’s home.

The group size was maybe 150 – 200 fish, ranging in body length of from 3 inches to a foot long. Most were around 4-5 inches in size. Luckily, none, that I know of, ever made it to the Salmon River, as there is no inlet or outlet to the pond.  Also, spring floods never get high enough to inundate the pond for potential escapism.

As far as I know, no other fish reside in the pond.  This is fortunate for  goldfish, because small mouth bass, which live in the Salmon RIver are highly carnivorous. While releasing exotics into native waters is against the law, the small mouth bass were introduced into the Salmon River.  Apparently, we humans stretch our value systems to accommodate things we like, and work at preventing those we don’t from entering our waterways and landscapes.

It would appear we are a bit of a schizophrenic culture.

Sorry, we don’t do gold fishing trips.
(because it’s hard to get a boat down a frozen river)

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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