By Peta Owens Liston
Five “Mind-ographs” From the Main Salmon River in Idaho. It’s still mid-winter, but I can feel the warmth seeping into my memory as I arrange a series of photos for framing from our rafting trip this past summer on the Main Salmon. I suspect, as it is a cool March morning, that these photographs will trigger the same “mind-ographs” – the flash of memories, like so many snapshots from our family rafting trips have done for me before.
The shot of me on a duckie drifting beneath the steep incline of a mountain and splattering of lodge-pole pines reminds me of the eagle. The one that dove within feet of my duckie, snatching a fish in its talons and splashing me as it took flight up and over me. A wilderness version of “fast food”—and a much healthier one.
Steam rises up around my sons as they soak neck deep in the Barth Hot Springs—a short hike up from the cool waters of the river. Nestled into the side of the mountain, and only accessible by boat, this rock-made, rustic “hot tub” has been rigged to accommodate up to ten people. I can hear the boys exclaiming “ahhhh” as I feel my own body relax into the natural mineral waters.
The green grass and burgeoning vegetable and flower garden in the photo seem “un-river” like until I recall the visit to Allison Ranch on the second day. An old homestead run by a couple, who have self-sustainability down to a fine science, welcomed us on to their property. They leave only 10 to 12 days a year to make the trek to a town for goods. I recall the knife workshop that mesmerized my sons and the ad-hoc museum attached to the workshop full of old photos and letters from previous homesteaders and mountain men.
The scene of guides serving up dinner— Lasagna and a big salad—brings back the memory of garlic, mixed with stars, mixed with the playful gurgle of river riffles, mixed with soft sand beneath my feet. But what I can really hear is the music. Our guide, Russ, classically trained on the violin, would play nightly, “fiddle-style,” under the stars and spotlighted by the campfire flames. “Kickin’ up the Devil on a Holiday,” “The Virginian,” “Johnny’s Gone to France”…the only difference between a violin and a fiddle Russ explains is that a violin has strings and a fiddle has “straangs.” The natural amphitheater of the canyon was unbeatable.
I’ve seen that expression on my son’s face before—it was on the double roller coaster, mid-loop. Pure thrill stamped on his face. The close-up photo catches the spark of fear and excitement and aliveness that happens when you push yourself into a comfort zone that both challenges and delights you. Our guides showed us how to get this thrill, keeping safety in mind…we ran down to one end of the long, rectangular beach and swam out into some frisky, swiftly moving waves, in pairs (adult with a child), we swam the shoot, so to speak, and then did a mad scramble to exit the current and swim for the shoreline, so as not to bypass our camp! “Let’s do it again!” became the chant.
Peta Owens-Liston is a writer and editor with extensive experience in magazine writing and marketing communications writing. Publications she has written for: TIME Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, Organic Style, Paddler, Redbook, Via, KUER/NPR affiliate (radio essays), Park City Magazine, Salt Lake City Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune to mention a few.