HOW DID YOU FIND YOURSELF AT HOLIDAY?
This is one of Frogg’s favorite stories that took place in the early spring of 1983. I was currently unemployed and thought how much fun it would be if I could land a job as a river guide for the summer. Frogg– Founder of the Idaho Holiday operations- lived about five miles out of town so I drove out to his house to let him know that I was interested in guiding. As usual, Frogg was remodeling his home but stopped what he was doing to answer my questions and ask a few of his own. Sometime during the conversation, I mentioned that I had a three-month-old baby waiting out in the car. Depending on who you ask, Frogg or me, you will hear two extremely different lengths of times our newborn daughter stayed out in the cold car by herself.
WHAT YEARS DID YOU SPEND GUIDING
Even after leaving our daughter out in the cold for an undetermined amount of time, Frogg had me go on a number of training trips during the summer of 1983 and was licensed to have guests in my boat by the end of the summer. I guided for Holiday in Idaho until Frogg sold the river permits at the end of the 2017 season. After guiding for forty years, I am fortunate to still be pulling on the sticks.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU LEARNED WHILE AT HOLIDAY THAT HAS STUCK WITH YOU AND HAS BEEN VALUABLE TO LIFE BEYOND THE RIVER?
I have learned countless lessons while working at Holiday, but I am only going to share one that comes to mind right now. It happened the last night of a Lower Salmon River trip, and we were camped at the confluence of the Salmon and the Snake Rivers. Two of the guests were an elderly couple from Canada and they had taken their beach chairs to the downstream end of camp and set them at the water’s edge. August evenings at the bottom end of Hell’s Canyon can be very warm at times, and this couple was taking advantage of the wakes created by the tour boats headed back to Lewiston. The wake would come up to the beach and splash on their legs. This looked very relaxing so I grabbed a chair and joined them. In between the tour boats heading downstream, a smaller, privately owned jet boat, kept going up and down through the rapids directly in front of our camp. Some of the people camped just above us found this to be annoying, so they went out and flagged down the small jet boat. The jet boat came over to the beach, and it did not take too long before each group was cussing, yelling, and threatening to fight each other. At about this same time another tour boat, much larger than the ones prior, was coming downriver. When it went past it created an even larger wake that was headed toward us. The elderly lady looked over at me and asked, “Is it going to upset us?” I replied, “Only if we let it.” She turned toward the wake, and then back to me and said, “You are a wise, old sage.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STRETCH OF RIVER THAT YOU HAVE BEEN ON?
I have been asked this question many times and I have not yet come up with an answer. Each river that I have had a chance to explore has its own special qualities. I enjoy exploring rivers that I have never been down, discovering what they have that is special and unique. I also enjoy floating down rivers that I have seen for the last fifty years because each time it is much like spending time with an old friend.
DO YOU STILL DO RIVER TRIPS?
Since when Holiday sold their river permits here in Idaho, I have called myself, “A Train Wreck Boatman.” Why would I call myself this? Well, I am glad you asked. Being in the guiding business for many years has given me the opportunity to meet many other outfitters and guides. The majority of the river trips that I guide on during the summers now are not ones that I am scheduled to do and are on short notice. Last summer I received a call from an outfitter asking me to do a Main Salmon trip the following day because three of his guides tested positive for COVID the morning of the pack. Other spur-of-the-moment trips that I have done resulted from one of the guides getting injured on the trip, there was a death in the guide’s family, the guide left unannounced mid-season, or for many other reasons, none of them planned. That is why I call myself “A Train Wreck Boatman,” because I am going on the river because something usually unexpected happens.
WHAT ADVICE OR SENTIMENT WOULD YOU SHARE WITH YOUNGER GUIDES WORKING TODAY?
I have been sharing these thoughts with younger guides for the last few years, so sharing them with you is nothing new. I love working and watching younger guides. They have so much energy, ambition, and dreams. I remind them not to take lightly their chance to work as a river guide. There is a small percentage of people their age that will have this opportunity. What other job could you have where you spend your summer with people who are on vacation and want to have fun? What other job could you have where you not only have free “room and board,” get to sleep under the stars, and wake up in the morning to a million-dollar view? You have been blessed, so make the most of it.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MEMORY OF DEE? SUE? FROGG?
You would think I would share a tale or two of Frogg since I worked with him for many years, but I am going to share a story about Dee instead. One spring, Frogg and I went to Utah for a guide training/hiring trip. Frogg was looking for a couple of guides who would be interested in working in Idaho, and he was hopeful that he might find a couple that would work out. The training/hiring trip took place in Desolation Canyon on the Green River. The prospective guides were divided up into different “teams” where one night a group would be in charge of cooking the meals, another group would be in charge of cleaning up, and the other group may have the night off. At one camp, the group that had the night off disappeared to the other side of the island to participate in some “recreational” activity. Not too long after they all disappeared, one prospective guide came out of the tamarisk and back to camp looking for a lighter. When Dee found out what was going on, he said that he wanted the names of the group that had gone to the other side of the island. He was not upset because they went to participate in something “recreational,” but he did not want to hire anyone who did not think ahead about what would be needed for the activity.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST MEMORABLE STORY FROM A RIVER TRIP?
There is nothing to remember about my most memorable river trip. I am guessing that you are already confused and would like an explanation. Well, pay close attention. In the early 1980s, many of my training trips were down the Lower Salmon in a triple rig at high water. “High water” on the Lower is anywhere above 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). In Blue Canyon, about four miles before the confluence with the Snake River, is a constriction rapid called Slide Rapids. During high water, Holiday was the only outfitter on this section of the river and would run trips as high as 60,000 cfs. On this particular “Slide” trip we had a couple dozen adventure-seeking individuals in their 20s and 30s. We arrived at Slide Rapids early afternoon and as usual, we scouted from the left-hand bank. The Salmon was running in the 50,000 cfs range and it was going to be a wild ride. As we walked back to the rafts one of the guests asked me “Has anyone ever run this naked?” I replied, “No.” He asked a second question, “How do you know?” This was easy, “I know because nobody except Holiday is down here at this level.” He asked his third and final question. “Well, can we run it naked?” I answered, “I really don’t care as long as you all are wearing your life jackets.” We shoved off and had a wonderful run through the Slide Rapids. As I mentioned in the first sentence of this story, there was nothing to remember as far as what the guests were wearing when we ran the Slide Rapids ……. except for their life jackets. As a side note. At the end of the trip, we had a group photo of the guests and guides. A copy of this photo hung on the Holiday office wall for years with the caption, “The Bottomless Slide Trip.”
DO YOU HAVE A STORY TO SHARE ABOUT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE WITH A GUEST?
The most positive experiences I have had with guests have come from the admiration that I have had for their positive outlook on life. Take Merle for example. Early into the trip in Hells Canyon on the Snake River, I mentioned to his son, “Your dad is having a difficult time following us in the inflatable kayak.” His reply was, “Yea, he’s blind.” Merle was just following us by sound, and he was good with that. As we would approach a rapid, Merle would say, “This sounds like a big one!” It was not unusual for Merle to flip the IK. At the bottom of the rapid we would pick him up out of the eddy, put him back into his IK, and continue to head on down the river.
Take Weldon for example. Weldon contracted polio when he was younger and had to use crutches attached to his arms in order to walk. Even with these, he was very unstable. Weldon had a difficult time maneuvering on land but loved to “swim.” Every chance there was for him to get into the water and “swim” he asked if he could. In order to keep his life jacket from creeping up around his head, we got a cam strap that was made into a crotch strap that held the life jacket down where it should be. Weldon was so happy when he was in the water where his legs were as good as yours or mine. I have had other guests like Merle and Weldon, and what wonderful role models they are for all of us.
ARE YOU IN TOUCH WITH ANY GUIDES YOU MET DURING YOUR TIME WITH HOLIDAY?
Some of the guides that I worked with over the years with Holiday I see about every week or two. Others, I may not see or hear from for a couple of years or more. What is nice though, is when we do end up getting together at a boat ramp, watering hole, on the phone, on Facebook, or some other random place, it is like we have never been apart.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THESE DAYS?
My wife, Lynnel, and I have just finished building our new home on ten acres. This home has been in the planning for over thirty years. The wainscoting on the front of the house is all natural river rock, collected from about a dozen different rivers here in Idaho. We have three grown children that live less than two hours from our home. We also have three little grandchildren to enjoy. Both Lynnel and I have retired from teaching, but I have flunked retirement and spend many days substituting in the local schools anywhere from second grade to seniors. As I mentioned earlier, I still spend many spring and summer days guiding river trips. Yes, I am living the dream.
WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME?
I still live within a couple of miles of where I was born and raised; Grangeville, Idaho. Our town boasts to have the only stoplight between Oregon and Montana. The county, Idaho County, I live in is larger than a number of northeastern states. In less than ninety minutes I can be to the Snake, Salmon, Selway, Lochsa, or Clearwater Rivers and more. In less time than that, I can be in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area, or the Hells Canyon National Recreational Area. It takes me longer to drive to a fast-food restaurant than it does to a number of rivers or wilderness areas.
DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER BE A RIVER GUIDE AGAIN?
As mentioned earlier, I have spent a substantial amount of time guiding in “Hells.” When I die, my hope is that there are rivers in “Heaven” and there are outfitters who are looking for guides. Rumor has it that there is someone up there who has longer hair, a beard, wears sandals, has the ability to walk on water, and is able to turn water into wine. I would love to do a trip with this legend. Just tonight on the local news I heard the meteorologist mention something about an atmospheric river headed our way. Wouldn’t that be fun!