By Derek Farr

It’s snowing in central Idaho right now. In this time of transition, the sky delivers us wet, heavy snowflakes that fall like celestial cotton balls.

It reminds me of other transitions.

The Salmon River is never late or on time. It moves no faster or slower than the primordial powers that form its deep canyon.  On our five-and-six day trips on the Salmon, time moves at its own pace, unhurried by schedules or appointments. That’s very different from the “real world” most of our customers are escaping when we greet them for the first time.

On day one, the transition between a fast-paced life and a river-paced life has its quirks: a simple glance at a wrist with no watch, or a child’s innocent question, “What time is it?” which is followed with a smile and four words, “We’re on river time.”

On day two, the transition from urban exiles to river denizens happens quickly. Without the interruptions of cell phones, smart pads or cable television, conversations become longer, richer, and more philosophical. Laughter is easy. Exaltation is never far away.

The transition continues. We’ve slowed down, taken deep breaths, and reveled in the steep canyon, the emerald river, and its white beaches.  Strong bonds have grown between trip members and guides, but also between us and the land. It’s a wild land that was here well before any of us were born and will remain long after we’re all gone. We are privileged to briefly visit its eminence.

One day to go and another transition occurs. We begin to reflect on our adventure. We also lament the “real world,” which is lurking in the back of our minds and waiting for our return. Yet the Salmon River still flows, unhurried, through a vaulted landscape of rock and sky. We sit on the beach, our feet digging into the warm top layer of sand until we feel the cool layers below. Austere ponderosa pines grow out of sheer rock on the canyon walls.  We want to stay in this glorious place but we can’t. We’re ecstatic, yet mournful.

The next day, the takeout comes too soon. Nobody wants to leave. “Just a few more days,” we implore. But the trip is over. We say “goodbye” to each other and we thank the Salmon River.

Our hearts are full and our minds are clear. The transition is complete.




Derek started guiding rivers in 1996. He lives in Idaho where he and his wife use every opportunity to experience the natural wonders of that great state.