PEAK TO VALLEY
Stopping at a roadside pullout to stretch our legs and grab a quick bite to eat from our trailer kitchen, we are greeted with a view that stretches for miles and miles. These are the views that greet you in Idaho and instantly, I feel at home.
There is something about Idaho that comforts me. The lure of the beauty found here from the glorious mountains to the cool rushing rivers and green valleys down below welcome us back time after time.
This time we have quite the road trip agenda, packed full of picturesque campgrounds and heart pumping outdoor activities. We begin our trip with a white water rafting experience through Hells Canyon. Our basecamp before our white water adventure is at the pristine McCall RV Resort in the alpine town of McCall, Idaho.
It is the 4th of July weekend and we set up camp flying our American flag proudly. The boys run off to get their fishing lines wet at the river below and I make dinner with some fresh caught halibut I picked up in Seattle’s Pike Place Market prior to our trip. A simple halibut burger for dinner and we’re set.
After dinner we enjoy a swim in the pool before heading back to our campsite to meet our friends Kurt and Heidi Armacost. Kurt and Heidi run Hells Canyon Raft and have graciously stopped by to give us clear instruction on where to meet the following morning as well as how to properly pack up our wet bags that will keep our belongings nice and dry. I am bit nervous about our trip but am reassured by Kurt and Heidi that it will be a safe and fun experience. I take comfort in their 31+ years of experience rafting Hells Canyon and realize that if anyone knows the canyon the best, it would be them.
We make a campfire that night and just relax. We can hear the river running nearby and take in our surroundings. It is so incredibly peaceful here and our site couldn’t be more perfect as far as I am concerned.
The next day arrives and we hop into the truck and drive to our meeting point where other guests on the trip are waiting. We all climb into the Hells Canyon Raft van and we are whisked away into the canyon for an unforgettable trip.
Our adventure begins with a relaxing float down the river before we are greeted with some wild water. I make sure B is holding on to every possible solid connection on the raft and I beg him to “hold on,” and he does. “Mommy, don’t worry!” I hang on for dear life, close my eyes and we enter a class 4 rapid. Our raft plunges down, then up and over the waves gliding ever so effortlessly. At that moment I knew that this trip would be safe and fun. Clearly our guides are very experienced know what they’re doing and I finally relax and revel in the excitement.
In addition to the rapids, there are also other activities to enjoy in the canyon such as rewarding hikes with stellar views.
The Snake riverside is dotted with many (now historic) homesteads built in the late 1800s. Each homestead we explore has its own special fruit tree growing from apricots to cherries that the settlers planted from way back when. One homestead was sprinkled with millions of tomatillo plants. Amazing.
One homestead we visited that remains clear in my mind is the Kirkwood Ranch, home of the Jordan family. In the depression years of the 1930s the Jordan family was desperate and bought a sheep ranch in the Canyon to try to reverse their failing fortunes. They lived with their children at Kirkwood Ranch for several years and had a few neighbors scattered up and down the canyon.
The Jordans left the Kirkwood Ranch at the beginning of World War II and Len Jordan went on to become a U.S. Senator which I think was quite a feat considering the hard times he must have endured during the depression and homesteading on the ranch.
As we explore the ranch we notice cherry tree after cherry tree and everyone is free to pick to their hearts desire. Hubby and B are busy picking as I walk around mesmerized at the life once lived here in the canyon and how difficult it must have been.
Eventually it was time to retire for the evening. We arrived at our camp where our tents were set up for us and dinner in the portable outdoor kitchen was well underway. Our guides are masterminds at packing and transporting everything one could ever possibly need while on a trip of this nature. I was truly impressed with the dinner spread they put on.
We enjoyed Dutch oven melted brie that has been wrapped in a garlic butter phyllo dough and topped with the most delicious cherry chutney.
I learned that the chutney was created with the cherries from the Kirkwood Ranch. The guides like to pick fruit from the different homesteads they visit during trips and bring the harvest back to Heidi, who then works her magic on creating culinary masterpieces to share with river guests.
How special, I thought!
The following morning we woke to golden sunshine and the smell of hot coffee wafting through the air. Our guides were busy cooking up breakfast sandwiches for us and all the guests congregated down by the river to enjoy this beautiful, sunny morning.
Around breakfast, we discussed our plans for the day. More river rafting, hiking, exploring and just relaxing was on the agenda. Fishing was a given and it was a pleasure for hubby and I to watch B reel in fish-after-fish. For him, our little fisherman, it was the trip of a lifetime and we could tell he was so happy.
At the end of our trip we thanked our guides, said goodbye to our new friends we made on the trip, and headed back to the McCall RV Resort where our road trip adventure would continue taking us back through Oregon’s Strawberry Wilderness, where an evening of boondocking awaited us.
We were so surprised at the amount of available camping there was to be had in Oregon. We pretty much had our pick of the best campsites during this trip and we will never forget it. Oregon is truly a mecca for camping so if you haven’t already; put it on your list of places to visit, especially the Strawberry Wilderness, if boondocking is your cup of tea.
The Troutfarm Campground in the Malheur National Forest was our next destination. We chose Site #3, creekside and I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The beauty of this campground was absolutely pristine and the nearby lake was full of big fat beautiful fish. This campground is strictly dry camping and we were just fine with that.
A crackling fire kept us warm as the sunny summer day turned to a crisp, chilly night. We enjoyed dinner next to the campfire and shared memories of our trip so far.
“Mommy? Where are we going tomorrow? Will be able to fish again?” B asked.
When we arrived at our next campsite the following day, his wish for fishing came true and this mom couldn’t have been happier for the boy.
We were camped in site #1 at the Wickiup Campground in Malheur National Forest. Right across from our campsite was a pocket of water for B to fish from. The entire pocket was knee high for B and was teeming with fish. Talk about fishing Heaven as this boy was in it.
Unbeknownst to us, our road trip was turning into a fishing trip of sorts since every campsite we have visited thus far offered up some excellent fishing opportunities. Our dry campsite at Ochoco Lake Campground in Pineville, Oregon was no exception. Our site, #11 had a beautiful view of the lake that was full of fish, specifically bass.
Our last campsite during our trip was at the fun filled Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs, Oregon. We were in site #55 with full hookups, which, after a few days of dry camping was Heavenly (read: Air Conditioning). Pulling into the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort was like experiencing a mirage in the Mojave dessert. A big, beautiful blue pool, green grass, sprinklers spraying sparkly water. What a sight it was to behold!
The next morning was a trip I was really looking forward to. It was a fly-fishing trip down the Deschutes River and I was going to be taught the art of fly-fishing. Finally, after years of winging it, I was going to learn the proper techniques and I could hardly wait.
Matt Carter, our guide from Deschutes River Outfitters begins to show me how it is done. Matt is a super talented angler and has been featured in many magazines and recently was featured on the cover of Fly Fisherman. In addition, each summer he travels to Mongolia as a fly fishing guide. This guy knows what he is doing and I hang onto his every word.
Nate Turner, our other guide teaches me some other very interesting and useful techniques that after a few entanglements of my line, I soon master. Did I mention these guys are super patient? Yeah. That’s an important trait to look for in someone who will teach you how to fish.
Nate also teaches me how to identify the different bugs that the fish are feeding on in the river. He carefully inspects the underbellies of rocks on the shore and tells me to match the bugs on the rocks to what is in my fly box. This lesson along with so many others throughout the day has definitely improved my fly-fishing.
We spent our day floating down the river experiencing some incredible views. Matt and Nate would remind us every so often to have a sip of water as the temperature was soaring but being inside of the boat and on the river you couldn’t tell. Preventing dehydration is important and these guys were on the top of their game with that. We eventually went to shore to enjoy a riverside lunch of grilled chicken skewers and a cool crisp salad while continuing to fish from the shore.
Then came the moment of heart pumping fear for me. It was time to Chute the Chutes. Literally. The White Horse Rapids were ahead. These rapids are a class III+ (note the +). Class III simply means there are high and irregular waves, strong eddies, narrow but clear passages that require expertise in maneuvering and scouting from the shore is recommended. The + means it can get way more gnarly than that. I learn that kayakers from all over the world travel here to experience them. There are countless forums online dedicated to discussion of this particular rapid. This is all Nate tells me. All I can think is that we are not in a nimble kayak but rather in a heavy hard bottom drift boat and we are going to go through this?! What?!
But I trust Matt and Nate because they are confident and ensure me they know exactly what they are doing. So with that, I place all my 43 years of life into their hands along with that of my husband, son and little dog. We hang on tight and go for it.
The feeling of accomplishment of surviving that rapid was one I will never forget! Talk about an adrenaline rush. It is only afterwards when we hear other news about the rapids and horror stories. I’m so grateful that we are continuing along our float down this river and I am even more grateful that Nate spared me those stories until after our wild ride.
We eventually reach the put out on the river and it’s time to head back to camp. I am ever so grateful to Matt and Nate for teaching us some invaluable fishing skills and showing us the beauty of the Deschutes River.
We floated 39 miles down this glorious river today. We wanted to experience what it would be like to do a typical three day float in just one day (because #1 we were short on time and #2 we could absolutely NOT pass up this experience floating the Deschutes River).
We head back to our campsite at Kah-Nee-Ta Warm Springs Resort where we enjoy the rest of our evening before waking up and early to hit the road back to Seattle.
This trip will forever remain vivid in our memories and it couldn’t have happened for us had it not been for the RVing lifestyle we have chosen to live. I am forever grateful to this lifestyle that offers up non-stop outdoor adventures that our young son can experience. I can only hope that when he grows up, he too will share experiences like these with children, and his children – with their children. What a beautiful memory making machine our silver trailer has been and continues to be.
I would also like to thank Heidi Armacost from Hells Canyon Raft for sharing her Cherry Chutney recipe. It’s an absolutely delicious, mouthwatering concoction that takes me back to Hells Canyon each and every time I make it. I hope you enjoy it.
In ending, I wonder and would love to hear, do you have any favorite spots in Idaho we should put on our list to visit? I especially would love to hear about any great photography opportunities within this beautiful state you think I should not miss.
Speaking of photography, this is how I carry my camera gear during our RVing adventures. I have repurposed a diaper bag that is quite actually perfect for camera gear and lenses. The pockets that hold bottles are generally padded and secure for your lenses and bags often come with an extra removable bottle sleeve that can hold yet another lens. The exterior of diaper bags also have many pockets which are perfect for chargers, extra batteries and other photography goodies. The diaper changing pad is also an excellent protector for your precious gear. But most of all, some of the diaper bags out there are very attractive in design and in my opinion, beat out the black camera bags you tend to find in camera shops. Just a little repurpose tip from me to you 🙂
HCR’s Homestead Cherry Chutney
- 3/4 cups Cherry Preserves
- 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoons Allspice (Ground)
- 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 2/3 cups Chopped Onion (I used Red)
- 2 cups Fresh Cherries (Pitted)
- 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
|Simply place all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring often in the beginning and every now and then during the cooking process. Cook until the entire mixture becomes reduced by half.|
|Pour into a glass container and let come to room temperature before serving.|
|Bon Appetit and thank you to Hells Canyon Raft!!|