What do you get when you mix 18 friends, several cases of beer, and heart-pounding action? Sounds like a mountain biking trip but...
it's actually the 10th annual Lochsa River whitewater rafting trip!
Dan and I just finished the most epic (EPIC!) non-mtb weekend...whitewater rafting the Lochsa River in northeastern Idaho. This will be a multi-post kind of thing so keep checking back for more photos (I was the unofficial photographer)...
Here's the story, more or less as I understand it...the history of the Lochsa rafting trip...
The trip began 10 years ago with two friends, John and Jay, who traveled up to Northern Idaho to deliver some rafting supplies for the non-profit Jay worked for. They discovered rafting on the Lochsa and have been back every year since. Dan got folded into the mix because he's John's brother-in-law by marriage and then I came along. We went 2 years ago and had to come back for more!
It goes something like this:
The Thursday before Memorial Day, everyone converges on the Ironhorse Saloon in Missoula, MT as the prime meeting spot.
Airport decorations...What would the sign say? "Welcome to Montana...hope you don't end up with a mountain lion on your neck!"
No, that's not a typo...Missoula's high temp for the day
Missoula is a really cool city...it is surrounded by amazing mountains and has a really prevalent biking culture...in fact, there were many mtb parallels on this trip. Such as...
The love of beer
The love of Yeti's (I think they made a mistake, though!)
The presence of the "Ironhorse"
Bikes line every street downtown
The first of many beers are consumed, stories are told from years gone by, and the final preparations are made for the 50+ mile drive across the 12, over Lolo Pass, along the Lewis and Clark Trail, and into the Clearwater National Forest.
The North Fork of the Clark River
And white (over Lolo Pass)
Cell phones don't work here. There is no internet access. Seriously.
Pretty soon you arrive at Lochsa Lodge (though there is camping right next door). Gorgeous. Clean air, pine trees, and still some snow lingering on the hills.
The Lochsa Lodge
The first of many token beer shots
Usually it rains and snows (who cares...we're in the water anyway!) but this year Mother Nature was kind...temps in the 60s and 70s and sun for most of the trip.
The river, of course, is the main attraction. This year, we had 3 boats for our crew of 17...this is not a commercial outfit, though. Our captains are from Boulder and Sacramento and Denver. Two are mountain bikers (duh, we love adrenaline!!). The crew comes from both coasts and everywhere in between.
This van belongs to one of our guides, Don, who is from Sacramento. I saw this sticker and did a double take. He's been to The Path and he LOVES it!!
See...bikes are everywhere...met a chap riding from Eugene, OR to Denver
River guide, complete with notes from the past
Legendary huckleberry pancakes...
Essential rafting food...the tub o'cookies
Me, modeling the hottest of neoprene wetsuits...(around my waist is a rope-caribeener to help flip the boat back over if it ends up upside-down)
Most people I talk to have never heard of the Lochsa. It runs through part of the Clearwater National Forest, north of the Selway River, along the Lewis and Clark Trail, through a narrow valley. It is very beautiful.
Our boats at the calm-looking put-in
Another biking parallel...helmets are mandatory
The Lochsa (translation: "rough water") can also be brutal...the section we usually raft is full of Class III-IV+ rapids. The boat can flip. You may end up swimming (we did). The water is cold. There is always a danger of log jams and foot entrapment is you're not smart. The big feature of the river is Lochsa Falls (at times as high as a 16 foot drop-in).
Typical post-rafting activity...savoring a cold beer in the parking lot
This year, during our trip, the river was running at around 15,000 CFS or about 6 feet, which is fairly high. The waves were huge and the drops were huge! With rapid names like Killer Fang, Grim Reaper, and Bloody Mary...well, use your imagination!
Blue skies by the end of Day #1
On Friday, we did a "practice" run on the upper 9 mile section from the Nine Mile put-in. It was a rip-rockin' time...fun without any swimmers...but our luck was going to change....