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Junior instructors wrap up adventure

Environmental Learning Center junior instructors used a raft, kayaks and "Big Bertha," an enormous rubber raft fitted with oars and an aluminum frame to hold gear, to traverse the "River of No Return."1 / 3
The Salmon River is known as the "River of No Return" because until the invention of jet boats in the 1930s, no one had been able to go up the river. Wooden boats, having reached the end, were broken down and sold for lumber.2 / 3
Kayakers Emma Reese, Kristen Anderson and Abby Riegelman are poised head down Idaho's Salmon River.3 / 3

Editor's note: The Red Wing Environmental Learning Center junior instructors traveled to Idaho this summer to raft the Salmon River. They include Kristen Anderson, Brian Barlow, Patrick Cyr, Rob Hendrickson, Jacob Losinski, Simon McCullough, Emma Reese, Abby Riegelman and Ted Toegel plus ELC staff members Brad Nagel, Chad Nelson and Laura Wildenborg. This is the final installment about their July trip.

Day 4

By Brian Barlow

The fourth day of our journey was a 24-mile day. The day before had been an eight-mile day so we were rested and ready to go bright and early in the morning.

I'm not sure what times we were going to bed and waking up, but if I had to guess, I would say we woke up around 5 a.m. and went to bed around 9.

At about mile 5 of our day we stopped and saw the pictographs. For those of you who don't know, pictographs are drawings made on the canyon walls by Native Americans many years ago.

I thought this was extremely interesting. It is one thing to see the pictographs in pictures, and a whole other thing to see them in person and think about the people who made them, what their lives must have been like. It was truly incredible.

Further down the river, we ran into the home of Buckskin Bill!

Buckskin Bill was a resident of the river. His home is now run by a family that has turned everything into a museum. Bill was self-sufficient; he got everything he needed from the river and the land around him.

Bill was most known for the guns he would make. One shot a bullet that was almost as big as a golf ball. My personal favorite aspect of the property, and probably the most important, was the fact that they sold ice cream there.

After we toured the property and ate our ice cream, it was back to the river. We paddled for a few more miles but ended up stopping at a ranch because one of our companions had an infected arm and had to be evacuated. We later met up with him at the end of the trip.

Finally after a very long day on the river, we reached our campsite. Our campsite was right off a curve in the river, after some small rapids, and in between three mountain peaks. The beauty of the place was stunning, it took your breath away like stepping out of a warm house on a cold winter day.

We set up our hammock colony and the babble of the rapids lulled us right to sleep.

Day 5

By Jacob Losinski

We woke up to sun beating down on us from high in the sky. It was the first morning we actually got to sleep in and it was well needed after our long day paddling.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then, with it already being extremely hot at 10 in the morning, we decided to go for a swim through the rapids above our camp at Warren.

After the refreshing way to start the day, we packed up our camp and hauled it over the rocks back to our boats.

With everything strapped down, we started down the river on our easy 7.6 mile day and made it about half a mile before our next adventure.

We spotted a perfect rock face seal slide, which is where you take your kayak up to the top of a rock face that overhangs the river and slide off it while you are in you kayak. After some great video we decided to keep moving down the river.

Our next spot on the river was the famous Polly Bemis Ranch, which is a historic cabin where Polly lived the later part of her life. Polly Bemis was a Chinese indentured servant who released by her master and later married him after she saved his life.

With about two miles left until camp, we made a push to finish up the day. Then the afternoon wind came rolling straight down the canyon. The last mile had to be our slowest of the trip.

But our camp at Upper Bull Creek was well worth it. Our camp was on bend in the river that had a perfect little island right next to the bank. We decided to set up our kitchen right on the island.

While were setting it up, the sky to the west started to darken like rain was imminent. So we scrambled to set up our rain trap, but just as we finished getting them set up the sky cleared.

It turned up to be a perfect night to sleep on the beach.

Day 6

By Rob Hendrickson

Our last day on the "River of No Return" began like any other day on the expedition. A top-notch pancake breakfast was prepared in Rob Ellis' wonderful outdoor kitchen.

After our meal, we relaxed and chatted till it was time to go. By this time of the trip we had become a finely tuned machine, tearing down camp and loading up the oar rigs in no time.

We set out from our beach not expecting much. The river guide books we had been using throughout the expedition gave no sign of overly large rapids.

We were pleasantly surprised! One rapid in particular produced one of our most dramatic kayak flips of the trip (and that's saying a lot!).

My raft mates and I were fortunate enough to be directly behind Abby Riegelman for her performance. Due to a large wave, she began to flip. Just before she went under, she cast her paddle away from her as if it were the source of all her problems in the world. After a good amount of laughter, the rafters snagged her paddle. She claimed it was entirely on accident, but we know what we saw.

After Abby's drama, there was a good stretch of water where nothing really exciting happened. Eventually an overhanging cliff with a nice crack on it appeared next to the water.

Brad asked, "Anyone up for a climb?"

Of course, Simon McCullough was in. We pulled the raft up to the crack and Simon got out onto a lip. He climbed and climbed until he could climb no more.

By this time the raft and kayakers had given him some space so he was safe to jump. After some reasonable hesitation, he pushed of the wall and fell into the water where we picked him up.

As the day went on it became more and more apparent that we had been intensely paddling for a week. Paddle strokes became less and less productive, a card game was being played between a few rafters and a kayaker, and by the end of the day a kayak and paddler had made their way onto the raft to relax.

Before we knew it, our time on the river was up, and we were at the van.

The next hour or so was a blur of unpacking oar rigs, deflating rafts, and loading up our trailer. When we finally finished, we had lunch and were on their way.

First we stopped in Riggins, Idaho to clean the Groovers, aka toilet. When that less-than-pleasant experience was up, we went on to White Bird to pay our shuttle drivers.

There Chad stumbled upon an excellent deal on a whitewater kayak. One $200 purchase later and we were off to Grangeville to pick up our greatly missed companion, Steve Hale.

With the whole gang back together, we pushed out the last hour to our hotel in Lewiston, Idaho, where we all were reminded of the splendor of showers. The day was ended with a huge meal at Bojack's Broiler Pit.

We all waddled back into our rooms that night very satisfied and ready for a good night's sleep (in a bed!). Sadly, some of us were not going to be so lucky.

Drive home

By Ted Toegel

On Saturday morning we were met with an unforeseen problem. During the night most of us slept like logs on the first beds we had seen for over a week.

However, a few of our group spent the night camped out in the bathroom; their stomachs had not responded well to the large dinner we had eaten that evening, and by morning they were still feeling quite under the weather.

After rousing everyone out of their beds we headed to the Lewiston airport. There we were met by Chad Nelson's family, who were about to begin their own adventure, as well as Gretchen and Dave Anderson, who had graciously offered to help shuttle the ELC van back to Red Wing.

I waved goodbye as the only people I had spoken with for a week filed onto the plane. As the plane taxied down the runway those of us that were left walked back to the van. What had started as a group of 14 was now a group of five: he Andersons, Laura Wildenborg, Brian Barlow, and I.

After driving for a short while we discovered that we were not all unscathed by the illness that had affected a few the night before. While we were driving, Brian asked if we could please pull over. When we did, he leapt out of the van. The rest of the day proceeded similarly; we kept driving and on occasion we would pull over.

After a long day on the road we checked into a hotel. As soon as our heads hit the pillows we fell asleep.

We woke up early in the morning and partook in the complimentary breakfast. Brian was feeling much better and even joined in.

Then we hit the road again. This was our longest day of driving. We left at about 7:30 in the morning and drove and drove and drove until we reached the Barlow family's cabin, which is located about 60 miles from Fargo, N.D. We got there at 11 p.m.

Once more we crawled out of bed and began to drive. We reached Red Wing at about 2:30 p.m. Our adventure was finally over.