Life as an Inter
My experience working as an intern for Salmon River Adventure Co.
Join Grace Harris in the telling of her experience being an intern with the Salmon River Adventure Company on the Salmon River, Idaho.
Pulling into the driveway at Salmon River Adventure Company (SRAC), all I could feel was an excitement laced with nervous anxiety. I saw a group of people all in their twenties standing in a circle. Scared about what they might think of me, but determined to go on, I asked what I should do. I needn’t fear, the friendly group welcomed me, they helped me with my bags and we launched across the river on the cable trolley. A woman on a four wheeler helped me with my bags and we found a tent for me to claim. She must’ve sensed my nervousness, because she included me in lively chatter. I knew that I would like her. After setting up my tent, we headed to the kitchen where everyone was settling in to eat dinner. After dinner, the owner’s father, whom everyone calls “Papa,” went on to show me around the place. Surrounded by my crew, welcomed with open arms, with the sun setting on the river, I knew just then that I had found my home.
Little did I know before that moment, that I was always searching for my home. I knew it would be with friends somewhere outside, but I always thought that it would be years before I found it. No. I found it not even a few days outside of my childhood home. A week passed training as a guide, most of them wet rainy days with beautiful sunsets, gathered around the dinner tables talking about the day’s adventures, and laughing at jokes, content with life. That week, floating down the river with my crew sharing in each others’ fear. Will we make it? But, all of us were always determined to go on. Never in my life had I felt such a deep feeling of peace and contentment. I was finally Home.
First Day of Guide Training
Going down Pine Creek Rapids that first day in guide training was one of the scariest moments of my life; especially after the traumatic end of season trip on the Snake River I had experienced the prior summer. I thought while paddling through the rapid, I don’t think I’ll ever be a river guide. And, after paddling through the rapid I thought, that was SCARY! I never want to do Pine Creek again. Certainly, I will not ever be in the guide position through it.
The next day we went through Pine Creek Rapids again. And, we did it several times! But, approaching the rapid again for the first time on the second day, I did feel this dread weighing me down. I kept thinking, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to flip the raft! Yet, we made it through safely! After successfully paddling through I thought, you know what? That wasn’t so scary! That was super fun! After several runs through it, I gotta say, Pine Creek Rapids was not as scary as that first day.
My First Week at Base Camp
And, so the week continued full of life, adventure, and growth. My first week at Camp it rained constantly. Everyday when I got up, even though I hung my clothes to dry, they were still cold and damp in the morning. But as the day went on my body heated and dried my clothes. It rained so much that the river entered flood stage at 17,000 cfs. CFS stands for cubic feet per second or as the guides like to say “17,000 chickens floating down the river a second.” There was a game we played seeing who could spot the largest tree that was floating down the river. As the river rose, we watched as logjams blew up and floated downriver. There was one scary moment when a huge 70 foot Ponderosa pine tree drifted down the river with very large roots. While crossing the river on the trolley, the root of that ponderosa clipped the cable line right after Papa had crossed.
During guide training we were on paddle boats rather than oar frames. We took turns in the guide position at the back of the raft. On our first day through the lower whitewater section, I was the guide at the back when paddling through a set of rapids called the Upper and Lower Dutch Oven. These rapids are like a set of natural roller coasters! During the last rapid on Lower Dutch Oven, a wave popped the stern of the raft so high that I flew from where I was sitting, and was thrown into the center of the raft! I quickly got back into the guide position, to take control of the raft so we could continue, once more, and float downriver.
Life as a Guide-in-Training
As June passed, the rain and cold soon ceased. All we knew then was the hot dry windy air of summer. In June we longed for warm sunny days, but when July came we could only hope for the occasional thunderstorm. And so it was during our late-July kayaking camp, on a hot and blustery day, a fire started forcing us to evacuate, that we longed for the rainy cold days of June.
As a river guide the two things we did most of the summer was row the Dib, an eighteen foot raft covered with a flat plywood platform, back and forth across the river (essentially it acted like a ferry) and take a dunk in the river to cool off before bed. The trips I enjoyed most were the overnight on the river camping adventures. The multi-day trips allowed me to get to know the people you were with really well. The thing I like best about being a river guide is after our hard work all day in the sun, we all would take a couple hours to enjoy the river and have fun!
Because I was not eighteen years old in the summer of 2022, I was unable to officially get my guide’s license. So, all summer long I rowed the gear boats. The gear boat we used on most of our trips was an eighteen foot Aire Raft with an oar frame, we called the Blue Ox. That boat was a beast! I learned quickly that it was very difficult to row backwards from hazards. With a raft that big and with that much weight, it’s all about momentum, and pushing. You’ve got to make sure you set your line just right, because you can’t back away from hazards very well in a heavy raft.
On my days off, I would travel into the town of Salmon, ID, where I would do my laundry and contact people back in my hometown. Unlike the Salmon River canyon and Base Camp, the town of Salmon has cell service! Sometimes, I would even travel back to my hometown, which was only a few hours away from Base Camp. I was able to explore Goldbug Hot Springs. Goldbug is a fabulous natural hot spring with a rigorous 2 mile hike up to it! My two favorite places in Salmon are The Purple Easel Gallery and the Salmon Library. The Purple Easel Gallery had all the art supplies I needed and more! The Salmon Library, although smaller than my library back home, contains an extensive fantasy selection! Their library contained more full series of the fantasy genre than even my own library! It was fantastic as I am a big fantasy reader!
Looking back on this summer and other summer adventures, I am amazed at how much I’ve grown as a river runner, but also as a person. Growing up, I was always on the rivers during the summer, but I didn’t really row the raft, I mostly read my books. A year or two before the internship, I rowed a few times on easy parts of the river we were on. Mostly I let my mom row, but sometimes when I wanted to row, she wouldn’t hand me the “reins”! I think she liked rowing so much, she forgot that she needed to give the oars to someone else if they wanted to learn. In spite of my little experience rowing, I was already a step ahead of most of the rafting guides, who didn’t know how to row. Despite the little time I learned how to row, I became a really strong and capable river guide!
The last trip I did that summer was a non-profit trip with a company of an acquaintance of mine, Amy Tonsmiere. It was a 6 day trip on the Main Salmon River in the Frank Church Wilderness. On that trip, I rowed an 18ft gearboat 80 miles through rapids from class II-IV. Rapid classes vary, but the higher the number, means more dangerous and difficult to navigate.
The girl who showed up on the banks of the Salmon River at Base Camp in early June returned to her childhood home as a young woman who learned how to navigate the river and the rivers of her life well. The lessons the river taught me over the summer, and the community I created while in Salmon, has impacted me greatly and in ways for the rest of my life. These impacts have set the stage of success in achieving my dreams – living a life true to myself.
If you’re interested in learning more about working with Salmon River Adventure Co. check out our opportunities.
Want to spend your summer guiding others on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River?
Want a family vacation your kids will always remember?
Let Salmon River Adventure Company be your guide to your successful summer family river vacation.