Well, this is a trip report of sorts. It is an adventure report more precisely. The Salmonberry is always an adventure. Most folks would consider the shuttle an adventure in and of itself, but further, what river can you think of that two out of three times results in a broken paddle? And those broken paddles are not even part of the story.
The first time I ran the Salmonberry, which does not have a gauge, it was a tad high. The nearby Wilson was well over 3000 cfs. The second time I ran it the Wilson was at 2200 cfs and steady and the first two miles was decidedly too low. The rest of the run intimidating. I remember Audz commenting (quite often) she was having too much fun. After the run Paul asked me if I remembered it being so hard. I did not. This third run was at a level unheard of. The Wilson was at 770 cfs and dropping. I will have to admit to being a tad too prone to heuristic thinking. A post said Murray and Paul had been to the put in and deemed it runnable. It was only after committing to the run that I discovered the true depths (or lack of depths) of the level. I went anyway.
A vehicle that can carry 6 boats and is four wheel drive is highly valued for this expedition. Michael’s Suburban and Paul’s Expedition, both with trailers, even more so. They left those at the take out greatly simplifying the shuttle for the rest of us.
In truth, the run wasn’t bad. The difference was we put in on the North Fork of the Salmonberry (which did not require 4×4 and was much better channelized) instead of the main fork. The bad news was the North Fork had two double ledge drops (OK one double water fall and one nasty, sticky, scary double ledge). I took the better part of valor on both, but our intrepid Denny E. ran everything. The first of the waterfalls was more of a slide and looked OK to me, but it went into a pool and then over a horizon line. I did not know what was beyond the horizon line or if I could even portage the second drop after running the first. So, like a few others I pulled my boat up to the burmed off road and dragged it around both obstacles (as well as a downed tree everyone had to portage). This was strenuous work and like running the drops, not without risk. At one point my right leg fell into a tiger trap, but fortunately I did not damage any body parts. At the second set of ledges, which were much smaller vertically, my initial reaction was “What is everyone looking at? Why aren’t we in our boats? We have miles to go before dark.” Then as I headed back to my craft to show them how it is done, I saw Michael and his much bigger, much floatier boat sink into the soft foam at the bottom of the final ledge and paddle hard with both blades to keep from getting sucked back in. Yikes! Then Denny who made the two falls look easy, made this drop look hard. Another, hard portage began for me. Robert F. complained that we did not have to rappel back down to the river although creeping back down the cliff to the river was a bit sketchy. I had to agree that a rappel would have been much more in keeping with the nature of the trip.
Finally, we made it down to the confluence with the main stem. It was after one when we stopped for lunch above Chew-Chew — the “hardest” drop. Hmmm. Most folks carried this one as well, although Denny found a right to left route and Paul did some “Flintstoning” to get to the bottom part of Denny’s line. Pretty much a question of which side you scouted from was the consensus afterwards, although one needs emphasize “afterwards.”
The most amazing part of this run was the railroad track hanging here and there in the sky, and here and there pieces of it sat in the river, and occasionally it is in its road bed. If nothing happens here in a few years it may be a sieve of ties and rails. Get it while you can. Oh yeah, the broken paddles … stuff happens.