Western Trip, September 2021

This post is mostly a ”photo dump”. The point is to get something up that supports my attempts at an online trip diary.

For a number of years, the end of August has meant camping our way west with the destination of a river trip. This year was the second season in the P Pod (Rpod camper) and I confess to loving it. Comfort and convenience combined with outdoor travel is a good thing at this stage of my life.

Since we only had a week to get to Jackson, Wyoming and the national parks are crazy with people, we repeated last year‘s route, staying off the interstate highways up through the Black Hills of South Dakota and across Wyoming to the Tetons. Custer State Park has become a favorite place and I was thrilled to get one of the last two online reservations for two nights in the park.

A bison herd visited our campground the morning we left.

From the park, we drove to Casper, Wyoming where we camped again at Gruner Brothers brewery. The difference this year was several RVs in the parking lot. Apparently they took my suggestion and joined Harvest Home, an RV membership group with different sites around the country that allow camping on their property. The next night we “boondocked” in the same snowmobile parking lot as 2020 outside Grand Teton National Park.

We got a quick bike ride in on a trail in the park and a stop at the Snake River Brewery on the way to our friend Bill’s forest service camp, where we camped.

For the last couple years we have planned a river trip around forest fire smoke. This year’s destination river was the Main Salmon River in Idaho and the smoke cooperated so we could go. The challenge this year was prepping and staging an eight day river trip out of a campground. We made it work. Slick had driven from Florida and Mike drove in from Ohio. We met Bruce and Ted from Boise at our put in. Yes, it was another Joan and men river trip. When someone, as a complement, described me as one of the guys, I informed them that I preferred that they think of me as a princess 😂 It was a good trip on a beautiful river. Great sandy campsites so I could pretend I was at the beach. Some of these photos were taken by Bill and Mike.

On the way home we found a couple of very nice campgrounds and stopped in Laporte, Indiana for a short visit with our friends Martha and Steve King. The weather was so exceptional that Martha and I visited two Lake Michigan beaches.

Western Trip 2021

2021 Travel Highlights to date (posted now because I started writing in March and …??)

Return to Costa Rica & Avoiding Covid 19: January 13 – February 16

We took Covid seriously, made thoughtful choices, and assessed our decision to go up to shortly before the trip. If Covid increased dramatically at home or in Costa Rica, travel would be cancelled. Bottom line: whether the risk would be worth the reward.

Prior to the trip, we were required to purchase special covid health insurance approved by the Costa Rican government. We chose not to go with the more expensive plans offered on the CR website. Instead, I found that Trawick International insurance offered a plan that met the requirements. A savings of about $200.00 per plan.

Getting there: Wearing masks for 18 hours till we reach our destination in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Social distancing. Hand washing at every opportunity. Empty Cleveland and Atlanta airports. Departing Cleveland at 6:00 a.m. helped. Delta blocked center seats and managed the lines. San Jose airport was not busy and customs was streamlined. Instead of serial questions, it was more like “Welcome to our country, let me stamp your passport”. We hired a private driver to take us across the country instead of riding in a shared van. A really good idea because traffic jams stretched the normal four hour trip to eight and a half ours. Part of the adventure.

While we were there: We were visiting friends and sharing an apartment with our friend Bill. It is located on gated private property that has three homes and our open air apartment. A former banana plantation, it is now like an arboretum with a pool and shelter. This year we spent a lot more time just enjoying the site and feeling safe. Instead of using cabs, we normally would, we rode bicycles, like many of the local residents do. We rode into town for grocery shopping, errands, and a few meals in outdoor restaurants. Two beaches are also accessible by bicycle, although the heat and humidity make 6.5 miles feel much longer. We could also easily walk to Playa Negra, the black sand beach and the Point, a little beach outdoor restaurant. Any socializing was done with our little Finca pod at the shelter next to the pool. Although I missed the connections you make with new people when you travel, the slower pace was very relaxing and I enjoyed Finca Loco Natural more than ever before. Especially the sloths, howler monkeys and tropical flowers and plants. And my roomies, of course. We spent hours watching the mama and baby sloth in the tree in front of our porch/living room. Dave even had time to make Piña Rapida, his pineapple beer.

Finca Loco Natural

Out and About

The day after our arrival, the U.S. instated the negative covid test requirements in order to get on the plane home. Much to their credit, the Costa Ricans got their act together quickly and we had no problem getting a Covid test within 72 hours of our flight home. Also no problems returning to San Jose and easy flights home. It was a great escape from northeast Ohio winter for a bit.

Trip to Asheville, North Carolina: May 2 – 10

Friends Phyllis and Mike from Seattle flew to Cleveland and we did a road trip to North Carolina. We stayed In Swannanoa at our friend Claire’s airbnb. It was fun to play tourist and introduce new visitors to such a great area in the spring. While most of our time was very laid back, we got in some hiking, a visit to the Vanderbilt Biltmore Estate, five breweries in five days, the Folk Art Center, Catawba Falls and downtown Asheville. On the way home we stayed at another airbnb in Fayetteville, WV to show off the New River Gorge. We had plenty of time to catch up on our lives while hanging out together.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina: June 11-20

A second White Family Five Sibling ET AL gathering at the same spacious house we rented in 2019. Because the beach is always a good place to vacation. Seventeen people is a big group, but we enjoy each other’s company and people often do things on their own. My favorite times were hours on the beach, enjoying the kids in the pool and meeting my college roommate for lunch in Beaufort. Dave and I also found a fun brewery on the drive down. After all, road trips usually mean brewery stops for us. Unfortunately, I did not get photos of everyone.

A Look Back On 2020

I wrote my last post in late April about the January trip to Costa Rica. It is now the end of a long pandemic year and Covid still dominates our lives. I am binge watching Outlander (57 episodes), knitting and mostly staying home. It has definitely been a weird period and we have all had to reach further into ourselves and figure out how to manage it. Time sometimes feels suspended with long days to fill and other times I wake up thinking “where did the last month go?”.

Extra time opened up in the void created by not seeing friends and family. I had to cancel a May trip to the Czech Republic and really missed seeing everyone. Zoom celebrations and Facetiming and more phone calls became the norm for connecting. Watching the news became a thing. Cycling, hiking, gardening, outdoor coffees and happy hours (on the deck) and the Willoughby Farmer’s Market were much more appreciated. I am lucky to have a number of interests and projects going and staying busy is never a problem.

By June, I realized that being grateful for staying healthy and focusing (when I could, which sometimes was took real effort) on helping others and the little good things in life was the key to staying positive. It also helped to not be consumed by covid and political news, which also wasn’t easy. Plus summer brought the reopening of the YMCA pool, some outdoor in-person gatherings and a trips to Mason and Ohiopyle, PA as welcome changes to too much alone time.

In August, life became full again. For Nate an Rachel’s wedding in late August, I built a bridal arch for the mostly outdoor ceremony. It was a stretch for me, but it worked. We camped at Punderson with Dave’s siblings for the long wedding weekend. It was the inaugural trip for the new Rpod camper. It all felt close to normal.

We really broke the camper in when we left August 29 for Wyoming and camped 35 nights in it. It was the perfect self-contained travel experience. Kitchen? Bathroom? Comfortable bed? I was besotted. We quickly figured out what we were doing, fell into our roles and managed not to bump into each other too often. We were able to stay away from people and still enjoyed new places and two breweries. The Black Hills and Custer State Park were a trip highlight. For a week we mostly drove off the interstate through Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming to Jackson.

We enjoyed the Grand Tetons and camped with our friends Bill and Slick. Bill recruited a new Forest Service volunteer for a day. While we were there, it snowed. I was extremely thankful for the amenities of the Rpod. We also reconnected with Molly, who was part of our 2018 Grand Canyon 21 day river trip crew. She lives in Jackson and made a surprise appearance later in the trip at another campground.

Next we headed to Boise, Idaho to prep for an eight day raft trip on the Salmon River. There we were able to catch up with Boise friends. Plan B was quickly created when wildfire smoke created poor air quality for the Salmon river area. Plan B meant packing for a river trip and returning to the Jackson area. With Slick, Bruce and Eric we base camped, did day outings and floated the Snake River. The fishing and fall colors were big attractors. Our friend Joan from Ohio joined us for a few days on her way home. While I missed the river trip, I was really happy with our campground and the area. Granite Creek campground is 9 miles up a dirt road along Granite Creek, after a 10 mile drive through Hobart Canyon along the Hobart River. It was a short hike to a waterfall and short drive to a hot springs spa built by the WPA. The funny part was that we occupied the “Camp Host” sites and people assumed that’s who we were. So after offering disclaimers, we enjoyed playing camp hosts and talked with many fellow campers.

After returning home, we got one more camping weekend in with Dave’s sisters at Pymatuning. In October and November, I always spend many hours with garden and leaf clean-up. Cookie baking dominates December. Two big snowfalls provided cross country skiing opportunities. Christmas was stay-at-home with zooming. The plan is to leave for Costa Rica and more outdoor living in January. Pura Vida 2021.

Costa Rica Dream Trip

January 15 – February 7, 2020

Yes, it now feels like a dream. It is no exaggeration to note that the world was different in January. Writing about a vacation during Corona virus times seems almost wrong, with a little guilt involved because everything is so serious today. On the flip side, it is the perfect argument for traveling. Life can change on a dime, so do what you love with who you want to do it with, while you can.

I also find myself looking back to what started this blogging project in February 2013, the Unicycle Road trip across the USA. Dave White was the Rider and I was the Crew. A 2957 mile unicycle ride and I got fulfill my dream of slow, off-the-highways travel from west coast to east coast. It really did turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime. If anyone wants a diversion or a way to occupy several stay at home hours, links to both of our blogs are available on this website. First blogs were February 17, 2013 and we each blogged every day of the 3 month trip that finished in the end of October because of an unplanned tropical parasite break.

Back to the Costa Rican trip…This year our base for the 23 days was Finca Loco Natural in Puerto Viejo, a small town on the Caribbean coast. Friend Bill Sedivy rented the Birdhouse for two months and we joined him for our third visit to this “pure vida” country. I will not write much about it, because there are two previous blogs about Puerto Viejo. Each visit has been different.

This year’s differences:

It rained the first 10 days of the trip. Downpours that flooded the yard, short morning and/or afternoon showers, wild surf and sporadic sunshine.

Friends Phyllis Zebrowski and Mike Siegert, from the Seattle area, spent the first 12 days with us. They have appeared in several previous travel posts, as Phyllis is my lifelong friend. It was their first time in Costa Rica and it was a lot of fun (in spite of the rain) introducing them to the area. We made our first visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center, a sanctuary that rehabilitates animals and returns them to the wild. (Spoiler: no jaguars present). We got a beach day in at Arrecife when the rain stopped. One of the highlights was a day rafting trip on the Pacuare river, which had plenty of white water. Ricky the Rasta guide led us on a nature hike and cooked a Costa Rican dinner at the Birdhouse. Phyllis and I had a fun girls night out and a very good dinner at Koki Beach Restaurant.

We rented a car that was available for the duration of our stay. This increased our spontaneous options and made grocery shopping in town more convenient. Especially during our rainy season. We drove to the Panamanian border, enjoyed Cahuita and Manzanillo national parks, went off the beaten path and discovered Playa Grande, a different beach area with almost no people.

Dave and I went snorkeling after the surf calmed down. It was a private trip in a small boat with our guide Ramone and Roberto, our second guide who was 11.

Our Burned Out Canoe Club friends from Kentucky, Sandy and Kevin Smith, were on a Cruise that docked in Limone for a day. They got a taxi to Cahuita, where we met to hike in the national park and have lunch by the water.

Good times spent with friends: Steve and and Martha King, Bill’s longtime friends from Indiana, who we know from earlier trips. Pamela Robinson and Carter Van Houten, Finca Loco Natural’s owners. Wendy, our new beach friend from England. At least once a week, we would go into town to hear Carter perform with different musicians.

When I think of Costa Rica, the first thing that comes to mind is nature. The bold colors. The exotic birds and animals. Our agouti that reminded me of a long-legged guinea pig hanging around the yard.The rich earthy smells of humid jungle. The Caribbean Sea in different lights. The surprise of oversized bugs, (sometimes in the house). Snakes (not in the house). SLOTHS! The sounds of the surf and rain on the metal roof at night. The sounds of Pablo the damn rooster and Howler monkeys waking us up in the morning. The taste of really fresh tropical fruits and coconut bread. The feel of sand under my feet on a beach walk. Beautiful blooms that smell like the tropics.

Yes, the trip now has the quality of a dream. But it’s been great remembering what reality was for a while shortly before these days of self-quarantine.

2019 Travel Wrap

My blog functions as a travel journal that provides a record of memorable trips. I fell off the blog wagon, no excuses. So the purpose of this post is do a little catching up for 2019 in one evening. More photos than words will speed it up.

In late June, I spent a week on Hilton Head Island. The significance of this trip was that it was my first large group (17 people) house-sharing experience. The White family has done this for years. I have not and was unsure whether it would be too much togetherness for me. It was not. We had a blast. It helped that the house could sleep 20 with multiple gathering areas, had a pool and great view of the marsh and beach.

Three of us also spent in a day in Savannah, where we took a trolley tour. And I got to see my college roommate Frances when we met for lunch in Beaufort.

In July  went to a Burned Out Canoe Club reunion in West Virginia. From there drove to Ohiopyle, PA, where we joined friends to camp and boat. This group has met there the week after July 4th for 30 plus years.


At the end of August, Dave and I drove to Idaho for a trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. We took my car because the truck camper Dave built in 2014 is no more. We had 5 great summer adventures out west in it, but it’s time to replace the truck so he dismantled  the camper. It felt strange not traveling in “the dirigible”, but we did short trips out and back. On the way out, we stopped at the Fort Kearney museum in Nebraska, Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming and Lava Hot Springs in Idaho. There we stayed in an old hotel where Teddy Roosevelt had stayed in the next room. It wasn’t the national parks, but my touristing desires were satisfied.

We found a great Airbnb in our friend Bill’s neighborhood before and after the river trip. It provided extra space for staging and post-trip cleanup. It was my second airbnb experience and I would highly recommend it. The trip prep went quickly and within three days our little group of five headed north to the river. We have worked together long enough that it goes smoothly. The trip was laid back with some challenging weather and low water conditions. Once again it was a great time on this very special river.

After the trip we had a party at our house and we did a girls’ outing to the Boise farmers market.

The last trip of the year was over Thanksgiving in South Dartmouth, MA at Katie and Terry Hamric’s home. We stayed over in Albany on the way and enjoyed a stop at Druthers Brewery.  Dartmouth is a beautiful area south of Boston known as the “farm coast”. The Ramos’s were there too and it was a party. Bea White passed away in May and we all missed the holiday with her in Newbury, but it was a good way to reinvent Thanksgiving.


The other big travel-related item for 2019 is the new RPod 179. It will be the 2020 mode of travel😎


Czech Republic Trip Part 2: Traveling and Exploring Prague

This is Part 2 of my belated trip blog. While staying with my cousins in Prague, I used weekdays to explore the city and take some trips. It was a long visit and I wanted to see more places and give them a break. My destination list for Prague and surroundings keeps growing so I had plenty of choices. This year I checked several of them off.

Being more comfortable with the Czech language helped. I have a wonderful Czech language tutor at home and have been studying with Jana since 2017, usually from October through April. My progress has been slow and I get frustrated. Learning a language in your 60’s is a real challenge. When I learned that Czech is a difficulty level 4 out of 5 on the U.S. State Department’s list of world languages, it was comforting and I felt a little better. The studying paid off. I can’t carry on an in-depth conversation, but I can get around on public transportation, order off a menu, talk a little with the boys & other Czech speakers, understand and read a lot more than two years ago. It makes everything easier and people appreciate it when you try to speak their language.

Dresden – Only a two hour bus trip from Prague, Dresden is a vibrant city. Literally a phoenix risen from the ashes. Dresden was fire bombed by the Allies during World War Two. The Altstadt (old town) was destroyed and 25,000 people killed in one hour as incentive to end the war and retaliation for the Blitz. Rebuilding did not begin till the 1990’s, post communism. This was fortunate because the Altstadt was restored to it’s original state. Ibis Budget Hotel was the perfect location adjacent to  Altstadt market platz, and an easy walk from the train station. In spite of rain, I wandered the city, enjoyed a walking tour and museums and logged 16 miles in 2 days. The Kunsthof Pasaj, an artsy alley in New Town, the Frauenkirche and the Zwinger Palac were the highlights.

Brno – The second largest city in the Czech Republic (380,000 population), with a much lower number of tourists. My mission was to see the Vila Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage site, It was designed by modernist architect Mies Van der Rohe in 1930. I became interested in it after reading the book The Glass Room. Apparently, many people did too because the tickets are sold out several months in advance. I got lucky and found one the week before.  The house tour group was only 12 people and really worth it. I stayed overnight in the city center and enjoyed the Spilberk Castle and park, an art museum, wandering around and the Zelny Trh (Cabbage Market) underground tour.

Karlovy Vary – another pleasant bus trip one hour from Prague. This is a spa town in the West Bohemia region has 13 main hot springs and was founded in 1370. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1800’s. It is fun to spend the day walking along the warm Tepla River, visit the different springs and park areas,  and people watch. I tasted all the springs, but did not find one I actually liked. The architecture and colors of the buildings are amazing. The steep funnicula up to the Diana Tower gets you a great view of the surrounding forests. In June it Karovy Vary is the site of a large international film festival. Photos of American movie stars are all abundant in hotel restaurant windows.

Amsterdam was my longest solo trip of four days. Flights are cheap within Europe so I flew to save time. It is only a short ride on the Prague Metro to a connector airport bus so that was easy. Then a quick train ride from Schipol airport to the city center of Amsterdam. I really wanted to stay in a canal house and booked a little hotel in a lovely neighborhood not far from the museum area. It was relatively inexepensive and no frills. My room was at top of the house overlooking the canal. Translation: the attic. The last flight of stairs was almost a ladder and it was fortunate the weather was comfortable because there was no air conditioning.

I walked everywhere  and found the city easy to get around. As long as you are ALWAYS watching for cyclists. My favorite must-do’s were an evening boat ride, the Van Gogh,  World War 2 Resistence museums and the Rijksmuzeum. I loved all the canals, bridges, squares. sidewalk cafes and the Dutch building styles. I ate a pancake the size of a platter for breakfast and enjoyed some good beer. One evening I met had  dinner with a Olga Be.liuskina, a young nuclear physicist from the Ukraine who works in Finland, Meeting interesting strangers is one of the perks of traveling alone.

Bruges – From Amsterdam, I took a bus trip to Bruges, Belgium. It was a six hour round trip and a 12 hour day, but I was so happy I went. The ride went through beautiful windmill country. The city is another UNESCO site, with a charming city center. In Bruges, food is a thing: mussels, beer, chocolate and waffles. The old city center is the perfect size for wandering and admiring one great building after another. Six hours wasn’t enough, but I got there.

Prague – random pictures from my wanderings. I have still only scratched the surface of this fascinating city – another good reason to return.


Czech Republic Trip: Part I, Family Time

My trip was May 8 – June 11, the fifth variation of visiting family and exploring new places. I stayed with cousins Lenka, Ivo, Oto and Eda in their Prague flat, explored new destinations in the city and travelled during the week. On weekends, like many residents, we left Prague for the countryside.z


Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

On January 23, we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica and escaped the Northern Ohio winter  for 23 days. Weather at 41 degrees latitude is a sharp contrast to  the mid 80’s F at 9 degrees north of the equator.

Part I of the trip was a “Week of Rivers” paddling experience with Costa Rica Rios, an adventure outfitter. Our group of 12 friends, came from Idaho, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Quebec. Only three of us knew everyone, but we were all had river connections and years of experience (somewhere between 200 and 300 years collectively). It was a great mix of people. Thanks to trip organizer Bill Sedivy!


Costa Rica Rios is based in the central mountain region in Turrialba. They take great care of their guests; providing accommodations, food, transportation, equipment and knowledgeable river guides.

Our paddling was on the Pejibaye, Serapiqui, and Pacuare Rivers in kayaks, IKs a canoe, a cataraft and a raft. They are in the interior mountain region and flow through remote jungle areas. The water was extremely low, which meant these whitewater rivers required more technical paddling. My waterproof camera had issues, and some people just got better shots, so many of the photos I have included were taken by other members of the group.


We spent two nights at the Pacuare Outdoor Center, in a remote area where we paddled in and out. It’s a jungle camp located high above the river, with a climb up a steep trail to get there. It has a large open-air shelter, screened cottages and no electricity. The guides made special drinks for happy hour and delicious meals. While several people enjoyed their zipline course, I remember our cottage, the quiet and the peaceful ambience.

After the river week, four members of our group went home and eight of us continued on for Part II of the trip. Our first experience was a visit to the family farm of Pablo, our lead guide. We met his family, had a group cooking lesson, toured the farm, milked a cow, had a good meal and a very enjoyable afternoon.

Next we traveled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast just north of Panama. We have visited this small laid-back town before. Here we stayed in The Birdhouse, a rental home in Finca Loco Natural within walking distance of the beach and town. It was like staying in our private jungle garden with a pool. Pamela and Carter are wonderful hosts and also built the house. It was good to see them again since our last visit 6 years ago.

IMG_6407IMG_6480 (Edited)IMG_6520IMG_6508IMG_6489DSCF3164

Here is where I insert plant pictures. One of my favorite parts of Costa Rica is the exotic flowers, plants and trees. Lush overgrown house plants. Can’t get enough of them.

In Puerto Viejo, we had lots of choices to make: Walking or taxi? Which beach to enjoy? Playa Negra? Arrecife? Punta Uva? Serious or casual birding? What to read?  Happy hour at the pool or the house? Get up early or sleep in? A day with plans or winging it?  Lazy Mon on the beach. Evenings in town listening to Soul Caribe and visiting Kaya’s Brewery. Hanging out at the Birdhouse and grilling. Having a party. Hiking in Manzanillo and Cahuita National Parks. Lunch at Maxi’s.  Restorative relaxation. Sloth watching.

It was hard to leave Costa Rica to return to Ohio and winter.

Western Trip – Part 3: Grand Canyon River Trip

After the Salmon River trip we remained in Boise for two and a half weeks. The highlight of that time for me was a visit from our Seattle friends Phyllis and Mike. It was short, but we had a great time. We saw a good 70’s band, Mike and Dave got to ride their unicycles together on the Boise River Greenbelt while Phyllis & I explored downtown, we all visited the old Idaho Penitentiary and of course we found a new microbrewery.



The focus for Bill Sedivy, Dave White & I was our upcoming raft trip on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Twenty one days on a private river trip with a group of 16 people would be a lot different than our eight day trips with friends in Idaho. Bill would row an 18-foot fully loaded raft with me as his passenger and Dave would kayak. Preparing, packing, shopping and endless discussions occupied much of our time.  Dave got to boat with the three other kayakers from the group. We met with trip coordinators David Crais and Jean Spurgeon. Thanks go to them for the invitation and spending months working with PRO Outfitters and coordinating logistics for the trip.

October 3 was the date we set off in the Dirigible on our driving-off-the-interstate route to Flagstaff, Arizona. It was a great scenic route. October turned out to have record rainfall for the state of Arizona. For us it started raining in Nevada, continuing off and on through our time in Flagstaff. We thought we were in Ohio. We made stops at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (so we could look down on where we would be), Navaho Bridge in Marble Canyon under which we would float in three days, and stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.


In Flagstaff we enjoyed the Flagstaff Brewing Company and met up with our group for dinner. It was good to meet the people with whom we would travel 225 miles down river. The next morning, October 7, was cold & rainy, with snow on the mountain behind our KOA campsite. We met PRO Outfitters at the Motel Du Beau to load gear on their huge truck, shuttle vehicles to storage and drive 3 hours to the put-in at Lee’s Ferry. There, in a drizzle, under the guidance of the PRO staff the truck was unloaded, rafts inflated and rigged, gear sorted and packed. We set up camp for the night at the put-in and had dinner at Lee’s Ferry Lodge.



Put-in day, October 9 – our adventure began with an orientation by the PRO staff and National Park Rangers. Some examples of what felt like information overload: Leave no trace. Food storage and organization. The menu-recipe-food list BIG BOOK. Safety priorities: the National Park Service will not evacuate anyone by helicopter for much less than a potential life-threatening emergency. Hygiene procedures: hand washing, dish washing, water purification, toileting. Critters: scorpions & rattle snakes. Use the satellite phone to call PRO 5 days prior to take-out to make sure the road is not washed out like it had a week earlier. Otherwise it is an additional 3 river days to the next take-out down stream.

When we began, the clear water at the put-in soon became the chocolate brown it would remain for the duration with the silty contribution of the Paris River. Even with dark skies and some rain, it was nothing short of awe inspiring. That first day we saw “chocolate waterfalls” that few get to experience, because it hardly rains in the Grand Canyon. Ha! we had sporadic rain the first week and a couple showers after that. Fortunately, most of our weather was moderate, with plenty of sun.



The Canyon

I bought a tshirt  that says “Grand Canyon – It’s all about layers”. Being geologically illiterate, that about sums it up for me. The river map and guide goes into great detail identifying the different rock formations and their age. Take the vishnu schist, the oldest. It was formed 1,750 million years ago. I can’t even comprehend that. Layer after layer,  spectacular soaring cliffs and imaginary castle walls reaching for the sky. Every turn of the river revealed a new vista. You really feel small and insignificant. For me, the canyon is other-worldly beautiful, like no place else I have ever seen. When you are at the bottom, there is no perspective that the average depth of the canyon is one mile and the average width 10 miles. For 21 days, this was our reality. Pictures do not do it justice, but here are some of my favorites. Click on a photo to enlarge it.



The Group

David Crais was our permit holder/trip leader and the center of our web. Everyone was within two degrees of separation from David. i.e. he invited someone who recommended inviting someone else. Our group of 16 included five women and 11 men, ranging in age from 22 to 74. We came from Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio, California, Texas, Tennessee and Colorado.  Four people kayaked and the rest of us were in 18 foot rafts. All the oarsmen had previous Grand Canyon experience and I admired their stamina. Most people had experience with multi-day river trips.


On the River

Our on the water time began around 10:30 am with the goal of being off by 4:00 pm. Some days were longer and some were shorter. My role on the raft was navigator. This meant closely following the topo river map/guide to know where we were,  be aware of what rapid was coming up and where our campsite was. The bigger rapids are described in detail with recommended routes and the biggest ones include diagrams. On the Grand Canyon, some of what are called riffles would be class 2 -3 on other rivers. The water was low 50’s degrees F ( read that as COLD). CFS (cubic feet per second) ranged from 7500 to 13,000 (this is big water). It was dependent on the water release from Glen Canyon Dam in response to hydroelectric power needs in the west. This created a high ‘tide’ and low ‘tide’ every day.  The water ranged from gentle pools to really challenging rapids. My preference was the gentle runs because I stayed dry. I didn’t take photos while in a rapid because my priority was to enjoy the ride and/or hang on. Dave White took this video of Bill’s route through Lava Falls rapid, the largest on the river. He and two other kayakers wisely chose to carry their boats around so he videoed all the rafts. Ironically, the map described the run as about 20 seconds. That could mean good 20 seconds or bad ones. Ours were good. None of our rafts flipped and we all made it through Lava unscathed.


In Camp and Off the Water

Campsites were designated, but not reserved. Most of the time we were lucky and no other group occupied our destination campsite before we got there. Daylight disappeared by 6:00 pm so cooking, dining & clean-up often happened in the dark. We were able to build in two layover days, which meant two nights at one site. Both times we had great weather and were able to relax, do laundry and bathe (sort of). We had several hiking enthusiasts who enjoyed hiking trails and exploring canyons. I really liked Elves Chasm. The wildlife we most often saw were big horn sheep, ravens, and one tarantula on the path to the groover (portable toilet). Oh, not to forget scorpions. While the only ones we actually saw were on rocks and in bushes courtesy of Eric’s blacklight scorpion tours, you shook off anything that had been on the ground or hung to dry on a bush. Thanks to Bill, Camille and Molly for providing music in the evenings. Even when I was already in the tent by 8:30 pm, it was fun listening.


This post is long enough, so I will wrap it up. No injuries, no illnesses & no raft flips. Intense, exciting, fun & exhausting. 21 days/24 hours a day outdoors. Wow. I was grateful for the opportunity and happy I had the experience. Also was not sorry when it was over. Re-entry to the real world took me a good two weeks.  Thanks to Dave and Bill who did the heavy lifting for me because I developed a bum shoulder.

I hope you got a taste of what the trip was like and enjoyed the photos. My posts serve as  online trip diaries. When I stop doing stuff like this, I’ll have them to look back on and remember.




Salmon River, September 9 – 16 (a different kind of trip post)

Eight days on the Main Salmon river in Idaho provided the rejuvenation I look forward to at this time of year. Eight days of total trip immersion, focusing on the moment and not thinking of the real world stuff that occupies normal everyday thoughts. We got lucky with the weather and had no rain. Our group numbered 11, a larger number than previous years which presents challenges, but the group worked beautifully.  Another great trip in the books.

First, I’ll post some trip pictures, mostly people.


Now to focus on some history. People who lived on the river had to be tough to survive. I will share two stories of unique Salmon residents of the past: Buckskin Bill and Polly Bemis.

Buckskin Bill

Sylvan Ambrose “Buckskin Bill” Hart (1906 – 1980) was among the last of the mountain men in the western USA. From 1932 until his death, he lived on the Five Mile Bar of the Salmon River in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

He purchased fifty acres  of land for one dollar where he built a compound that included a two-story house, blacksmith shop, a blockhouse with a stone turret, and a bomb shelter. The defensive structures reflected his sense of continual threat from the federal government, which peaked in 1956 when  the Wilderness Act threatened to designate the Five Mile Bar as a non-habitable Primitive Area and he was in danger of being evicted.

Hart volunteered to serve in World War II, and was assigned to a Boeing plant in Kansas. Following the war, he returned to his compound and was employed by the National Forest Service. He farmed, hunted and fished for survival, and made his own guns, weapons, clothing and tools.

A lifelong bachelor, Hart died of natural causes at age 73 at his home in 1980. His compound is preserved as The Buckskin Bill Museum.


Polly Bemis

Polly Bemis (1853) was born in rural northern China.  At the age of 18, she was sold by her father for two much needed bags of seed.  She was smuggled into the United States in 1872 and sold again, most likely as a concubine,  for $2,500. She was taken to Idaho Territory, where her buyer, a wealthy Chinese man, ran a saloon in a mining camp. Polly was a feisty 53 inches tall.

How she gained her freedom from her Chinese owner is uncertain. According to academic Priscilla Wegars, her Chinese owner helped her. In mid-1880, the census listed her as living with saloon owner and fiddler Charlie Bemis (1848-1922), who befriended her when she first arrived in Idaho. Bemis served as his housekeeper and ran his popular boarding house in Warren. Charlie was almost killed during a gambling dispute when he was shot in the face. Polly cleaned out the wound with her crochet hook and nursed him back to health.

In 1894, she married Charlie Bemis, and the couple moved from Warren to a site 17 miles north by trail at a spot that came to be called both Bemis Point and Polly Place.  Polly’s struggle for legal permanent residency went to the courts and her residency was finally granted on 1896. Together, Charlie and Polly Bemis filed a mining claim, becoming among the first pioneers to settle along the Salmon River.  Even today this house is not accessible by road. Although the couple had no children, Polly was 40 when they married, she was noted for her concern for children. They gardened and cared for many  animals, including horses and a cougar. Polly was known for her nursing skills, fishing, friendliness, and sense of humor.

Polly saved Charlie’s life twice. In 1922, a fire gutted their home on the Salmon River, possibly caused by an untended or overheated wood stove.  Charlie Bemis died soon afterwards. Neighbors rebuilt a new home for Polly in the same spot as the one that burned down, with the understanding that they would inherit this from her in exchange for their labor and for looking after her in her old age. She died on November 6 of myocarditis at the age of 80.

The cabin, known as Polly Bemis House, became a museum and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.