THE PROMISE LAND
The uncharted land of Idaho beckoned us forward and we made Boise by mid-evening. Given our late arrival, we opted for a little hotel R+R. A nice meal, hot showers, beds, freshly laundered clothes and a little mindless TV were all welcomed relief from our road travels. I chose not to wake Sam as I headed downstairs for my morning coffee – he’d been a trooper thus far – some extra rest seemed like a wise investment.
By midmorning I’d repacked the car and we were ready to resume our travels. Before leaving, I decided a new, snug-fitting helmet was a better option than allowing Sam’s head to once again become a fragile battering ram. As we attempted to locate the local whitewater shop I nearly pissed my pants as Sam shrieked, “Did you see that?” “What,” I asked somewhat incredulously. He was laughing uncontrollably, “the condom shop.” This I had to see.
We made the necessary turns and low and behold situated on Main Street was The Ozone – Boise’s only condom shop. I went inside seeking permission to shoot a picture and was greeted with the most diverse selection of condoms I’d ever seen. Pictures weren’t a problem – turned out this was a common request. They sent me packing with some free bumper stickers, but no gratis protection was offered upon my exit.
I spent a few minutes photographing Sam adorned in a little kayaking gear in front of the unique street side sign – fun stuff. Before exiting town we found a choice new helmet and I felt relieved knowing the boys head would be better protected from any future river calamities.
The route on ID-55 from Boise to Riggins, Idaho was stunning. It would be easy to live in this country. We headed to Riggins to experience the magic of the Salmon River and upon our arrival it was rather obvious that even a whitewater neophyte could grasp the vast potential this area offers. It was late afternoon as we meandered up the one lane road. Watching the light dance around the rock walls was mesmerizing, inundating the senses into a virtual dream state. We’d been directed to a patch of private ground where the land owner allows travelers to camp free of charge on the rivers edge. It seems this is how it should be when you visit a place as beautiful as the Salmon. We happened upon a great spot – a mere 100 yards downstream from the famed Cats Paw rapid and set our tent a stones throw away from the water.
This place felt like heaven. At the very least it became my dream of what heaven should be. The night sky greeted us with stars slowly emerging to illuminate the darkness creating a magnificent canvas to lay back and marvel at. Sam gazed upward, then turning to me said, “thank you for this.” I was touched by the poignancy of his simple words. I paused, soaking in the fullness of the moment and finally replied, “I’m happy you like it.” We drifted off to sleep.
Morning made its presence known without an alarm clock or car horns – a welcomed respite from the regular routine of city life. The Salmon’s temperature was perfect for an impromptu bath before driving into Riggins for breakfast and a little caffeine pick me up. Prior to this trip Sam’s kayaking experience had been limited to river running and whitewater parks, the latter of which are designed to funnel boaters directly into the playholes. Learning how to surf a larger rapid like Cats Paw would demand a new and self-taught strategy – a little extra paddling patience would work wonders. We holed up at our spot on the Salmon for three days and with every session Sam’s paddling of the rapid grew stronger and more proficient until ultimately he gained full command of the wave. The calendar was gaining on us and the Pacific coast awaited our arrival. We bid a sad farewell to our cozy stream side nirvana and a couple of pesky little rattlesnakes before setting out for the beautiful community of Bend, Oregon.