My psychology student wife, Lisa, tells me that our actions are mostly a result of socialization. I guess that’s why I feel compelled to drive north at the start of every summer. As a kid, it was always a journey from Arizona to northern Idaho, and my parent’s homeland of Spokane, Washington. First stop on the northern migration this year, rendezvous with my fellow nomad friend Orea on the far side of my homeland—the Colorado Plateau.
Next up was Wyoming, my least traveled western state. Time to change that. The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone is one of the most storied whitewater rivers in North America. I’ve written about descents there plenty but never paddled or even seen the awesome gorge myself, until now. High spring water produced a string of non-stop class VI rapids that boomed aloud, even above the canyon rim.
You can’t pass through Yellowstone without hiking up the Lamar Valley, can you? This is the Serengeti of the United States. I dodged buffalo herds, and sat quietly watching one group of 100 hunker down for a midday nap.
The ostensible reason for all this noodling about the Great American West was research for a story that will run in American Forests magazine. So, it was into Idaho’s Clearwater Mountains to investigate the coastal disjunct zone of the Inland Northwest.
I paddled the Little North Fork of the Clearwater River 23 years ago. Back then, I was looking for whitewater. I found it, along with some big trees. This time I was looking to avoid most of the whitewater, and find the most ancient forests. With my friend Bret Simmons and two pack rafts, our mission was completed. Northern migration complete; time to return to Flagstaff, and the glorious monsoon.