6 days, 85 river miles, 21 friends-new and old. A journey down Idaho’s Main Salmon River. A small group of ICL members recently shared the beauty and wonder of the river and wilderness. What follows is a snapshot of our time together.

Our trip theme of ,Literature and the Environment’ was led by Dr. Scott Knickerbocker. Scott offered us a reading list from The Great New Wilderness Debate that included essays from Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Chief Luther Standing Bear, Gary Snyder, and more. We explored topics of access, the definition and evolution of the term wilderness, and conflicts created by wilderness. Around the fire on our last night we shared our first experiences that led to our love of wild places. I enjoyed our evenings together, in hearty dialogue, hearing each other’s stories, building deeper connection to one another and to place.

Our guests traveled from around Idaho, and from as far as Washington D.C. Our flotilla included 3 oar boats, 1 hard kayak, 2 inflatable kayaks, 1 paddle boat and 1 solo canoe. From the moment we pushed off at Corn Creek I felt myself connecting to the river canyon and leaving daily life behind. It was hard to stay out of the balmy water. Morning, noon and night I slipped in to cleanse my body and fill my soul. We all laughed and hooted as we splashed our way down rapids. We camped nightly on white sandy beaches. I forewent a tent in favor of sleeping out under the stars. The night sky was an explosion of light and shooting stars. When I finally laid down at the close of each day, my arms crossed behind my head, I would lose my thoughts in the majesty of the universe. The wilderness has a way of bringing back the curiosity and delight of my youth.

Music often weaved its way through our camp. Scott is a banjo player with a passion for oldtime American music. Ari plays guitar and totes a big binder full of songs and we all sang along. We even broke in to some a cappella songs!

Each day I rode in a different boat, where I was asked to talk about ICL’s recent priorities. As you might imagine, I could talk on and on about all that ICL is doing to protect Idaho’s natural resources and special places. It was especially satisfying to share a recent victory for the Salmon River-the decision made by the Army Corps of Engineers regarding navigability of the Salmon River that provides long awaited protection for the river. In fact, the very water below our boats had heightened protections thanks to ICL.

Chukars with their ,chuck, chuck, chuck’ kept us company down the length of the river. We enjoyed ospreys, bighorn sheep, various fish, canyon wrens, snakes, bald eagles, deer, and a lone young black bear cruising the canyon side across from our camp one evening. The ,Frank’, the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 states, is home to a vast assortment of wildlife. I am heartened that ICL works daily to protect fish and wildlife habitat across Idaho.

Our outfitter was SOAR Northwest, led by Ari and Dee Kotler along with their 6-year-old daughter Daisy. The Kotlers and their crew of highly experienced guides brought safety, history, stories, music, fun, delicious meals, Hawaiian costumes night, and more to our time together. They hold a huge commitment to conservation and a love of Idaho rivers. ICL is deeply grateful to the Kotler family for their generosity and spirit, which made this ICL trip possible. Learn more about SOAR Northwest and their trips.

This type of multi-day trip is a new offering from ICL, designed as a special benefit of membership for those who give annual gifts of $1,000 or more. To be clear, every membership gift made to ICL, whether $15 or $15,000, is of great value. To find out more about becoming a Patron or Leader member, and how to receive this special trip invitation in the future, give me a holler at 208.345.6933 x 15 or amoran@idahoconservation.org.

I can’t wait to be on the river again. Oh, Idaho, how I love you.