Back to the Middle Fork

Ok, I survived Christmas.

A few days before the holiday, my wonderful aunt Mary sent me this picture showcasing her undying Christmas spirit. I laughed and laughed! I must admit I sometimes feel an awful lot like this, too.

Christmas Spirit
Christmas spirit, anyone? Sometimes I need a little help…

But, as I’m sure you were told many times growing up, we can use our imaginations and pretend we’re back on the Middle Fork. New Year’s preparations? “I’ll think about that another day…”

This is my view about three hours after I wake up on the Middle Fork:

Middle Fork Morning
The first rays of morning sun touch the Middle Fork.

I usually wake up a little before six, stuff my sleeping bag back in its sack, and tug on some fleece. It’s often a little chilly, but as soon as the sun hits the bottom of the canyon, it warms right up. I head down to the kitchen and get the coffee going then decide which breakfast to prepare. This morning we are making Dutch oven cinnamon rolls, eggs-to-order, fresh fruits, and grilled ham steaks. Camping with Aggipah, morning breakfast

It doesn’t take us very long to get everything packed up and back on the boats and we’re headed out for another river day. Some folks have opted to paddle our inflatable kayaks, some will be in the paddle boat and others relaxing in oar boats. Here’s a shot of the getting-ready scene:

River day beginning
We’re getting loaded up for another great afternoon on the Middle Fork.

On today’s agenda: Pistol Creek Rapid, an interpretive discussion about the Sheepeater Indians who lived along the Middle Fork, and a soak/shower in Sunflower Hotsprings.

We have a few miles of rough water before Pistol Creek. We tick off the Artillery section, float quietly through Dolly Lake and charge through Cannon Creek Rapid. We have been on the Middle Fork a few times this summer, so we decide we won’t need to stop and take a look at the entrance to Pistol Creek before we run it. The water just above the rapid changed significantly in July 2006 after a flash flood, and each summer it looks a bit different.

Pistol Creek Rapid is a narrow, twisting S-turn, involving several maneuvers to get through in one piece. There are slightly different ways to navigate the rapid, depending upon which boat you are running. Below is the paddle boat which relies upon forward momentum to get through rapids. The paddlers are just about to make their big move which is, unfortunately, just out of sight behind the large rock in the bottom right portion of the photo. Guide Greg (or Jeebs, as we know him) will have his paddlers shoot to the left edge of the big, pillowy “cushion” that is formed when most of the river slams into the “airplane rock” (the one you can’t see in this photo, of course!) and buckles back up onto itself. This cushion allows the front of the boat to basically ram the rock without actually hitting it and pivot off to the left side, thus avoiding getting stuck high and dry on the rock. This is the move we call the “airplane.” Immediately after making the airplane move, Greg will turn the boat back towards the right side of the river and call, “ALL FORWARD!!!” and (hopefully!) the paddlers will propel themselves away from the rock wall at the bottom left of the S-turn.

Pistol Creek Paddlers
Paddlers, led by Aggipah guide Greg, blast through Pistol Creek Rapid.

Still not the best photo showing the intensity of Pistol Creek, but you get the idea of the left side wall I was telling you about.

Pistol Creek Brakes
Aggipah owner, Bill Bernt, puts on the brakes to avoid hitting the wall at Pistol Creek Rapid.

Running rapids is fun. Pretty much one of my favorite ways to spend my time.

And there’s that word again…TIME…never enough of it. It’s TIME now for me to go outside and split some wood or the fire will go out, and I’ll be cold. And since it’s supposed to be about 4 below tonight, I’d better split a lot of it.



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