Lower Salmon Inter-Generational Rafting

I’ve had the privilege of serving as Naturalist for 3 RoadScholar river trips this summer. Two on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River — a raft supported hiking & lodge, and a raft supported hiking & camping; one raft/camping trip on the Lower Salmon in Idaho.

The Rogue River is abundant in wildlife, plants, natural history and lore.
Osprey, herons, bears, snakes, turtles, eagles, river otters, rare plants, a richness of human stories from the earliest settlers of at least 9,000 years ago to the more recent characters such as Hathaway Jones, and Zane Gray.

The Lower Salmon River is abundant in Fun.


– I’d never seen the Salmon River before. Or if I did, I was in high school and have only vague recollections.
– I’d never done an inter-generational trip before.
And I was signed up to be their naturalist. The “expert” on the trip. I was an expert in observations, nerdiness, engaging kids and adults…but not of the river. I saw it as a way to share the process of being a naturalist rather than an opportunity to share my expert content knowledge. Needless to say, I was freaked out. And shouldn’t have been.
It sounds cliche, but during the passage through the canyon, we – as a group and as individuals – were transformed by the journey.

We were *all* wary on the first day, when the group met in a hotel meeting room in Idaho.
The kids were sizing each other up with thoughts such as: “I’m going to have to spend 6 days with him/her?” “Are there any other girls on this trip?” “How is my stuff going to fit into that?” “Is this going to be scary?”

The grandparents were sizing up us guides, “She’s our naturalist?” “We’re putting our gear in that? Helmets?” “Their parents are going to kill me if she/he comes back injured…”
And their doubts only got worse during the Ted Talk about bathroom logistics. I wish I’d taken photos of the expressions. “We’re going to have to pee in the river? use a groover?”

During the course of the week, watching that transition from strangers to friends was truly enjoyable. The grandkids created a group that looked out for, tolerated, teased, and annoyed each other. The grandparents were proud. The smiles on everyone’s faces were priceless.

The last night, standing at the place where the Salmon River meets the Snake River, the kids shared what they were planning on leaving behind. Answers included: too much FaceBook, texting while with friends, being stressed out about appearances. And what they were planning on taking with them: being outside more, spending time with friends, appreciating nature….and they weren’t just saying that to please the guide. They were obvious logical conclusions after such a beautiful week together.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed the transformation of these kids, and to have been given a glimpse into their thoughts about what they valued about the trip.
Which is exactly what I hope to bring home from the week.

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