Back in August we took my in-laws on a trip to Jackson, Wyoming — an adventure in the Tetons — a place that is near and dear to my heart, but a brand new experience for my in-laws. A great group of people with high spirits, and except for me and my wife, more experience relaxing on a beach then adventuring through the mountains and down rivers. This was definitely not a deterrent to get out and adventure, it was more of a drive to show them what outdoor adventure is all about. They were all strongly determined to have a great experience and explore my obsession for the Tetons.
With hikes, rafting trips and fly fishing, we figured it was just enough to introduce them into the Tetons. The one thing I wanted them to experience while in Jackson was a raft trip down the Snake River. This was one my first experience in the Tetons when I was a child and an experience that the memories only grow and continue to shape me and my love for the outdoors. Every time I set a foot into the chilly glacier water of the Snake, I will always remember the way it felt the first time my foot felt the chilled water. It was instant love for the river. Since this was such a profound experience for myself I obviously wanted to share the love of the Snake with my “married” family.
So with that we set out down the river, with Captain Mark on the oars and 6 crew members enjoying the scenery. We put in at Pacific, just below Jackson Lake, and planned to float to Moose about 18 miles down the river. This being my crews first float trip with little to no experience on the waters in a bucket boat we were bound to find a little adventure.
At put-in the weather was chilly for a full day on the water, the type of chill that is just cool enough to make you have a little shake of the body when the cool breeze hits your bare skin. All of us who adventure in the mountains know we can be the most optimistic about the weather, but the weather will always do what it wants to do. About 2 hours into our float trip we felt a few sprinkles and I had been watching the weather turn from light blue skies to heavy dark low laying clouds, we were in for a little shower. We found a quick pull off, pulled the raft out of the river and made a shelter from the rain.
Re-launching down the river we were welcomed by bright sunny skies, and the temperature quickly raised 10 degrees. We were blessed with about 45 minutes of sun before the epic hit.
The clouds moved back in, the smell of a heavy rain filled the air. We were in for it. I knew this… maybe my crew had an idea, but I gradually requested the crew to get the jackets and the tarps out. It was one of those rainstorms that bring in a downpour of heavy rain. As we were on a location of the river that wasn’t the easiest to pull to the shore and seek shelter we kept going. As soon as someone said, well at least it isn’t hailing… the hail set in! Enough to get a laugh out of the crew and enough for me to quench in pain every time the pea size hail would hit my legs.
There were a few things that I learned from this trip: First, if you are taking a family of non-adventurers down a river, make it a little shorter of a trip. The second, was one that I learned from Boy Scouts when I was young, “Always be prepared”. Without the tarps, rain coats and warm clothing, I am sure I would have been sleeping on the deck that night, as it would have been one of the longest days of their lives, and a horrible introductory experience into the outdoors. Finally, the last thing that isalways refreshed in me every time I introduce a person who has never experienced the passion of outdoor adventure. It is the excitement that they all have experiencing something new, and experiencing a place as beautiful as the Tetons and the Snake River. I have experienced this countless times working as a climb instructor and ski instructor, but seeing it on the faces of my family members makes rowing through a heavy down pour and hail the most rewarding experience.
At the end of the day we all sat down for a beer at Snake River Brewery and toasted our 18-mile adventure and the welcoming of new adventures to the world of the outdoors.