North Fork Boise poling and camping

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Feb 14, 2013
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We did this trip in August. The NF Boise is one of the local popular whitewater rivers. With the flows down to late summer levels, the whitewater paddlers are done for the year. Then it becomes a great poling run from the bottom up.


We spent the first night staging at the confluence campground. I'ts kind of a long drive up from the valley. That's the entrance to the north fork in the far background.



We were late in the year doing this trip, due to work demands. Water was as low as I've ever seen it - so I had to check it out before loading the canoes, to make sure it was passable. Yep - it's a go.



And here we go, up the river. It's a mix of easy flat and highly technical rock-gardens.






This isn't my son's first time poling - but it's his first time poling a loaded canoe and his first time on an overnight canoe trip. He did great!



Continued...
 
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The previous night, we saw a lot of distant lightning. We suspected that some fire might break out - and we were right. You can see the smoke beginning to blow in from the South Fork drainage in this photo.



Still looks nice and clear upstream though.



Scot was still a little timid on the ledges early in the trip, and resorted to lining this one.





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This is one of the few places in my part of the state where the boulders are ideally distributed for eddy-hopping upstream.





This was our destination for the night. That's about a 15'-deep hole below that rock face - with plenty of nice trout in it.



The ground-dweller's rig.



My preferred hammock. Yeah - it's not a "clean camp". But there are no bears here this time of year, and no chance of rain either. No critters at all, in fact - other than birds and fish. Nobody camps here this time of year and no natural food for any large critters - so they go elsewhere.



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So - here's the thing....Beyond the first mile, nobody walks up here to fish. It's not the typical backpacker's destination either. No roads or even any significant trails here. It's all ours, once the flows get too low for rafters and kayakers. We are camped at about the 2-mile mark.



There's a stretch of bony rock-garden that we have to carry around to go any farther. Between that and the fishing hole - an ideal place to stop for the night. We had hoped to go up another couple miles for another night - but the smoke rolling in changed our minds...












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When you can't find two trees close enough together, you are really glad you are a canoe poler. I have used this trick more than once...



The wind changed overnight, and we awakened with some hope of clear skies and a continued trip.



It wasn't long though, before the wind changed again and the smoke came rolling back.


With the smoke rolling in, we deliberated over going on. My son stayed and fished while I went up the river (with the lighter boat - remember, I had to carry it some) to scout out another campsite. Until this trip, we were already as far up the river as I had gone before.



And it's getting smokier.





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Feb 14, 2013
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A mile up from camp. Smoke getting thicker...



I parked the boat at the end of a ridge, where the river makes a hairpin turn. About a mile and a half up from camp now. Could have continued some more - but with the smoke thickening, it was decision time.



With the aid of "superzoom", a look at a potential campsite that is right at 2 miles above the first. The route up to it is clear - with helpful boulders. Next year...



Well, waddya know - an elk has been here.



Heading back down.



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The smoke got so thick that the ambient light had an orange tint. The sun was often blocked clear out. I tried to capture the orange ripples on the river bottom.



Looking back where I had to carry for the scout.



And here we are, back at camp.





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On my return, the decision was made to bug-out. We weren't worried about the fire reaching us - but we were concerned about the road in being blocked, and maybe being forced to take the long way out. Poling downstream (called "snubbing") is often more work and more intense than climbing upstream - especially with loaded boats. That is the case with this river - and (along with the smoke/fire issue) the reason I didn't take many pictures on the way down. We stopped here again to rest.



Nearly back to the rig and the road. By now, our eyes and throats were burning from the smoke. Ash was falling like snow.



We expected a full campground when we got down - but the forest service had evacuated the area. We didn't have to go out the longest way - but we couldn't go out the way we came in either. We took a less desirable route, but still made it back before dark. By the time we got home, four large fires had combined in two locations not far apart - and soon totaled about 200k acres (much more since then). When we got down to the valley, we looked back to see this huge column of smoke.



Best part about this trip is that my son is wanting to go back next year. Earlier in the summer next time - to beat the fires and the extremely low water.
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
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Old Lyme, CT
Thanks for posting. Looked like a great trip. I was impressed that your two poles were able to support the hammock so well. I just switched over to the hammock and I'm amazed at how much better I sleep on trips.
 
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Nov 28, 2013
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Red Hill, Pa
Steve, I sit in awe after reading and looking at all the amazing pictures in your trip report!
I went back and looked through it two more times, just to take it all in.
That is some scenery you have access to and thanks for the great shots.
No doubt a great trip and with your son as added bonus.
Thanks much for sharing!
 
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Feb 29, 2012
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Schenectady, NY
Mr. Steve,
Thank you too much for posting, especially all those photos. That looked like a great trip, made even better because you could share it with your son (and he enjoyed it!) I know little of the terrain and flora over your way, I spend all my paddling and camping time in the Adirondacks (upstate NY).
Is the lack of greenery due to the time of year, or is it so dry that not much grows? The river looks great, do you need to filter your drinking water? And tell me about poling downstream...why is it tougher than going up? I didn't see any paddles, did I overlook them or did you rely on your poles only?
And from the way you were describing the smoke and distant fire, it sounds like it's a common occurrence, is it?
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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Steve, What a riveting trip report! I was always glad I had daughters; I knew where all my tools were and didn't need to lock up my guns. But looking at that fine son of yours and the fun you guys are having, I've got to revise my ideas! This has gotten to be one of the look forward to things of Fall: Steve's trip report on what trip he's been on!

I've only seen the aftermath of forest fires (thank God!) that area shown in the photos; it seems more or less open. Are the trees close enough there to support a forest fire? Obviously, there's a fire somewhere near but I'm just trying to get a sense of the dynamics of how it works in that kind of country.
Here west of the mountains the forests are so close grown there's just about no way one tree won't catch the next one.

Glad you both are safe and thanks for sharing where you've been.

Best Wishes,

Rob
 
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Sep 2, 2011
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Location
Raymond, ME
I am trying to figure out how you got the poles to stay upright with nothing in the hammock... Any other hints other than to get just the right angle.. The fire stuff is something we usually ( but not always) don't have to deal with. And have way more outs than you do when we do have to! Nice to see your TR. Thanks!
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
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Location
Maryland, USA
Wonderful photos and story, Steve, thanks. I guess I have never seen canoe trip photos where there isn't a paddle to be seen. No point taking a paddle if the water is to shallow.
Dave
 
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Feb 1, 2013
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Ontario
What a great report! Such beautiful country to do some poling. Looked so idyllic (except for that fire threat).

I too have many questions about your gear and that hammock setup. Maybe it's just my eyes, but your wooden 2 piece pole looked quite thin - almost like your aluminum pole. I never would've thought a narrow diameter 2 piece wooden pole could handle the bending stress. Is it ash for strength / flex? What is the connecting hardware... a kayak paddle ferrule? Would love to see a tutorial on how you made your pole if you had the chance.

Your bipod hammock setup looks fantastic too...opens the door to new hammock camping locations where trees are sparse.
 
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Feb 1, 2013
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Whew, that's some dang fine scenery! I've been really playing with the poling idea for a few years, I think I need to do it this year! Thanks for the inspirational report!
 
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another hammock guy here, and soon to be poler, so I too am really interested in the stand alone set up.

thanks for sharing your trip!
 
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Wow Steve, that trip report is awesome. I can’t get over that canyon lands type scenery. I’m finally convinced now, that poling/snubbing opens up hidden places. It sure looks like it would take quite a bit of practice; mind you, I’m never afraid to get wet! Thanks for sharing a beautiful place. I agree, passing on to, and sharing with your son, makes it all the more memorable.
 
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