Day to day living on a river trip takes you back to a simpler time. For one thing, human beings have been sitting around, staring into and being warmed by the heat of campfires for a very long time. Campfires are just plain therapeutic; we all need more campfires in our lives!
And living and travelling through the wilderness in a small, self-sufficient group also strikes a deep primal satisfaction for many of us. Time in camp is time spent socializing, cooking, eating, playing games with one another, napping, reading, and just hanging out. And of course, if you're on a private 'do-it-yourself' trip, there is work to do. But those of us who like to putter around find even the work to be relaxing.
A wonderful aspect of multi-day whitewater rafting trips is the irony of the daily routine. On one hand you know precisely what you will be doing today and tomorrow, and the next day, which is, having fun, travelling downstream. You'll break camp each day, load the gear onto the boats, pull away from camp, out into the current, and enjoy those first few miles in the morning light which is always a special time to be on moving water. You'll stop to scout rapids, and stop for lunch, goof around, and explore the historical and natural features of the river corridor. And then in the afternoon you'll make camp, maybe hike or fish a bit, play games, eat dinner, and sit around the evening campfire until the embers die away.
But each day on a rafting trip will be brand new in every other way, with its own unique smorgasbord of sights and adventures. Maybe that's what makes casting off in the mornings so fun. You know you won't see that camp again; everything today will be brand new. The sound of the flowing water is invigorating, and you know the whole day is set out for you to encounter and enjoy. You live the life of a nomad, a wanderer, a member of a self-reliant tribe. Each day the river takes you away, and reveals to you the rare sights and sounds that are together, the unique experience that is a river rafting trip. You'll gradually learn about what’s around each bend as you move downstream. You'll see it all, and experience the magic that is moving water, the excitement and adventure of the crashing rapids, the solitude and silence of the calm stretches.
After a day or two of this wonderful routine, you will undoubtedly slip into a mental state that we river runners call 'river time'. Your mind downshifts to a more primitive mode. The cares and stress of your life back in the 'real world' slip away. Here, on the river, there is no rush, except the rush of moving water. For you, nothing must happen urgently. You take it as it comes. You slow down, you savor it. You relax.
Pick a rock or a nice place on the beach. Settle in. Take a nap. Read a book. Chat with your friends. Indulge your hobbies of cooking or photography or knitting, or bead craft, or whatever it is. Read your maps; find the old homestead or mining claim up that gulch behind camp. Look for traces of Indian camps and art work. Soak in a crystal clear hot spring with a glass of wine, and the wilderness scenery all around you.
The shared experiences are a real attraction of river rafting trips. Friendships and bonds form quickly among strangers who start off down the river together. It's easy to recognize fun when you see it and it's wonderful to share the experiences. The photos on this page give a good idea of the breadth of activities and adventures you can have in addition to the white water!
Imagine life in the corridor thousands of years ago. Chances are it looked to those ancient folks as you see it today - except the wine glass, and the tent, and the camp kitchen, and the folding chairs, and all the other conveniences of a modern river rafting trip. If you're on a river, you’re one lucky person. May you find your fair share of 'river time'.
Yes, you can find places to shop and spend money on a white water rafting trip. A visit to the store at the Flying 'B' Ranch is a requisite stop on any raft trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon. The Main Salmon has stores at Five Mile Bar (with the amazing and free "Buckskin Bill Museum") and at Mackay Bar. Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon is a time-honored and favorite stop. River stores offer tee shirts, snacks, ice, books, maps, postcards, and my favorite purchase on a hot summer day, ice cream bars. Uniquely, the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon has regularly spaced lodges down the entire length of the wild and scenic section providing bed and breakfast services. You can even arrange what is called a 'credit card trip' where you leave your tent at home and just float from lodge to lodge, eating out every night and sleeping in clean sheets! Reservations usually required.