Thursday, March 24, 2011

Family Rafting Vacations Go Luxury & Green

On America’s Newest Family Vacation, the Imprint on the Environment is Measured in Smiles, not Emissions.

Many Americans are opting for vacations that nurture the family, the soul, and nature. Family vacations have to cover an array of needs and desires for both parents and children. Earth friendly and luxurious comfort is big on baby boomer wish lists this year. Choosing a fun, sustainable, and earth friendly vacation is a growing trend. Virtuoso®, luxury travel industry's leading travel network, released their Virtuoso Luxe Report, forecasting relevant travel trends, based on travel decisions and other motivating factors for upscale 2011 travel. Interestingly, the survey reported that family and multi-generational travel is the biggest emerging travel trend for 2011.

With no end in sight for the price of oil, there is a family friendly vacation where gravity propels you downstream for up to a week through intoxicating beauty. “The imprint on the environment is measured in smiles, not emissions, on Idaho’s newest family trip design,” says Steve Lentz, head guide and founder of Far and Away Adventures in Sun Valley, Idaho. “Over the years we have noticed the desire for pure fun and relaxation evolve into a need for more comfort, respect, and learning about nature, along with special experiences crafted just for kids of all ages.”

Five progressive Idaho outfitters in the River of No Return Wilderness offer an over-the-top family rafting adventures sure to please everyone. Bob Volpert of Idaho River Journeys mentions “Combining entertainment and education, children are led by enthusiastic guides to discover a new world of appreciation of nature and themselves in it.” Volun-tourism and leave-no-trace travel, are components of taking care and giving back on these trips. The wilderness setting, whitewater excitement, and fly-fishing, have proven to successfully out compete cell phones, TVs, demanding workplaces, social schedules, and even the Xbox. The result? A family that is reconnected, reinvigorated, and more relaxed.

Jerry Hughes runs Hughes River Expeditions and outfits river rafting trips on the Snake River, Salmon and Middle Fork in Idaho. He thinks that the ease of planning, the adventure, and the opportunity for families to spend time together without distractions attributes to the popularity of river rafting vacations. “Sitting around a campfire with your kids is an experience we once took for granted,” Hughes notes. “But in today’s techie world, it’s something wonderfully rejuvenating.”

The river outfitters mentioned offer three to six-day river rafting trips on the most famous rivers in Idaho and Oregon. Prices include shelter, sleeping bags, camp chairs, and just about everything else you might need, except personal items. Also included are the activities that make a river rafting vacation more than just whitewater: hiking, fly fishing, interpretation and those ever-so-elusive family campfire moments.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

History Abounds on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon

The natural beauty of the Middle Fork of the Salmon is the most appealing aspect of a float trip for many visitors. But the river canyon has a rich human history as well. There are many old cabins, homesteads, old farm equipment and Native American pictographs to visit along the river. They take you back to a time when sleeping along the Middle Fork was not a vacation of a lifetime, but a way of life. Here, the five most experienced river companies on the Middle Fork will share some of their favorite historic stops.

Solitude River Trips on “Prehistoric/Native American Sites”

There are four types of archeological sites that you’ll encounter on the Middle Fork – rock shelters, open camps, pictographs and pit house villages. Rock shelters were formed in steep canyons where there was an overhanging rock face. Pit house villages and open camps were generally established on terraces. No one is sure what shape shelters took on open camps; pit house villages were made up of tipi-like structures built over small circular depressions, the pits. Pictographs are not as abundant on the Middle Fork as they are on some western rivers, but some are found in rock shelters. No one knows if the images scrawled on the rock tell stories of the Indians’ experiences or were meant to act as maps. One popular theory goes that they are a record of a shaman’s visions. Native American sites may be viewed, but never disturbed!

Rocky Mountain River Tours on “Middle Fork Lodge”

This structure has a long history and many different owners throughout the years, Bill Harrah (owner of Harrah’s casinos in Nevada) bought the ranch in 1966 when the Forest Service dropped the ball and did not pick up an option to purchase the ranch. Harrah spent millions turning the old ranch into a wonderful lodge, which had antique cars on the grounds and Charley Russell paintings hanging on the walls. Many celebrities visited the lodge, including. Loretta Lynn, Steve Mc Queen, Sammy Davis Jr., Glen Campbell and Bill Cosby. The place changed hands many times since Harrah died and is now owned by an investment broker from New York.

Far and Away Adventures on “Daisy Tappan Cabin"

This cabin rests at Grouse Creek; it was there when Willis Jones settled at this spot in 1917. Jones sold the place to Fred and Daisy Paulson-Tappan for $1200. Fred was from Iowa and daisy was from Prineville Oregon. They raised cattle, grew a big garden with strawberries, watermelons, blackberries, raspberries and muskmelons. Daisy said that the rock chucks would make a little hole in the melons next to the ground and then hollow out the entire melon, which appeared edible until picked and the hole was discovered! As self sufficient as they were, Fred and Daisy still had to buy horseshoes, leather and clothes. $300 dollars would easily see them through the year! In later years the Forest Service cut off their grazing permits. By then (about 1933), their boys were old enough to go to school, and they moved out. Years later, Daisy said, "You know, it was three years before I could sleep without the sound of that river and creek. It was just too darned quiet.

Idaho River Journeys on “Powerhouse Mill”

Longtime Middle Fork drifters will fondly recall the Powerhouse Cabin & Stamp Mill, which rested adjacent to Powerhouse Rapids. The cabin is called the Smith-Hussey cabin after the builders, and was built back in the 1920s. It featured a unique roof system that had yard long wooden shakes. The stamp-mill – with a waterwheel that could be lowered into the river when needed – was used to process gold ore that was harvested from the White Goat mine on the opposite side of the river. The ore was brought down a steep trail by mule and then brought across the Middle Fork via a cable car system. Gold was processed here until the 1950’s. Regrettably, the cabin and mill were consumed in the 2007 wild fires that ran through the valley, though metal components from the mill remain, hinting at the past.

Hughes River Expeditions on “Joe Bump’s Cabin”

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many pioneer families moved to the Middle Fork and built homesteads along the river. Some were successful and became private land, others moved on and made their homes elsewhere. Descendants of many Middle Fork pioneer families still live in the region. One settler who didn’t stay was Joe Bump, whose cabin – or at least its remains – rest just a little bit below Powerhouse Rapids. Joe Bump was a prospector and packer from Cascade, Idaho. One winter Joe lost his toes to frost bite in the upper Middle Fork in Bear Valley in a snowstorm and developed blood poisoning and left for good, moving back to Cascade. (That’s why you float in the summer!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shopping Around for the Best River Trip?

Advice from the five most experienced river companies on the Middle Fork: how you can be assured a treasured "trip of a lifetime".

Sun Valley, Idaho - Americans know it can be difficult, and sometimes frustrating, to choose a vacation date, decide what to do, where to go, how to go there, and who to go with. Americans also know that a vacation is an important investment of time, money, and planning. You should demand the best experiences, the best opportunities for lifetime memories, and limit the hassles so the whole process is enjoyable, valuable, and relaxing. When your trip is over, you should feel that every penny was well spent, and that you and your family adventured with people who really cared.

Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon holds a reputation as being one of the “must see” adventures on Planet Earth. With the advice from the five most experienced river companies on the Middle Fork, here is how you can be assured a treasured "trip of a lifetime".

Idaho River Journeys on “The Guides”

How is your crew family friendly? This question is meant to determine if the outfit has given family dynamics some thought. If it is a multi-generational trip, what activities will entertain the different age groups?

How long has your crew been working together? What is your staff turnover rate? As a customer, you should look for a crew with long term, multi-season experience working together. An outfit with frequent staff changes or a history of hiring guides from other outfits is a warning sign. Guides tend to stay with the best outfitters and not move around much.

Rocky Mountain River Tours on “The Food”

Can you show me your menu? Cuisine is a major factor of the experience.
Progressive outfitters now take the concept of outdoor/riverside dining to the highest level. Menu preparation is designed so the day's meals complement each other, and the evening meals provide a week-long balance of fish, poultry, and meat. The meals should satisfy the tastes of all the guests, while at the same time encourage them to experiment with unique foods during their vacation. Dinners should be accompanied by a selection of wonderful wines. Just add the song of the river for the ultimate in culinary adventure.

Hughes River Expeditions on “Camp Provisions”

How do you make camping comfortable and what gear is provided? You will want to know about tents. Are they spacious enough? Keep in mind that a so-called “four-person” tent is most comfortable for two adults. Where will the kids sleep? What are toilet facilities like? Does the outfitter provide camp chairs or will you be sitting on the ground? Are freshly laundered sleeping bags provided?

If you are considering going by yourself, ask about the tents. Will I get my own tent? Some outfits provide a set number of tents. Some have tents for singles. If you have a family of five, you should expect three tents.

Solitude River Trips on “Moving Down River”

How do you divide the boats up each day? Will I get to paddle with my family? The outfitter should have a varied fleet of boats to accommodate different guests. You should be able to make the choice between just floating and actively participating. This is particularly important if you have teens in your party.

How are your trips fun for all members of a family? If the entire emphasis is on the boating aspect of the trip, chances are the crew doesn’t know the best hikes, fishing holes, hot springs and other attractions. Your vacation is a guided tour of a wonderful place and - although boating is the central theme - take advantage of the crew’s knowledge to learn about the area.

Far and Away Adventures on “Safety and Sustainability”

What kind of emergency training does your staff have? All of their guides should have advanced first aid and CPR.

Satellite phones and GPS units are absolutely necessary in the wilderness if an emergency arises. The phone also allows an emergency from home to be delivered to your group.

Support outfitters that support stewardship. Choose wisely the company that practices low impact ethics and who are giving back to the resource.

And remember, companies with the lowest prices may have the oldest equipment and lower paid guides. All trips are not equal - shop for the best all-around experience. Lastly, get references.