As our big group of several families and friends disembarked from our flotilla of rafts and kayaks and wandered up to our campsite on a sandy beach beside the river, I started surveying facial expressions. We had just finished the first day of a six-day float trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River—a day filled with running rapids, swimming, cliff jumping, fishing, and drifting lazily down one of the West’s most lovely river canyons—and I wondered: What was everyone thinking?
It didn’t take long to ascertain the collective mood: All I saw were smiles, laughter, and the kind of deep calm most of us don’t experience often enough. This did not surprise me. I knew from experience that’s the effect the Middle Fork has on people.