By Michael Lanza
I pause on a trail 300 feet above one of the West’s wildest rivers, deep in the second-largest wilderness area in the contiguous United States. Below me, Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River bends like an elbow between steep mountainsides of ponderosa pines in a canyon nearly 4,000 feet deep. I notice people and rafts on a beach campsite—the first people I’ve seen since I started hiking from Boundary Creek seven miles upstream almost three hours ago, planning to reach Indian Creek, another 20 miles downstream, by this evening.
Suddenly, a nasal shriek startles me. I spin around to see an elk crossing the trail I’d walked minutes ago. And I think: Welcome to the Idaho wilderness.