Smith River

Hey everyone! I’m back and I’m going to try and update this blog more frequently, sorry I have been AWOL but injuries and life got in the way.

Back in early May, Sarah and I got an invite to float the Smith River in central Montana.  This is a ~60 mile stretch of river will minimal development and requires a permit.  Permits are not always easy to get and several of us put in for the lottery to get a spot.  Armed with 5 boats and 11 people we camped at the Camp Baker launch site after (mistakenly) running our own shuttle, which comprised of over 6 hours of driving in a circle between Helena, Great Falls and White Sulfur Springs.  The next morning we drew our spot to launch right when a large rainstorm moved in forcing us to seek shelter under boats and in cars until it relented enough to begin our float.

Springs to fill up our water for the trip.

We had on and off rain for the entire first day culminating with a massive storm right when we started making dinner.  We cooked dinner quickly and built a huge fire to dry off and commenced to drink several beers.

The next morning we awoke to clearing skies and the hope that we wouldn’t get rained on.  Our luck held and we had a great, though chilly, float and chased fish in the muddy water.

With only a brief shower the next day, the rest of the trip went extremely well with my only complaint being the lack of fish, which could be attributed to my poor fishing skills and the very muddy water.

On the last night a group of us hiked up to the Smith River canyon rim to watch a nice sunset over the river. The short hike was refeshing after being boat bound for two days. This was followed by building a four story hammock stack complete with a hookah and keg beer.

Four story hammock stack

We were greeted with a nice sunrise on our last day on this magical stretch of river. Unfortunately, there is an effort to build a large copper mine in the headwaters of the Smith potentially ruining its treasured fishery and causing water quality problems, I suggest you take a look at Save Our Smith to get involved and protect this wild and scenic river.


Mid-Winter Break

When we headed out in the morning this hadn’t slid. After having to bail on our initial plan due to dangerous conditions we returned to see this from the trailhead.

Amid growing persistent facets, including a scary collapse in the Hyalite Canyon, I bailed on the cold and headed to Hawaii with my wife for a two week tropical honeymoon.

It appears the slide was triggered by a cornice or ice fall.

We flew out of Billings and had layovers in Denver and San Francisco without any real problems.

After a late arrival in Kona, we rented a Jeep and crashed at a roach hotel (a warning for the budget minded traveler: Despite the allure of a $40 a night hotel in Kona, I highly recommend avoiding the “Kona Hotel” known for its distinct pink color) and got up early to head out and snorkel at Captain Cook Bay where we were inked by an octopus (video coming soon). Afterwards, we headed to the “City of Refuge”, a place where if a criminal could make it to the village before being caught, he had the opportunity to be exonerated by the King.

Palm trees in the City of Refuge.

Tiki man.

We explored some tidal pools and watched turtles swim and soak in the sun before we headed to the other side of the island and our accommodations for the week.

We then saw some turtles while tidepooling.

Sarah found a great place to stay for the week called Josanna’s Garden. It is an organic fruit farm deep in the jungle outside of the small hippie town of Pahoa. Steve and Janelle run a fascinating operation and utilize the WWOOF system. In exchange for 25 hours of farm labor, mainly picking fruit and packaging it, you can stay in a small bunk for free. While Sarah and I paid for our cabin and didn’t have to work it certainly got our minds thinking this could be a great way to travel cheaply.

Sarah inside our cabin near Pahoa on the Big Island.

We had a great time at “The Farm” and even Janelle, who used to live in Basalt, Colorado, used to swim with my dad. She claims she was faster than him, but I think her memory is a bit off as no one was really a faster swimmer than him.

Our cabin was a converted gazebo with a kitchenette and outdoor shower. It was most comparable to a forest service cabin in the jungle. They had tried their best to seal out the windows but the mesh screens provided minimal bug protection. Thus, we slept under the additional cover of a mosquito net. There were also a few geckos, a keoki frog, and a green anole as welcome housemates who feasted on the ever present bugs.

A green anole

While we could not swim in the ocean at the point closest to the farm, a short 4 wheel drive (good thing for the jeep) down the road would take us to the “Champagne Pond” in about 8 minutes. This was a large, geothermally heated, tidal pool filled with fish, turtles, and eels. The temperature was around 91 degrees and was perfect for snorkel soaking. I have a lot of GoPro footage of snorkeling and I hope to have a short video put together in the near future.

The eastern side of the Big Island is incredibly diverse with thick jungle broken by lava flows. The Farm was about a 2 mile walk to the rugged but beautiful Puna Coast. One night Sarah and I stargazed out on this point and it was one of the coolest and most unique things I have done on a trip.

The Puna Coast

In an attempt to avoid the huge “photo dump” posts I typically create, I am breaking this trip up into smaller segments so I can tell a better story. So, stayed to tuned for more posts in the coming days and weeks on our Hawaii trip.