Four things in particular stuck with me.
1) It turns out that the area around the Salmon River is not only an official wilderness area. It is also a light reserve, meaning that there is a limit on how much light people can bring into it. As it happens, we were on the river at the new moon. At night, more stars were visible than I have ever seen. They were so bright that I could have found my way around without a flashlight. Staring into the immensity of the night sky, with all those stars that are so very far away, was like a religious experience.
2) Salmon River is the second deepest canyon in the United States. (Nearby Snake River is the deepest. I guess that makes the Grand Canyon third.) The rock walls beside the river went on for mile after mile. Thinking about the incredible forces that uplifted so much rock was mind-boggling. And parts of the canyon walls were over a billion years old! That can make you feel pretty small!
3) The River itself was incredibly powerful. We experienced that power especially in rapids, which could be scary. But considerably more impressive is the fact that the river has, over millions of years, carved out the canyon. But for the river, we would have been walking along a ridge line several hundred feet up. Powerful as the rocks are, the river is still more. Unbelievable!
4) The dominant tree in the area appears to be the Ponderosa Pine. They are impressive trees, although we had to be careful. They spewed sap! My favorites were the trees that grew out of impossibly small rock outcrops or at the very top of the ridge. Some of them had virtually no soil and certainly no protection from the elements. They testified to the irrepressible power of life itself, life that emerges even in the most improbable places.
During our trip, I mostly enjoyed the rafting and the company. But as I look back, the sheer magnificence of God’s creation is what lingers with me. I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it!