An Unlikely Pairing
Trail Runner|July 2018, #129

FLOATING AND RUNNING IDAHO’S MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON RIVER

Tom Diegel

Boating—a word that most runners loathe. It can mean everything from floating on a placid lake to an ocean-sailing crossing to a Caribbean cruise ship. But to a trail runner, it pretty much means one thing: a complete lack of exercise. As a result, most runners tend to avoid watercraft at all costs and encourage their families to go on more terrestrial-based vacations in order to facilitate their daily endorphin fix.

However, what about a boating trip that not only offers up an unusual, fully disconnected adventure deep in one of the biggest wildernesses in the United States that also presents the ability to run hundreds of miles of remote single track and eat sumptuous meals each day?

A map of Idaho shows a huge swath of road less green in the middle of the state, and cutting northward for a hundred miles through the heart of this remote area is the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, one of the great rivers of the West. In addition to making for a world-class river trip, it’s an untapped trail-running heaven.

Our crew of 15 folks was able to get an ideal launch date in early July 2016. One of the great things about a river trip is that nearly everyone can enjoy them: our trip included some nearly retired lawyers who had barely ever slept outside, teens who wondered why they were being forced off their phones for a week, gung-ho millennials, crusty river rats and, fortunately, also accomplished endurance athletes Drew Hardesty, Paul Diegel, Zinnia Wilson and Benj Wadsworth, who were as keen to lope along single track and charge up steep climbs as they were to brave the rapids.

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