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The Gearboat Chronicles

Abominable Snowfield

Abominidable . . . Abdominal . . . I had to look that one up for spelling purposes. Means very unpleasant. Loathsome even. The snowman connection, says Webster, is “a spurious translation of a supposed Tibetan phrase . . . blah blah blah . . . meaning man-bear or snowfield man.”

I was just trying to describe some surprising snowfields I saw above the Salmon River. But now I have to look up ‘spurious.’

Here we are . . . spurious. “Not genuine. Counterfeit.”

Yeah, so anyway, there we are camped on the Salmon River last week, a mile and a half above the confluence with the Snake, and Jacey Bell looks up and notices what appears to be light shining through the rocks on the ridge above us. Hmm . . . seems an awfully stout chunk of rock to have such big peep holes, so I zoomed in, took a photo, then zoomed that in and behold – snow.

At around 3,000 feet. I checked the topo map. Right next to Hells Canyon. After an entire summer. And on a south slope. Curious. There’s the picture right there. Taken from the left bank of the Salmon, just below Checkerboard Rapid, looking to the north. Explain that to me. I’m waiting.

I ran it by the authorities. And by authorities, I mean Tim. The guy who knows all. You may have run into him at his office on the porch of Terminal Gravity brew pub. The great thing about Tim is that in the rare cases where he doesn’t know the answer to a thing, he does anyway. In this case he speculated that deep drifts, coupled with an overhang that provided shade would likely allow for snow that low hanging on this late.

I’m looking out the window of my writing shack at home right now for comparison with Mount Joseph, which is 9,000-ish feet. There’s a few wee pockets of snow up around the summit, but nothing down lower.

So there’s your canyon curiosity for the day. And while nobody called me an outright liar, I was met with some sideways glances when I reported these snow patches to my rafting cohorts. Almost as if I reported seeing a yeti. Which are beautiful creatures, by the way.

Other picture is more easily explained. It’s swirlies made with a finger in the sand, lit up by campfire light. Yes, a nice, late season float down the Salmon with hot days and crisp evenings. Sprawled on a beach at night, feeding driftwood into a little blaze for ambiance.

Nothing spurious about it.