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The Gearboat Chronicles

Mike Baird’s Salmon Migration

So get this. Mike Baird grows up in Idaho and tromps around the Salmon River country during his whippersnapper years. Gets all growed up and works in various Salmon River wildernessy areas parachuting into fires, planting new trees and whatnot. Marries his lovely wife Kathie in Stanley, Idaho, which is located between the left atrium and right ventricle of the upper Salmon River scene. His daughter Caitlin grows up and gets married ON the Main Salmon. Flloated down the Main Fork and had the ceremony on the beach. Pretty cool. Mike river guides in the summers, sometimes guiding raft trips on . . . waaaaaaaait for it . . . the . . . guess which river.

The Grande Ronde.

No. It’s the Salmon. You were totally right.

So. A Salmon runs through it with this guy. And this year that same daughter Caitlin and friends lined up a trip to do the Middle and Main forks of the Salmon. Both real groovy sections of river. Real groovy. Mike was in. Then Winding Waters called asking if Baird could work a Lower Salmon trip. Rays of golden light beams shot from his calendar as he realized this was so coo-coo crazy it just might work. So Mike Baird loaded his boat, set off for Idaho and floated the whole gol-dang thing, 19 days on the water. 286 miles. 60 miles of it solo through rapids he’d never laid eyes on. Heckuva trip.

Here’s Mike with daughter Caitlin and son-in-law Matt Seitz.

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Baird had to pack carefully for this journey. Luckily he remembered to bring me and I got to go along for the first leg on the Middle Fork. Here’s Baird rowing and me about to get a faceful of water.

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We toodled through the Frank Church wilderness and saw chunks of rock like this this’n here. Easy on the eyes, that Salmon territory.


Mike saw many things on this epic river jaunt. Like this 95 or 96-inch giant dragonfly. Magnificent creatures.

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It takes a lot of huevos to embark on a river trip of such proportions. Pictured here (SFW).

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Not pictured: rancheros

Let’s just consider those stats once more: 19 days. 286 miles. Camped with 30 different people. Consumed at least two cans of beer — one of them at the confluence of the Salmon and Snake rivers, by way of shotgunning, to cap the trip. For those not familiar with the technique of shotgunning a beer, easiest way to explain it is to direct you to the nearest freshman dorm during the first week of college. Second thought, don’t concern yourself with this barbaric ritual. Actually — no, everybody should know how this works. So you poke a hole near the bottom of a can of beer — bottles don’t work nearly as well — tip it up and pull the tab to open it in one fluid motion, then attempt to consume all the fluid in one or more gulps while foam erupts out your nostrils and your eyes start watering. Or so I’m told. I would never do such a thing.

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Mike rolled into the Pine Bar boat launch thoroughly warmed up, joined the Winding Waters crew and finished ‘er off in style. Nice work, Baird.

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Ready for your own epic river journey? I know some people who’d love to take you. Get on the horn with Winding Waters River Expeditions and let’s do this.