We lived like savages, and other tales from the Salt River

Rule No. 1 of a whitewater trip: rig to flip.

We sacrificed a little whiskey to the Salt River at the put-in as a show of respect. Not quite satisfied, she devoured our entire kitchen set a day later—pans, stove, fuel, cutting board, spatula, utensils, dishes, and even a fire pan my buddy was bragging about just a few hours earlier.

The last piece of equipment I remember seeing as I was floating feet first down Mescal Falls Rapid—and there were quite a few miscellaneous items in the frothy mix—was our poor, poor kitchen set, formerly rigged to my boat, now slowly sinking to the bottom of the Salt River like a dying ship lost at sea.

“Feed me!” The Salt River will gladly accept anything you have to offer.

I reasonably expected a disappointed response to my minor mishap. But my buddies actually seemed rather excited by the idea of a primitive wilderness experience.

So we lived like savages.

Forced to be creative, we cooked chicken and vegetables on tamarisk skewers one night. Then we started cooking brats and peppers over a makeshift stone grill the next night, only to get impatiently hungry and skewer every last brat in sight. We used a flat rock as a cutting board, and fashioned a spatula/serving spoon out of a piece of driftwood.

All in all, we made things work. And we had a damn good time while we were at it.

The best part? No dishes. Something to think about next time you’re cooking dinner for the family.



  1. Just recently we had planned on making burritos out of our dehydrated crap in a bag, however my girlfriend forgot the tortillas in the car. We quickly adapted, found some rocks that would work as spoons and moved on!

    Sounds like you had a good time, and sometimes the moments that can ruin a trip can make it all that much better! Something you and your friends will be talking about for years to come!


  2. Years ago a group of us from work made an overnight canoe trip. Eight of us and my dog in 4 canoes…with the gear divided up between us. It was placid river so we didn’t lose any gear…we just lost each other. (No cell phones in those long ago days.) My (now ex)husband decided he needed to fish while I paddled and we fell behind. It was getting dark so I finally put in so we could have a campsite. One more canoe came in after us. Between us we had the veggies for dinner but not the meat…and we had the breakfast stuff but no pan. We did have a pot tho. So I told my (not yet discovered to be highly challenged) husband to go get his &!@#! fish now and he did! We made a fish stew. The next morning, we discovered the other group around the next bend. And so, memories are made.

  3. adapt and overcome… what could have ruined it all made it something even more memorable…like the jump instructer peeling Guaps hands away from the plane…coulda gone either way. Thanks for sharing.. I’ve decided I am not even taking… oh wait…nevermind I don;t want the 5 yo eating too many bugs. 🙂

  4. Oh Eric! I love being an old broad, but you do make me miss my days as a river rat who survived many river dunkings in the Snake, Colorado, Green and Salmon rivers. I loved sitting at the front of a paddle raft, leaning forward, ready to dip my paddle in that next big wave that wanted to take a bite of me. Oh what grand memories. I’m glad I survived to have them. Thanks for reminding me

    1. Those memories will never leave you! Dang, you’ve floated some big ones! Nothing like a nice swim in cold, fast water over boulders to get your blood pumping, right?

      1. Yes.Great times, great memories. And my wish for you is from Edward Abbey: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds”,

  5. Where would we be without wild grouse caught with a sling fashioned from a mesquite branch and the wild but oh so delicious bratwurst tree? Yeah, but really, the closest we get to rapids in these parts is speed boats blatantly ignoring the “no wake” signs in small barely navigable bayous and rivers. We took the dogs on their first official canoe trip last week. Two boats loaded with gear and beer with about two inches to spare and we didn’t turn over once. And our dogs aren’t even the most well behaved pets you can imagine. I think if we were going to do anything with even the slightest turbulence, we would have to get a raft of some sort…perhaps fashioned from drift wood and a torn piece of pool covering from some boy scout camp.

    1. I’ve considered taking the dog on a canoe but figured he’d get all batshit crazy and tip the damn thing. Sounds like you pulled it off easily though! Hey, I know just the place if you’re in need of pool covering.

  6. Sounds like a perfect day.
    And even though it takes me a day to clean and dry it afterwards, I won’t get in any sort of boat (sail, kayak, etc) without my swiss army knife strapped (securely) to me, so I can carve the other tools from driftwood if I need to.
    And open cans.

    Great story, Eric!

    1. Deciding what to pack and what not to pack will forever remain a mystery. I always forget something, it seems.

  7. Ha! I didn’t quite understand your rule #1 until I read the story. It’s a great story! It would have been a good story even if all had gone as planned, but it’s when the unexpected happens that it becomes a great story! You guys rocked…oh, I didn’t know about having to sacrifice to the river before setting out. I’ll be sure to do this from now on. 🙂

    1. The unexpected definitely made it a better story! We actually had a great time adapting to our situation. Maybe you shouldn’t follow our lead on the whole sacrificing a little drinky drink to the river. River=5. Team Flippy Boat=0.

      1. Scratch that. River=6. Team Flippy Boat=0. I forgot about the broken paddle on day one.

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