Sunday, October 11, 2009

Summer in Idaho

"Whatever I feel like I want to do. Gosh!" Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Chris’s primary motivation for leaving TAO on the hard this summer was to work with his close friends at Canyons, Inc., the Idaho river company he has been an integral part of since 1999. The river has always been a part of Chris’s life, beginning with day trips on the Kern River in California, and multi-day private trips with his family on the San Juan River in Utah as early as 1978. Chris started guiding professionally in 1994 and, to this day, still soaks in the revitalizing energy of the river on every trip. As river seasons in Idaho go, 2009 was a relatively wet year and Chris saw rain on most of his trips, sometimes with only one day of sun over the course of a six-day float.The additional water kept rivers up, the hills green, and also provided excellent kayak surf conditions on his days off. Chris and his friends spent many blissful hours surfing in the perfect white pile of Gold Hole at 10,000 cfs, located in the very last rapid of the 6-day Main Salmon River run.

Apart from fun on the river, there were a couple of hallmark events worth mentioning. First, his dear friend and coworker, Greg McFadden (flexing some serious muscles in pic below), has made a successful bid to buy Canyons, Inc., from employers, Les and Susan Bechdel. The Bechdels have captained the Canyons ship from day one almost 25 years ago, building the company into one of the premier river companies to offer multi-day trips down the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers.Chris and the rest of the Canyons crew have full faith that Greg will continue the tradition of exceptional river running in the largest and one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the lower 48 states (

Finally, the event that capped off Chris’s summer was a little more painful, to say the least. On another rainy day 3 at Big Mallard camp on the Main Salmon, Chris slipped and fell between two rafts while unloading gear. He quickly caught himself by grabbing two shipped oars, one on each raft, but was caught suspended between the two boats slowly drifting apart. While lowering himself to the ground, he suddenly heard a distinct popping sound in his shoulder and felt searing pain. He hobbled out of the water and immediately saw the left side of his chest swell into a B-cup “man-boob.” Pain management and stabilization were the immediate chores on order; nothing that a few painkillers, ice, sling and swathe couldn’t solve. His injury was monitored for any signs of change, major hemorrhaging, or loss of feeling in his left hand. Despite several hope-filled dreams that symptoms had disappeared over night, morning came and he knew there was absolutely no chance he’d be able to row the last few days of the trip. Twenty-four hours and several satellite phone conversations later, Chris was flown off the river from a short, steeply angled dirt runway with a harrowing, over the river take-off.

After medical evaluation, Chris was told that he had most likely torn the better part of his left pectoralis major muscle off of the upper humerus where it normally attaches. He needed surgery to gain back what he had lost. He had open surgery on August 17 and the surgeon indeed found that he had a “complete avulsion of the pec major tendon from the insertion point on the humerus.” They drilled ten “bone tunnels” into his humerus and used “baseball/whip/locking stitches” and four knots to reattach his pec and reestablish his “native anatomy.” He is still recovering from this setback, with physical therapy and, eventually, muscle rehabilitation. It’ll be a 5-6 month process but, luckily, he and his surgeon expect a 100% recovery. Special thanks go to Drs. Patrick Knibbe and Michael Curtin, as well as the entire Canyons, Inc., team for making Chris’ journey to recovery as smooth as possible.


  1. Nice job honey!!! xoxoxo

  2. Saw Tao yesterday - she looked good from the bottom view. Hope you get to come back to Mexico soon!