Rediscovering Each Other: A Couples’ Getaway with Helfrich Outfitters

Rediscovering Each Other: A Couples’ Getaway with Helfrich Outfitters

Embarking on a multi-day river trip with Helfrich River Outfitters along the Middle Fork of the Salmon or the Rogue River presents couples with a unique opportunity to reconnect and strengthen their bond in a naturally beautiful setting. This unique experience offers the perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and romance, all set in some of the most breathtaking river landscapes in the country.

A World Away from Daily Life

In today’s fast-paced world, finding time to truly disconnect and focus on each other can be a challenge. Helfrich River Outfitters offers couples this rare chance to escape the constant distractions and stresses of modern life. As they journey down these majestic rivers, they find themselves immersed in a world where the only priorities are the enjoyment of nature and each other’s company.

Exhilarating Days on the River

Whether it’s fly fishing for steelhead on the Rogue or casting lines for trout in the tranquil waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon, couples are in for an exhilarating experience. The thrill of fly fishing, coupled with the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, makes for unforgettable days. For those seeking a more adrenaline-fueled activity, whitewater rafting offers a fun and exciting way to navigate the river’s diverse landscapes.

Choosing Your Own Adventure

One of the most appealing aspects of these trips is the flexibility they offer. Couples can have their own private boat, giving them the freedom to tailor each day to their interests. Whether they choose to spend their days fishing, rafting, or a mix of both, the experience is uniquely theirs.  A private boat also opens up even more opportunities to hike, enjoy hot springs, explore historical sights and to spend the day however you wish without having to worry about the wishes of other guests.

Beyond the River: Hiking and Hot Springs

The adventure doesn’t stop at the river’s edge. Couples can explore scenic hiking trails, offering a chance to stretch their legs and explore the river canyon. On the Middle Fork, guests also enjoy soaking in natural hot spring throughout the trip.  This provides the perfect way to relax and unwind together in a peaceful and picturesque setting.

Evenings of Comfort and Romance

As the sun sets, couples retire to their private tent on the Middle Fork or a private room or cabin on the Rogue. These cozy accommodations provide a romantic and comfortable setting under the starry night sky. Here, couples can enjoy a drink, play cards at the dining tables, or simply share stories and laughter, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Catered Luxury in the Wilderness

These trips are highly catered to ensure that guests can relax and enjoy every moment. From setting up and taking down camp to preparing gourmet meals, every detail is taken care of. A wonderful hot shower awaits guests in the evenings on all trips, adding a touch of luxury to the wilderness experience.

A Stress-Free Journey

These trips are designed to be a stress-free experience where couples don’t have to worry about making decisions or plans. Every day is about going with the flow of the river, literally and metaphorically. It’s an opportunity for couples to simply be together, enjoying each moment as it comes, surrounded by nature’s splendor.

Conclusion: A Journey of Connection and Joy

A river trip with Helfrich River Outfitters is more than just a vacation; it’s an opportunity for couples to rediscover each other in a setting that is both adventurous and serene. It’s a chance to create new memories, deepen connections, and experience the joy of being together in a beautiful, natural environment, free from the distractions and demands of everyday life. This is truly a special experience for any couple looking to spend quality time together and create lasting memories.

Guide Spotlight: Lanie Galland – Geneticist & Postdoctoral Researcher

Guide Spotlight: Lanie Galland – Geneticist & Postdoctoral Researcher

Howdy, river family! What a wild ride it’s been this past year. I began my river season in Oregon in May before moving on to the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Rogue through summer and fall. Throughout the river season, I continued working on my research. 

For those of you whom I haven’t met, fun fact: I’m a geneticist in my other life! I use DNA sequencing technologies to conserve fisheries and forests around the globe. My research focuses primarily on salmonids (trout and salmon species), where I use genetic tools to help inform efficient and effective conservation and management strategies. I start by investigating different populations of the same species: are coastal cutthroats from the Nehalem River genetically the same as those from the Quillayute River? Are Lahontan cutthroats hybridizing with rainbows in the Truckee River? From there, I can investigate a multitude of additional questions, helping mitigate declines across fisheries.

My research has included international travel, including to Mongolia and Russia. Mongolian (or Siberian) taimen represent the largest and second most ancient salmonid in the world, reaching lengths over 60 inches and weighing up to 200 pounds. These fish earned their nickname, the “river wolf,” voraciously pursuing anything that happens to be in the water (e.g., ducks, muskrats, etc.). Exhibit A: our team once found a 55″ taimen with a 36″ taimen in its mouth. (Cleary, they’re not shy eaters!) Another fun fact: the only way to capture taimen is on the fly, which makes my job as a geneticist really, really fun. Using a 9- or 10-wt rod and flies sometimes the size of tv remotes, we catch taimen, taking a small fin clip from a pectoral fin before releasing them. I then sequence DNA in the lab, learning a tremendous amount about how and where taimen utilize the riverine ecosystem, all from a small fin clip the size of a pencil eraser. After a couple of research trips and a rugged 1500-km expedition from the headwaters of Lake Baikal, I began guiding for taimen each fall. 

But Mongolia gave me so much more than fishing. The people, the food, the culture, the strength. My first trip genuinely changed my being, helping me reconnect with why my research is important to me, something that I feel is often lost in science. This is why I focused in applied research, to make positive changes for the future of our world’s river ecosystems using boots-on-the-ground approaches. It’s focusing on the intersection of people and their environment, the cross-cultural conversation and integration. It’s helping people understand why we want to promote conservation rather than forcing it upon them. To understand how it’s all connected, and how we can cooperate to conserve river ecosystems while still understanding realistic needs (e.g., ranching, electricity). To conserve the natural world in which we live, of which we are a part. To remember that we are not separate or mutually exclusive of our environment; rather, we were meant to be integrated as a part of it.

Following the end of the Rogue season, I made the big move to Tucson, where I began a new position as a postdoctoral researcher working for the University of Arizona. I’ll continue my research here, starting new projects on Yellowstone cutthroat trout, Sonoran suckers, and Lake Tanganyika cichlids. The desert is a big change from the Rogue, but it sure has its own personality and allure. Admittedly, though, I can’t wait to get back behind the oars. I hope to see you all on the water this year, sharing big stories and BIG canyons. 

Parachuting Beavers – “Operation High Dive” in the Frank Church Wilderness

Parachuting Beavers – “Operation High Dive” in the Frank Church Wilderness

In the mid-20th century, Idaho’s wilderness was home to an unusual and daring wildlife management experiment—one involving beavers and airplanes.  Aptly named “Operation High-Dive”, this 1948 project aimed to disperse beaver populations and improve ecological health throughout the region. This unique chapter in ecology management highlighted both the ingenuity and the peculiarities of human efforts to manipulate natural environments.

Post-World War II, Idaho faced an increasing beaver population problem. These industrious rodents, known for their dam-building skills, were thriving in the state’s plentiful waterways. While beavers play a critical role in ecosystem health, their burgeoning numbers and activities began to clash with human interests, particularly in areas where land development was expanding. Farmers and landowners were frequently at odds with beavers, whose dam-building led to flooded fields and timber loss. The state’s solution was two-fold: controlling the beaver population in problem areas and relocating them to regions where their natural behaviors would be beneficial, such as aiding in water conservation and restoration of wetlands.

The challenge was how to relocate the beavers efficiently and safely into remote, inaccessible areas. As there were no roads, packing these critters on mules was the first thought, but the process of breaking mules to carry them was harder than imagined. Though mules had been used to pack just about everything (including deconstructed tractors, cast iron stoves and spools of bridge cable) many of them balked at pack boxes with the log toothed rodents. It was in this context that Idaho’s Fish and Game Department, under the leadership of Elmo Heter, devised a novel solution: air-dropping beavers into the wilderness.

In 1948, the operation, whimsically dubbed “Operation High-Dive,” commenced, relocating, via airdrop, beavers to the Chamberlain Basin of the Frank Church Wilderness. The method involved fitting breeding pairs of beavers into specially designed wooden boxes, which would then be dropped from a low-flying airplane. The boxes, which were parachuted to the ground, were designed to open upon impact, releasing the beavers into their new habitat. Remarkably, the operation was both humane and successful. The survival rate of the beavers was remarkably high, with only a single casualty reported among the dozens relocated. The boxes were thoughtfully designed to minimize trauma and injury to the animals during their unconventional journey. 

When it was all said and done, 76 beaver were relocated at a cost of $16 per beaver. The aerial relocation project had several outcomes. It alleviated the beaver-human land use conflicts, and the relocated beavers contributed to the ecological health of their new environments. By building dams, they created wetlands, which are vital for biodiversity, water purification, and flood control.

Today, the idea of air-dropping animals might seem unconventional, if not outright bizarre. However, this initiative reflects a historical moment when wildlife management was entering a phase of innovative, albeit sometimes unorthodox, solutions to environmental challenges.

Modern conservationists and wildlife managers view the Idaho beaver drops with a mix of fascination and caution. The project was a product of its time, born out of necessity and limited by the technological and ecological understanding of the era. Nowadays we hope wildlife relocation efforts are more grounded in extensive ecological research and involve meticulous planning to ensure minimal stress and maximum success for the animals involved.

The story of Idaho’s flying beavers is more than a curious historical anecdote; it’s a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced in wildlife management and the need for continuous evolution in our approaches to coexisting with nature. While we may not see beavers parachuting from the sky today, the spirit of innovation and care for the natural world that guided “Operation High-Dive” continues to inspire contemporary conservation efforts.

Dave Helfrich – Life Lessons and His Last River Trip

Dave Helfrich – Life Lessons and His Last River Trip

By Kelsey Helfrich

If there is one quality, good or bad, that my granddad taught me, it’s persistence. Truly only one of the many qualities that he taught me, I’ve come to realize that persistence was at the center of my relationship with my granddad; persistence in following my dreams, persistence in proving myself in a man’s world, and persistence in trying to get his attention and approval. Sometimes quick to say no, I was too persistent to give up after just one turn down. 

Early on, before I learned the importance of this quality when it came to dealing with my granddad, I sulked away with my tail between my legs more than a few times. One time that comes to mind was on my first trip ever rowing my own boat on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I was a naïve 15-year-old girl, helping out alongside the seasoned guides on one of my granddad’s commercial trips. It was the fourth night of the trip and we were staying at Woolard Camp. As it can happen in that country, a storm came rolling through the canyon sometime in the middle of the night. I had set up my bed on the upper bench of the camp, out in the open, with no interest in using a tent. I was a river kid and growing up on the river, I never used tents. Unfortunately, I also hadn’t learned to think ahead about the ‘what ifs’ of a storm and also didn’t have so much as a tarp to cover up with.  Deep in sleep that night, I woke up to the rumble of thunder, strong winds, and a few large drops of rain on my face. Those few drops almost instantaneously turned into a torrential downpour and I found myself alone and scrambling for a solution to my problem. I started to run for the boats, however the winds were blowing the hot coals from the fire straight up the only trail that I knew of to get down to the boats.  I knew my dad was sleeping by his boat and I was hopeful that he would have an extra tarp.  

As I ran around with my sleeping bag in my arms, attempting to keep it dry, I looked over and noticed my granddad’s nice little green Eureka tent set up about 30 yards away. Running for the tent, I thought for sure this was going to be my saving grace. Standing at the door, I shook the side of the tent and called out for my granddad. I could hear him rustling around and grunting as he opened the zipper just far enough to stick his face out and look at me.  Relieved that he woke up, I smiled nervously and said “Hey Granddad, it’s raining really hard out here and I don’t have a tent. Would it be alright if I crawl in your tent until it stops raining?”. I’m not sure that there was even a pause in conversation before he furrowed his brow and simply said “No!” as he zipped his tent back up and left me standing in the rain, dripping wet. I laugh now as I look back on that night and there is still little about it that surprises me. Defeated, I turned and headed back to my bed.  I would have to figure this out on my own.  I ended up spending the remainder of the night curled up, inside my big dry bag to stay warm while all of my stuff got rained on. 

I never did ask Granddad about that night but I’m sure he is still laughing about it and knowing that I was just a “squirrely little twerp” and he was teaching me to not only toughen up but to think ahead next time. This was just the beginning… As I got older and did more and more river trips with Granddad I began to learn that if I am more persistent, in a polite and joking way, he would finally give in to me on the things that truly mattered. He would be willing to do things as long as he made it clear that he didn’t really want to do it.  We just needed to twist his arm a bit.  

This perfectly applies to my Granddad Dave’s very last river trip. As he got older and started talking about only having a few more years left in him to do river trips, I persistently began reminding him that he could keep going and ride in the front of mine or my dad’s boats. To this I always received a hard and fast “Nope. If I can’t row, I won’t go”.  I knew that he truly meant what he was saying but deep down, I also knew how much being on the river meant to him.  I never gave up hope that one day he may change his mind, so you can imagine my excitement when, one day, he finally agreed.  I have a feeling that my Grandma TerBear had something to do with this too. 

He agreed to go along on our last trip of the season on the Rogue River in 2015.  It was the perfect trip for my Granddad and Terry (TerBear) to join and everything came together for an unforgettable trip.  We had great weather and the fall foliage was spectacular.  Granddad and TerBear rode in my dads boat for the first two days of the trip and you could tell they were all having a blast together. It was a sight to see! With my Granddad and Terry fishing side by side in the front of the boat and my dad at the oars, they were catching lots of fish and reliving great river stories that just never get old. Every time we would pass by them you could not only hear the fun, you could see it in their faces. They were all right where they wanted to be.  Floating along, their relaxing and happy demeanor would periodically come to a screeching halt at the first sight of the white strobe-like flashing wing beats of Mergansers flying up the river.  Throwing down their fly rods and grabbing for their shotguns, those mergies didn’t stand a chance with those three in the boat. All three are excellent gunmen and love the sport of shooting mergansers on the fly. 

There were so many amazing memories on that trip but one of the best was watching my granddad trade with my dad to row the boat through Blossom Bar Rapid.  The run was flawless and he took half as many oar strokes as any of the other boatmen.  So impressive at any age, let alone at the age of 84.  Tune into our next newsletter for more on that story. 

Of all of the memorable moments from that trip, my favorite came on the last morning.  My Granddad made his way down to the boats from the lodge and stepped into my boat instead of my dads. A morning on the water with just me and my granddad.  It is hard to express how happy that made me.  I had been persistent about asking him throughout the trip if he was going to ride with me but I honestly didn’t know if he really would.  Believe it or not, this was the first and only time we were ever in a drift boat together. We worked and enjoyed lots of river trips together, however we were always in different boats.  As a kid I would ride with my dad and once I was twelve or so I was always rowing my own boat. 

My excitement for this opportunity was quickly accompanied by anxiety and pressure.  I wanted more than anything to make him proud.  At this point I had been rowing a boat on the Rogue for over 18 years and guiding there for 12 years but this just felt so different. Never wanting to let him down, I was determined to show my granddad a smooth, dry and successful morning on the water.  As we pushed off from the shore and headed towards the Bluff Hole my granddad just couldn’t help but harass me a little bit. With a mischievous little smirk on his face he started asking me about my choice in flies and reminding me that I better not splash him anywhere on this section of the river.  Just his way of showing his love, Granddad’s teasing was his favorite way of starting our conversations. I could feel the pressure building in my own mind as we pulled into our first fishing spot of the day.  He had just finished letting out his line when his reel started to sing and we had a nice half-pounder steelhead on the line.  Before long we had caught at least 10 fish in this one spot.  We had found a honey hole!  With each fish he caught, I relaxed a little more.  I could have stayed there for hours but I also knew that with my granddad’s declining health, fighting these fish was likely wearing him out. Not wanting to hurt his pride, I suggested that we keep floating down river to catch up with our group.  He gladly agreed.  Floating along, we laughed and talked, enjoying the scenery and enjoying each others company. He shot a few ducks along the way but mostly he was just relaxed.  He was taking it all in and reflecting back on the years he spent on that beautiful river.  

After a few miles, we approached the Coon Rock Bridge, another fun area to fish.  I said “Hey Granddad. You ready to catch some more fish?” to this he smiled and said “How about we catch a big one and then head for the barn.”  The pressure was back on. We hadn’t seen very many adult steelhead all trip but we knew there were a few around.  As I positioned the boat for our next fishing spot, I looked to the sky and said silently “Come on, help me out here. Please, if anyone is listening, help me catch him a big fish. If there is anyone out here who deserves it, it’s him”. Well, someone must have been listening that day. Within minutes, I watched my granddad set the hook on a beautiful big native steelhead. It was a moment that took my breath away.. This gorgeous fish jumped and ran, putting up one hell of a fight.  I did what I could to follow him with the boat to help my granddad gain traction on him.  It took a while to bring the fish into the boat but, of course, my granddad fought that fish perfectly.  As he got him to the boat, I scooped him up in the net with a sigh of relief and excitement.  I carefully removed the hook and let the fish rest in my net in the water to regain some strength.  We admired his size, color and strength, while enjoying the success of the catch.  We were both all smiles.  If I could have kissed that fish and told him thank you without my granddad thinking I was crazy, I probably would have.  As that beautiful fish swam out of sight I couldn’t have been more thankful for this experience and the opportunity to spend quality time with such a great man.  Neither of us knew it at the time, but that day together on the Rogue would end up being not only my granddad’s last day on the river, but also the last fish he would ever catch.  

Reflecting back on everything my granddad taught me and our many river miles together, I feel so blessed to have spent his last day on the water with him.  He was so set on “If I can’t row, I won’t go” but in the end I think our persistence paid off.  To see the Rogue River one last time gave him the opportunity to reflect back on over 70 years worth of memories from one of his favorite rivers. Each turn of the river, inspiring more stories to share with his family and friends.  What a wonderful way to wrap up a lifetime of running rivers. It is hard to express my gratitude for this great man. The things that I learned from him, both directly and by example, have helped shape me into the person and outfitter that I am today. As the years pass without him, I miss him dearly and wish that he could see all that we have done with the family business.  I think he would be very proud.  Looking forward I hope to continue to make him proud and pass along those lessons to my kids to carry on our family legacy.

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