"Barefoot In Hells Canyon"
Biblio File column
Bryan Gould lives with his wife in San Rafael; their vacation home in Rich Bar, in Plumas County, was destroyed in the Dixie fire. But the memoir he's published focuses on an extraordinary adventure many years earlier, in Idaho.
The subtitle of "Barefoot In Hells Canyon" ($23.95 in paperback from Backeddy Books, backeddybooks.com) says it: "Reflections from two men in a frail raft on a voyage down the Snake River in 1958." It's a gorgeously written account of true friendship and a death-defying you-are-there journey down the Snake's rapids. It's perfect summer reading.
In July 1958 two friends, Bryan Gould and Glen Burns, both 19, get their parents' reluctant permission to depart their homes in the Bay Area, hop a freight train or two and then hitchhike the rest of the way to Idaho with only about $20 to their names. (An inflatable war-surplus rubber raft is sent on ahead.) The goal is to "ride our own raft down the Snake River all the way through Southern Idaho. That accomplished, we'd finish out the summer working in a logging camp" in McCloud.
Bryan is a copyboy for the San Francisco News (several of his columns are reprinted in the book). Many chapters begin with the two old friends, now in their late 70s, trying to remember details of their adventure sixty years ago, joshing each other. (Glen passed away in 2021.)
Undaunted by danger, into the Snake they go. At Whiskey Springs: "The rapid engulfed us, seizing us with a disconcerting violence. Despite Glen's attempt to keep our nose straight, a crosscurrent caught us and bulled us sideways, lifted us high, and for a moment we teetered on the brink, buoyed by a tremendous thrust that threatened to flip us. We stayed upright, miraculously. We glided over the top, and largely out of control, veered into a series of stone teeth that gnashed at us as we twisted from one jaw into another and still another."
Add the loss of their shoes, the kindness of strangers, unexpected cabins, sleeping in a dump, worried parents, and the fact Bryan doesn't know how to swim, it's clear that surviving Whiskey Springs isn't the only miracle.
Copyright Chico Enterprise-Record; used by permission