Any time a TV show enters its third decade – and we’re into our 32nd season now – it's wise to count one's blessings, and to do it often.
2014 was a rough year for many in the world. But I think it was a strong year for Outdoor Idaho. Once again, we reached out in wildly different directions for our topics... from the joys of the Winter Carnival in McCall to fishing the waters of the Henry's Fork in eastern Idaho; from rappelling down cliffs in the Owyhee Canyonlands to a series of profiles of artists in small towns like Clark Fork and Challis. We even produced another in a series of shows on old timers, called “Still Kickin,” where the median age was 85.
Operating a statewide public TV station requires our Development team to constantly raise dollars, and Outdoor Idaho must certainly do its part in that quest, because God knows we spend the money (although I would argue we are incredible cheapskates for the most part). So our job has been to produce two hour-long Specials for the station, one to air in March and one to air in December. It's always nice if they pledge well; and of course we want them to be journalistically sound and in the tradition of the best of Outdoor Idaho.
I think our two 2014 Specials – “Adventure Idaho” and “50 Years of Wilderness” – hit the mark.
In “Adventure Idaho” we traced the state's adventure trajectory, from Lewis & Clark to the present day. We featured profiles of adventurers living and dead; and we made some new friends along the way. Many of them belong to something called the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo group; if you're wanting to join up with folks who love exploring Idaho, be sure to check them out.
When I think of the efforts that went into creating our other Special, “50 Years of Wilderness,” I'm grateful for the support of many people, including my colleagues. For this program, we visited each of Idaho's wilderness areas. In some cases, that involved major journeys of 50+ miles.
Logistically, it was our most challenging show ever. For example, our segment on Idaho's largest wilderness, the Frank Church River of No Return, had Peter Morrill and Jeff Tucker heading into the Frank from the west, near Big Creek, while colleagues John Crancer, Jay Krajic, and I hiked into the Frank from the east, near Challis. We met up near iconic Ship Island Lake, where we conducted interviews, then hiked out together. For Peter and Jeff, it was a trek across the entire wilderness, a journey of more than 60 miles.
Each one of Idaho's seven wilderness areas had an interesting storyline. We also explored the arguments surrounding a national monument in the Boulder-White Clouds. And while we weren't looking to pick a fight with the U.S. Forest Service, we also took up the challenge of helping them come up with a national filming directive that makes sense in today's Go-Pro world. (This is an on-going issue for us, but we're feeling pretty good that we made our case about needing to film in the forest.)
One of the things I particularly liked about both of this year's Specials is how we wove our Facebook friends into the mix. For “Adventure Idaho” we asked them to share with us their own video adventures. You can see some of the results here at http://idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/adventureIdaho/goPro.cfm.
And for “50 Years of Wilderness” we asked our FB friends to share with us their thoughts on Wilderness. You can see their short essays with photos here on our website, at http://idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/50yearsofwilderness/essays.cfm.
Now, a new year is dawning. On the docket is a program featuring Idaho's Mountain Search & Rescue team. There will also be shows on eastern Idaho's Teton Valley and Bear Lake, on Rock Hounds and on Caving, on Jobs with a View, and on Idaho's remarkable river system.
We figure there are still plenty of stories to tell. And we want to tell them. And we hope you'll be watching.
Idaho's whitewater rivers are incredible. I've been fortunate to have floated many of them on personal trips or for shoots with Outdoor Idaho. For many years the Selway was near the top of my list as a must do trip. But getting a private permit to actually raft the Selway is tough. Thousands of people apply each year for just sixty private launches.
A few years ago a group of friends nabbed a Selway permit and I was finally able to get on the mysterious Selway. It was a memorable trip, not just because of the pristine scenery and challenging rapids but also because we saw very few people during the entire float. The one launch a day policy really keeps the numbers down.
When we came up with the idea of fifty years of wilderness for Outdoor Idaho, I knew returning to the Selway would be a wonderful assignment. It's a perfect waterway to take you into the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness.
The first thing we had to do though was to go through the lengthy process of getting a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to videotape in the any of Idaho's wilderness areas. Once that was finally approved we started making plans to document a trip down this magical river.
One of the newer tools we've been using for shooting river trips in recent years are go-pro cameras. They're small, light and most importantly waterproof. I remember shooting many river trips with our larger cameras and having to hurriedly put them away as we approached larger rapids.
That's not necessary with the go-pros. They deal with waves and can be hand held on a pole, strapped to a life-vest, put on a helmet or rigged at any other angle you can think of. Finding that perfect angle was what we were going for on this trip. The shot from the front of the boat or from the guide's seat is nice but we were hoping for more. We wanted to place a camera high and at the back of the boat so we could see the whole raft going through the big rapids. Securing even a small camera in that position is a challenge.
Fortunately our videographer for the shoot, Dave Butler, is also a part-time river guide who had given this some thought. He brought some curved metal pipe, heavy tape, and many straps and accessories to get the camera where we wanted it. So before we reached Ladle, Wolf Creek and some of the bigger rapids we spent quite a bit of time working on rigging the go-pro and hoping it would both stay on the raft and provide a stable well framed shot.
We put it behind lead guide Dennis Jesse, showed him how to roll the camera just before the rapids and crossed our fingers. After Ladle and some of the other rapids that make up “Moose Juice” we were thrilled that the camera not only stayed in place but also gave us some memorable images.
Of course, we didn't want to do the entire segment with just go-pro footage, so as usual we hauled our large camera along as well. It was safely nestled away in a big waterproof pelican case during rapids and we'd only take it out in calm water, for shots from the shore or once we reached camp and the forest trails. There's no question the larger cameras with their better lenses allow us to gather a greater variety of shots so I'm glad we can still haul them anywhere we see a compelling scene.
We hope we've covered all the angles in this segment so viewers who've never had a chance to experience this wilderness waterway can get a little taste of what makes a Selway River trip one of the best adventures in the state.