Reel Eyes

higher ground: rafting the middle fork

A couple months back, after filming a promotional video for Higher Ground (a veteran rehabilitation program), I got a call from good ol Sean McEntee, Higher Ground’s Program Manager.  “Hey Darren,” he says, “we want you to film a five day rafting trip in the remote wilderness of Idaho… you want in?” Yes, yes I do. If this trip ended up being anything remotely close to my experience back in March I knew I was in for something special… and indeed I was. A couple jets, a 5 hour car ride, and a bush plane later, I found myself lodged somewhere within the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho. No cell service, no Internet… just the river and a clutch of great company. I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to share such an adventure with. Led by the Higher Ground staff and Mackay Wilderness river guides, six vets and their spouses structured the core of the group. Early on, I stopped responding to my real name as they quickly nicknamed me “Creeper” seeing as I was always spotted filming behind a bush or a tree. “Who’s that creep behind the bush?” Just me! Don’t worry bout it! It didn’t take long, however, for me to feel like more than just a creepy camera guy… they included me in all of their group discussions, camp fire talks, and every other activity. To me, that was the most satisfying part of the trip: getting to know these incredible people. Each had a unique story and I felt honored just to be with them. Mackay Wilderness River Tips made it easy for us to enjoy our time together and I can’t say enough about their professional service… talk about a plush camping experience. After rafting down the river all day, when we reached camp, our personal tents were already set up, food was being cooked, wood was being gathered, shower was ready, gear unloaded… they treated us right and a huge thanks goes out to those guys! Can’t go wrong with three gourmet meals everyday. Big thanks to everyone at Sun Valley Adaptive Sports (SVAS) for flying me out AGAIN to document their amazing program. A personal shout out to my good friend Haley Van Lieshout who works for SVAS and scored me this amazing vacation–er, job! Sean McEntee literally drove 830 miles around Idaho just to make sure I caught my flight back home. 830 miles! He could have driven from Sun Valley to Tijuana if he wanted! I would have. Bert, Kiersten, Laura, Jason, Gregg… you all rock. And of course, a HUGE thanks to our vets and their supporters! I can’t wait to share the video with all of you so stay tuned! Ta ta for now—



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