Two years ago, Abercrombie & Kent added rafting on Idaho's Salmon River, one of the world's great whitewater destinations, to its American West portfolio. The trip was so successful that the company has now added five deluxe seven-day versions for a hit of the Great Outdoors in style—not too rough, and preferably with aperitif and crabmeat quesadillas at day's end. It is, based on our experience, the most urbane of answers to this summer's call of the wild.
ROYAL SALMON RIVER RAFTING covers 53 miles of the lower Salmon River and 51 miles of the Snake River, which passes through Hell's Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. When you're not busy navigating the class II to class IV rapids aboard six-seater rafts or solo in Hyside kayaks, take in glimpses of the Nez Percé burial grounds, spectacular wildlife, and surprisingly white sand beaches.
WHO GOES The mix on each trip varies, but the maximum number of comrades-in-oars is 18. My own trip included a curator of American painting from Sotheby's, a Morgan Stanley investment banker, two doctors, and four children who attended Manhattan private schools within three blocks of one another.
WHO SHOULDN'T Those who can't live without their Acqua di Parma (biodegradable products only), blow dryer, cell phone, and easy access to a Jacuzzi (the w.c. and shower are—shall we say?—primitive). This is, after all, a camping trip, not a walk in the park.
DON'T BE SHY about asking A&K who else has signed up. Mama, Papa, and the three little ones under eight may not call you to the wild that particular week. Perhaps more ideal: Your own handpicked group of friends.
TENTS ARE TERRIBLY PRIVATE, cozy, and quite chic. Stocked with top-of-the-line basics such as cots, sleeping bags, a Coleman lantern, and bedside tables from Byers of Maine, they'll be pitched to perfection by the time you arrive at camp each evening.
LEMON-SOUFFLE PANCAKES and Canadian bacon are the prelude to a day on the river. Lunches aren't anything special, but at dinner, by a campfire, Nancy Mendenhall and her kitchen crew do amazing things like blackened halibut with tropical-fruit salsa, smoked salmon and nori hors d'oeuvres, and chicken and beef satay accompanied by three dipping sauces.
CLASS IV RAPIDS can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing; so can a class I. Not to worry: A&K's guides are superb. Particularly recommended: Neely South, Luke Kalstad, or Shane Peterson.
TRIPS THIS SEASON run from July 13 to September 13; $2,560 per person, reduced rates for children. For details, 800-323-7308, 630-954-2944; www.abercrombiekent.com.