River travel was one of Glen Hyde's passions, born out of a childhood spent outdoors. In his first significant river excursion in 1919, Glen and his friend Jess Nebeker made a six-month canoe trip through the rivers of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. This journey's success encouraged the Hyde to continue pursuing his favorite hobby, which eventually led to his decision to sail down the Salmon and Snake Rivers with his sister Jeanne in 1926.
Known as the “River of No Return,” the Salmon River consists of a series of rapids along its length, meaning that most of the traffic on it is limited to relatively small crafts. Boatmen on the Salmon River in the 1920s generally preferred to use boats called scows. These small wooden crafts measured no more than thirty-five feet long and ten feet wide and usually carried two people. The crew of a scow typically numbered just two people, one to steer the boat in the front, while the other steered from the back. The crew steered using oars called sweeps. Since the 1870s, these boats had transported goods and supplies down the Salmon and Snake Rivers, with rivermen like Harry Guleke becoming a fixture of the river economy.
However, Glen and Jeanne's trek down the rivers was different. Rather than travel for business, the Hydes made the journey purely for their enjoyment. They sought out Guleke, who Glen already knew, to help them construct a scow and teach them how to navigate the river. Naming their new craft Balaam’s Ass, the Hydes left Salmon, Idaho, on August 26, 1926.
The siblings, especially Glen, learned the basics of river boating relatively quickly. However, they did have several setbacks. At the Pine Creek rapids, they lost both their sweeps and had to replace them with logs. The scow upturned at Salmon Falls and nearly flooded, losing most of their supplies in the process. All the while, the weather was inclement, soaking what supplies they saved with rainwater. Despite these troubles, Jeanne noted that Glen seemed to be in his element, enjoying the sites they passed as they traveled down the Salmon and into the Snake River. Their journey came to an end after seventeen days when the siblings reached Lewiston, Idaho, 300-miles from their starting point.
While Glen and Jeanne received little acclaim for their accomplishment, as boating on the Salmon and Snake Rivers was common, they, especially Glen, did display dogged determination to succeed in their intended goal. The trip also further reinforced Glen’s passion for river boating, a hobby which, in late 1928, he would use to seek fame for himself and his new wife on their honeymoon. Glen Hyde believed he was ready for the Colorado River.