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A Day in the Life of a Guide

A cult classic called "Repo Man" starring Emilio Estevez (Martin Sheen's son and Charlie Sheen's brother) gave Orion's whitewater raft guides one of their best quotes ever --- "A guide's life is intense. . . and sometimes under tarps. . . " The movie quote is simply, "A repo man's life is INTENSE."

In any event, guides of all stripes are survivors. Especially the serious practitioners.

They camp in tents, in vehicles, under tarps, under the stars, behind abandoned railroad cars, in broken down company vans. They dine on what is euphemistically referred to as 'roadkill' --- leftover food from trips --- and wash it down with 'animal' beer, which is otherwise known as Schmidt's, or Schmidty's, rhymes with *****, or any beer proffered them.

River guides hump heavy objects over torturous terrain, or labor up Sahara-like sand dunes with unwieldy metal boxes, in order to set up the kitchen, the communal eating area and camp in the ideal location for their guests. Day trips require offloading copious quantities of gear for anywhere from one hour to four hours of on -the-water bliss with a mere minutes of whitewater ecstasy --- assuming they can marshal their paddlers into a well-oiled drill team to be able to take, or even make it to, the big waves.

On overnight trips guides are on-call 24 hours and are doing something from dawn to dusk --- moving heavy things, chopping vegetables, worrying about boat tie-ups, boiling water, boiling more water, keeping water hot on the campfire. Guide's tasks are endless. Their responsibilities numerous. Indeed, "the crown weighs heavy..."

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Time to sign up if you want to be a guide, or if you just want to feel comfortable on the river on your own.
Only a few weeks away from our annual seven day guide training odyssey on the Deschutes River in north central Oregon and - as the senior instructor - I am beginning to feel the undertow of another river season.

Orion's guide training course kicks off every whitewater season and is comprised of seasoned and salty veterans, women and men, wide-eyed whitewater neophytes, those who revel in the adversity and those who are challenging their ordinary state of being, whatever that may be.

It is a time for ditching cellphones and the comfort of our creature habits.  Sharing and laughing and looking one another in the eye.  Being physically present because...you have to be to deal with the circumstances of being out amidst the elements.  Setting up tarps in windstorms and cooking over fires.

It will be a memorable trip.  Even for those of us participating in it for the 40th time.

River Rafting is Good for You

I have been rafting for a long time.

My first rafting experience was in the fall of my first year in college.  As a matter of fact, after matriculation, it was the very next thing I did.  The river rafting trip, regarded as my wilderness orientation to Prescott College, was a month long affair.

One month in the wilderness after having spent the majority of my life in well-ordered suburbs where my primary contact with the outdoors involved sports.

You can imagine it was an eye-opener in a number of ways.

My wilderness orientation, which took place over four decades ago, brought me serendipitously to this place.

Overnight raft trips are the single easiest method to 'leave it all behind.'  The 'behind' we referred to leaving used to just mean the traffic and the stressors of modern day life, ringing phones, the hustle and bustle of humanity and bills coming due, responsibilities to uphold.

Now, we are saddled with the ubiquity of always being connected to what is going o…

The Phenomena of People

I do not have a river story for you this week, but I had a visit from a good friend from Bellingham and our reunion reminded me of one of the other reasons I have persevered with this little cottage industry.



I wrote a story a few years back titled "Why I (Continue to) Raft" and the gist of that column was that I realized how much I enjoyed getting people out on the water and watching the transformation.  It ended with the brief tale of my very young nephew from Dallas who floated the Skagit and - at first - was terrified of the moving, darn-cold-if-you're-from-Texas water.  And, despite being on a trip surrounded by a large Y group of boisterous Northwesterners who could not get enough of swimming, it appeared he would endure the trip and be ecstatic to see the takeout and a warm, dry car.

When we were halfway down the river, his entire attitude did an about face.  And by the time we hit the takeout he WAS ecstatic, but not about being finished and back to dry land.  …