Well, it’s over.

For now at least, river season is over. 

I ended my summer guiding job with a relaxing, two night trip with five lovely guests from Texas. Three of these signed up last-minute because they were inspired by this article, published by a guest from earlier this summer.

This was also my very first multi-day river trip as trip leader (TL). Everything went smoothly, and I’m happy my manager entrusted this position of leadership to me.

We got off the water and unpacked the gear. In the days to come though, there would be boat cleaning instead of food packing. End of season work to shut down the operation for the winter is underway. Summer, is gone.

So now what?

Another guide lovingly nicknamed all the months of the river guiding season. First, there’s Merciful May followed by Joyful June. July is a Joke which leads into the month of river-guiding burn-out: Angry August.

Then comes Oh Shit September. This is the month where we all realize that we have no plan for the fall or winter. There it is, a whole blank calender of unemployment until Merciful May comes along again.

My September is looking pretty blank as well. I’ll help out with end-of-season work, then move slowly to Idaho for an October job shadow. Maybe do a private river trip or two, maybe read a book or three, maybe do some hiking.

Whatever I end up doing, this month will be an adjustment from being on the water every week to having nothing at all to do. The best I can do is to take what opportunities come and be patient in the down time. 

 

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Family River Trip

Thanks to my generous Grandparents my family rallied to join me on the Rogue River last week.

It was stressful to have my family on the trip. Balancing working as a guide and spending time with my family was difficult, and I oftentimes forgot the reason I had invited them all on the trip in the first place.

That reason was to show them what I love to do, and why I keep doing it. I wanted my family to see that what I was doing wasn’t just playing in the river all summer, but fulfilling and meaningful work that connects people with the great rivers of our world. 

It’s hard to ‘get it’ as a guest, I’ve known that for a while now. My friend David has a daughter who has been a guest on many of his Missouri Canoe trips. It wasn’t until she worked as a swamper with David that she turned to him and said “I get it,” I get why you have to keep doing this.

Friends and family will never be able to understand the trials, joys, pains and how holistically rewarding a full season of river guiding can be. But we guides always try to convey a piece of that feeling. If our guests get just a whiff of that passion or can feel a dash of our enthusiasm, then we have succeeded as river guides. 

If they remember, hold on to and act out of inspiration from that enthusiasm, even better.

That moment came to my uncle at inspiration point. It clicked for my brother at the Rogue River Ranch. My Mom cried tears of joy at the end of the trip and my grandparents smiled through the whole thing.

And the trip was a success.

River Cycles

At first, we guides tried to convince them that this wasn’t the last. After all, when you’re a twenty something you can’t even imagine making that call. At this rate, we’ll never stop.

But, after a day with them, we realized they had come to this decision with a profound sense of peace: this would be their last river trip.

They had boated for decades, most dear to them, the Deschutes River in Oregon. They had seen many more from the Middle Fork of the Salmon to the Grand Canyon. They had created, shared and told many stories. They had survived wraps, flips, bear-ravaged camps, swims, drunken nights, heroic acts and good times.

They fished, marking the big moments on those hand-drawn old-time river maps. They brought friends, family with them, sharing the river whenever they could.

But, as time goes on the body wears out. The spirit doesn’t.

So there they were in August of 2012 on the Rogue River, bringing their river days to an end with us at ROW. This was the last, the bittersweet finale.

And we all in our own time and space stopped for a moment to think. When would our last be? 

Would our last be sudden and unexpected? Would it be tragic? Would it be under the pre-tenses of ‘more to come’ only to watch the years and the rivers pass us by from the window of an office, telling ourselves someday I’ll go back to the river. Or would our last be contemplated and methodic like Mike and Faiths?

Regardless, the last trip will come. We don’t think about this when we’re guiding the seventh trip in a row this season, four seasons under our belt and more to come. Some of us are even praying for the end of the season to quench our burn-out.

It’s good to be reminded, especially in the heat and high stress of August that the end will come. It’s good to be reminded that we should enjoy our time on the river now. It’s good to be reminded that our legacy will go on.

I’ll proudly carry on Mike and Faith’s spirit as long as I’m running rivers. Here’s to you two, to blessed endings and to anticipated futures.