Life, unemployed

“I’m looking to settle down here in Bonners Ferry for the winter and I’m scoping out jobs.”

I almost couldn’t believe the words as they left my mind and my mouth. Settle down? Job?

Things happened fast. I had quite the leisurely early September in Oregon. Things kept coming my way like the river trip with OARS, blackberry jam making and end-of-the season goodbye festivities.

I grew tired of waiting for things to happen to me though. In the end, it felt like I was trying to wring the last drops of summer out of that place.

And Idaho called me back, so I went. I visited my brother first in Portland and had a great time. We saw the Shook Twins play live, one of my favorite bands. Their positive, folksy, quirky, and sometimes child-like energy is just what I’ve been feeling lately. They were everything I hoped they’d be live, and my brother even took a liking to my hippie music.

Then I spent some time with my Dad in Clarkston. It was good to see him, we drifted the lower Clearwater, went trap shooting and ate good food. It was a perfect welcome back to inland life.

Next was a trip through Moscow and Pullman. Roller Derby, good friends, beer, nostalgic Moscow Farmers’ Market. I also took photos of a family friend for his engagement announcements, which made me feel semi-productive as a person ( see photos above ). Then blazing up to Coeur d’Alene my Mom and I saw the CDA Opera’s production of Carmen.

Then, I continued my unemployment tour to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Long story short, it was here that I found out that my original plans to go back to Oregon for one final trip would not work. I was a little heartbroken. I didn’t feel like I had said a proper goodbye to the Rogue. I had more steelhead fishing to do. I had rapids to run in an inner-tube. My summer is NOT over, damnit!

And again, I found that I was waiting for things to happen to me. So, I started making things happen for me. 

Job shadow in Priest River, applications out to several places in Bonners Ferry, Schweitzer Mountain, and two leads on places to rent for the winter. Thanks to some good friends with connections and a day of action, I can move on to my next adventure.

My summer euphoria has mostly waned, it’s time to find a new happy place and make something for myself. 

We can’t have it all

Over the course of a summer, I have the privilege of experiencing amazing relationships. These relationships are intense and passionate, fueled by summer euphoria and river adrenaline.

So, for the better part of the summer we river guides are in love. We are enamored with our own innocent existence in the greater river world. Because of this state we fall so easily in love with each other, as friends and as lovers.

Our guests sense that something is different about river people. They get a whiff of our free-flowing life and some can’t help but comment on it. If I could do it over I would do what you are doing, some say. Good for you, you’re living the dream while you’re young, they tell us.

It’s a great life, we respond. And it is.

But we don’t tell them that for every high there is a low, and like everything, there is a down side to spending your summer in love on the river. 

The guests don’t see all the grunt work that we guides put in for their trip; the cleaning, lifting boats, long hours, infrequent showers, the physical wear and tear on your own body. But these things are not the down side to river guiding.

The worst part of this job is the goodbyes. We move with the seasons, and at each transition we say goodbye to something or someone we have fallen in love with. Rivers that have captured our imagination, lines in rapids yet to be perfected, we have to let all these things go and move on.

But for me, I always end up saying goodbye to someone I’ve unintentionally grown fond of. We can say we’ll see each other next season, but nothing is ever the same when you come back to it after so much time. Each goodbye wears on me; it’s the only thing tempting me to ‘settle down.’

It’s too much to tell our guests that we throw ourselves passionately at this seasonal life, only to have our hearts broken at the end of it, each and every summer. So we tell them we love our jobs but we don’t have it all, and leave it at that.

Can we have it all? No we can’t, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Reward thyself

The end of river season poses a dangerous situation for me, involving the following factors:

  • Money in the bank account
  • Euphoric feeling, lingering from the last two months of sunshine, rivers and good people
  • Awesome Chaco tan lines
  • One month, at least, left of good weather

As you can see, these things all add build up, dangerously, to self-reward. One summer I rewarded myself with a refurbished Schwinn Cruiser. Some summers, it’s more river gear that I buy.

This summer, I bought a new lens. One day, I was searching craigslist to see what people were selling and happened upon a Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens.

Wide angle is what I’ve been lacking in my photo gear. I have a 35mm fixed which has been great for portraits. I have a 55-200mm which has been great for photographing wildlife and whitewater rafting. I’ve longed for the ability to take landscape photos for a while now, and this lens seemed to be calling to me.

So I bought it, and I’ve been having a blast. Here’s some photos, remember to ask me before you use them, and enjoy!

Making a Living off a Blank Calender

“What does your fall look like?”
My answer to his question was a personal revelation. “I have nothing planned for the rest of my life.”

Obviously, that will change. There are plans in the making, and I know sometime within the month my life will move over to Idaho. I will start generating a living, and plans will be made.

But for now! Nothing! A blank calender faces me! I am happily, joyfully, unemployed and free. “Enjoy it,” My friend said to me. “It may be the only time in your life this happens.”

And I am enjoying it, and taking on opportunities I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, such as hopping on a trip run by another company. My friends were working it and they had two guests cancel last minute. So, having nothing better to do, I hiked into camp on the first day and joined the trip.

What a wonderful time. Not only did I get to spend time with friends but I got to see how another company ‘does things’ on the river. It is good experience to be an observer once and a while.

I got some bonus experience too when on day three we passed a boat that had been wrapped on the ‘Can Opener’ rock in China Bar rapid (see photo at the end). The boat was a rental, so private boaters were the responsible, rather, irresponsible party. The guides and I got the very fun opportunity to try and get this boat unstuck from the Can Opener while our guests unsuspectingly explored the Rogue River Ranch.

I wasn’t very involved in the process, other than setting up duckie (aka inflatable kayak) safety downstream. One of the guides paddled another guide in a duckie to the downstream side of the boat where he jumped on and began wiggling, pushing, prying, de-rigging the frame, deflating outside tubes and cutting out the webbing that connected the floor of this poor boat. Finally, the boat came loose and we floated it down to our lunch spot to surprise the guests.

Being the river guide with no agenda on the trip I got the honors of rowing the boat. The boat itself was OK but the frame had been bent and mashed up the holes for the oar locks. We cam-strapped a spare oar onto the frame and forced an oar lock into the the other side of the frame. I was ready to go through Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar.

And I made it, wonky set up and all. It was a good test of my skills to have to row an unruly boat through tough water. The confidence booster was just what I needed to end my season on.

At the end of the trip the TL generously gave me a small cut of the tip from the trip. “I don’t know what you expected,” she said “but thanks for your help.”

I laughed and told her and the crew that allowing me to eat the food and play on their trip was what I was really grateful for.

“I didn’t expect anything,” I said. Then it occurred to me “I work for free; it’s how I make my living.”