A rafting trip, like this, is more than just about the river. There is a lot of focus, out of necessity, on gear and equipment. Tents, dry bags, sleeping bags and pads, not to mention the ton of gear that the guides handled each day, can all make or break the trip. We were fortunate to have dry tents, and warm sleeping bags, with only a few ‘fussy’ zippers to contend with (the sand and the wet can really do a number on tent zippers).
I worried a lot about trying to keep everything dry, after having gotten doused on the Matanuska! I needn’t have worried….this was a much different trip, no huge rapids to get everything soaked. The dry bags, where we stored our personal gear, worked just fine to keep the water out. Now, sand….that is a different matter. The sand filtered in everywhere……into our tent, sleeping bags, clothes, drinking cups……and the guides were right. After a couple of days, you did not even notice.
Living with nature was another aspect of this trip. The variances of weather and the annoyance of bugs is something that you just have to deal with. It helps if you are prepared.
We had never used these head nets before, but it is one item of equipment that I will be sure to include, next time.
The Copper Oar trip planning guide had included the instructions of what kind of clothing layers to pack.
‘Layers’…..a term to include long underwear, shirts, pants, fleece layers, and rain pants and jacket. We wore them all. Sometimes all at the same time! I felt like a kid dressed in a snow suit. Managing your ‘layers’ was a constant process….you take some off when you get warm, then you put them back on when you get cold. It never got warm enough to get down to the skin layer.
Every evening at camp we (I should say, Fred, Reeve, and Mark) would build a fire. The smoke helped with the bugs, and the fire kept us warm.
These guys were fire intensive…..always collecting firewood and standing about poking and rearranging the fire.
Another major focus of a guided trip is the food. While on a backpacking trip we might just cook dehydrated packaged meals, a guided trip revolves around wonderful food. Cooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, topped off with dessert, even ‘Happy Hour’ snacks and drinks…….the food provided an almost elegant backdrop. All of this food was prepared and served in high fashion by our two guides, Dale and Allison.
On a guided trip, such as this, the guides do more than just ‘guide’ you down the river. Dale and Allison have an amazing job to do. These young people not only have to have a knowledge of rafting and of the river, they must have training in CPR, First Aid, and Water Rescue. After all, our life might be in their hands.
The guides are responsible for all of the food preparation, and presentation (which, by the way, was surprisingly well done considering the fact that we were camping), and food and waste management. And, if all that were not enough, the guides also act as social coordinators, providing games and ice breakers when appropriate. The payoff? getting to spend a summer doing what they love in an amazing place.
We talked with Dale and Allison about their lives, and their experiences. Of living in McCarthy – 30 guides in a kind of tent city with no running water, a sauna that they heated up 3 x’s a week and bathed in buckets. That was OK with them…..I am amazed at the flexibility and adaptability of youth. We need to take a lesson.
This gem from Allison – ”I would rather use the groover than a roadside porta – potty”. (now that is perspective) And I came to see what she meant. About seasonal work ….. “ I don’t try to decide what I will be doing too far ahead.” Reminded me of the need to stay flexible. Allison’s travel experience would just creep in the conversation…… “When I was in Cuba”….. or, “When I was in Germany ”. Wow! So much from one so young…. Allison told such tales of Colorado River rafting…….I see a trip in our future.
What makes a trip such as this different than some of our other adventures is the people. Spending 6 days with a group of people that you have just met can seem like a real challenge. '”Will I like them?……Will they like me?….Will we all get along?” No worries……we really enjoyed getting to know each one in our group. On the river, or in camp, our conversations ran the gamut from work, to relationships, to philosophy and choices in life…..
If a conversation had run dry, there was Mark with his “Name your 5 favorites…books, movies, bands…etc. That always provoked interesting discussions. One comment from Mark that I thought was so intriguing….. ”I want to spend a year living in New York.” I could see doing that……
And this from Dale – from a book that he had been reading – ”The more choices we have, the less satisfied that we are with our decisions.” Dale was struggling with how to fit what he wants from life and work within the rigid framework of a company.
From a conversation with Kate – “When I travel I try to collect perspectives”. I especially liked that…….And I loved her passion for her work. Her idealism……
And Reeve –We listened to him talk about which direction he wanted to go in his life and career. Reeve wants to eventually teach high school math, but sees the military as a way to get to an early retirement so that he could afford to be a teacher. It struck us …..How much difficulty that this generation has to deal with in making these life decisions.
And relationships…….the evolving relationships of brothers……and lovers…..and extended ’family?”
Through an experience like this, you grow…….as individuals….
And as a couple…..
Rafting is a lot of things…..but it is mostly about the people.