It’s still dark when I open the rain fly. Six thirty. I swear I just walked away from the hot fire and cold drinks to pass out happily by the rushing river.
Quietly, we round up the crew and head downriver. We have two hours to get everything in place before the guests show up. The team breaks off into individual tasks, some fill and rig rafts while others count helmets and life vests. It’s always a guessing game sitting in Lochsa country. No cell service. No way to change the plan.
Coffee is consumed rapidly in between stacking rafts higher than a bus or piling paddles into the trailer. What looks like chaos to the few guests that show up early to watch “guide TV” all flows smoothly together as the rest of the cars start to show up. The essential gear is handed out and the bad jokes start to roll. You can feel the excitement and anxiety pouring off the paddlers. Many have never been whitewater rafting before. I play the role of comedian, teacher and, of course, guide.
The bus ride is filled with questions and stories of river trips past. The boat ramp is a flurry of work as the rafts get shoved in the water and pumped full. The PFDs are snugged tight and the helmet cams are rolling. The work’s not done for the day yet but for the next few hours everyone that worked hard all morning gets to enjoy the thing that brought us all together. The river.
The miles flow by quickly. A hot lunch is much needed on cold water trips. We prep and cook as guests lounge in the sun or crowd around the heater in the rain, reliving the trip this morning. Service with a smile, and usually a bad joke or two. The dishes washed and ready for the next day, we load up for the final 10 miles of river.
The take out is the same flurry in reverse: restack the rafts, collect the helmets and vests, and load back into the bus. While the guests revel in the glory of a day on the mighty Lochsa, the guides get to work. Gotta wash and hang dry all the gear and get it sized and put back in place for the next day.
The rafts deflated and the sun hanging low in the sky, we head back upriver to our fire and cold beverages. Six thirty is gonna come quick tomorrow and I couldn’t be happier about it.