Ahh, the life of a whitewater guide. Legend has it, guides have been living in a van down by the river for millenia. Guides are known the world around for their semi-truthful stories, fun-loving attitudes, neoprene perfume and of course, their sandal tans. What often gets overlooked is the whitewater guide’s work ethic. Working on the river sure is fun, but it requires an awful lot of work as well. Here’s a rundown of a typical day for our Hudson guides; it’s not all sunscreen and unicorns (just mostly).
Every morning starts with a guide meeting, and mass production of pb&j. While we’re making our delicious lunch, Pete or Bone (or both if we’re lucky) gives us the rundown on how many boats we have, the water levels and any weather or river concerns for the day. We plan the trip and go over how the day should run. Jokes are cracked, stories are exchanged, coffee is consumed and then we head on our way. Half the crew continues making and packing lunch while the other half gets boats ready for the day.
Guests arrive at 9, get checked in, dressed and ready to roll. Everyone puts on their armor for the day and off we go on the bus.
Once we get moving, the in-flight entertainment begins. Our seasoned safety talkers dole out river tips, tricks, and what if’s to a captive audience. People laugh at our excellent jokes, and the 20 minute bus ride flies by.
While guests and some of our guides ride the bus to the river, our inflation team blows up boats at the put in. They’re magically inflated and ready to roll down the ramp once we step off the bus. Each guide gives their crew instructions on how they like to run their boat and what their paddle commands are, and off we go!
We start the trip on The Indian River for 3 miles of almost totally continuous Class III whitewater. Everyone is literally soaked within 2 minutes of beginning down the river.
We hit the confluence of The Hudson roughly a half an hour later and continue down stream. It’s a mellow Class II ride until we get to Elephant Rock when all mayhem breaks loose. Anyone who wants to jump off the rock is welcome–noses are plugged, screams are heard, and back flips are thrown. It’s a pretty entertaining scene all around.
After Elephant Rock we pull over to eat those pb&j’s we worked so hard on all morning. We stop for a quick bite and to hydrate and then it’s back on the raft for the real action. The Hudson Gorge starts with Entrance (or Blue Ledge) rapid. Certain rapid names are hotly contested between guides–some of them have different names depending on who your guide is that day. Every guide has their own relationship with The Hudson, but I think it’s fair to say they can put their semantic differences aside and come together in mutual respect for The Gorge. After Entrance rapid, it’s 8 miles of one rapid after the other. We hit The Narrows, Osprey Nest, Carter’s Landing, Ok Slip, No Name, Giveny’s Rift, Gun Sight In, Gun Sight Out, and Harris Rift. Each rapid has different sorts of waves, different characteristics, and different stories. The variations and nuances of each rapid are what keep guides coming back to The Hudson year after year.
The trip ends with one last big hit at The Bus Stop (which is not actually where the bus stops–ask your guide about it), maybe some surfing, and an easy 2 mile float out to meet the bus.
Soggy rafters load up the bus for a 5 minute jaunt back to our base where the favorite part of our guides’ day commences. Washing gear. A necessary evil. Everything gets loaded into the wash bucket and stirred around like a big ol’ witches brew of neoprene and our favorite detergent, “sink the stink”. Apart from the odd guide who truly enjoys washing booties, it’s probably the least appealing part of the whitewater guide’s job–but one they appreciate and understand in the long run. So when you’re thinking about stomping through the dirt in your booties or peeing in your wetsuit–just remember the nice person who kept you safe and entertained all day has to wash that bad boy.
After gear washing, guides put on their dress Chacos and saddle up at a picnic table with their guests to eat whatever Chef Heidi has whipped up for the day. A full day of rafting works up a mighty appetite and guides can put away some serious amounts of food. One last dinner conversation with their guests, and the guides say goodbye to the folks they’ve spent their day with.
Post dinner, guides arrange boats for the next day’s trip, put away any gear that was left out, do a final sweep and hit the porch for a universal favorite guide past time–playing music and drinking a beer.
It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it.