I did not set out to be a river guide.
Nor a river outfitter.
Or, for that matter, a small businessman.
I am not going to go into my background story because it is described in other posts and on other pages on our site.
But I do want to talk about our upcoming river guide school which kicks off Orion’s 41st Season on March 23rd!
Not only did I not set out to be any of those ‘labels’ I held some antipathy toward commercial guiding as well as business. I came of age in the 70s but I was a product of the 60s. I took my cues from singer/songwriters, poets and wordsmiths who raged against The Man. Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, James Salter, Edward Abbey, Jackson Browne, and so many others.
Here is Jackson Browne’s ballad The Pretender:
“…….Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender.
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there…….”
But, I truly digress.
I - virtually - taught myself to guide. I used a little bit from an Outward Bound manual, a little bit from Bill McGinnis’ book, Whitewater Rafting, the “bible” of the early days, a little bit of hands-on instruction from the Outdoor Program director at WWU when I was there - a top notch canoeist from back East. And a lot from my perspective that being a river guide was a lifestyle as much as it was a job title.
And, from there, I’ve taught dozens or hundreds of others. And, after that, it was just a matter of getting out there and doing it.
So, Orion’s guide training reflects my attitude that you are not going to be a very effective guide unless you love being on a river with a bunch of amazing people. You won’t be a very effective guide if you don’t mesh with your fellow employees. You won’t be an effective guide unless you understand and appreciate river running culture. You won’t be a very good guide if you don’t understand how to function as a team player under some circumstances and a leader under others.
Of course, we are going to teach you how to handle a paddle and thus a raft, how to decipher river currents, how to determine waves from hydraulics, how to tie a bowline knot, how to make your customers feel at home in camp, how to rig for a flip, how to handle yourself in a swim.
Along with many other essential whitewater skills.
Orion’s River Guide Training - 7 days on the Deschutes River in succession and then 4 weekends sampling various Washington rivers - is the culmination of more than four decades of thought, and love of river running and a community perspective, both the immediate community and the extant river community around the world, as well as a bunch of hard-knocks knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
I hope you are intrigued enough to join us.