perspective from the back of the boat
“we don’t always get these kinds of moments together”
(adapted from a conversation with a first-year guide)
I’m always moving around and haven’t really ever spent too much time in one place. I guess I’m looking for home, and – I don’t know – something about the Nolichucky drew me in.
I had just quit my job and was driving Gorge shuttles. One day these two brothers had some extra space in a boat and invited me along. That was my first time going through the Gorge or even experiencing whitewater. I found out pretty quickly that none of us had any idea what we were doing out there, but somehow we made it down in super squirrely style.
“they will still throw your stuff on the roof”
After that I kept going down and eventually I was encouraged to train as a guide. It’s been really cool to connect with other trainees through the process and just hanging around. We’re all going through the same things together and it’s interesting to see how everyone overcomes challenges out there in different ways. The guides who just went through this last year have been encouraging us the whole time… kind of guiding us through the process of becoming a guide in some ways. Otherwise I’m just trying to absorb everything I can from the seasoned guides that are always around.
When I was able to start guiding the Gorge there was kind of this sternness among the other guides. Like I’d try to make a joke and nobody really laughs, and they just kept telling me all these horror stories, but that’s gotten better as I’ve proved myself out there and worked hard to always help out around the outpost. People notice when you load out a trip that you’re not even on. So now we’re pretty cool, but they will still throw your stuff on the roof if you leave it sitting out somewhere.
My first time officially guiding down the Gorge I just remember trying to look like I wasn’t losing it before we even got on the water. Then it seemed like I was taking Plan D all day. I kind of had to slow down in a way despite all the adrenaline and just focus on one move or one rapid at a time. Definitely a humbling experience because of the power of the river keeping you in check while trying to keep your customers comfortable. I really had to step it up sometimes to stay calm out there.
“it’s authentic out there”
But I have noticed this bonding experience that happens, not just among the guides but within each boat. It’s authentic out there and you get to see who people really are. I get to see people smiling and they just keep thanking me for this awesome experience we had. You just kind of learn things about yourself on the river, you find out new parts of yourself that you didn’t even know were there and that’s true for the whole crew. You get to see Dad feeling like a hero, or some kids able to make it through and do something new, and Mom feeling good about her whole family. I think a lot of that is missing in everyday life as we get caught up in our routines and we don’t always get these kinds of moments together.
“there’s a serenity of this place”
I’ve started spending a lot of time over here because I’m staying right by the river and working on it almost every day now. There’s… a serenity of this place, a tranquility. So yeah, I’m thinking maybe I stick around and get out there again next season.