End of the Season: Guides Gone Wild Part 1Cliff Langley
In all my years of guiding whitewater rafting trips on the St. Louis River and elsewhere, at least one person on every trip asks us guides, ‘What do we do in the off season?” our answers are just as varied as our personalities and the answers change from year to year. After an action packed season you’d think that we would decide to take it easy, but that’s not usually the case for us long time guides/trip leaders. Sure, some of our guides are college kids and they go back to school, others are teachers that go back to teaching, but for us lifers it’s on to the next adventure!
Where do we go? What do we do? Does anybody care?
I am guessing the answer to the latter is our rafting guests must be somewhat interested otherwise why ask?
Our main trip leaders (Brian, Luke, Josh and I) all have diverse back grounds and interests, so life takes us different places.
Brian is a family man and uses that big brain of his to teach music and direct band at the University of North Dakota (GGW, Part II). Luke travels overseas to places such as Indonesia (GGW Part III). Josh teaches math and spends time outdoors with his lovely wife (GGW Part IV). I have had several different careers and adventures during my lifelong quest as a naturalist and guide.
I have been a guide, be it seasonal, part time or full-time since 1999. During and after college I worked as conservation technician on wild rice lakes and rivers while also raft guiding and teaching kayaking. My experience helped me gain a solid understanding of the applications of natural and ecological sciences, of Anishinaabe culture and the significance of wild rice, and gain vital experience as a facilitator as I led students on research outings.
When the recession hit in 2008 the research grants were drying up so it was time to move on, so I did video work and guiding in Costa Rica for a great company: Costa Rica Rios. I had a blast traveling across the country rafting, kayaking, biking, zip lining and then some. I also continued to do freelance video and writing work over the years, but I wanted to be part of something bigger at home in the states.
I decided to start Swiftwater Adventures while I was in my first year of graduate school years ago. After a career of guiding I wanted to be able to work with schools to offer educational whitewater trips since my favorite classroom is outdoors. Today, thanks in part to our experienced staff and my Masters of Education in Natural Science and Environmental Education, we work with schools to incorporate their curriculum into the trip.
Despite all this work, after a busy whitewater season I was able to take a two week vacation to the Pacific North West. Plane tickets were cheap for this past November and having friends to stay with was great too! We kayaked rivers in the Columbia River Gorge like the White Salmon and the Wind. My favorite part was consecutive multi-day rafting trips where we ran rapids, drifted in beautiful scenery and fished for salmon and steelhead on Washington’s Klickitat River and Oregon’s Deschutes. There is something to be said about the simplicity of a multi-day rafting trip. However, vacations end, and we must all return to reality.
This winter I will be guiding winter tours for Swiftwater Adventures and Evolve Endeavors (our new team building division for companies looking for adventures). We will be offering fat tire biking and snowshoe tours in Jay Cooke St. Park just 15 minutes south of Duluth, MN. We will also be offering a few special events:
- Taking a group of up to 40 people skiing and boarding at Lutsen Mountain this February
- Taking a group snowshoeing for the day on the Split Rock River on Lake Superior’s north shore.
So there is a little taste of what I do. For all of us guides, as diverse as our off season lives are, the one thing we all share is a love for whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River. We hope to see you in 2017 and beyond!
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