I know it has been a while since I have contributed to our blog. Leigh has been on my case for over a month to post a story on my new job. In my defense this new job has me pretty busy. Since we arrived in West Glacier, on May 26th, I jumped right into the world of river guiding. I spent most of our first month here training to be a river guide, and finally the training is over and the guiding has begun. I am guiding clients on various stretches of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The Middle Fork, along with the North and South Fork, feed Flathead Lake, the largest natural fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. It is a designated Wild and Scenic River and is one of the purest and cleanest rivers in the country. The magnificence of the Middle Fork is purely Montana. The water is supplied by the snow pack of Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness and comes through West Glacier at a refreshingly cool temp all season long. Along its length there are thick cedar and hemlock woodlands, rocky cliffs and out crops, and views of high peaks. Boulders, logjams, rocks and rapids litter the channel and the river flows from wide braided flats to swift roaring canyons.
In my first month on the river I’ve seen mountain goats on cliff sides, moose and mule deer in the flats, and even an elk with a calf swimming across braided channels, not to mention bald eagles, osprey, hawks and harlequin ducks. My job as a river guide has its perks! The training was fairly extensive. It started with swift water rescue training, which was a 2 day course on rescue techniques and river safety. We spent most of those 2 days in the water and borderline hypothermic. We swam rapids, flipped boats and practiced all kinds of scenarios. This experience opened my eyes to the power of a river. Over the next few weeks I took trip after trip down river, most of the time it was on the 8 mile half day white water stretch. Sometimes I was with senior guides in customer boats and at times I was with other trainees in our own boat. I went on 3 overnight trips and rowed a gear boat, and took a handful of full day trips as well. After about 30 trips in total and when my supervisors thought I was ready, I took a check off run with a senior guide to prove my river skills as well as my overall guiding and people skills.
Now that I’m checked off I have joined the ranks of the river guides and am now on the payroll. The most common trip I guide is the half day whitewater trips. We float an 8 mile stretch of class 2 and 3 rapids with names like Bone Crusher, Jaws and the Notch. I guide a paddle raft with up to 10 clients as my paddle crew and navigate our way through the whitewater. I have also been doing scenic floats, full day trips and maybe even an overnight if I’m lucky. As summer ramps up, my busy schedule has only got worse, but I will do my best to update you with the excitement sure to come and I’m sure Leigh will be on my case to do so as well. In the near future I’ll fill you in on my fly fishing adventures and the kayak expedition into the Great Bear Wilderness, stay posted!