Going Outside Your Comfort Zone Has Never Been So Comfortable

Apr 24, 2012

Going Outside Your Comfort Zone Has Never Been So Comfortable

You’d Hardly Call One Of These River Trips ‘Roughing It’

My mother is not at all what you’d call the “outdoorsy type.” Yet, at 65 years old, she spent 8 days rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Yes, she even did the icky-dirty “C” word.

(That’s “camping.”)

The secret is — and don’t go shouting this to the true outdoorsy types, lest they get their camo pants all in a bunch — there are plenty of ways to make “roughing it” not so rough at all.

In fact, you’ll find true pros in the adventure travel business distinguish themselves through their innovative ways to bring luxury with you into the wilderness.

 

Sleeping

“Sleeping is usually the biggest issue for most people,” says James Rodger, California regional manager for O.A.R.S. “People hear they’ll be sleeping on the river, and they immediately think ‘dirty old sleeping bag.’”

James is happy to disappoint those folks with freshly laundered sleeping bags, cozy zip-in liners, pillows with fresh, crisp pillow cases and, the icing on the bedtime cake, a 3-inch foam-and-air-filled sleeping pad.

What’s more, James says, you’d be surprised at the psychological difference it makes putting only 2 people in a 3- or 4-person tent.

 

Staying Clean

Kate Wollney is trying to convince her sister-in-law to join her on a river trip. Kate is O.A.R.S.’s Rogue River manager, leading adventures in Oregon. She’s explaining the biggest misconception she finds: You’re going to get dirty, and won’t be able to get clean.

Even though the nightly riverside camps are on sand, or pea gravel, or bedrock, the sites are regularly scoured clean by the river’s rising and falling waters, she says.

“So even though we’re ‘on the ground,’ it’s not really dirty at all,” Kate says. “On the Rogue, there are even spots where the ground is covered in mint, and when you walk you crush it, and it smells unbelievable.”

The guides also make sure there’s ample opportunity to clean up. They set up portable kitchen and bath sinks at every stop, and handwashing stations are never far away. Kate added there’s even opportunity on many trips for bathing.

“On some of our trips, but not all, you can bathe right in the river,” she says. “And several of the rivers have hot springs, which is a great way to stay refreshed.”

 

Way Better Than Beans & Weenies

“I’ve got wild salmon, organic chicken, organic chicken maple breakfast sausage, applewood bacon, artichokes,” James lists off. He’s shopping for a Tuolumne trip while talking to me on the phone.

James explains that if people expect dehydrated food or cans of pork and beans, they’re blown away by the quality meals they’re served. James explains they procure as much of the victuals as they can from local sources, and they try to shop organic as a rule. They have partnerships with local wineries and craft breweries, so even the adult beverages are local to the area.

Hot breakfast every day, an energy-filled lunch, dinner with appetizers, drinks and dessert each night — it’s better than some folks eat at home.

“It’s river-gourmet,” James says.

 

The Unmentionables

So, OK, for some people, there’s no talking about going to the bathroom in the woods that makes it sound any more comfortable. But, hopefully, you can appreciate the lengths the guides go to in addressing this.

Yes, the bathroom comes along from campsite to campsite. It’s set up in a private location a discrete distance from camp, and a handwashing station is always right next to it.

“And it always has an incredible view,” James adds.

Kate explains that the bathroom solutions aren’t just one-size-fits-all, either, and that women’s needs are anticipated and accommodated.

 

Outdoor Evangelists

For these professional guides, guests’ comfort becomes a matter of pride. Those who think they relish in their own discomfort and or wish it on guests have it all wrong. (Bear Grylls is not a river guide.)

James explains that what they all want are guests who come back again, hopefully with more friends.

“Guides are really passionate about what they do, and they want people to come out with a really positive attitude about their trip,” he says. “So they’re going to go the extra mile to make sure everyone has a positive experience.”

Even my 65-year-old mum.

Got a question on comfort for the O.A.R.S. guides? Hit them up in the comments below.

Reid Williams
Reid has guided whitewater and taught swiftwater rescue in the U.S. and Central America on 13 different rivers, after brief turns as a chemistry teacher and a newspaper journalist. These days, he tries to turn people on to active, outdoor lifestyles as an executive at WELD.