One of my favorite parts of being a guide? Sleeping on the deck of my boat with the river beneath me and the Idaho stars above. My least favorite aspect of being a guide? Dragging myself out of my warm sleeping bag cocoon six hours later to start coffee and water on the stoves. Between breakfast, packing camp, loading boats and planning the day, mornings are a hectic time for river guides. But after a few seasons, you learn what makes a guide die or thrive in the early mornings.
Prepare the Night Before
My nightly routine on the river is, surprisingly, more involved than at home. I brush and braid my hair, dig out clothes for the next day, find my coffee mug and organize my river bags. Although it’s tempting to just crash, I know I’ll wear the braid for the next day (or three) and it’ll be too cold to want to change my clothes in the morning.
Don’t Wake Up Early
Okay, I do wake up early, but not any earlier than I absolutely have to. With a ten-step sand bar commute from bed to work, it’s easy to wake up at 5:44 a.m. to fire up breakfast at 5:45 a.m. As a guide, every minute of sleep is precious. After the water starts to boil I have time for my toiletries and morning routine. The best part of being up before all the guests and crew? No line for the groover!
Clean Teeth, Clean Lines
Call it a superstition created to promote proper oral hygiene among guides, but it’s worked so far. I keep my toothbrush accessible so I can brush, coil my boat’s rope and explain the day’s upcoming rapids all at once.
Spend Time with Family
“Sarah, good morning, let me give you a hug! How did you sleep? Any dreams?”
“What do you need, Em?”
As a guide, it’s easy to forget the niceties of the morning, especially when you’ve gotten through more coffee than your co-worker. To avoid having the ashes from a cold fire pan dumped on you rather than in the trash, checking in with the crew in the morning helps everyone wake up in a better mood.
Say “Thank You” to the River
Despite the best preparations, mornings never go as smoothly as planned. Inevitably, a stove burner will stop working, I’ll rig an entire boat before realizing a key part of equipment is buried at the bottom, or little Timmy won’t be able to find his personal flotation device. But since the entire tone of a day can be set in the first few hours, I always try to take a brief moment to appreciate my outdoor office and the people I work with.
Steve Jobs was quoted questioning, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
Lucky for me, when guiding, the answer is almost always yes…even first thing in the morning.