She Might Have the Best Grand Canyon Story Ever…
Meet Adventure Consultant Carrie Aronson
Nearly 25 years ago, Carrie Aronson found herself on an O.A.R.S. adventure. She met her future husband on that trip, but had no idea she had found her future career too. After spending a number of years in various roles within the adventure travel industry, not to mention traveling to some of the most amazing places on the planet, she’s now an adventure consultant for O.A.R.S. She’s also probably the only gal in the world who’s been proposed to right before dropping into the Grand Canyon’s infamous Crystal rapid. Read on to find out more about one of the fine folks who might be on the line the next time you call O.A.R.S., and yes, the best proposal story you’ve ever heard.
You’re a professional matchmaker of sorts. How do you find the right adventure for people?
I like to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes people call, especially families, and you’ve got a lot of different interests. An adventurous father with teenage boys and the mother is not so adventurous. She’s nervous for herself, but she’s also nervous for her children. And you might get the opposite. A very adventurous mom and a husband who doesn’t want to camp. Or, sometimes people call and they have it in their mind what they’re looking for, but if I ask questions about the dynamic of the family, and their various interests, then we might end up going down a different path that I think would work better for them.
What do you love most about your job?
I love hearing from people after the trip about what an amazing experience it was. I was talking to a guy on the phone not that long ago and he’s been on a couple of trips with O.A.R.S. He’s considering what trip he might take his family on this summer and started talking about the first trip he took his son on. He literally had tears in his voice telling me what it was like when he saw his son paddling an inflatable kayak on the Rogue River for the first time. I like to make that connection with people.
What might people be most surprised to learn about “the voice” on the other end of the phone at O.A.R.S.?
I think my age. I get people on the phone who say, “Well, for someone your age, you’re probably not nervous about doing a whitewater rafting trip.” So for some reason, people talk to me and think that I’m much younger than I am. I’ll say to them, “Well, I’m going to be 60.” And a lot of people are shocked when I tell them that.
To say you’ve traveled the world is an understatement. Do you have a favorite destination?
You know the destination is not as important as just being out there. The longer I can be out there, the better. I’ve done a 37-day Grand Canyon trip. When I got off the trip there were three things on my mind. Seeing my dog was the first one. The second thing was that I wanted a real bath. And the third thing is that I wanted a pizza. Then, I would have been perfectly happy to drive back down to Lees Ferry and do the whole thing all over again.
Speaking of the Grand Canyon, there’s another reason it’s so special to you, right? Is it true that your husband actually proposed to you in Crystal rapid?
It is indeed. I met him in the Grand Canyon. And then exactly 12 months later I hiked in again. That was day one, and then the next day we were running Crystal Rapid, which is one of the biggest rapids in the canyon.
I was on the boat with my husband and we didn’t have one participant. And I said to him, “Why don’t we have anyone in our raft?” He told me, “To be honest, I’ve been having some really bad runs through the rapids, and because it’s Crystal and we can’t afford to take chances with these people, we’re going to run Crystal just you and me.” I didn’t think anything more of it, but it was unusual to think he was having bad runs because he’s an excellent boatman.
So we tied up at the scouting point and I stayed and talked to all the guests while he and the other boatmen scouted the rapid. And when he came back, he said, “Ok, we’re first.” So we pulled out into Crystal, and I was focused on being at the front of the boat in the front position. As we set up—it’s kind of a long stretch to line up to get where you want to be in the rapid—and as we’re heading down, all of a sudden I realize he wasn’t at the oars. He was in the front of the raft, kneeling down.
I said, “What are you doing? Do you want me to do something? Tell me what you need me to do?” He pulled out a little poesy of wildflowers he had picked at the scouting area, proceeded to tell me what I mean to him and said, “If you don’t say yes, I’m not going back to the oars, and we’re probably going to swim…in crystal.” [LAUGHING] I said yes, of course I’ll marry you, and he gave me a big hug, and jumped back on the oars. All of a sudden I hear this noise apart from the roar of the upcoming rapid and I turned around and looked at the shore and all the people there were cheering because they knew he was going to propose to me. It’s a magical place anyway, but the fact that I met him there and then he proposed to me there makes it an extra special place for us.
So what’s it like being married to a professional river guide?
It’s interesting because we share stories. I have my side of talking to people before they go on the trip and then I get to hear some of the stories about what happens after the trip. He’s the same as me. For him, it’s about sharing his knowledge and passion for the canyon. Not everyone feels the same way about it, but it only takes one person on a trip to make him feel like his entire career is worthwhile. So it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s rewarding. I’m married to someone who encourages me to keep being who I am and exploring and experiencing as many rivers and wilderness places as I can.
Sounds like the perfect match.
I wouldn’t say it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year marital bliss [LAUGHING}. Who can? But he’s an extraordinary person and I feel like I’m very lucky to have found someone who brings out the best in me.
Who exactly is this “he” Carrie is married to? Well, some of you may know him as “Jeffe” a.k.a. our resident “River God.”