Guide Musings: River Mornings

Guide Musings: River Mornings

Wake up: eyes open, hair strewn, sleeping bag snug.

Breathe in: dewy air, spare sand bits, coffee wisps.

Mornings on the river open with the rallying cry of, “Coffee!” Some guides blow a conch shell, some lure tunes out of saxophones, some quietly wait for the sun to do its natural rousing.

When it’s my turn to ignite the coffee water, my turn to wake silently before the sun, my turn to be breathe in the river light, I am never sure how to best break the silence. I want to hold these moments forever.

The sun rises further still, swelling the sky with potential. I breathe in, trying to engage my diaphragm: “Good morning! It’s a beautiful day here on the Main Salmon River and we have coffee!”

The processional to the caffeine occurs, and soon I am overlooking the river, marveling at just how beautiful it is out here, just how still. I stretch, shaking my creaky hands, the ones that tingled through the night from the soreness of satisfaction. Even though my body is tired, I am more energized and alive at 5:30 am at the bottom of a river canyon than I ever am in my stationary bed at 9 a.m.

Hugs and greetings spread through camp, with heartfelt exchanges happening near the boats as the crew slips into the flow, flipping huckleberry pancakes and perhaps donning a kaleidoscopic tutu while scrubbing griddles.

I cherish these mornings because of both their simplicity and their ritual.

Breakfast begins, and euphoria flits through the air like a hummingbird. Talk of tumultuous rapids and sweaty hikes to come spill into the collective consciousness.

River mornings are special because of heightened group connectivity. I’m grateful for the sleepy hugs, the tousled hair, and the opportunity to share these junctures in time with my fellow guides and a new group every week. I look forward to these moments.

The rhythm of the river is that of connectivity. Channeling this energy creates a floating community, one in which sandy toes and sun-kissed cheeks are both reminders of the previous day and signs of more to come.

The perfect river morning dawns with anticipation, with excitement, with uncertainty.

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Photo: Justin Bailie