A River of Thanks

Rafting the South Fork of the American River

As winter sets in and the rivers we run drift through the quiet off-season, our staff at OARS always gets a chance to reflect on the past year. We think a lot about what we did well, where we could improve and the little moments that truly illuminate the magic of a river trip. Coming out of a couple years that presented plenty of challenges, this season was widely anticipated by both our staff and guests. With so many smiles and hundreds of successful rafting and dory trips, it didn’t disappoint.

Now, as we move into the holiday season, we’re looking back at what our staff was grateful for. Certainly, it was a welcome relief to feel like we’re moving away from the tense grip of the pandemic toward a place where we can enjoy the people we work with. With less of the looming threat of Covid, we were all able to enjoy our jobs a little more.

“I am grateful to be in a position to talk to folks considering an amazing adventure, and to ease concerns and help them understand how impactful river trips can be,” says Caitlin Levitz, an OARS adventure consultant.  “Few things feel as good as hearing: “Thank you so much, I feel so much better after talking to you.”

All of us are fortunate to work in an industry that provides a fun, meaningful, and sometimes life-changing, service. But what comes up again and again are the people we’re lucky to work with and the extraordinary crew of guests and guides who make each of our trips unique. 

“Every year I find myself more grateful for the people I work with,” says Katy Stevens, an OARS adventure consultant. “The ones in the office and the ones in the field – whether I know them in person or through the stories and anecdotes our guests bring back – as well as the incredible and diverse group of adventure minded people who bring us together and give us a purpose.”

Just like our guests, many OARS staff had the opportunity to travel again this year. These trips renewed our passion for work and helped us understand the current state of not just adventure travel, but travel in general.

Rafts wait by the Chilko River in British Columbia, Canada

“This year in August, I got to go out on my first OARS trip since early 2019,” says Mindy Gleason, OARS reservation system manager. “I headed up to British Columbia from the middle of California’s blistering heat. Just that was enough. But the natural beauty, the adventure, and the amazing folks I met were a blessing I’ll always be grateful for.”

Maybe it’s the trout that grabbed your fly. Or waking in the middle of the night to find a full moon lighting up the canyon. The smile of the guide as they hand you extra bacon. The splash of the big rapid. Or the echoing laugh of the other guests around the campfire. There’s no doubt that each river trip has countless moments to be grateful for. Sherry Parkey, OARS’ human resources director had one of those memorable occasions on a Rogue River trip this summer. 

“One evening at camp a 10-year-old girl was gently examining a cricket when someone asked, ‘What’s his name?’ The girl replied, ‘It’s not a he. It’s a them.’ Hearing a child’s recognition of the importance of gender inclusivity was a moment that made me grateful for the work that I get to do in human resources at a company that supports a sense of belonging for all.”

Squirt guns on the Rogue River

For many at OARS, what really stands out are our guests. From great conversations around the camp kitchen to smiling in the rain, the adventurous folks who join our trips seem often to exude a special type of positive energy. We’re pretty sure we have the best guests in the industry. 

“I’m grateful for our guests who always show up with a rafting trip necessity: their sense of adventure,” says Madelyn Vidmar, an OARS adventure consultant. “That enthusiasm is what brings energy to my work and it’s an honor to be trusted with providing an unforgettable vacation.”

From all of the OARS staff, thank you to everyone who traveled with us this year. We can’t wait to see you again in the spring!

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