A Guide’s life (Part 2)

Posted by Ken Campbell September 23, 2010 0 Comment 1185 views

On these past couple of excursions in the San Juans, the pair of private trips to Sucia Island and vicinity that just concluded last week, I got to thinking about guiding again, and what it really means to be a guide. I wrote a long dissertation about that topic on this site a few months back, and I’m not going to duplicate that entry (read it here). I can sum it up in one sentence now: Guides earn their pay by being prepared, professional and pessimistic.

Prepared – means having a backup plan (or two), extra gear for those who forgot theirs, and extra food. There’s a knowledge of the operating area and its history, wildlife and unique features that can only come through prior experience and study.

Professional – means demonstrating a dedication to progressing in the activity. Guides should be able to take classes as well as teach them, and should be assiduously trying to better themselves in their chosen field or fields. It means being a good cook, medic, counselor… all of the personalities I wrote about before.

Pessimistic – is always seeing the worst that can happen, in the hopes that prior consideration will ensure that it does not. It’s not a glass-half-empty pessimism so much as it is a worst-case-scenario exercise. And it is always ongoing, from the moment a trip starts until the moment it ends. It’s where contingency plans come from, and every guide needs plenty of those.

Don’t read too much into this; both of the Sucia trips went very well and I think everyone had a great time. Including me. It’s just that, with the emphasis I’ve been putting on classes over the past couple of years, I don’t do as much guiding as I used to. It’s different. Still good, and I will gladly continue to do it, but it’s different.

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