What could be more exciting! Southern Utah is one of the most beautiful places on earth (see photos by Dennis Coello of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef if you don’t believe it…). Running rapids is exciting and more than just a bit macho.
Fresh from my “soft landing” from high school, I didn’t get into the college my choice but I did land a summer job with Ken Sleight River Expeditions in Green River, Utah. What a blast! However, in case you have never been there, I can assure you that the small highway town of Green River does not look anything like the grand photos that you can see in Den’s shots of Southern Utah parks. In fact, Green River is one of the few places that I would say just might be improved by a strip mall (tongue only slightly in cheek…).
I lived in the large metal warehouse that housed the rafts and other equipment. The warehouse was perhaps a 20-30 minute walk (my only form of personal transportation) from town, which featured a semi-fast food joint, a bar (I was 18 in Utah), a “fancy” restaurant/truck-stop, and at least a few Mormon Churches (no, I’m not a Mormon, but thanks for asking…).
Green River, Utah is typically in the high 90’s or low 100’s in the summer, with essentially no rain or humidity. The metal warehouse had no shade, no nearby trees, and a nice cement slab to store heat. Did I mention that there was no A/C? Needless to say, I generally slept outside on the ground. That was one of the first times in my life that I ever really saw the stars in the sky! They were so bright that I thought I could touch them!
In addition to being responsible for several odds and ends, I had 3 main job responsibilities that summer:
Clean and store rafts and other equipment: This included painting rafts with the very nasty and toxic silver stuff (I have no idea what it was made of, but I am sure it wasn’t very good for me). Standing in the middle of a raft in the middle of a metal warehouse in the middle of a Green River summer painting it with nasty silver stuff… You get the impression.
Help customers and staff “put in” and “take out”. This means that I was the guy who helped load and drive the big truck with all the gear. We’d set up at the lovely point of entry, I’d get to know some of the interesting people who paid lots of money to go on the trip, and then they would all jump in the rafts, and I’d waive goodbye from the shore and drive back to the big metal warehouse. The pick up was the reverse of the above, with the exception that the food cans were empty but the “shit cans” were full.
My third main job was actually running rivers!!!!! I went on 3 trips that summer, all memorable. My main job on the river was to help the boatsman load and unload the boats, be generally useful when needed, and be in charge of the “shit tents” and above-mentioned “shit cans”. More on that another day…