Tales from a Rookie: The Lochsa River
As a very green rookie guide, and I mean VERY… I haven’t seen much or done much on the river yet. I’ve had a bit of fun on the Sauk, Skagit, Green, but that’s about it. I’m still learning the ways of life in the guiding world and absorbing the culture, and it’s been a blast. I’ve met a lot of great people and learned a lot of lessons, been on a few rivers and been taught a few lessons. Rivers are special; they’re the embodiment of everything we fear, and everything we yearn for. And this has never been so clear to me than when I got the privilege of running the Lochsa.
If you ever doubt your passion as a river guide, or are unsure where your heart lies, take a trip down this river and your questions will quickly be answered. The beauty, power and aura that this river presents are things that you will not soon forget. I had the great pleasure of running it with a young company called Mammoth River Adventures, led by Jesse Stone and Austin Wassmuth, and their awesome group of local guides and river people. Their welcoming attitudes and generous spirits were contagious and made the trip even better than it already was. They all knew I was a rookie, but treated me as one of their own and filled my head with loads of valuable information about the Lochsa, guiding, and professionalism. Every rapid, every leisurely float section, they all had great stories to tell or fun songs/poems to remember sections of water. We all took turns on the guide stick, smashed through some seriously fun water and laughed and hollered the whole way down. We were all smiles.
The river gods must’ve shined down on us that Saturday morning, because the sun was out, waters levels were essentially perfect, and everyone had a fun and safe day. For a first timer on the Lochsa, I fully expected a series of gnarly flips and mishaps to give me a proper welcome to this river. But, because of our skilled guides, and probably some luck, we had a clean run with no problems. The river seemed pleased to send us on our way rather harmlessly, but still throwing in enough thrill to get our adrenaline going and keep us focused on the task at hand. I cannot say I’ve ever had this much fun on a river before; I didn’t want those 22 miles to end so quickly. But of course, like all other good things, it must come to an end. I felt so lucky to have spent a day careening down that river with some incredible people, and ending it at the Mammoth HQ with those same people, sharing stories, laughs and beer. Those are memories that I will hold forever.
As far as the Lochsa, in my short time as a rookie, nothing compares. The brilliance of that river and all that surrounds it are enough to make you feel all nostalgic when you leave. A wise man and guide once told me, “If you come off that river and you don’t have tears in your eyes, you shouldn’t be a guide.” And boy, he was right. When it was time to venture back to Washington and all my responsibilities, the sheer magnitude of that experience hit me. It was an almost spiritual experience that hit me deep and truly solidified my passions. The Lochsa is truly magical. My heart is on the river, and it’s never coming back.