For a few calm moments I close my eyes listening to the peace of the canyons and distant crash of the river around the bend. Eventually the soft white noise is broken with laughing children, hooping and hollering adults, and swift oars slicing through the water. My eyes dart open and I spot the fleet of red rafts making their way down river. “They’re here!” I scream to Jonah, my fellow guide, scrambling out of the water, excitement flowing through my veins. This is one of my favorite times of the day, the hard work is over and the children are approaching, full of excitement and ready to play.
In the river family there are two types of people, the swamper and the guide.The swamper is the gopher and laborer who works hard off the water, setting up camp. The guide, with different levels of expertise, is the captain of their raft. They are the ones you spend all day with, as they safely row you down stream. It is often that guides start out their first years in the river world as a swamper. Fortunately for me, ROW Adventures has a third group of people. Well actually just one person, a River Jester™! I follow the guests around in a colorful goofy hat, dancing to whatever song they wish, and spewing out only the best of the jokes. I am here solely for entertainment purposes... Just kidding! Well, kind of...
The River Jester™, like the swamper, rides ahead of the group and sets up camp. The difference is that the Jester comes along only on Family Magic™ Trips and is the almighty entertainer for your children. We have an endless amount of games, stories, crafts, jokes and activities stored into our brains, ready to whip out as soon as the kids get to camp. We are here to teach them about their surroundings in the most fun manners. Like camp counselors, we teach, play and guide the young ones.
One of the best aspects of the River Jester is that we have the freedom to plan our lessons and games accordingly to each group, each week. This week I have an energetic bunch of six to ten year olds, who love the water and sand. I greet them by the river’s edge and instruct them to meet me back down by the rafts in ten minutes, allowing time for settling into the new camp and helping their parents organize their belongings. With the temperatures being a whopping 96° F, today was relay race day. Separated into two teams the children take turns spinning around paddles, swimming through the water, army crawling through trenches, hopping over oars, and sliding back to the starting line to tag the next person. Watching the laughing kids, cheering each other on, I look across the beach to see the parents smiling, snapping pictures and cheering them on as well. I invite the parents to race against their children, and now it becomes a fun family feud.
After the races everyone seems exhausted, and I ask the children for their help. It is an early season trip and luckily for us, the blackberries are at full ripeness. We slip on our shoes, kindly ask the guides in the kitchen for bowls and set out on an adventure. We climb over rocks, through bushes and shrubs, making our way up river. Soon our fingers and lips are stained purple as the juice runs down our arms from the sun-ripe berries. Our bowls are filled and the children rush back to present their treasures.
Upon returning the chefs exchange our berries for the deliciously cheesy mac and cheese, kids meal number two! This meal energizes the kids once more and while the parents indulged in appetizers and their dinner, we chase each other around the beach playing tag, laughing, and strategizing on how to escape the tagee. The earth keeps rotating, approaching darkness, and with that the guides start to build a campfire. The twinkling lights against the dark canyon walls draw the children and me in. Even though the breeze is still warm we gather a chair and post up next to the only light for miles. With our toes in the soft sand, the guides take turns telling tales of the river, the animals and old legends passed down. Eva, one of the six year old girl's, points at something in the sky, “A shooting star!” she exclaims, causing everyone at camp to stop and take a moment to stargaze. I have see many dazzling night skies in my life, but down in the heart of the Salmon River Canyons is where the stars shine the brightest!
Tonight, we will all sleep soundly and in the morning start the adventure once more. What’s in store for us then? Only time will tell!