The Last Night on the River
By Hillary Scott
The river embodies community. It’s a shared connection. For days, you float miles on the water relishing in the beauty of the space, getting to know the others in the boat. Maybe that person is a partner or relative. Maybe they’re a friend. They could be a total stranger, but for that brief time, you’re sharing time, space, and maybe a story or two. Belly laughs, introspective thoughts, nostalgia, and wonder. Connections are accelerated. Strangers become good friends, and memories are being created that are unlike others. For maybe the first time in a young person's life, the phone is put down, focus is on the conversations in front of them, and stories are heard and told for the first time. And before you know it, it’s the last night of the trip.
There’s this phrase that has been floating around, LNOTR: last night on the river. It’s being yelled, whispered, and repeated from person to person. The tables are set up in one line, family style. Somewhere from the depths of the boats, another bag is brought out. Inside is an assortment of patterns and colors. Fabrics are being passed around and tried on. You look around and see every guy wearing a dress from an 80s prom. Others are donning their finest river wear, that special outfit they had been carrying at the bottom of their bag. Favorite moments of the trip are shared, and we raise a glass to look back at the days that have passed.
Probably without much advance notice, you are told to think of a talent, big or small, good or terribly bad because there is going to be a show. The stage is set; paddles posted together, strung up with lights. A “mic” is built into the t-grip of a paddle. Thank goodness, without it, the audience would never be able to hear what went on, on stage. Talents consist of bad skits, a reading, poor jokes, maybe a song inspired by the week. As the show goes on, more and more participants gain inspiration and courage; warmed up by watching those perform before them. The No Talent Talent Show is a weekly tradition that allows guests to stand up and act silly with those around them. That one guest that has been more shy breaks out of their shell for the best performance of the night. Laughter and applause are sent through the darkness down the canyons.
After the show, some start to trickle to bed. The night leaves a warm feeling. Others stay up to extend the time spent with one another just that much longer; someone is playing the guitar by the fire, a couple others are sharing beers over a game of cribbage, while the last few are looking up at the most spectacular studded star sky.
The river teaches an important lesson; slow down and enjoy the moment. The beautiful thing about a river is that it’s never the same twice. You could run the same stretch for decades, and it will never be the same as the one you are running currently. The people could be different, the water will be different, the feeling, and the energy. No moment will be the same as it is right now.
LNOTR is a reminder to celebrate the time we were able to spend together. For a few days, the rest of the world faded away and all that was left were those in front of you. It’s a taking back and an emphasis to make the most of it while we can. We have this last night, let’s do it up. Stay up late, set a goal to finish all the bottles of wine, you can sleep when you’re home.
Sharing the River
For us guides, the time we spend on the river is not taken for granted. We start the season timidly getting to know each other. These are the few people that we are going to spend a consistent amount of time with for the next few weeks. Maybe we have trip after trip together, maybe it’s just the one and we have to make the most of it while we can. By the time the last night comes around, we are exhausted physically and mentally, hot from the burning sun, and smell ripe. In the afternoon meeting we look at each other and say it, “LNOTR.” It’s a rallying cry, and a reminder; we’re almost there, but we don’t want it to end at the same time. “Howdy? Howdy!” And then a drink appears. Dinner is made, dessert is served, and the dishes are cleaned. Now the night can begin.
On the first trip of the season, LNOTR is full of energy. It’s the first party we get to throw and we want to do it big. And then you blink, and it's September and the last night of the season. Months have been spent in the canyons living and working in an incredible space. Timid coworkers have become rambunctious best friends, and stories are shared from the season, “remember that guest? How about that one time?” One of the guides swears they are going to bed early. They are not getting caught up in the festivities. But then someone starts to play, and they stay for just one song. Next they know it’s near midnight and breakfast is looming in the distant future. Is there regret for the sleep lost? Never.
We spend our days showing guests the wonder and beauty of the spaces around them. We share stories and facts not just because we think our guests will find them interesting, but because we find them interesting and can’t help but share. Our goal is to make our guests’ eyes as wide for this area as our’s are. The river is a community, a connection between people and place. The last night is a reflection, celebration, and culmination of all of it. It’s the last memory and feeling that will be looked back on. It’s the last night on the river, but the number of last nights can be endless.