As the summer rafting season on the Snake River slowly fades to autumn, we hear the cry of the wild geese as they fly in squadrons overhead. With winter approaching, these mighty birds wing their way southward in massive v-shaped wedges. Some geese will remain in Jackson Hole, finding the few choice spots of wintering habitat that our valley has to offer. But most will fly to wet grasslands in the southern United States to enjoy rich vegetation, fish, and insects throughout the winter months.
Like the mighty geese, the River Guides of Barker-Ewing experience seasonal changes, too. When our rafting season closes, maintenance begins. We shift our attention from navigating the ever-changing river to repairing and renewing our precious equipment. Life jackets, vans, and rafts all have lifespans, so the month of October is spent sanding and varnishing oars, detailing vans, sanding and repainting trailers and rowing frames, and checking over our rafts from top to bottom.
Once maintenance ends, we enter the “shoulder season,” and the River Guide migration from the river to the mountains begins. Just as the geese have strengthened their wings for the long flight to their wintering grounds, the River Guides of Barker-Ewing enter the shoulder season fit, svelte and strong, with enough money squirreled away to survive the two-month transition to our winter jobs. We’ll spend these months hunting, job searching, roommate finding, and laying up stores until ski season begins. A few of us might migrate to warmer climates, but most of us will be preparing for the coming winter season.
When at last the snows of winter arrive, we emerge from “shoulder season” as ski instructors, snowmakers, EMTs, and even Antarctic adventurers. We’ll work and play among glorious snow-capped peaks in ranges like the Tetons, the Bridgers, the Wasatch Front, and the Vinson Massif, until May rolls around, signaling the arrival of another summer rafting season. And just as the first geese of summer are returning to their summer roosts in Grand Teton National Park, the Barker-Ewing River Guides will be migrating to the valley floor to make preparations for our return to the river. Long may the cycle continue.