It’s been a long winter. Not that I’m complaining. Thanks to an epic snow season up here in Montana, I got out on my XC skis more than 100 times! But now that the snow and ice are receding, I’m ready to exchange my ski poles for my oars. The first Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips of 2018 launch on May 13th, and I’ll be joining the crew in just a few weeks, as soon as the school year ends. I can’t wait!
Top 10 Reasons Why I’m Looking Forward to Floating Season:
1. High Water. The Snake River usually reaches peak flow in late June and early July. As snowmelt feeds the current, we’re treated to a display of the river’s awesome power as it carves new channels, erases islands, and dislodges huge chunks of the bank. Every day – every trip – is a completely unique adventure.
2. Views. Our float trips travel along the base of the mountains right through Grand Teton National Park. The first rays of sunlight turn the entire Teton range pink. Clouds cast shadows, revealing crags and canyons. The setting sun creates a glowing orange backdrop. Seriously, could anyone ever get tired of this?
3. Green. Winter white lasts a long time in this part of the world, before yielding to the earth tones of mud season. When the soft yellows of spring finally tint the cottonwoods and willows along the river, you know that green leaves can’t be far behind.
4. Bad Jokes. Like this limerick, based on an exchange that Verne Huser, Barker-Ewing’s first guide, said he had with a foreign tourist. For maximum effect, please read the following with an outrageous Scottish accent:
“What’s that,” asked the Scot from Dundee,
“Whose antlers are big as a tree?”
“It’s a moose,” said the guide.
“A wee moose?” the Scot cried,
“Then I’d hate to see your rat!” said he!
5. Baby Animals. Moose calves and deer fawns are adorable. And the Bison calves are so cute you’ll want to scoop them up and take them home. But please don’t. It won’t end well.
6. Birds. Nearly 200 species of birds can be found in the park, including frequent visitors to the river like Bald Eagles – three nesting sites! – Osprey, Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, Ducks, Geese, Warblers, Mountain Bluebirds… Should I go on?
7. More Birds! The Nighthawks usually arrive in the first week of July, letting me know that our season on the river is halfway over.
8. River Miles. I’ve been guiding on the 10-mile stretch of river from Deadman’s Bar to Moose since 1983. On our busiest days, when launches start at 6am, I might take three boats down the river, and can end a full season having guided about 200 trips total. That’s a lot of river miles, but each one is different, and I’ve never, ever been bored.
9. Body by Snake. There is a fair amount of physical work involved in this job. Our custom-designed boats weigh about 500 pounds – and that’s before we put passengers in them! We work hard navigating around obstacles, exploring new channels, overcoming the occasional upstream wind, and we’re pretty darn buff by the time summer ends. At least I’d like to think so.
10. Family and Friends. I’m lucky to have grown up here in Jackson Hole. My parents started this float trip business when I was just two years old, and my sister was born during the company’s second year of operation. Most of our guides return year after year (after year!), and have floated with us for so long that they feel like family, too.