Years of AZRA


From 1998 to 2014, I had the world’s most wonderful, part-time, seasonal job. I worked for Arizona Raft Adventures, a company that takes passengers on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. My job, called orientation hostess, was to meet with the group the evening before their trip to go over pertinent information, and then meet with them again the next morning to get them on the bus or down the trail to their river trip.

What did that mean, working for AZRA for 17 years? And, why did I do it?

There were all those early mornings, I mean EARLY – at Grand Canyon I had to be to work at 4:40 am, and in Flagstaff I had to leave my house at 5:20 am. But – all those gorgeous sunrises, roaming herds of deer and elk, and the light playing over the canyon. I would never have seen those with my nose down in the pillow. All those incredible passengers I had the privilege to talk with from all over the world – I mean, really – where else can you hang out with a hilarious group of Scottish kayakers?

There was a positive workplace environment, with bosses willing to listen and go to bat for their employees. I worked with fun fellow employees in the office, warehouse, amazing guides, and most of the bus drivers.

And then – there’s the river. Wow – river trips, part of the job once a year. What beauty, hardship, revelation, refocusing, realization and humbling observation. Life is real on the river, stripped away from our cosseted trappings of modern life. Things are gritty – literally, and basic, such as peeing and changing clothes in front of other people.

Attitudes shift with river philosophy. If it’s crucial, there WILL be a way to deal with it. If it’s minor, just shrug it off. Try to do the right thing, always, for the environment and each other. Be willing to lend a hand, and be willing to accept one if needed. Stop and admire the scenery. Life is good. Love.

Life is always changing on the river as the boats and the beauty move downstream. Life is more interactive, hard to get away from people. But in the case of my last river trip, it didn’t matter because everyone on the trip was wonderful. There’s lots of time for musing, and putting life into perspective. The gift of getting to go down the river every year is part of my soul. There is delight in the ever changing beauty and conversations. Life on the river is not perfect – there’s sand in your food and in your hair, you stumble and fall and lose your balance, you constantly make mistakes, you make do with what you have, cracked sunglasses and all. But even so, you still have to keep on going downriver.

So, AZRA’s done more for me than I ever could do for them. All the soul-expanding gifts the canyon and river have given me over the years are priceless. I would not be the same person without seeing all those magnificent places, the magic of the night sky, the roar of the water, the profound changes of insight, spirits buoyed and renewed. Life makes sense finally. A pattern emerges, a path becomes clear. SO, now it’s time to write. Using all these experiences, perhaps I can craft pieces which others will enjoy.

2 Responses to Years of AZRA

  1. Nancy Timper December 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    This is your best post ever! I just have to share it on Facebook. Thank you (and Keith of course) for introducing us to the Colorado River.

  2. N.R.G. December 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    I love getting people on the river! Everyone needs some wilderness in their lives, & river trips provide both creature comforts and that experience of the wild. Best of both!

    Love, NRG

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