Paddle Tan Lines and Dirt Mustaches

It’s official: after two weeks of nonstop shivering, vicious sunburn and dodging giant rocks, trees and suck-holes, I am now a certified whitewater raft guide! After taking a week to visit family and friends back on the east coast, I returned to complete my check-out run and guide my first trips. It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking jumping into the heat of things after a week off, but the senior guides did a great job of loosening the tension, mostly by making fun of me. Or by making me do 10 push-ups every time I said the word “mine” (for some reason, that’s an actual game around GAC…don’t ask me how many times I’ve fallen for the “Who’s water bottle is this?” phrase. At least my arms will be ripped by the end of summer).

So for the past two days I’ve been guiding my own boats, without an instructor, and am feeling more confident by the day. I also acquired an awesome pole-shaped tan line from where the paddle rests against my leg, and probably the best watch tan line I’ll ever have in my life. I’ll definitely have more stories about raft trips coming up, but in the meantime I’m going to tell you about the Unimog trip I went on (in case you forgot GAC does more than just raft!) with fellow raft rookie and friend, Molly.

About two weeks ago, after just getting done a LONG day of training on the river, I was so excited to go home and gorge on absolutely everything I owned in the fridge. Just as I was about to head out, Ken Murphy, GAC’s owner, came over to announce that there were a couple of extra seats on the Unimog tour and we were more than welcome to take them.

Oh no. One of those moments in my life when I’ve had to make a momentous decision. To lounge on the couch all night stuffing my face? Or to spend an adventure-filled evening tearing around in the dirt?

Willpower, willpower…. I raised my hand. “I’m totally in.”

Not surprisingly, I made the right decision. For those of you who aren’t familiar with our Unimog tours, they take place about 15 minutes from our boathouse at Bair Ranch; this is also the place we have our horseback riding and ATV tours. The Unimog is what I like to call a Jeep on steroids. I’m a pretty tall gal, and I have to all but pole vault to get into the passenger seat next to the driver, as the vehicle stands about 13 feet tall. But don’t worry—there’s plenty of stairs to get into the roofless back, which gives an epic view of 5,500 acres of vast, open country lined by Aspen trees and rocky slopes. For this tour, Molly and I met with Ralfy, who has been guiding ATVs and Unimogs for three summers. About 10 other customers joined us, ready to take a relaxing two hour tour of the area.



It was a beautiful day, perfect weather, everyone was snapping pictures of the ocean of sheep that slowly parted from our path and laughing as we powered over rocks and potholes. I was cheerily sitting in the front with Molly and Ralfy, but soon found myself cracking those same cringeworthy raft jokes. About 10 minutes into the trip, the Unimog suddenly sputtered and died. As Ralfy worked to fix the problem, I picked up the microphone. “So….what did the horse say when he fell?”


“Help I’ve fallen and I can’t giddy up.”

Some pity laughs. I was out of jokes. Hurry up Ralfy.

After a few minutes we got it going again, and though it suddenly seemed to be running just fine, we didn’t want to take any chances. So we regretfully turned it back around and sent everyone home with no refund. “We hope you enjoyed your 10 minute sheep tour!”

…Just kidding!

No way was GAC going to let customers miss out on an adventure; while employees checked out the Unimog, we strapped on helmets, hopped into three ATVs and tore up the side of the mountain, weaving through the open land as we chased fading sun rays. Every so often we stopped to check out the view and learn a little more facts and history about the area.






The guests were absolutely loving it. When we got to the top of a turn-around point, hoping to spot the same bear that was seen just a day prior, a guest who whole-heartedly believes in Sasquatch began sharing his stories of the beast. Before I knew it, the entire crew was in on the conversation, with some even suggesting we start clomping around in giant, monkey-like feet for pretend footprints, just for the entertainment of future guests. Yeah, forget the bears, we’ve got a S’quatch at Bair Ranch!

It’s always great when the guests are so engaged that they start providing the entertainment. It’s part of what makes our jobs so much fun.

It’s also great when you can walk away from an epic day at the ranch with a dirt mustache and goatee—the only parts of the face the helmet and googles didn’t cover. It’s definitely one of the best souvenirs to take home with you, just don’t walk around town afterwards, forgetting to take it off like I did. Unless you want double-takes, stares and children pointing at you.


The best part is, by the time we came down with the ATVs, the Unimog was already fixed and ready to go for the next trip. The ATVs were a blast, but I’m definitely looking forward to a different perspective of the ranch in another Unimog tour, which I’ll be sure to post about. So keep checking back for more stories!




By Jenn Cleary