Olive’s thermometer kept bouncing between 99 and 100 degrees on my drive to town; hot day, little breeze. I strode into the storefront that housed the highly-rated canyoneering guide company that I had found via internet in February. I was still in uniform, and the three guys who were sitting around chewing the fat suddenly grew quiet and sat up a little taller. “Can I help you? A woman in uniform always gets our attention. Just don’t shoot…” I laughed at being mistaken for a Law Enforcement officer, whose duty belt must easily add 20 pounds fully loaded. And I realized once again how much weight the park service uniform and badge carry.
“I’d like to sign up right here, right now, for every canyoneering trip you guys take,” I said earnestly and with a straight face. Pause. “Uhh, okay, we can arrange that,” the owner managed to reply. “We’ve got trips going out almost every day.” Amid the banter of the next ten minutes, we found out all that we needed to know about each other, and got me signed up for a Saturday and a Sunday trip this coming weekend. “I’d like to strike a deal with you guys,” I offered — “Do you have any type of punch card? If I buy X number of trips, I get the next one free?” Matt, the owner, looked at me and said, “You know, I believe our rangers should be familiar with the Park from all sides. I’m not trying to butter you up or anything, but you could just come along with us kind of as an apprentice or helper.” His eyes twinkled. “We’ll give you the heaviest ropes to carry, and all the water, and not charge you anything.” I couldn’t believe my ears. These trips go for at least $75 each. They scale them back a bit in the summer, due to intense heat, so the routes are shorter but still magical. And here is a guy who wants to GIVE me his trips. Sure, he would appreciate my “ranger” recommendation to visitors; I know that. But this company is the only one permitted to do technical climbs in Arches N. Park, because they are conscientious stewards of the environment and the resources.
Is there an ethical dilemma here? I don’t know. When I told him that my children would be coming out in August to visit me, and I planned to BUY trips for them then, he was happy enough. It sounds like a win/win, honestly. The guides need the extra “mules” to carry the load. And don’t you take good care of your pack animals?