There is this funny thing that happens when you give a teenager or young adult a paddle, boat and crew, and the responsibility to safely guide a river trip. Typically, all sorts of fears and thoughts race through their heads on that first trip, but they quickly realize it is best not to give those thoughts weight. They have a boat to guide and a river to run.

However, in the midst of the working long days in the elements, while doing ministry, I think I speak for a lot of us guides when I say that what you hear or see on the outside is not always what’s going on on the inside. I thought it might be kind of funny to share some of those thoughts that pass through our minds with you all.

As you read this post, let’s imagine the dialogue that is going on inside the guide’s heads.


During a Raft Trip

While observing a mellow part of the river with intense focus, a completely calm-on-the-outside guide thinks, “Current. Current. Stay in the current.. oh no, where’d the current go!?”

A mile downstream, the bow of the boat snags an eddy by accident and that same guide thinks to themself, “Oh shoot, an eddy! I’ll pretend we’re spinning in a circle on purpose.” Out loud they say, “panoramic view everyone!”

A guide is trying to give everyone their loudest and best paddle slap at the end of the day. As the paddle smacks the water, another sound rings out. “Uh oh… was that the back of my shorts ripping?” they think… “Not again..!”

While giving commands out loud, “forward paddle… FORWARD PADDLE!” the guide thinks to themself, “Why isn’t my lead paddler paddling? Is my voice turned off? ..oh wait, it’s a youth pastor.”

Sometimes days blur together: “Did I put sunblock on today or is that a sunburn from two days ago?”
Sometimes it’s worse: “Did I put my life jacket on!?”

A 19-year-old guide who is around a handful of adult leaders: “I can’t believe they actually think I’m 25!”

After an hour on the river, the guide in charge of preparing the day’s equipment suddenly recalls, “Was I supposed to pre-shuttle a vehicle down to take-out !? I hope yesterday’s staff put gas in the van.”


While Canyoneering

At Ladybug Canyon a guide is about to jump in and cross the river. They think, “I don’t want to jump in. It’s cold. It’s really cold. I REALLY don’t want to jump in.” They jump in and shout, “Oh look how fun jumping is! Woooo!”

Once in the water, “I’m so so cold, I just want to be warm again. I’m hungry. What’s for dinner? Fajitas? Oh stop it, this is the best job ever. This is amazing. Why are you complaining? I love this! But I sure am cold.”

While a guide is getting in position to assist people, they stubs their toe and bangs their knee on a rock. Looking up with a half convincing smile they say, “It’s fine, I’m fine.” Meanwhile, inside they are screaming, “Owwww!!! Grrrrr. It hurts SO bad!”

During quiet-time a guide cuddles up to a comfy rock and embraces a moment of rest from guiding. A little too comfortable, “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep! I’m going to actually use quiet-time for it’s purpose this time.” Two minutes later, “zzzzzzzzzzz…”

After completing a particularly consequential section of canyon, a guide starts to panic when they notice they are one camper short. While starting to contemplate the worst possible scenarios, “they fell off a cliff, they got bit by a rattlesnake, bigfoot snatched them up, a dragon ate them!” The guide see’s the camper pop up from behind a rock – the camper had simply found a butterfly to play with.

Out Rock Climbing

While dripping with perspiration from standing in the sun, a guide belaying a rock climber on the route Ant Hill thinks, “I could literally be drinking my sweat right now!”

A guide urgently trying to call a camper and thinks, “what’s his name again? John, Jack, George, Jimmy, Jason, Jerry, Justin…” Upon remembering… “Nick! Step back from that snake!”

While setting up lunch, a hungry guide prepares the cheese for sandwiches: “Don’t eat the cheese. Don’t eat the cheese. Don’t eat the cheese! You’ll get to eat too, don’t worry.”


The Everyday Things

Guide wakes up in the morning, “where are my Chacos?”
Doesn’t see them right away, “ok really, where are my Chacos!?”
Starts to panic, “WHERE. ARE. MY. CHACOS!”

Later on in the day, they’re thinking, “Somebody’s deodorant IS NOT working… but it’s not mine, because I’m not wearing any!”

Near the end of a day of adventure, a camper asks, “what’s for dinner?” The guide responds with a cheeky grin, “oh you know, food… good food.” Meanwhile, they are thinking. “What is for dinner tonight? Is today Tuesday, or Wednesday? I think it’s Wednesday… No, I had spaghetti last night, so it must be Thursday! … maybe?”

Guide while preparing campfire, “I really hope the fire lights quickly tonight. I told the group to get here at 8pm. It’s 7:45pm and they’re all here watching me try to light this fire!”

A guide setting their alarm for the morning, “Tomorrow I’m going to get up an hour early and go for a run… on second thought, no. Let’s be honest, I’m just going to ignore my alarm.”
They reconsider, “on third thought, I’ll get up 30 minutes early to hang out with Jesus and read my bible. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.”
The next morning while reading their bible they fall asleep with their eyes open.

At dinner time, the guide releasing tables to go grab food announces that the next table to be dismissed is the table that can tell them the capital of Delaware. Then thinks, “oh shoot! I have no idea what the capital of Delaware is!” It’s already too late as a camper jumps up and confidently exclaims, “Philadelphia!” The guide shrugs and responds, “…yeah sure! Go ahead!”
Meanwhile, a new camper claims “Camden”, and then “Little Creek”…

Your Turn

Have you ever wondered what your guides are really thinking?  Share your thoughts in the comments below and let us know what you think they are thinking.