You’re heading out into the wilderness. You’ve hired a guide to show you the sights–you know, a local, a trained professional. Someone who knows all the ins and outs of your chosen destination. Your guide is cool and is gonna reveal all the best secret spots while taking care of your every need along the way. Right?
Sure. Probably. Most times, absolutely. But guides are only human too. With all the foibles, flaws, and bad days that every human can have. You know, those times you just grit your teeth and plow on through it all.
So here’s the truth of it: Ten Things Your Guide Will Never, Ever Tell You. What follows is a bit tongue-in-cheek…yet, sadly enough, elements of reality are sprinkled through each point.
10) This particular stop on the tour is not the coolest place around here. In fact, locals usually avoid it because it’s a bit touristy. But since you are the tourist and you don’t know better, and it’s still kind of a pretty neat place, your guide might include it. But honestly, your guide is just not gonna show you the super best secret spots. Because, you know, those places should remain secret. Unless you are the coolest clients on the planet, and a good tip might also hinge on showing you the best stuff. Then…maybe.
9) I’ve heard this same question/joke at least 10,000 times before. However, you won’t know that, since I’m going to answer nicely and laugh at that darn joke again. For the 10,0001st time. All with a smile firmly pasted to my face. Even if I’m screaming inside and rolling my eyes when you can’t see me. Which I sometimes do.
8 ) Your kids are really annoying. Yeah, there’s nothing much to add to this one. Even if I like kids (which I actually do), your kids just aren’t angels all the time.
7) You are really annoying. See #8.
6) I have no idea what that rock formation/bird/flower/type of lizard is. But I might make something up on the fly. Because telling tall tales & making stuff up is sometimes a job requirement when guiding. So that’s why I’ll call it a Cretaceous Blue-Rimmed Phalanges layer/Red-tailed Hawk (standard answer for any bird I can’t identify other than that it’s a raptor)/Upland Desert Lacy-Edged Sunflower/Swift-Darting Mountain Green-Bellied Lizard. Because you’re going to believe me no matter what. (Unless you’re a geologist/ornithologist/botanist/lizard expert, of course. Then, I’m going to shut my mouth, hopefully before I’ve stuck my foot in it, and pump you for information instead.)
5) I can’t freaking stand this particular trail anymore. Why? Because I hike/ride/float/drive it approximately 29 times a week with multitudes of guests. Same bends in the trail, same questions asked, same damn gorgeous scenery every day. But you know…smile on the face and all that. Tomorrow’s another day, with perhaps a different trail. Even better, a more positive attitude.
4) The gas tank is below E, and the nearest possible gas station is at least 40 miles away. Over rough dirt roads. This is when I start telling lots of manic jokes, my laughter gets screechy, or I shut down completely and let you entertain yourselves. (Which could be a cover-up for both fervent prayer to whatever deity I believe in as well as silent curses at the boss who said, Of course you can make it all the way to End-of-the-Road-Forever-and-Ever Point on one tank of gas!)
3) I’m doing this for the tips, yo. Fork it over. Okay. If you’re lucky enough to be an outdoor guide, then the daily commute (trail), views (spectacular), and staff meetings (hello, amazing wildlife) are basically payment enough. And of course guides get an actual paycheck. But let me tell you, we ain’t paid all that much. Why? Well, partially because it’s expected that the guests will be tipping. Should you tip if the service is terrible, your guide rude, the food burned and full of sand, etc. etc.? Perhaps not, although I will leave that up to your conscience. But let me point out that a good guide knows her/his stuff: the area back roads, fascinating local lore, geology, flora, fauna, best times of day for light or to see wild critters, actively seeks out new & interesting information to share with clients, and most of all (bonus!) is trained in how to save your sorry self if the poop hits the fan (the stuff of which guide nightmares is made of, by the way). So do I love my job? Yes. Do I also work for tips? You bet I do.
2) I’ve never been here before. No, really. Happens all the time. What, you thought the topo maps were just for show? Seriously, I’ve guided people on trails/tours I’ve never before seen in my life. And usually they a) had no idea, b) loved it, and c) made plans to come back again next year for a new adventure. Even so, sometimes this situation can lead to the number 1 thing your wilderness guide will never tell you:
1) Um…I’m sort of lost. Not really, of course. I know what state we’re in, and the general area. But, yeah. Could happen. Semi-lost guide’s inner stream-of-consciousness: Which turn ahead exactly am I supposed to make? Where is that damn pass I saw on the map? Is that the distinctive rockslide I’m supposed to see just as we head north…or was it the one we passed 30 minutes ago? Why the hell did my boss send me on this trip when I’ve never done it before? Do my guests know we’re kind of lost? Do we have enough water? Food? I wonder what the newspaper headlines will look like….
Are you a guide? Have you ever been guided? Tell me more about your own (mis)adventures out on the trail. Feel free to change the names of the guilty, terminally stupid, confused, or even your own if these descriptions fit you at times.
Oh, and hire a guide! Honestly, we love our job. Happy trails.