What is it like to be a Guide?
I became a professional Alaska Big Game Guide in 1995. It was, and still is, the most exciting, profound and rewarding feeling that I can imagine.
There is nothing that can possibly compare to being part of making someone’s dream come true, on horseback, in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.
Teaching someone to ride and control their horse. Answering questions about the range horses we ride, the ice capped mountains, the awesome glaciers and the wild critters that roam and live, with us at Pioneer Outfitters. There is nothing so satisfying as the indrawn breath of a stranger, riding out of the forest bend onto the river.
Checking gear and tying evac bags to the back of snow machines as they warm and making sure everyone has enough on to stay warm on the day’s ride into the frozen wilderness. Drilling holes in the ice to fish from, and gathering wood to burn and get warm by, until the fish is ready to eat.
Calling in the enormous Alaska-Yukon Moose, to within yards of cameras or a hunter who has dreamed of this magnificent trophy for a lifetime. To see the tears in the eyes of a hunter who never gave up as he holds his magnificent Dall Ram. To spot and stalk one of the most dangerous animals on the planet, the Grizzly Bear.
Cameras are my favorite weapon, backed up with my 45-70, we are smart (cautious) and ready to take on whatever Mother Nature or the wild things throw at us. Being a Professional Guide means to take someone into the wild, keep them safe and show them their dreams, in real life. Being part of making that dream come true.
Understanding the danger, knowing some of them personally, and facing it again and again, knowing I can and will, is the most inspirational and enlightening experience a human can have.
Dipping and swirling the pan, watching for the dull gold color that I am searching for. Laying on the hard ground picking sand and mud out of a crevice for hours when it appears, one, two and a third tiny nuggets of gold. Scraping the mud and sand into clean buckets to be rinsed and sifted.
Sitting around the fires hot on my face and cold at my back listening to the cracks and snaps with horse-bells dinging in the background. Stories or silence, the fire makes it more. The day is an accomplishment, every day. Feeling so alive, exhausted and satisfied.
It hurts, too. Body and soul.
Guiding is a very physical profession. It requires that a guide is strong and healthy and that doesn’t stop the sore or pulled muscles, bruises, scrapes and exhaustion. Guiding takes you to the limits of endurance and is still there when you think you have nothing left. It matters not if you are sick, people are counting on you.
Giving all you have, and having a client dismiss your efforts and the efforts of your Outfitter can wring you dry. It’s a personal blow, if you take it personally and it hurts.
“It was absolute misery, and so much fun!”
That is the way I heard one of my trainees describe a trip we had just returned from and that completely sums up Guiding. I wouldn’t trade one bruise, one heartache, one success.