Guide's Free Time?

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Jun 12, 2012
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A friend of mine told me of a situation he had a while back. He was part of a group of folks who where guided by a pair of guides. They paddled 3-4 canoes, I don't remember all the details, but he is a very accomplished tripper and was in no way a burden on the trip. The trip went well, the sports got along well and shared in all the chores along the way. The guides where also pleasant. He's a fisherman and he brought his tackle. The first evening and every evening afterwards, one of the guides paddled off alone after dinner and fished, the other guide explained this was his free time. My friend finished up the chores and sat and watched his guide fish.I told him I would have said something.Would you have accepted this from a guide?
 
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That's a really interesting issue to me. I was asked last winter by a local outfitter if my wife and I would be interested in doing some guiding, since I live near Algonquin Park and there are more inexperienced people looking for and in need of guides than there are qualified guides. I was flattered by the offer, and since I'm early retired, it sounds like a great way to earn some extra money doing what I love and do for free anyway (canoe-tripping), but I declined for a couple of reasons. One reason was that I've never been on a guided trip myself, and so had no real model of what exactly guides do and how far their responsibilities extend. The other reason was that I didn't like the idea of having to constantly serve and play host to people who might expect me to act like some cross between a bed 'n' breakfast host and a sherpa. So, like Beavertail, I too would like to hear from anyone who's been on such a trip or knows what one should expect from tripping guides. Should they have some 'free time', away from their charges (provided one qualified guide remains with the group) or not?
Cheers,
-Martin
 
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Well, as I see it the rub is "friend finished up the chores..." I'm not at all familiar with what the agreement is between client and guide but this may well represent an example of the erosion I see everywhere of the sloughing off of responsibilities by someone who ought to shoulder them. Would I say anything? No, probably not, if the trip is going OK otherwise I would really hesitate to introduce a note of discord. I hate to be around tension and ugly looks across a campfire. The few times that circumstance has forced me into some group endeavor I just work to get the thing over as quick as I can and make sure that I don't ever get caught up in anything like that again.
Over the years I can't remember ever getting into an argument with my dogs. That's the kind of companion I look for. Actually it's not a long distance look, as they sleep down on the end of the bed.
Best Wishes, Rob
 
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Thinking about all this some more; I can see both sides to this question. Looks like one of those times where you would want to spell it out in detail or be prepared to 'give' more than might be fair.
As far as Martin's interesting question about the wisdom of being a guide in the classical sense, for me at least the answer would be no. But depending on the people I might be a teacher. I'll teach you how to do it and why and then help you get it right. But to become a Stepin Fetchit? I think I'd pass.
Rob
 
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Willis

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I just forwarded a link for this thread to a friend who used to guide in the Adirondacks. It will be interesting to get his perspective.
 
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After giving it some thought I guess the guide felt it was his own time, there where other canoes and my friend could have taken one out solo, but I'm just guessing here.
Maybe the guide really didn't care for my friend and had enough of him during the day.
I just figure the guide gets free time between trips and for what my friend paid, well, a few hours fishing would have gone a long way giving the client a good time.

I do think if a guide said "I'm going to hike up to that spectacular lookout behind the campsite after diner, but I'm going alone cause it's my free time" it would have created some hard feelings too.

I think if you take someone's money for a 5 day trip, and they are at your mercy for canoe/camping entertainment you owe them 24/5 attention, but I never went on a guided trip, so I might be p------ into the wind too (that's "paddlin" into the wind btw)
 
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I would think this would be detailed in the contract. While there might be some general standards which exist among guide-client contracts, I am sure there are also some quite unique clauses as well.
 
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I've done a bunch of guided trips. Some were in canoes, some rafting, a very few kayaking. I think that on most every trip each guide would get some time to or for themselves, except for day trips. I guess if the non fishing guide offered to assist/accompany your friend at fishing after he finished his chores, that would seem typical to me. If they don't get some time to themselves, I'd think they would go bonkers. I feel I should also say that I've never been on a guided trip where the guides "waited" on us. They prepared meals and cleaned up, but I can't think of a trip where people didn't offer to help... That was a way to really get to know the guides. I've never been on a guided trip where we didn't have to help load and unload boats, put up our own tents, and at a minimum wash our own dishes. Mostly, we clients have done much more. Maybe some of that was guilt, but I think a lot of it was because we knew how, and genuinely wanted to participate in our trips. Most of the people I've been on trips with have a good deal of outdoor experience, but they want to go places that they don't know much about, or they don't know others who want to do a trip like they want to do, or can't do it at the same time, or don't want to be bothered worrying about permits, they just want to go. I've been to the Everglades, the Artcic, the Grand Canyon, and lots of places in between. I wouldn't have been able to arrange those trips for myself, so I'm usually happy outfitters will do the organizing for me. I still have to have my own appropriate clothes and some other gear. And if I want, I can always bring all my own gear from paddles and dry bags to sleeping bags, etc. I've only been on a couple trips that had people who'd never camped before, and they didn't hit up the guides for assistance, they usually hit up those of us with more experience. On my last two rafting trips I got to steer the boat, although not through the big name rapids. The guides are usually willing to let you do most anything they feel you can do safely. I guess I feel defensive because I keep reading (mostly about the Grand Canyon) where people doing private trips think that people on guided trips are foolish lumps. Maybe some are, but in my experience, most clients are caring, involved, competent outdoors people, who just happen to want to take a guided trip so their vacations are restful instead of stressful. Guides usually know the area, they can identify flowers and plants and they have had appropriate first aid classes for the kinds of boo-boos one is likely to encounter in the outdoors. But about the only thing I *expect* from guides is that they will do their best to make it a safe trip. Everything else is gravy. Ok, that said, I have done a few trips with guides who are meant to be one-year wonders. Some may be only be one-trip wonders. In that instance, I'd want to tip less, but since your tip usually goes to the lead guide, and he/she divides the tips evenly and then distributes them to all the guides, by reducing the tip, you're reducing the tip to all guides, not just the lackluster one. If I were your friend, I guess I would expressly say to the lead guide that I want to go fishing after we eat... Can I take a canoe, or can (other client) and I take a canoe and go fishing? Sometimes I've had to be blunt about what I really wanted to do. I've never asked for anything that was way out of bounds, and I've never been refused. I hope I haven't rambled too much, but just because I take guided trips doesn't mean I'm incompetent in the woods or on the water, or that I'm not wiling to do my part. And guides rarely read minds, so tell them if you really want to do something. Pringles
 
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Thanks for your input on this Pringles. Having never been part of a guided trip of any sort, it's helpful to hear what your experience of it was as a client.

My own vague impressions (and that's all they are) are based on having heard guides and former guides discussing their own experiences and reminisciences of how much work is involved; not just physical labour (lugging the heavier gear such as wannigans and taking up any slack when someone in the group either can't manage or is simply too lazy to pull his or her own weight and do his or her fair share of camp chores, but also the work of managing the social dynamics. I'm told one needs a lot of soft skills - social skills: one has to remain upbeat pretty much all the time, irrespective of circumstances and how one is feeling, for the sake of the morale and enjoyment of the tripping party. It's my understanding that most guides function as entertainers around the campfire. There's lots of instruction throughout the day, but in the quiet hours around the fire, guides usually take the lead in generating fun and laughs. And then there is the matter of interpersonal politics between the trippers. I vividly remember hearing Kevin Callan talk about some of his nightmare guiding experiences, including one trip where a fellow began flirting and then fooling around with a woman in the group. Unfortunately for all involved, this fellow was married and his wife was part of the group...and when she discovered what was happening...well...the poop hit the propeller. While that sort of thing would be rare, there are sure to be trips where there are squabbles, laziness, whining, or argumentative types. That's the sort of thing that would have me looking for 'alone time' wherever I could find it. My sense is that guiding takes more emotional intelligence than I have. Still, for those who have the patience and the social skills required for when one has a less than ideal group, it's gotta be fun and rewarding work.
-Martin
 
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Pinemartyn, you are spot on about the soft skills issue. A good guide sets the stage for people to sort of entertain themselves around the campfire, or wherever. They also seem to be amazing at eyeing who among the clients can do the social stuff for them, so they can just sit back a little. The guides are usually first up and last to bed and I didn't at all mean to say that they don't work. A good guide works incredibly hard, but makes it seem effortless, and there are allllllll kinds of great guides out there. It's kind of like teachers, there are bad ones and magnificent ones, and everything in between. But on every trip I've been on, people help. Part of it is how much time the guides want to spend at teaching. If a guide never shows you how to hook up the propane stove, well, he/she isn't going to get a lot of help with it. Sometimes that's fine. The guides who last are usually pretty adept at looking at a passing client and asking if they'd be willing to chop vegetables or whatever. That same guide is probably paying attention to the various clients to find who they will, and who they won't, ask to help with the lines or something else that could require coordination. It would be a boldfaced lie to say that the guides aren't doing a lot of the work, but people who have enough get up and go to want to raft or canoe or kayak somewhere special on their vacation usually want to participate. I'm sure guides who have been at it for years have horror stories about groups that really misunderstood the aboutness of the trip and it was horrible. Well, I love what I do, but I've had some days that I'd like to "take this job and shove it." I'd like to think that most of the guides from trips I've been on went home and thought we were an ok group, and sometimes I'd like to think we were special in a good way. And I'm absolutely sure that many of the guides love to look at the clients faces when they show them special places, just like people like to see children see things for the first time. Do yourself a favor and take a guided trip sometime--an overnight trip. Just try one. Go someplace unlike home--maybe a rafting trip down a canyon in the southwest. It's a little expensive, but so is Disneyworld or a cruise, and most people seem to be able to do that. Some trips were better than others, but I treasure most, and I would do all of them again. My favorite outfitter is the one that charges the least (attracted me at the outset), but expects clients to participate the most (that's why I was going, to DO the activity in that location), and says that creating community among the participants is one of their highest goals (safety is number 1). Some of their guides have been guides for years and years, others will be lucky to last a season. It's like most jobs... But the office is usually pretty awesome! :) Pringles
 
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Guides first and foremost are responsible for their clients safety. This means sometimes they have to watch everything 24/7 with an eagle eye. The OP's tale was of a group that meshed well. Most likely they did not need to be followed around. In any camp for everyone's sanity, there has to be down time for each..but the guide again has to know what is going on. I have never seen a guided trip that involved no down time. The OP relates that there were six to eight people and two guides. To have one sort of off fishing (but still close enough to render aid) seems to be innocuous. There still was one guide left.

Guides are not actors and entertainers all the time. Their purpose is to ensure safe passage. If you were the guide you might do things differently. Usually in the trip description given to clients there is a schedule and expectations of what each party will do.

Guides are up before the clients making breakfast and in bed the last of all. Lets give em a bit of free time. I know some two dozen guides and used to do it myself. There isn't a single person in Maine that can make a liveable wage guiding. None of you mentioned insurance. It is INSANELY expensive and that is a large part of what you pay for. The guide pays it up front and tries to recoup in trips.
 
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Wilderness Guide. As a former NYS licensed wilderness guide, having led many canoe camping trips in the Adirondacks and elsewhere for groups of from 6 to 15 people, I do know the work involved. Building and maintaining a sense of community within the group was always important to me. That always involved getting to know one another and accepting differences in each other, strengths and weaknesses as well as individual interests. As the group leader I tried to keep communication open, discussed problems and complaints openly and allowed participation in decison making as much as possible. I, however, always made the final decisions, especially concerning safety and the welfare of the group. I did encourage periods of free time for group participants to have personal space and pursue interests without imposed structure from me, always of course setting up safety guidelines in doing so. That being said, if I was co-leading a group and my assistant guide wanted a little free time, if it did not sacrifice the safety or well being of the group and the assistant remained available if needed during his/her brief "escape" I can see that as being acceptable. My experience in guiding however was that there was never enough time for either the guide of assistant to be away from the group for very long, so it's hard to picture the scenario described as being problematic.
 
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This thread has gotten me to really think about some of the guides I've take trips with. A good guide is a magical being. That said, even magical beings deserve a break.

Could your friend have fished from the bank?
 
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Hey, Thanks for all the replies, pretty interesting and also eye opening.

I like to go solo, and have for many years from eastern Maine to western Ontario. Group trips for me became a drag, just me I guess, the folks where always pleasant. Although, one time on a group trip in Quebec the guy I was paired off with refused to let me solo his canoe in the evenings to fish...my last group trip.

So maybe I'm not that up on group dynamics and leadership responsibilitys/customer satisfaction.

But maybe I always thought a guide would do his or her best to entertain the clients from sunup to sunset. I just can't see how a guide needs "free time" on a 5-7 day trip when the client lays out close to $1000 to get there and pay the his/her fees. It's a short season, it's canoeing and camping, it's not like it's roofing or spreading concrete.
Paddling and fishing in the evening is magical. To suggest that the client fish from shore while the guide paddles out to probably an area he is familiar with and fish using local tactics he is knowledgeable about is missing the point.
If it was me, I would be chucking rocks at the guide from shore...naw, just kidding. But I would be feeling short changed and taken advantage of.

IMO, guides who need free time out on the trail away from the clients are in the wrong business.
 
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