There will be food, lots of food
On the river you might get some variability. The flows might fluctuate depending on dam releases, storms, and snowpack. There might be a heat wave, or some wind. You might run into some pesky mosquitoes. You’re in nature, things change and part of the fun is to prepare for and embrace the unknown. The one thing that I can guarantee you on a Holiday Expeditions River or Bike trip is that you will want for nothing when it comes to meal time.
When I vacation I know I like to eat, so when I’m going into the wild I try and figure out a way to bring the best meals often while considering weight and space. Fortunately for us passengers, the guides have figured out a way to utilize their 18 foot rafts to maximum efficiency. From tables and chairs to dutch ovens and giant skillets, they bring it all (except mugs! Bring your own mug). So, what does that day for their setup and our ability to chow really look like?
Rolling around in my sleeping bag on my tarp, I rub my eyes and peer out towards the river. The sun is rising, purples and blues of dawn are diffusing through the cottonwood branches. The sediment rich river and red rock wall on the opposite shore are turning gold. It’s beautiful but I am tired from two days on the river. I run my hands through my hair, sand. I need caffeine. Right on cue, the head guide who has been quietly setting up the kitchen yells as loud as he can, “HOT COFFEE!”*** Every morning we awaken to this, and a table of sweet snacks like cinnamon buns and muffins. Folks sit in their chairs, stretch and chat quietly while the rest of the guides rise and cook everything from scrambled eggs and bacon to pancakes. The last morning of the trip, we are treated to custom omelets with a smorgasbord of fillings. ***They don’t always make you get up at dawn. We went on a special hike!
The instant gratification station
I can’t tell ya why, but lunch is always my favorite meal of the day. Maybe it’s because I love sandwiches. And Holiday DOES sandwiches. As soon as the rafts pull into a sandy beach for lunch the guides bust out the “instant gratification station” to reward all of us guests for a hard morning of floating. This is PB+J, chips, beverages, and fruit. While you can sample that buffet, the guides set up the real lunch. This ranges from pita pockets to crisp refreshing chicken caesar salad wraps. I usually grab an extra PB+J or bag of chips for the afternoon, which I stow in my carry-on bag.
What about on the boat?
If you didn’t grab a snack at lunch, the guides have you covered. If you’ve hiked up to the rim or to a rock art panel above the river, you might need something salty. Ask the guide on the oars, and they’ll get you a handful of trail mix, a granola bar or fresh fruit!
Around the fire
Evenings on the river are some of the best you’ll have, anywhere. Sipping wine or La Croix, you watch the colors change as the sun goes down. Otters play in the water. Camp is setup and everyone is sharing stories from their day out in the wild. The gentle babble of the water is serene. When the weather is right, maybe you’ll have a campfire. Or, you can watch the constellations start to come out as the sky darkens.
But the guides’ day isn’t done yet. They still pull out their biggest trick of the day. Dinner. From deliciously gooey lasagna with crispy garlic bread to perfectly medium-rare steaks and creamy mashed potatoes, you’d swear you were in a five-star restaurant. There is plenty of food, help yourself to seconds. But save some room, because yes there is dessert. Dutch oven pineapple upside-down cake, brownies, and sopaipillas (a Mexican fried dough delight) will easily satisfy your sweet tooth. After all these meals, but especially dinner, the guides wash up. All in a days work for life on the river.
Jack Stauss moved to Salt Lake City in 2008 in pursuit of big mountains and wide open spaces. He has spent the last several years both enjoying and advocating for public lands and free flowing rivers. While he’s not typing on his keyboard, he will be backcountry skiing in the Wasatch or exploring Utah’s wild deserts. Read some of his environmental musings at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @jackstauss on Instagram