How did you find yourself at Holiday?

After college in 1984 I worked at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in NC. NOC ran paddle boats, and trips were 1/2 or full day, with no overnighters. When I went down the Grand Canyon on a private trip with NOC friends, I fell in love with rowing the big boats and multi-day trips. I asked around for recommendations on Western companies. A couple of NOC guides had been out to Holiday for the guide training workshops and spoke highly of their experience. I applied to Holiday, and there we have it!

Fran rowing a boatWhat years did you spend guiding?

1989-96. I did a few random trips after that, as I was finishing grad school and waiting to get the results of my PT exam.

What is something you learned while at Holiday that has stuck with you and has been valuable to life beyond the river?

So much. While I worked at Holiday my family would tease me about getting a real job. This job was pretty real. We worked hard, played hard, developed teamwork, and put on a public face. We had responsibility. Not in a lame did you get your report in on time kind of way, but in a did you keep your boat upright and did everyone make it out of the Doll’s House kind of way. When I started to apply for physical therapy positions there always seemed to be an ‘other special skills’ section as the last question. I would write “I can prepare a gourmet meal for 25 people, over an open fire, in a rainstorm, with a smile”. It was definitely a conversation starter, and likely cinched the job more often than not. That line says much about what I gained from my years as a holiday guide. To maintain a sense of humour in adverse conditions, to be gracious under stress, to communicate with myriad personalities, to be detail-oriented yet manage the big picture, and to pay attention to quality. All very important life skills. 

What is your favorite stretch of river that you have been on? 

As far as the rivers Holiday runs, it would have to be the Yampa. I love that it is free-flowing, I love the pace of the trip, Mathers is one of my favorite campsites anywhere, it was  fun high or low water. It was special because it only ran for a short time each season.
I also really loved rowing Gates of Lodore. The low water and rocks made it such a fun challenge. I loved to work on getting through  the spot below Hells Half (mile, hour) without getting stuck, or strategically trying to bump a corner of the raft to help set the boat up to negotiate a really tight spot. The light on those canyon walls is so stunning.

Do you still do river trips?Fran Manti

Not as much as I would like. I have been back to Utah only a few times.  I have done a few multi-day river trips here in OR. After I moved to Bend I got involved in an Outrigger racing team, that gave me my river/paddle fix for a few years. Last summer I was excited to go back to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in north MN; that is where I started my wilderness paddling path when I was in high school. I still would like to get back to the Utah canyons.

What do you miss most from guiding?

 The whole lifestyle. The simplicity of living out of a river bag and ammo can. Being unbearably hot, then sliding your raft into the afternoon shade of a canyon wall. Sleeping on my boat, rocked by the water, dark starry skies overhead.  Warm sand between my toes and cold G + T in hand. Being away from life’s many distractions, and living essentially. Are we safe, are we fed, are we warm. Are we having fun yet?!

What was it that pulled you away from guiding?

I started guiding for Holiday a little later than most, by the time I put in a few years I realized there were limited options for growing older in the industry. I was interested in going back to school, I wanted an academic/intellectual challenge. When I decided to pursue Physical Therapy, I envisioned finding a way to merge that with the river life, but I never did quite figure that part out.

What advice or sentiment would you share with young guides working today?

Enjoy the experience and take in as much as you can, all aspects of the job have so much to teach. I was in Vernal  more than Green River so didn’t spend as much time in the GR warehouse learning from the masters (Dee and Tim).  I think i missed out there. And try not to mistake A and D ointment for your toothpaste when brushing in the dark!

Do you have a favorite memory of Dee? Sue? Tim? Fran and Sue

Dee – One arm pull ups…Miller High Life…well, if ya’ was ta…square dutches. Dee’s commitment to the environment and his love of the river canyons is to be admired. I remember how he worked with the NPS to have the picnic tables and outhouses removed from the Yampa and Lodore campsites. So many of Holiday’s practices and policies were ahead of the times, Dee constantly strove to make a better company and a better wilderness environment.
Sue – I enjoyed working with Sue as I put the Hot Coffee cookbook together. While I had done my share of river trips with Sue, is was nice to work with her more closely to make sure I was representing the menu and the company in a way she approved of. The menu was definitely Sue’s domain.
Tim – my memory of Tim has more to do with his persona rather than an event. His energy, his organization, his work ethic. Still a role model.

What’s your most memorable story from a river trip?

There are just so many memories. One  favorite is watching two male bighorn sheep in a head butting battle. We had started the Jones Hole hike on a Lodore trip, and just past the camping area there was a large herd of big horns. Two rams started battling, our group stood there and watched for  quite a while. The site, and the sounds, were just spectacular. Some folks decided not to do the hike, just stayed and watched. The rest of us had to carefully make our way around the herd to head up-canyon.

Are you in touch with any guides you met during your time with Holiday? 

I am in touch with a few, it seems to lessen as the years pass. These days it’s more on social media. Feel free to connect, ya’ll!

Fran and Griffin the dogWhat are you up to these days? (career, passions, hobbies, artistic endeavors, etc…)

I still work as a physical therapist. Griffin (my 2 year old English Setter) is my main man these days! I still love being active outside – xc skiing, trail running some, hiking, paddling, camping.  

As always, I read a great deal. I also like to find old wood furniture to paint, using fun colors and designs to give new life to an old object.

I’ve become the queen of berry jams. Oregon has so many berry varieties. Making berry jam has become one of my favorite things to do in the summer, I even won 2 ribbons at the county fair!

Where do you call home? 

I live in Central Oregon, in Bend for about 20 years, then a few years ago bought a house and moved 30 miles away to Prineville.