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From Guest to Guide by Zach Kellman

From Guest to Guide by Zach Kellman

By: Austin Adventures Guides October 8, 2013

As a stubborn teenager, being with my family on vacation was not exactly a favorite activity. Needless to say, being in your teens can be an extremely crazy and confusing time that every family comes to understand through experiencing it. My parents informed me they had planned a trip to the Canadian Rockies with Austin Adventures in the middle of summer. Even though I possessed a great passion for the outdoors, I almost had a fit. In fact, I recall having a rather large objection to going on the trip even without any knowledge of the itinerary. I couldn’t stand the idea of missed summer parties and potential flings, even if just for a few weeks. How could going on this trip benefit me in any way? Unfortunately, it didn’t matter because I was getting on that plane whether I liked it or not. If I refused, drill sergeants were “apparently” going to come and take me to teenage boot camp in the middle of the night, or so I was told to persuade my decision. Life certainly has some interesting and ironic twists that for me would come to fruition nearly a decade later.

The weather was gray, cold, and damp the day we arrived in Alberta. I’m sure you can picture my lack of enthusiasm at the time. Our guides Marcy and Karl picked us up the next morning in that big white Austin Adventures van that you learn to love by the end of the week, and off we went. They were so friendly that I felt relieved in a way. Somehow they seemed to instantly understand my plight as an adamant teenager, and were determined to show me a good time.

The trip kicked off with a bang while rafting the Kicking Horse River, which was so full of glacial sediment it looked like it was milk instead of water. It was especially enjoyable for me because I was (and still am) a whitewater-kayaking junky, and had plans to return after the trip for a personal run. I can’t recall many details from the first several days, but my blurry memory comes to focus the second I think of Moraine Lake. The turquoise glacial water and towering mountains were too much to ignore, even for the most reluctant observer.

Over the next several days we lodged in some of the nicest accommodations I will ever have the privilege to stay in, and the food was phenomenal. When we arrived in Banff it was time for “night-on-your-own,” but we were all enjoying each other so much that Marcy and Karl actually ate dinner with us. That meant a lot in retrospect, because I now know how valuable that time is for guides to get ahead.

My final memory of the trip was walking on the Athabascan Glacier. We strapped crampons to our boots and wielded ski poles before trudging up the ice. Once “off-piste”, we stared down into crevasses hundreds of feet deep, and watched as melt water cascaded straight into the glacial abyss. The last night, the group met in a cabin and shared what we had gained from the weeklong experience. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of “I didn’t want to be here at first and ended up having the trip of a lifetime with my family.”  A big part of that was because of our awesome guides.

Who would’ve ever guessed that roughly ten years later, and by a simple twist of fate, I would be part of the Austin Adventures family and be able to work with such an amazing group of individuals? Certainly, I would have never predicted it, but it has given me a unique perspective when guiding in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. My Canadian Rockies experience not only proves that the most disgruntled teenagers can enjoy themselves on these trips, but also that they can truly change your life for the better.

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