I was talking on the phone with a friend, who is going on his first ever Grand Canyon river trip this year, and he asked an ingenuously simple question: “What should I do so I’m not a bad passenger?”
The first thing that shot out of my mouth: “Don’t be last.” This idea of “don’t be last” can be flushed out quite extensively but here is the gist of what I mean:
Grand Canyon river trips are a working example of efficiency and order. The river guides are very attuned to this and want to keep things running in a nice smooth order (believe me, you’ll be glad it is like this). And this is where the idea of “don’t be last” comes in.
- When you’re helping the guides pack the boats in the morning, they usually will ask for the chairs first. There is, of course, a reason for this. They need to pack the chairs first because they are stored at the bottom of the frame storage box. Next, they’ll usually ask for tents and cots, kitchen stuff, duffel bags, etc. Don’t be last to pack up your personal campsite and bring your chair down to the boats when they’re already on to packing the kitchen equipment, because it’ll throw off their system, they’ll have to stop loading kitchen stuff, go on the other boat, move a bunch of stuff, and put your chair in the storage box.
- When you’re waking up in the morning and you hear the call for breakfast … don’t be last and show up 25 minutes later, when the guides are cleaning up breakfast, and ask for your eggs over easy.
- When you’re on a side hike and everyone is starting to head back to the boats … don’t be last and play in the waterfall for just 5 more (!) minutes. You’ll have 27 other people waiting for you.
- When you feel the urge to go #2 on the groover … don’t be last and try to go when the guides are finally packing it up in the morning. Keep an eye on the groover; use it when there isn’t a long line, if you can at all help it.
- When you’re sitting on the boats in camp ready to leave … don’t be last to buckle your life jacket. The boats won’t pull out until every last life jacket is buckled. Don’t make everyone wait for you.
I think you’re getting the idea. Now, “don’t be last” doesn’t mean you have to be the very first at everything, but just have that idea in the back of your mind. Efficiency and order — that is the name of the game down there and anything you can do to help that will pay dividends for your entire trip.