With most of us currently doing our part by sheltering in place, the one thing we all suddenly find having on our hands is time. Lots of time. While I find it easy to constantly refresh the news, aimlessly scroll Instagram, or practice my harmonica I found sitting in the bottom of my dry bag, there is no better time to escape into a good book. After crushing my reading list in about a week, there were a few books that stood out to me. These books took me into the outdoors, reminded me why I am a river guide, and got me inspired to plan my next big adventure once I am finally unbound by the confines of the guidehouse.
1. The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
The Emerald Mile advertises itself as the complete telling of the fastest boat ride ever through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. While that in and of itself is an absolutely legendary feat, this book is so much more than that. Fedarko dives into almost every aspect of the history surrounding river-running in the Grand Canyon. From the wildly absurd characters floating the river in classic wooden dories to the near disaster of the Glen Canyon Dam following the storms of 1983, The Emerald Mile is a classic story on many different levels. Personally, everytime I dive into this book I always become motivated to start planning another epic trip.
2. The River by Peter Heller
If you are the kind of person more prone to get lost in a fiction tale, consider checking out The River. Set in the idyllic wilds of Northern British Columbia, this book begins with what seems to be an almost cliche adventure tale of two college buddies. However, their journey quickly turns to beat the pace of the growing wildfire in the area. This is quickly followed by further complications when they hear a couple arguing on the river bank only to turn up empty-handed when they try to find the pair. With vivid prose akin to Robert Macfarlane (shout-out to his book Underland) The River reads like a classic slow burn adventure novel and gives the feeling of being on an extended river trip. Perfect for passing the time.
3. Halfway to Halfway & Other River Stories by Bob Volpert & Dick Linford
No booklist involving river stories is complete without including Halfway to Halfway. Compiled by two long longtime river outfitters and composed of thirty-one short stories written by a myriad of guides, guests, and outfitters, the multiple authors gives this book a great charm. While many of these stories don’t even take place on the river, this book gives an insight into what it means to be one of those people that somehow “makes a living” running rivers. As a guide, the culture surrounding rivers is quite unique; it is often hilarious, other times bizzare, and occasionally serious. For me, these stories are a constant reminder of why we river guides do what we do. Plus, these are the tales you usually only hear around the campfire when the guides are a little loosened up.
Dillon’s currently writing a book called Quarantine and Quinine – Stories from the Guidehouse