As the busy tour season starts up, we thought it would be fun to share some Q & A answers from our great guides, with you, our travellers. First up is Sarah, our resident canyoneering expert. Read more to find out more about Sarah!
What, if any, is your favorite National Park? Why?
Zion National park is my favorite mostly because that is where I have done most of my own recreating. Living so close, only 45 minutes away, has given me the opportunity to become very familiar with Zion. In fact, my earliest memories of family trips are in Zion. My parents were always taking me and my sisters on outdoor adventures. The first time I hiked the 16 mile Zion Narrows was when my dad took me at the age of 7. Since my childhood I have continued to explore Zion, doing the many different slot canyons and the back country trails. This familiarity keeps Zion in a very special place for me.
Do you have a favorite hike, and if so, what is it? Why?
Well, my favorite hike is a technical canyon in Zion National Park, Englestead Canyon. It takes a full day and requires technical rope and rappelling skills. Non-technical hikes that I love are the Observation Point hike in Zion, the Navajo Loop hike in Bryce and the Delicate Arch hike in Arches.
What is your favorite tour to lead at Southwest Adventure Tours and why?
Bryce Canyon National Park is my favorite park to take people to. Especially if they have never been there before. All the parks are astounding, they are all so beautiful and tremendous but nothing brings the “wow” factor like Bryce does. Bryce is truly unique and although all the parks have something to offer that is different from the others, Bryce’s uniqueness offers a response that is a lot of fun to be a part of. I really enjoy guest’s reaction the first time they see Bryce, it makes being a tour guide a lot of fun.
What is your favorite part about being a tour guide?
Being outside!!! My office is the best there is. I get to hike, be outside, and be in the company of amazing people every day. I love getting to know our guests and their different stories. I have met some truly wonderful people, and gotten to know some really cool stories. My favorite part, by far, is being able to share my home state and it’s beauties with people and being able to experience everything for the first time again through my guest’s eyes. I love really good trips where after the tour I feel I have made new friends and saying good bye to them I am not just a guide, I have become a friend or part of the family.
What’s the hardest part about being a tour guide?
Sometimes, attitudes can be difficult to manage. As a guide it just is not physically possible to see Thor’s Hammer at Bryce or Bright Angel Point at the Grand Canyon without getting out of the van and walking to see it. Sometimes people’s expectations are impossible and when they feel their impossible expectations are not being met they get bad attitudes which then result in a guide with a bad attitude. That makes any tour a rough go, but we try and focus on the beautiful places all around us, and hopefully that will turn things around
Do you have any great memories to share from any of our tours?
So many!! The “Slackers” a group of high spirited retired folks that kicked butt at hiking and made me literally cry when I had to say goodbye. A young couple that had the most vivid imaginations and everywhere they went they could see images in the rock formations that I had never noticed before. It was like seeing shapes in the clouds. Faces, animals, movie stars, around every corner they were pointing out new imaginative shapes. It made the trip new and exciting.
What is your favorite topic to share on tours?
Geology. Being able to see the class room topic up close and personal makes Geology so much more interesting. How this area has formed is fascinating and I love learning about it and sharing it with others. Every time someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to I get to research and keep learning. I don’t have any problems saying “I don’t know” when asked difficult questions because that just means I get to keep learning and discovering the answers.
Do you have any other dream places that you wish to travel to?
Petra. I have a lot of guests say Bryce Canyon looks a lot like Petra. I would like to go there. Also Peru and the Mayan Ruins. Patagonia. And Greece. Also Yosemite. Never been there.
Some of our guests have concerns about the amount of hiking. How do you put their mind at ease on the tours?
Well, first off, the trails we do on these tours are clearly marked and have good signage. So I like to hike in the back so that I know who is in front of me and no one is being left behind. If someone sprains an ankle or has a heart attack, they aren’t left on the trail behind the fast hikers and ignored. I will run up on them and be able to assist. In addition, people then do not feel the pressure to keep up with the guide and over exert themselves and, likewise, if people want to speed hike, I don’t slow them down. My guests are able to set their own pace and I keep track of people from behind. Nearly every hike I have one or two people that can’t keep up with the group and it is these people that need the comfort and security of a guide to encourage them, give them a hand up and down sections and make their hike doable. There is no pressure to keep up and kill yourself hiking when the guide is right there with you. In addition, if a hike is just too much for someone, they are not forced to hike. The rest of the group will hike and they are welcome to wait and enjoy the view and rest.
Using 3 words, describe your guiding style.
Passionate. Encouraging. Invested.
Is there anything else you would want your guests to know about you before they travel with you?
I love my job. I have 9 years experience in outdoor guiding, including technical and back country experience. I am Wilderness First Responder certified and I am passionate about preserving, respecting and sharing our beautiful National Parks.
Check out more about Sarah here!