Helen – River ManagerPosted April 7, 2023 by Reily Schultz
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Guiding Since: 2012
On a sunny Saturday in May, having finished the first day of rowing guests down the Tuolumne River on a multi-day trip, Helen helps the other guides on the trip unload the boats and set up camp. Everyone is tired, happy, and covered in a layer of river water and sand as they settle into the evening. Once everything is in its place and her tasks for the day done, she walks back down to the river, sets up her foam pad to lay on a raft, and pulls out some silver glitter nail polish. There, amongst the boats, gear, and roar of the water, she gives herself a manicure.
Drawn to California rivers
Helen’s love for the river has been steadfast since she was introduced to kayaking, then rafting, in college. The search for whitewater and new opportunities brought her across the country, leaving her river roots in Virginia to join us on our California Rivers. The lure of multi-day trips and a large variety of rivers to explore drew Helen to All-Outdoors, and we’re so glad it did. She quickly engrossed herself in the company, training on as many rivers as she could and getting involved in the food management and preparation for our Middle Fork American trips. Her versatility has been a huge asset to AO. When you need someone to guide a raft, prep dinner, drive a shuttle, fix and maintain gear, or offer multi-day trip packing tips, Helen is the woman to call.
Take time to play
Helen describes rafting as her favorite means of transportation. Whitewater is awesome, big rapids are epic, but they are nothing compared to the experience of being in a remote river canyon that is inaccessible except by boat. Sharing such isolated beauty with guests and making it accessible to a wide variety of rafters has been one of the most rewarding parts of her experience as a river guide. The free time created on multi-day rafting trips allows guests to get back to basics and remember how to relax and play without the distractions of modern life. The rarity of being able to facilitate that kind of happiness is not lost on Helen.
Helen radiates confidence – she is good at what she does and she knows it. Her whitewater resume leaves no question of her qualifications. Helen has 2 Grand Canyon trips under her belt, as well as experience on Virginia’s rivers, a 30-day river trip through Colorado and Utah, and now countless trips on the 10 California Rivers that AO runs. She also helped run the whitewater program at her university, teaching folks to kayak, raft, and stand-up paddle board.
When asked about her life and interests “off water,” she pauses. It’s hard to separate “River Helen” and “Real-Life Helen” because real-life Helen still loves the river so much. You might find her spending a day off cooking her famous falafel, snuggling her cats, or creating watercolor greeting cards, but most likely you’ll see her in a kayak with a big grin on her face. Her incredible variety of interests make her an even better raft guide than her river reading skills alone. She can, and will, talk to anyone. Whether you are interested in welding and fishing, coffee and music, or sushi and cartography, you can be sure Helen will have some stories to share.
It’s not often that you will run out of things to talk about with Helen. But if you do, try asking her about her experience identifying edible mushrooms, her favorite song to play on violin, or her foray into the world of fermented food. And maybe, if you’re lucky, she will add you to her mailing list and you’ll receive a handmade card for the holidays.
Words to Live By: “Sure does,” “Life’s a garden, dig it”