While out on your last guided adventure (or any of your guided hikes for that matter) did you ever wonder what your guide was thinking about throughout the time you spent with them? – besides their astonishment of your natural prowess in the great outdoors as you are taking a seat on the nearest Barrel Cactus. At which point we are thinking “Wow, what’s that guy need a guide for?”, with tweezers in hand before you can say “OW!” Because you are dying to know, here is a brief glimpse into the mind of a guide – straight from the mind of a guide. Word of warning – it is a little messy up there and we get distracted – especially by cute fuzzy critters.

Being a guide seems like an amazing job that everyone would want to have, and we are here to tell you, it is a fantastic job that everyone wants to have. Okay, enough bragging about having an amazing job and back to what a guide is thinking. While on your adventure there are probably some things in the mind of the guide that you can guess, such as – Please don’t let anything go wrong. Do we have anything in common? And they seem nice. – Just to name a few.  Most of those thoughts occur from the initial encounter into the very start of the trip. As progressing through the experience of having a guide, the things in a guide’s mind will change depending on how long you’re going to be with the guide. The longer duration spent together, the better chance the guide’s thoughts will adapt and pertain to individual guests.

Let’s take a four-day backpacking trip for example. As you’re walking down the trail the first day, the guide is thinking about how each person is doing and considering if there might be something they need tell them. For instance, if something is going on that could be an issue for them, like shoes that are brand new and could cause blisters, or shoes that are worn out and might fall apart before camp. When arriving to a camp the guide has lots of things going through their mind to make life easier. When water is needed the guide is thinking it’s a perfect time to slip away and get some personal time to relax and not answer all the questions of flora, fauna, and landmarks. While down filtering the water, thoughts change to nightfall and bedtime – How much am I going to be read tonight? What time will my guests actually go to bed? Why can’t the sun go down at 6:00 pm – if it gets darker sooner, guests go to bed sooner, and I can get my 10 hours of sleep.

Waking up in morning, the brain of a guide is just as slow as the guests. The big difference is guides aren’t waking up thinking they don’t know where they are, Guides usually get up a bit earlier, so we can be ready for the early-risers. Thoughts can change depending on the logistics for the day. With mornings usually being slower than other parts of the day, guide’s thoughts move quickly from one to another. How much water do I have to use to make the devil’s juice (coffee) for them? How can I get them moving without being pushy? Groups vary from trip to trip and the best thoughts can be summed up in very few words – don’t get hurt don’t get hurt. While on the trail it becomes a little more interesting for guide’s thoughts. A lot of time guides are thinking about what guest find interesting – Am I giving them too much information or not enough? Who is going to be the camel and drink all the water before camp?

Tour guides think about a lot of things that might make no sense or have nothing to do with the trip they are on.  For example – I can’t wait to catch up on my T.V shows when I get home. Do I have any food at home that isn’t moldy? Maybe I can go on date this week. Oh wait, no I’m working, never mind. These types of thoughts are going on throughout the day and all trip long. During the last part of the trip comes a whole new set of thoughts – Do they have horse-to-barn-syndrome, or slow down to savor the moment? As a guide walking in the back some thoughts are – Who keeps farting in front of me? Would a cattle prod make them walk faster, just a little zap for motivation? Upon seeing the trailhead, the last thoughts are – Don’t trip in the parking lot. I need a beer. I want a hamburger. Wow that was great. I have never walked slower since my last trip. Will they come back? And last but not least – Stop thinking brain, you are done working!

Author – Dallan Caldwell is a backcountry guide with Just Roughin’ It and has hundreds of Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other great wide open miles under his belt. Plus, he is a guide so also knows what you all are thinking when on a trip. Want more backpacking and hiking tips?

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