The World's Wildest Jobs: 17 Guys Who Dodged Cubicle Life

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The River Guide: Chris Moore
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Erik Isakson / Getty Images4/17

The River Guide: Chris Moore

What I Do:

After 20 years running boats all over the U.S. and Nepal, Chris Moore now spends most of his time preparing younger guides for the one-, two-, and three-day trips that he oversees on the Tuolumne and Wild and Scenic Merced Rivers, in California. Despite having a team of 40 people reporting to him, Moore still manages to spend two or three days a week on the water, with a rotating cast of interesting clients — like, recently, Tom Waits. There are stressful days — he’s had to arrange evacuations when people became sick or dehydrated — but a trip is nearly always fun. “Honestly, I can’t think of a really bad day,” he says. The most recent example of an almost bad day came last season, on his birthday. Storm clouds had been drenching the mountains all week, causing the river level to triple. “It was the most water we’d seen in four years,” he says. When he finally went to meet the clients, he felt defeated. “I was prepared to tell them that they wouldn’t be able to raft,” he says. But then the rain stopped. It was like someone had turned off a faucet, and the sky immediately cleared up. “It turned out to be one of the most gorgeous days you could have ever imagined,” he says. “It will stick with me forever.”

Experience Required:

Nothing will improve your chances of guiding a boat more than a positive disposition and an ability to turn bad situations into good ones. “We can teach people to read water and we can teach people to guide rafts, but when someone comes to us for work, personality is the key thing we’re looking at,” he says. Of course, you still have to learn the trade. O.A.R.S. generally sends new guides to a 13-day school to earn a swiftwater rescue certification, and then another 13-day school learn how to drive a raft. After that, it’s three to four weeks riding along with experienced veterans, learning the water and how to really take care of the clients.

Why Foodies Love to Float:

When you hike and camp in the mountains, there are things you’d never carry in, like a Dutch oven or a heavy bag of charcoal. Not so on a float trip. “I come from a cooking background,” he says. “I like to have the right equipment to make good food, and the boat is going to float no matter how heavy the gear is.” So for their expeditions, Moore and his crew load up what amounts to a full outdoor kitchen and coolers stuffed with fresh ingredients. On the river, they’re not eating dehydrated meals out bags. They’re making tri-tip steaks, grilled chicken, and vegetables prepared over fire in cast iron and steel cookware. Moore’s made bacon-wrapped filet mignon and parmesan-crusted vegetable mac and cheese. His favorite dish is chili and cornbread cooked together in a Dutch oven. “Use whatever non-bean-soaking chili recipe you want, and once it’s done, you just layer the cornbread mix overtop,” he says. The cornbread puffs up and you have what amounts to a warm chili pie. “As guides, we’re eating the same things as everybody else,” he says. “Good food is just one of the perks of the trip.” –Clint Carter

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