Hi. I’m Jack Lund, the oldest and ugliest guide on the river. As a Social Security recipient, I’m probably too old to be doing this. But I just can’t stop. It’s too much fun. Almost every day during the whitewater rafting season, I get to drive a rubber boat down one of the country’s most beautiful and exciting whitewater runs. That’s great, but the real attraction for me is meeting six or seven new people and sharing a really fun day with them. It’s always new, it’s always different and it’s always a blast.
My first few years after college were spent in the aviation business. I lived in South Florida and did some flight instructing and flew charters and ferry flights all over the Caribbean and Central America. Flying was like raft guiding – big fun and small pay. Like a fool, I tried chasing the big bucks in the business world. I sold land in Arizona, managed some transmission shops and actually made a little money at it. Sadly, it became obvious that no matter how much I made, I could always spend just a little more.
In the early 1980s, I decided to take some time off from the real world. I bought an old van, fixed up a bed in it and took off to see the country. I figured that, if I were really frugal, my meager savings might last a year or two. I’d always paddled canoes for fun so I eventually wound up visiting a friend in Tennessee who had a small rafting company. Maybe I could bum a canoe shuttle on one of his river trips, I thought. He got really excited because one of his raft guides hadn’t shown up for work. He talked me into guiding a raft for him, despite the fact that I had never even sat in a raft before. The boat driving turned out to be easy, the crew was great, and I had a wonderful time. Then I found out that guides actually get paid.
This guiding stuff was such big fun that I drove over to West Virginia where I’d heard the best whitewater could be found. It was July and not many outfitters hire guides in July. There was, however, a struggling little raft company that was desperate for help. It was American-Canadian Expeditions, known as ACE. That was 1987 and I’ve been with ACE ever since.
I’ve seen it grow from the smallest West Virginia outfitter to the largest. I met the woman of my dreams (the boss’s ex-girlfriend) and we’ve been married over 20 years. I’ve been privileged to work at ACE as a guide and also in the marketing and guide training areas. My wife is ACE’s business manager and the company built her a house in the woods here at ACE’s 1,500-acre resort. I get to stay in the house as long as I’m good.
Most guides get into the business when they’re young. I didn’t start guiding till I was well over 40. I think that previous “real world” experience helped me appreciate what a gift it is to work in this business. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and would gladly do it over again.
Here’s a clip of Jack in action on his favorite river section, the Lower Gauley:
Who else out there has ever thought about packing up a van and taking off for a while? Anybody have a similar story about falling into the best job ever?