2018 Fundraiser Trip in the Cataract Canyon

By: Hilary Wickes

It was the third night on the Colorado River. Now in the  heart of Cataract Canyon, the group was starting to feel cohesive, and river life was becoming routine. From my sleeping bag I could hear the churning of rapid 10, which had dumped me into the water for my first swim a couple of hours earlier. While the rapid dulled all other noise, I knew that songs and stories were still going strong in the makeshift sandy “living room” 30 yards away. Wearily, I put my glasses on for one last drawn-out look at the star-filled sky. The magic of a trip such as this one is undeniable, and I felt content.

You all know the feeling I am describing- heck! you facilitate this experience for a LIVING! Whether you show people the bliss of putting their phones down to enjoy life for a day trip or help them immerse themselves in nature for a week, what you do is so valuable.

Let me ask you something. When was the last time you experienced it for yourself? The yearly fundraiser trip in honor of George Wendt is an amazing opportunity to be reminded of the power of what outfitters can do but also, it’s a time to learn and grow with your peers in this industry.

Here are the 4 coolest things I witnessed while on the 2018 Cataract Canyon Trip:

1. Connections- By this I mean – BUSINESS connections! Outfitter owners come on this trip to have fun and give back, but the truth is when you’re surrounded by friends in your industry, the conversations will inevitably turn to the business problems we all have to solve. I heard conversations about RFP’s, development of additional service offerings, safety decisions, and lots and lots of stories.

When we did our 2018 member survey, we found that our most valued resource is the annual conference, and the most valued part of the conference? You guessed it- connecting with other outfitters. The annual George Wendt fundraiser trip gives you those same opportunities, only on a much more personal level. You get 5 full days with the owners of successful businesses across the U.S. to exchange ideas. Nothing is more valuable than that.

2. Magic of the Place – Many of the 2018 trip participants have been on the AO fundraiser trips in the past. They shared stories, funny moments, talked past equipment and deluxe meals. But the thing that stuck with them from each of the experiences was the place- the river itself and the canyon walls.  Every single participant said that one of the main reasons they keep coming back is to see and experience new places. This time we got to experience Edward Abbey’s desert wilderness.

Canyonlands National Park has been one of my top 5 parks since I first visited Moab in 2014. In fact, I have been back five times since my first mind-blowing visit. But to see it from this new perspective- from the Colorado river- that was truly new and special. And each place is unique in its own way. Why not try to see them all?

3. Camaraderie – Day one of any trip everyone is feeling each other out. Those who have been on the AO fundraiser trip in the past are updating one another on life events such as new grandchildren, expanded businesses, and exciting vacations. By day three, all semblance of timidity and modesty have melted away. The jokes fly and the laughter rings through the canyon. By day 5, it really does feel like a river family. Just over 1% of your year was spent together, and yet with traditional barriers gone, fast friendships form that will last a lifetime. The bonds I witnessed on the river were inspirational. To be with those who know the value of the outfitter industry in the context of experiencing and being reminded of that value is truly priceless.

4. FUN! Never forget about the fun. At the end of the day, the moments that stick with you are impassioned games of Kubb in the sand, the loud and inventive renditions of Hotel California and Roar late into the night, and the stories and jokes around the camp fire. Man can guides tell some jokes…


A very special thank you to O.A.R.S., who generously donated this trip in honor of the late George Wendt. 

Next year, don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of this river family. Join us on the Salmon River in Idaho! 

Email here to be the first to hear when 2019 dates are announced.


Back to news



Rate this News Article:

Spell Check

Mike Cohen
Santa Barbara , CA
10/31/2018 07:47 PM

  What a great trip this year! Love the video! I have gone on the OARS Gearge Wendt Memorial Trip all 4 years! They always bring their A game. Come join us next sept on the Lower Main Salmon!

Boscobel, WI
11/14/2018 05:56 PM

  Looks like a GREAT time! I hope to make the 2019 trip.