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Offbeat Interview Series with Gary

Gary ‘Pony’ Thompson

A trip down the Salmon River in 2002 was all that Gary needed, to know that he would make Idaho his home. Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, Gary spent his youth exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains and learning to whitewater canoe with his dad, “Big Gary”. This led to a mid-college decision that a future as a lawyer was not for him. Since 1999 he has been working as a guide, NOLS Instructor, expedition leader and university instructor. In 2004 Gary’s graduate work brought him to the team that developed the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS). Since then McCall, Idaho has been home. Here he lives with his amazing wife, Amanda and their two boys, Augustus and Eli. When not on the river with Team Canyons or working at MOSS, Gary squeezes in work with Marty at Payette Powder Guides as well as works independently as a leadership and team consultant. He is currently occupied teaching his 3-year-old all of the benefits of skiing, between the hot chocolate and snack breaks.

If you could be a river superhero, what would you be?   Espresso Person – I would be able to pour the finest espresso out of my pinky finger on demand. Steamed milk out of the other pinky.

What is your favorite dress up theme?   Serious Leisure –

What is your ‘go to’ crazy hat night creation?   Any visor. I am as bald as it gets, so when I wear a visor, people be like “That hat is crazy”.

What brought you to Canyons?   I was friends with several of the guides before I began at Canyons, so I knew that they were the kind of people that I wanted to work with.

How many years have you worked here?   6 years or so. It has been so fun, who is counting?

What is your favorite thing about Canyons?   Team Canyons – The guides and the guests. Incredible rivers and amazing people.

If you could describe Canyons in 3 words?   Family, Joyful, Effort

When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind?   Multi-day river trips, incredible winters, and home.

What are your top three favorite camps?   Groundhog(MN), Marble(MF), Cradle(MF)

Your favorite hike?   Anything in the Big Horn Crags. That place is amazing.

Top three favorite rapids?   Redside(MF), Rubber(MF), Kramer(MN) at high flows

Currently, what is your nemesis rapid?   Redside(MF) in a sweep boat. I have yet to reach an agreement with that one that allows me to style it.

What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet?   Selway – No excuse.

What do you consider a ‘real’ job?   Any job that you believe in.

If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why?   The Mullet by Liquid Logic. This boat comes with a BIG GRIN guarantee.

What is your favorite thing to cook on the river?   Biscuits in the dutch oven. You can chill out and enjoy the morning while they bake.

If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be?   Bombino – I have no idea what he is saying, but the sound is so smooth.

What is your most memorable swim in a river?   When I was 14, my dad took me rafting with some friends down the Gauley River in West Virginia. At Pillow Rock, I was thrown from the raft, up, over and out the back. I was under the raft and had to curl up to go deep and flow out of a hydraulic. I remember thinking, “Wow, that actually worked.”

What is one of your river rituals or superstitions?   Deep breath. Smile.

What is your most valued non-river related item that you bring with you on every trip?   A good book.

What is your favorite groover spot?   The one without a line!

About Ariana Lowe

Running rivers is one of the greatest passions in Ari’s life. Ari’s warm demeanor, kind spirit, sense of adventure, and endless creative talents are a huge part of TEAM CANYONS. Ari is an avid kayaker, skilled oarsman and talented watercolor artist.

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