GLENWOOD SPRINGS — If Rachel Reiter wins the chance to apprentice on the Grand Canyon as a raft guide, she’ll have a special friend on her mind as she rides the rapids.
“My brother and I were really, really close, and it was really devastating for me to lose him,” she said.
Reiter, a 2004 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, speaks fondly of her late brother Scott’s love for the river. Scott Reiter, a Fort Lewis College student and raft guide, died in 2010 in a rafting training accident on the Piedra River in Pagosa Springs. The Red Canyon High School grad was in his third season as a raft guide in Durango, having previously guided for Rock Gardens in Glenwood.
“I really think it’s important to go out there and do things you love. And my brother loved the river,” Reiter said. “He said so many times to people that if he were to die, he wanted it to be on the river. He would want us to still be on the river having fun.”
Reiter has the opportunity to run the Colorado River on a two-week trip through the Grand Canyon next season in her brother’s memory. She is one of 20 finalists vying by social media vote to win the Livin’ the Dream contest through O.A.R.S. Grand Canyon river outfitters.
“I think the one thing that has helped us heal is that Scotty loved rafting so much, and he went out really doing something he loved,” Reiter said. “This would be such a profound way for me to honor that. What an incredible way to reconnect with him.”
Reiter said her brother was the kind of guy who would make friends with everyone he met, attending Fort Lewis on a full-ride scholarship and planning to be a teacher. His 27-year-old marketing executive sister said she tries to embody his caring spirit as a volunteer in the Fort Collins community she calls home.
“You couldn’t not love Scotty,” she said. “There wasn’t a person on earth who met Scotty who didn’t instantly love him.”
Reiter and her brother worked at Rock Gardens in Glenwood Springs as teens. She said rafting was always an integral part of their active, outdoorsy childhoods in the mountains. The Grand Canyon has always been nothing more than a pipe dream.
But after Sept. 7, when the voting closes, that dream could become reality.
“I grew up running rivers with my parents and my friends, mostly down the Colorado and the Roaring Fork. I’ve spent a lot of time on those rivers,” she said. “It’s so exhilarating, going through the rapids, especially going down a canyon. You’re just floating along, taking in the beautiful scenery — there’s something very powerful in that.”
“The Grand Canyon is kind of the ultimate dream for a raft guide. It’s a pretty exclusive thing.”
Reiter said winning the Grand Canyon contest would provide the chance to face the ongoing challenges of being on the river again while grieving her brother’s loss. She said she has been on the river a few times since her brother’s fatal rafting accident three years ago.
“I’ve only been on the river twice over the last few years, but it has been significant,” Reiter said. “Of course I think about him every single time I’m on the river.”
Reiter said her family’s close relationship with the river remains strong, even after the rafting tragedy on May 7, 2010. She wasn’t sure what her parents would think of her possibly running the Grand Canyon as a guide apprentice.
“It’s hard for me and it’s hard for my mother — she was also a guide when she was my age. She was hesitant with the idea, but she is supportive,” Reiter said. “I definitely hesitated, as amazing as the Grand Canyon is. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to go back on big water. I instantly signed up for it when I clicked in the link. Then I wondered, ‘Should I even tell my parents about this?’”
Reiter said she would love to add the Grand Canyon to her list of locales she has rafted in the world — including Colorado, Washington state and New Zealand. She has been taken aback by the community support in helping her make it to the Grand Canyon for her little brother.
“The whole experience has taught me how amazing the community around me is. I’ve really been grateful,” she said. “This is something I definitely want to do. I think it’s important I make amends with the river.”
Vote for Reiter at www.facebook.com/OARS.rafting.