Action County: Tracy Hradek
Tracy Hradek’s story is a familiar one. You graduate from college with little or no idea of what you want to do with your life, so you move to Colorado. It worked out perfectly for the Cleveland native when she set her sights on finding a job in the outdoors after graduating from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 2002. She quickly found a job as a camp counselor in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, but that plan was derailed when the Hayman Fire forced the camp to close. But that didn’t stop Hradek. On Independence Day of that year, she packed all of her belongings into a Geo Metro and headed west, stopping in Buena Vista to visit friends.
Suddenly everything changed when she ran the Arkansas River for the first time and fell in love with rafting and quickly worked her way into guiding. Now the Metro has been upgraded to an SUV and her lifestyle couldn’t be any better as she spends her summers in Buena Vista running the Arkansas on a daily basis and her winters in Summit County snowboarding. This summer she had what she considers one of the most amazing experiences of her life, when she joined a group of friends for a six-day trip down Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. “It was beautiful weather,” she said. “It was a great get away, meeting new people and getting away for the world for six days. That was definitely the best trip I’ve ever done.”
What have you gained from becoming a raft guide?”A lot of things, the most important of which is friendships. I’ve also gained a whole new understanding of what the river means. Even as a second year guide, there is so much to learn. It’s the best way to spend the summer.”What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?”Emphasizing safety. The more I do it, the more I realize this isn’t a Disney tour. This is a wilderness and anything can happen. You get people who’ve never been down a river or people who are out of shape, so the priority is to keep them in the boat.”
What are you going to do now that the rafting season is over?”I’m going to work and I’m going to hang out with friends and maybe travel. I’m also going to do some more hikes and some snowshoeing this winter. And I’m Finally going to master snowboarding.”
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