All in the Family - Third generation enters guiding profession
By SVERRE BAKKE The Enterprise This Friday, July 30, is going to be a big day in the still young life of Rachel Zoller. Not only will the local teenager observe her 18th birthday; she'll also make her debut as a professional white-water rafting guide for her father's company, BZ Corner based Zoller's Outdoor THREE GENERATIONS — Rachel Zoller officially joins the family profession this Friday when she guides her first commercial raft trip down the lower White Salmon alongside her grandfather. Phil, and her father mark All in the family Third generation enters guiding profession Odysseys. Right beside her as she guides her first commercial trip down the lower White Salmon River will be her father, Mark, and her grandfather, Phil, who started the guide service back in the late 1960s. Mark, 40, runs the company now, while 63-year-old Phil, the pioneer of White Salman River rafting, is coming out of retirement to help celebrate his granddaughter's Initiation Into the family profession. Moreover, not only will Rachel become the third generation of her family to be certified as a class 1V commercial whitewater guide, she'll become the youngest person in the state to hold such a certification. To commemorate the occasion, the Zollers have invited all of their customers from the past year to bring three generations of their own for a trip down the White Salmon from the company's boat launch at BZ Corner to the take-out at Northwestern Lake. "We're going to make a huge party of it, starting at two o' clock," said Mark . Because of the family business, Rachel has been living, working and playing in the outdoors since early child hood. She rode a raft down the White Salmon for the first time when she was 4 years old. In a sense, she seemed des tined for a life of adventure in the great outdoors. "I‘ve always enjoyed the outdoor aspect of the business," said the 2004 Trout Lake High School graduate. "And I can remember thinking when I heard grandpa was going to sell his business that, ‘No matter what it takes, I want to buy that" Instead, Mark and his wife, Sherri, stepped up as buyers in 2000 to keep the business in the family. A year later, they re-located to the White Salmon area with their four children from Bend, Ore., where Mark had been employed as a trouble shooter for United Parcel Service. "It's becomes a lot of fun merging UPS efficiency into the rafting business," said Mark. "Things are really clicking along now." The family's streamlined approach to doing business everyone is involved in many ways; Rachel, for example, also does the company payroll— has made Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys an industry leader in professionally guided river trips. Phil Zoller and his oldest son, Tracy, made their first trip down the White Salmon River in late 1980 in a modified military-surplus raft. That began the company's branching out from a fishing guide service-only into a whitewater adventure outfit. "It occurred to me at the end of that trip that we just might have something here," Phil said. More than two decades later, the business is stronger than ever. "Dad and Tracy were on the cutting-edge," noted Mark. "The White Salmon River is a household name in the white- water rafting community because of what they started here all those years ago." According to river author Jeff Bennett ("Whitewater Rivers in Washington"), the White Salmon River is the best commercial rafting trip in the state. The river also is known for producing some of the best river guides in the country. To become a certified class IV commercial rafting guide in Washington, a person must be at least 18 and undergo 50 hours of training under a certified instructor. Rachel learned what she knows from her father, who learned what he knows from his father. "My dad's a tough instructor," Rachel said. He makes you do something until he knows you can do it, and that you will do it right every time." Rachel also has enhanced her experience during her teenage years by becoming a certified swiftwater rescue technician, a volunteer fire fighter, and the trainer of the llama the family uses for back-country pack trips. In September, Rachel will travel to South America to live for eight months in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with her uncle Matthew and his family. She plans to help her uncle with the economic development projects that he oversees. While there, she will write a series of articles for Justine magazine about her experiences. (Rachel also will be profiled in an upcoming edition of the magazine for teenage girls.) The rest of the family will join her in December for a vacation that will include a raft trip on Peru's Colca River, through the deepest canyon in the world. After that, she intends to return to the Northwest and at tend community college. She'll also continue to stay connected to the family business. ‘It's something I'll stick around with for quite a while," Rachel said, "though I may not be the one who ends up running it when my dad retires. But I'll always be involved in some way, because it'll always be a part of who I am.'