Meet Matthew Pearcy
Calm, cool and collected, Matt is a pleasure to be around. He leads trips with that calm confidence he carries everywhere he goes, and will immediately make you feel comfortable to be in his presence. He’s very conscientious of the guest experience, and wants you to have an adventure of a lifetime. He’s also a college professor (as you’ll see below) and because of that, offers a lot of valuable interpretation on a river trip that makes a river trip that much more memorable. Learn more about Matt below!
Where were you born? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Parma, Idaho. You’ve probably never heard of it. If you blink when you’re driving through, you’ll miss it. Parma is a farming and ranching community so I spent my childhood working outside. I attended the University of Idaho and earned a degree in molecular and cellular biology. Graduate school brought me to Arizona, where I earned a Ph.D. from the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccinology at Arizona State University. I never intended to stay in Arizona, but I started rock climbing in graduate school, and quickly realized that I was a desert rat, and that there was no way that I was ever going to leave the desert.
What’s your history with AzRA?
My first time ever on a river was in 2016. Howie Usher, a long-time AzRA guide invited me along as an assistant. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I brought my own coffee along in case we didn’t have enough. Howie let me row some flat water and small rapids, and I was hooked. I’d been coming to the Grand Canyon for a long time to run, climb, canyoneer, and backpack, but this was something new and awesome! I did several more trips as an assistant, started running other rivers with friends, and eventually became a guide for AzRA. And here I am today, lucky enough to spend the Summer in the Grand Canyon.
When did you start guiding?
I’ve never guided anywhere else, so I make a point of exploring other rivers in my own time as much as possible. But there is always something new to see in the Grand Canyon, so each trip is a new experience.
What types of trips do you guide?
I do rowing trips during the summer, with a combination of oar boats, paddle boats, and dories. I like to change it up, and each boat is fun and different in its own way.
What are your favorite rapids and why?
As far as my favorite rapid, I feel the same as most people who do a Grand Canyon river trip: you can’t beat Hermit at the right water level! I also really like Hance and Sockdolager.
As for hikes, I like the long ones, like Whispering Springs or Beaver Falls in Havasu. However, my favorite hike is Saddle Canyon. I like it because of the reaction that people have when they finally get to the waterfall at the top. The hike starts out steep and hot, but gradually narrows and becomes green and lush, until you’re finally in a shaded slot canyon cooling off under a waterfall. People are always blown away that this little oasis is out in the middle of the desert.
What do you do when not guiding at AzRA?
During the school year, I work as a college professor. I teach microbiology, genetics, and a variety of other science classes. I like switching back and forth between teaching and my river job. Being a river guide is similar to being a teacher. On a Grand Canyon trip we teach people about geology, indigenous history, astronomy, and how to camp and live on the river.
Do you have any hobbies or anything you like to do?
When I’m not working, I like to rock climb and kayak. I’ve been climbing for a long time, and I’m new to kayaking. My partner is also a river guide and a teacher, and we take advantage of our similar schedules to explore the southwest by every means we can- boats, trucks, backpacks and packrafts. We also like to travel overseas when there isn’t a global pandemic. And we’ve just started building our dream home in a beautiful, small desert community in Utah.
Any advice you would give guests that are planning a trip with us?
People coming on a river trip in the Grand Canyon should take advantage of the rare opportunity to unplug and truly be present during the trip. It’s great to see people relax, engage with the people around them, and embrace the experience. People should also make sure that they get some alone time on the river- take the time to sit quietly on the beach, or to wander solo up a side canyon for a while. The size, scope, and stillness of the Grand Canyon is magical.