Why we do this…

Why we do this: Mug Shot

Our workplace is amazing and the people are incredible, but the real reason we do this is to protect rivers and to experience random moments like this (e-mail response to our last newsletter):

Dear ARTA,

In 2005 my wife and I celebrated my 50th birthday going down the Selway with you. During that trip one of the ARTA guides did most of the breakfast cooking chores and was the self-proclaimed “King of Coffee” (he had his special blend of Peets, which he mixed prior to the trip).

I told him that I rarely drank coffee and had never acquired a taste for it.

He said let me fix you a cup, which he did using his blend and some left-over whipped cream.

I must admit it was very good. Perhaps it was his encouragement, or the scenic view, or me having a “I’m-turning-fifty” moment.

Regardless, I took my red plastic ARTA mug home with me and to this day I have that mug, drink coffee most days, and think of that ARTA crew member.

And I only use that mug.

I have been on three ARTA trips; the Selway twice and the Middle Fork Salmon. I hope to see you all again on my 70th birthday.

Geoff C.
Charleston SC

PS: I’ll bet there are other ARTA guests who have pictures and stories of their ARTA mugs that they’d like to share.

Thanks, Geoff, and challenge accepted!

Send us a story and photos (past and present) of you and your ARTA mug and we’ll send you a befitting reward. 

The Mug Museum

The Original – circa 1985

In the beginning, we had guests bring their own cup, plate, and utensils on our trips. We revolutionized things in 1985 by providing ARTA-branded, take-home mugs for everyone (we didn’t start providing plates and utensils until the late 1990s and you still don’t get to take those home). That first mug made up for in durability and innovation what it lacked in aesthetics.

MUGIPEDIA: ARTA’s original phone number was hijacked from Lou Elliott‘s print shop and spells I-N-K-W-E-L-L on the dial pad.

The Anniversary – 1988

This is probably the only vintage mug that we can date with 100% accuracy. We splurged with a custom Anniversary Edition; green, of course.

MUGIPEDIA: Our 25th Anniversary brought the coronation of ARTA’s official toast (as translated from the old country):

There are good ships and there are wood ships,
And there are ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may this one always be.

The 2.0 – circa 1992

At some point in the early 1990s, (responding to consumer demand for a mug that didn’t cut their lips), we upgraded to a gentler, more aesthetic version.

MUGIPEDIA: Glenn Carnahan, former ARTA guide, former ARTA office staffer, and current ARTA Board Member came up with the “Free Refills on Every Trip” slogan that adorned our mugs for over 20 years!

The Classic – circa 1995 – 2002; 2005 – 2015

These are the most common ARTA mugs out there, changing color from season to season and piling up in cupboards, garages, and pickup beds everywhere.

MUGIPEDIA: Stuck alone at the guidehouse the night before a group-chartered, 25-person Yampa trip in the late 1990s, an ARTA guide occupied his time by tying the lid of each mug to its handle (as shown in the photo). Big hit! Until a year later when that same group showed up for another trip and complained because their lids weren’t tied to their mug handle.

The Mistake – 2003 and 2004

A dark era in mug history.

It was always a challenge to find “The Classic” each year; manufacturers were coming and going and styles were always changing, so we were never sure if we’d be able to maintain that year-to-year brand-consistency that is so important. In 2003 we thought we’d solve the problem (and save a little money) by purchasing two seasons’ worth of mugs. Unfortunately, “we” didn’t vet the candidates appropriately and were dismayed when the mugs turned out to be a little more “truck-stop-ish” than we anticipated. We had to live with the mistake for two years, (and someone almost lost their job).

The Revolution – 2016

The more returning guests we had, the more mugs were left behind, so in 2016 we ditched the plastic and went all-in on stainless.

MUGIPEDIA: Succumbing to social media pressure, #artalife replaced Free Refills on Every Trip as the official slogan of the mug. And, of course, right after we found and settled on the “perfect stainless mug”, steel import tariffs made them impossible to find; thus adding “mugs” to the long list of things that we have fallen in love with only to be jilted by. 

The Current – 2019

Domestic steel! Responding to Millennial Minimalism (“Don’t we already have enough stuff?“) and general resource-scarcity-awareness, (and, full transparency: the economics of the whole idea), we abandoned the tradition of flat-out giving everyone a mug and made it optional; if you want one, please take one; if you don’t, we’ll re-use it on the next trip.

MUGIPEDIA: Sunscreen is the enemy of silkscreen; more than one ATRA logo and “efilatra#” has gone from mug to hand following an afternoon re-application of sun block.

And all this time, you just thought it was a simple mug. 


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