One of the most amazing things about operating a business like ours is being able to surround ourselves with such incredible individuals. To have them coming back year after year is incredibly flattering. If it weren’t for these great people, we’d be just another tour business. They are the reason that we are so successful and we cannot thank them enough.
Here’s a little introduction…
returning guide—9th season
Mira Lutz is a born-and-raised Pacific Northwesterner. She has spent a lifetime as a student of the area’s natural history, first under the encouraging tutelage of her late father, a skilled naturalist and educator, then in WWU’s Marine Biology program. For the last 12 years she has been teaching Science here in Anacortes. She shares her wilderness passion not only with her students, but with her newly teenage son (and holds a potentially futile hope that they are paying attention). When not classroom-bound or leading tours for AKT, she will head for the hills and beaches, backpacking, surfing, diving, windsurfing, sailing, and of course, paddling with her friends and family. Her most important message for all her kids? Go play outside! It is true she has been with AKT from the beginning, and may even be the oldest guide, but please avoid calling her “the Matriarch”…a nickname that the younger guides like to tease her with.
returning guide—5th season
Monica is another Washington native who grew up just north of Seattle in the town of Brier. Her fascination with paleoecology, salmon, alpine environments, and fire ecology brought her to Western Washington University where she earned her degrees in Ecology and Geography. She is quiet about it, but we want to give her a shout out for being the Thomas Henry Huxley Award winner for WWU (nominated by professors for academics, community service and personality. She spoke at graduation).
Like so many people in this industry, Monica loves to travel. She’s traipsed around Europe, Central America, the Middle East, and a good part of the North American West.
Monica took last summer off in order to work in Southeast Alaska (as everyone should), and now she’s back in Washington and leading tours for us. Although her summers are filled with great sea kayaking adventures, she still manages to get up to the Cascade Mountains for climbing trips and backpacking. Her winters are filled with snowshoeing and snowboarding expeditions.
Monica’s charming smile and sunny disposition complement her great knowledge of the area. Her guests absolutely love her, and she’s a true joy to have on our team!
returning guide—4th season
Blake is a natural born outdoorsman. Growing up in the low country of South Carolina he had the ultimate backyard playground, a 5000 acre plantation on the Tulifinny River that his father managed. With ancient oak groves and swamp lands to explore Blake has spent more time in the woods than most people twice his age.
Blake was a competitive rower at Charleston College for three years but it was while attending Mesa State in Grand Junction Colorado that he had a life changing experience. He had discovered the outdoor paradise that is the West. He spent long hours taking rafting trips through Cataract Canyon, kayaking, and climbing, and went back home that summer to work as a rafting guide on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. The West was calling however and so he contacted us to see about guiding trips in the San Juan Islands. His desire to become a better sea kayaker and outdoor leader fit right in with our philosophy and so he joined the team. We’re very happy that he did.
Blake holds a BCU 3 Star Kayaking Award, Foundation Safety and Rescue Training, Level One BCU coaching certificate, and is a Wilderness First Responder.
This spring Blake is attempting an early season expedition, paddling up the Inside Passage to Alaska! He’ll be sure to have some great stories to tell about that adventure.
returning guide—4th season
If you want to see an impressive resume, then you should take a look at Leslie’s. In college she was an Academic All American, an Athletic All American, and a national champion swimmer. She’s in the Washington Coaches Hall of Fame as a swim coach, a Math teacher at Anacortes High School, and coaches the swim team there as well. If you want to talk to her during the school year then you had better get up early, because she’s out the door at 5 a.m. This woman is driven!
Leslie has another passion too; sea kayaking. I met her several years ago out on the Pacific Coast where she impressed me with her fearless nature, impressive paddling skills, and great problem solving abilities. Naturally we were excited when she wanted to come to work at AKT, we knew that she would have a lot to bring to the company. She currently holds a BCU 4 Star Kayaking Award, Foundation Safety and Rescue Training, Level One BCU Coach certificate, and is a Level 4 (open water) ACA Instructor.
As an added bonus we found that our boys love her! She lives just a few minutes away and often stops by to rile them up. Last summer our oldest son Taiga started taking swim lessons from “Miss Mix,” it’s not surprising that he’s learning fast from such a great teacher.
returning guide—4th season
After a two year hiatus (at a desk job!), Julia is excited to return for her fourth season with Anacortes Kayak Tours. Yes, we missed her too, and are glad that she is back! Julia enjoys marine life, bad television, and growing vegetables. Although she is a talented naturalist, a skilled paddler, and a fantastic guide, we have conned her into helping us from time to time here in the office (not her natural habitat, but she knows our program better than anyone). After the season ends she’ll be heading to Paraguay for two years with the Peace Corps; she’s apprehensive about spending so long in a landlocked country, so look for her in the summer of 2015!
returning guide—4th season
Born in New Mexico. James started paddling with his parents (both were whitewater racers on East Coast) on southwestern lakes. When he moved to Washington and began sea kayaking he knew that he had a great paddlesport discipline to pursue so he signed up for a NOLS Patagonia course (sea kayak/mountaineer) and spent two months down in that rugged part of the world. While in college James worked at the WWU Outdoor Center as Excursions Coordinator/Guide (guided sea kayak, mountaineer, backcountry ski). He graduated from WWU with a degree in Environmental Policy and a Minor in Political Science. James has traveled to Nepal (where he reputedly got worked in some big Nepali rivers). He took a year off from the AKT program to work in SE Alaska but is now back in Washington working for us, as well as in the Environmental Resources Department for the City of Bellingham.
Like his “better half” Monica Blanchard (see above), James has the great combination of an easy-going personality and a solid skill set that makes for a fantastic kayak guide. His other interests include: whitewater kayaking, mountaineering, photography, and making fun of long-time friend Ben Williamson (see below).
returning guide—4th season
Ben is anything but new to paddlesports. He’s been paddling since childhood, and began guiding whitewater rafting trips as soon as he turned 18. With so much time on the river it was inevitable that he would develop into an accomplished whitewater kayaker, an activity that he engages in on nearly every day that we don’t have him guiding tours.
Like many of our guides, Ben is a homegrown Washington native, raised on a Christmas tree farm by his two school teacher parents who instilled the innate curiosity and leadership skills that makes him such a great kayak guide.
When Ben is not leading trips for us in the summer months he works as a member of the Ski Patrol up on Mt. Baker, or travels to the far corners of the globe as a model for Teva sandals (last spring he was in Fiji, lucky guy!)
Ben holds a 3 Star BCU Award, Foundation Rescue and Safety Training, a Level One BCU Coach certificate, and is a Wilderness EMT
returning guide—3rd season
To know Wyatt is to love him. He is one of the most easy-going and friendly individuals that we’ve ever met and we are glad that he’s back for another year.
Wyatt has been an outdoor enthusiast for his entire life. Literally. He was potty-trained on the Rio Grande, and has been running rivers, big and small, ever since. After graduating from Western Washington University (with degrees in Environmental Ed. and Science), Wyatt took a trip to Southeast Asia where he trekked around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and while in Nepal he competed in the International Himalayan Whitewater Competition. His skills on the river translated easily to the sea, and he has proven himself to be a solid leader and a wonderful asset to our program.
returning guide—3rd season
Jeremiah comes to us from the Adirondacks of upstate New York. He fell in love with the outdoors at the age of 12 and his passion has continued to grow ever since. His outdoor leadership began with being a camp counselor and taking kids hiking and canoeing in the Adirondack High Peaks. His love of skiing has allowed him to be a Telemark and Alpine Ski instructor for the last 9 years.
Jeremiah abandoned the East Coast to attend college in Colorado and studied Recreation with an Outdoor Leadership emphasis. This allowed him to become a rock climbing and backcountry skiing guide. He also began to Adventure Race and dedicated three years of his life to the sport. He quickly excelled and his team Honey Stinger/Princeton Tec was the overall series champions in the Adventure Exstream Adventure Race Series in 2005.
Recently Jeremiah has focused his life to the sport of sea kayaking. He is currently enrolled as an Expeditionary Studies student at Plattsburgh State University. This major is an experiential outdoor education and leadership program which has allowed him to work with world class instructors to develop his skills in the sport of sea kayaking. Just this spring he was awarded the 4 Star Leadership Award, which is the second highest personal skills award assessed by the British Canoe Union. Jeremiah is also a Level One BCU Coach, and is qualified as a Wilderness First Responder. He is very excited to share his passion of kayaking with our clients and allow them to discover the enjoyment and beauty of sea kayaking.
returning guide—3rd season
Like Jeremiah (above) Dan also attended Plattsburgh University and studied sea kayaking under the expert tutelage of Steve Maynard (Regional Coaching Officer for the British Canoe Union, Level 5 Coach, and University Instructor). He recently completed a degree in Expeditionary Studies and so now Dan is enthusiastic to share his knowledge of kayaking and the outdoor adventuring. Dan’s passion for the outdoors all started with his family going on camping and hiking trips to various places in the Northeast and east coast. From there, the skills and leadership developed through the Boy Scouts where Dan became an Eagle Scout. He is well traveled around the world and has been to some notable places to kayak including the Maine coast, Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia, Baja, Hong Kong and now the gorgeous San Juan Islands. Dan is a proud New Yorker, but he is starting to come around to the idea that The West may be the place to be!
Last fall he and several of our guides undertook a 350 mile expedition into the remote coastline of British Columbia.
Dan holds a 3 Star BCU Award, Foundation Safety and Rescue Training, EMT, Wilderness First Responder, and is a Level One BCU Coach.
returning guide—2nd season
We were very excited this winter when Mike called to let us know that he was planning to be back for another season. He comes well-equipped with a great sense of humor, a ready smile, and an incredibly positive attitude.
Mike hails from the Great Lakes region, where he spent many moons in the forests, and on the countless lakes and rivers of Wisconsin. Mike is an avid canoeist who has enjoyed a long love affair with charming little rivers as well as white water. In recent years he got turned on to sea kayaking which has served to further increase his skills at paddlesport.
When not paddling Mike takes to the trails, and loves to hike, backpack and cross-country ski. Some of his favorite places (besides the San Juan Islands) include Isle Royale, Smoky Mountains, and The Enchantment Lakes Basin here in Washington. He is certified in Wilderness First Aid from Wilderness Medical Associates.
Mike loves to write, and is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He is currently working on a full length album, and it is rumored he occasionally sings on the water!
Gary is joining us for his first season out here from the Expeditionary Studies program at SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York. Originally starting off as a passionate rock climber, Gary has excelled in both paddling on the river and on the ocean since joining his university program. He has travelled around the world working in the outdoor industry most recently living and working in different countries in Southeast Asia. Gary has his wilderness first responder, cpr, and holds numerous awards from the BCU (British Canoe Union) and ACA (American Canoe Association). If he’s not out paddling on the ocean, you’ll probably see him clinging to a rock or floating down a river! His unbelievably high energy level, quick wit, and enthusiasm make him a super fun guide to be around. We love having him around!
One of the fun parts about this job is getting to work with interesting people who do interesting things. Meg is a perfect example.
Meg moved to Washington from Jackson Wyoming in 2005 to attend Western Washington University where she studied Environmental Science and Spanish. Always interested in getting outside, Meg worked as a guide for the WWU Outdoor Center leading climbing, sea kayaking and mountaineering trips. Her Senior thesis was on the establishment of marine reserves in CA, OR, WA, and BC. Like a lot of us that work in this industry, Meg loves to travel and she spent a year in South America studying conservation ecology in Ecuador and traveling throughout Peru and Chile.
Since graduating Meagan has worked as a Spotted Owl Surveyor, an Environmental Lab tech and, of course, a full time climbing bum! Currently she spends her winters working as a ski instructor at Crystal Mountain. When not on the water, Meg enjoys mountain biking, skiing, painting, cooking, and learning about local edibles (she is working on her seaweed knowledge this season).
If she sounds like a terrific guide it is because she is!
Nate is another one of our guides who we managed to persuade to leave the white-water scene for the summer months (although he frequently slips away to the river on his days off). He grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, racing sailboats with his grandparents and enjoying life on the sea. His college career was spent in Maine where he studied Outdoor Adventure Recreation. After college he became an EMT and drove an ambulance for a couple of years before moving to the deserts of Utah to work in wilderness therapy.
We are happy to have him on the AKT crew this year and we welcome the contributions that he brings to our program!
A Pacific Northwest native, Bryan grew up near the idyllic little town of Port Townsend. After high school, he got bit by the travel bug and spent time exploring the world instead of going straight into college. Having scratched that itch, he decided to settle down for a while and attend Seattle University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology. During this time in Seattle he worked at an Audubon center to promote environmental education and understanding. He was inspired by this work and has become an adept naturalist who loves sharing his knowledge of the area to our guests. Bryan is an easy going guy who rarely gets rattled by anything, a good addition to the team!