Our Boatmen and Other Characters
At Alaska Rivers Company, we take tremendous pride in our staff. All are CPR Certified, and have attended the Kenai River Guide Academy for fishing or rafting. Several are certified by the Coast Guard, and all our fishing guides carry the 52 million pieces of certification required by Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Chugach National Forest, Alaska State Parks, and the Department of Environmental Conservation. (Just to name a few!) We feel that the ARC guide crew is set apart by the pride instilled about the importance of being a boatman—of emphasizing safety and adhering to rules of the river. Second, we expect our employees to be professional and personable guides. Finally, we make sure our crew has fun in what they do, and humor in their work. By following these simple steps with our staff, we have created a fabulous loyal team that will provide you a safe, fun and professional Alaskan experience on the upper Kenai and at Alaska Rivers Company.
Gary Galbraith – Founder and fearless leader of Alaska Rivers Company. Having been a hard working river guide for over 35 years, he has pretty much seen it all. Don’t for a minute let Gary’s grey scruff make you think he’s slowing down. He knows the Kenai River inside and out, still gets on the oars and practices safety before fun, catches fish in all the hot fishing spots, and runs Class V whitewater like a pro. (How many rafters can wear a blown-up star on their heads going down Class V whitewater and look good while making it look so easy?) In the winter time, Gary is often found skijoring, snowboarding or running the fat skis on powder days. Lately, though, he’s been kind of getting bored with playing on the ground or in and on the water. Now on sunny days, Gary can often be sighted in the air flying around. Adrenaline junkies never quit, they just find new thrills!
Erik Route – Our Operations General Manager. Born in Colorado and raised in a very small mountain community west of Denver, Erik spent the majority of his childhood summers in Alaska, mostly in Cooper Landing with his aunt, uncle and extended family. At 13, his uncle started to take him on 10-day wilderness float trips in Western Alaska. Erik confesses that he learned what it takes to become a true boatman: row a boat, cast a line, cuss and tell lies. Erik graduated from college in Colorado with a BS in Geology and then went to Montana to pursue his master’s degree. All of this schooling made him realize how much he missed rowing a boat, casting a line, cussing and telling lies. That’s why he moved to Alaska permanently in 2003, became a local Cooper Landing resident and started working for Alaska Rivers Company where this sort of behavior is normal. Erik’s likes: boating (of course), skiing, wrestling brown bears, playing music, clubbing salmon, snow machining, hunting, cussing, telling lies.
Cory Route – Our Office General Manager. She might throw you for a loop, but don’t let this little soft-spoken Arkansas gal fool you. She runs the ARC year-round (okay, and Erik too) and keeps us all on our toes, organized, moving and groovin’. Cory has a Geology degree, and is a top-notch Alaskan naturalist. In addition to knowing our wild berries, mushrooms, flowers and fauna, she’s quite artistic, knitting hats and making jewelry. A competitive runner in college, Cory was at the top of the NCAA crowd in cross country running and runs like a deer. She has literally run alongside deer in the Grand Canyon. (She beat them!) Cory also is quite competitive when it comes to skiing, skijoring, kayaking, softball and the basketball game bump. You definitely don’t mess with her at bump…
Kristen Lessard – Born and raised in Alaska, she grew up playing and fishing on the upper Kenai River and the trails around Cooper Landing. Young Kristen also helped her family with their fish camp. Then as an early teen, she was so often found tromping around ARC bugging the guides that we hired her as one of our boatmen. (Well her dad and her older sister worked here to at one time, so we thought she might have good guide blood in her!) She makes a wicked rhubarb crisp, schools us all in softball, makes Carhartts a fashion statement and likes to hike, ski, climb and be outdoors as much as she can. Kristen is attending the University of Wyoming for a major in kinesiology and health promotion.
Jesse Marion – Since a small child, about the time he learned to crawl, Jesse has been coming to Alaska to visit family and fish in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. He has been a boatman and fishing guide with ARC for the last 3 years, and we haven’t stopped laughing since we hired him. His dry sense of humor, monotone singing voice, free spirit, willing-to-try-anything attitude and cussing at us in Japanese (well, we think he is) have been quite a joy to have around. In his spare time Jesse can be found mountain biking anywhere and everywhere in Cooper Landing, hunting squirrels and grouse and causing some kind of mischief that he can blame on Jeremy. Jesse is currently attending the Oregon Institute for Technology for a degree in some form of engineering. (It’s too technical to print).
Mike Evans – Okay, the dude is skinny and has a funny laugh. Yes we know, but man, can he fish and row a boat… and eat. (Women hate him for this, but yet he always has the cutest girls around him!) From Anchorage, Mike spent summers growing up at his family’s cabin on the lower Kenai, and has been a boatman and fishing guide with ARC for 5 years. In the winter, Mike is a bartender at the famous Moose’s Tooth, and can be found watching hockey, eating, playing hockey, eating, rowing down the Grand Canyon, eating, skiing, eating or snow machining. Mike would like everyone to know that he is a millionaire, owns a private island in the Caribbean, has a degree in Fishology and can play the piano. Remember what Erik said about boatmen telling lies…
Anthony Murray – SWM, 6’2”, athletic, likes long hikes up steep mountains at sunset and is an international model. Really. Anthony has been a boatman with ARC for 8 years. The Murray family must like us because he is the fourth of his brothers to work at our company during the last 12 years. He is probably the most well-traveled Alaskan—he spends his winters exploring the world. Growing up in Soldotna and Kodiak, Anthony comes from a family of six that loves the outdoors. He has a degree in Pharmacology from the University of Utah. After hours you can often find him hiking up and skiing down Cecil Mountain or on one of the various trails in Cooper Landing. He also loves whitewater and is the instigator in organizing our crew’s trips down Class V Six Mile for fun after work. And ladies, take note of some of Anthony’s domestic talents: He can cook like nobody’s business; he makes the best chocolate chip cookies out of all the staff; and he even sews and gardens. But Anthony also does studly stuff like snowboard, bike, kayak and hike to scary places.
Beth Borchers – Who says little chicks can’t handle big boats? Beth can, literally. She has her 100-ton Coast Guard license that lets her play with the big boys. Love and family brought her to us, or to Cooper Landing that is, and we enjoy having her aboard as a boatman so much we’ve decided she can never leave. Beth keeps our entire crew on their toes with her humor (yes, she’s heard it all before, boys) and is absolutely fabulous with kids. In the winter time, you can find Beth working in Anchorage as a Special Ed teacher, skiing, skating and snowshoeing.
Ben Kramer – Otherwise known as “Giant,” he is originally from Minnesota but has been coming to Alaska to visit his uncle in Anchorage and playing on our rivers since he was a pip-squeak. He’s quite an athletic boatman—plays all sorts of sports like basketball, football, hockey, baseball, tennis and golf, plus hikes, bikes, skis, you name it. Ben’s currently a senior at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma getting a double major like a true nerd in Biology and Environmental Policy. He’d like the girls to know that he is exceptionally handsome, wealthy, single and, oh yeah, modest. But we love him anyway—especially since he hit four majorly needed homeruns during our annual softball tournament.
Cliff Shirley – Born in Alaska, but raised in Idaho, Cliff has been back and forth to Alaska with his family since he was a small child. He started at ARC when he was just 15 and has now made Cooper Landing his home. His can-do attitude and Mr. fix-it magic hands constantly amaze us. For the last 6 years Cliff has worked as an ARC boatman and fishing guide during the summer, and in the off season he might have been logging on some remote island or working like one of those guys on Deadliest Catch, out of Dutch Harbor or Sand Point. When he works hard, he works hard, and of course, when he plays hard… he plays haarrd. In his off time, Cliff becomes a “man of leisure.” You will find him in the backcountry riding his snow machine, snowboarding or biking down steep mountains, or motorcycling on some scary terrain around Cooper Landing. And all of his toys are loud. Real loud.
Kyle Milne – This dude is one of few teens who can say he’s been a raft guide since he was 13. He used to loved pulling out his driver learner’s permit for clients when they didn’t believe his age. A hard-working kid and an evil ping pong player, he fits in quite well at ARC as a boatman. Kyle grew up in Cooper Landing, enjoying the fruits of our community (our locals love kids) and, at one point, was the only eighth grader in a school the size of 12 students. At 16, he had his first experience rafting and hiking the Grand Canyon and officially became an addict. Currently a student at South Anchorage High, Kyle leads a rough life of living in the ski resort town of Girdwood in the winter and Cooper Landing in the summer until he completes high school. So basically when he’s not studying and going to school, you’ll find him rafting folks down the Kenai River, ocean or river fishing with friends, downhill skiing at Alyeska Ski Resort, or cross country skiing and shooting a rifle for the South High teams. He doesn’t spend much time practicing ping pong anymore, which is really annoying because he beats everyone.
Krissy Route – Since she came on board at ARC in 2010, Krissy has been a huge asset in keeping things running smoothly by helping in our office and with general items around camp. Even so, this soft-spoken, long-legged, blue-eyed blond consistently surprises us. Because she has such a sweet and gentle disposition, it is hard to believe that she would be the instigator behind some prank or joke on one of our employees. But once we get over laughing and try to figure out who would come up with such a good one, we find it always leads back to Krissy. So we’ll just add that she can be quite mischievous from time to time. Well, actually a lot. Okay, very, very frequently. Anyway, Krissy graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Park and Protected Area Management, thus qualifying her to be our unofficial Park Ranger at camp. She became a local by moving to Cooper Landing in 2011 and keeps her winters busy by learning all our winter sports. She’s taken on snow machining, back country skiing, downhill skiing and skating all in the past two winters. Krissy also likes bowling, canoeing, hiking, walking her cat (yes, even in winter!), scrapbooking and graphic design.
Jimmy Milne – All you have to do is look at his photo and you can tell by the photo that this guy grew up here. He really did grow up at ARC crawling in and out of coolers and driving the guides crazy. Unfortunately for the guides, now he’s a boatman that is over 6 feet tall and they can’t duct tape him to a wall and pick on him as much. Jimmy also grew up here in Cooper Landing, attending our little school, but now spends winters in the ski resort town of Girdwood going to school and becoming an official ski bum. During the school year, he cross country skis and runs track for Girdwood, and eats a lot to support his growth. He also is a mean piano player—and unlike Mike—he really can play.
Fran Daly – You can always tell how old a company is when the daughter of former employees come and work for you! Following her dad’s footsteps, Fran joins us at ARC as a boatman in the summer. During the winter, she is completing her degree in Education between two schools, either at the University of Alaska Fairbanks or the University of Hawaii. (Can you find any two other schools with such opposite weather patterns?) She grew up in Cooper Landing and on the shores of the upper Kenai. Fran often could be found canoeing, rafting, kayaking and swimming (yes, the water’s cold!) out in front of her riverside home here in Cooper Landing. She also spent time in Haines, where she finished high school, competed in basketball, got out on few whitewater trips with her dad, and fed her telemark skiing junkie habit. And apparently she likes to make really high jumps in her telemark skis.
Drew Petrie – He’s known as “Magic Legs” during our softball games because of his speedy form, which is more than likely from being young and playing soccer throughout high school. From Anchorage, Drew also grew up fishing and playing on the Kenai Peninsula with his cousin Mike. Once we found out how big of an influence Mike was on sweet Drew, we thought it best to hire him as one of our boatmen. We wanted the rest of the ARC crew to have a chance to make sure he grows up to become a normal adult with a fishing and rafting problem. Apparently Drew can ski and do fancy tricks on hard metal objects pretty well. He will be going on the competitive ski circuit in the winter of 2012. He really enjoys going fast down a hill on long fat sticks in the snow, but backwards, and then jumping and sliding down metal rails with an occasional flip. Doesn’t everyone?
Yvette Galbraith – In 2003 Yvette was introduced by her sister and brother-in-law to a handsome fellow that owned a rafting and fishing guide business on the Kenai Peninsula. After 3 years of courting, she found herself marrying this adrenaline junkie and relocating her two boys (Kyle and Jimmy), her dog and her marketing consulting business to Cooper Landing. Yvette was raised in Anchorage and received her degree in Marketing with a minor in Tourism Industry Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She owns and operates Alaska Marketing Consultants and handles the promotion of ARC. She loves to get away from her computer when she can, so you can often find her gardening, cleaning or driving shuttles when needed. Also during the summer you may find her doing “extensive market research” on various raft trips or drift fishing with the employees, especially on gorgeous sunny days.
ARC and Our Dogs
Folks in Cooper Landing love their dogs. And at ARC, we love our canines. But just to clarify before we go any further: we love our dogs, not your dog. So when visiting our facility, please leave your pooch at home. We do not allow pets in our rental cabins and being left all day in your car (especially on a hot day) is just really lame for your four-legged best friend.
She loves to go on long hikes, ride in the boat and hold down the yellow cushion next to the life jackets. Star is not hungry, trust us. We do feed her. She is a Lab and eats anything. Lately it has been porcupines… she’s on her third.
The old lady of the crowd, she’s hitting 13 years in her stride. This old ski dawg gets mighty angry now when her owners leave her at home when they go for a ski, but her hips just are not the same. She is a little bit slower now, but still loves to ride with Erik on the front of his motorcycle or snow machine.
One word. Goof. Well two. Sweet Goof. She’s a love bug and likes her pats, rubs and any attention you give her. She has been mistaken as a bear a couple times, and because she is loved so much, we have a tendency to decorate Capella in bright colors to make sure hunters know better!
Our newest addition to the ARC family is just a pup still, so we are not sure what her personality will be. Right now she’s pretty much just all teeth, and the 3 P’s – pee, poop and play.