Meet Your High Vibe Guides!

Jule Harle hiking packraft

Jule Harle

Owner & Executive Director, ACA Certified Whitewater Packraft & Kayak Instructor, ACA Swiftwater Rescue Instructor

Jule has been whitewater kayaking, packrafting, and rafting Alaskan rivers since 2007.  She’s passionate about being in the mountains while using packrafts for wilderness exploration & whitewater access.

She’s the founder, owner & a primary instructor for the Alaska Packraft School.  Jule is an ACA certified Packraft & also Whitewater Kayak Instructor.  She's invested in the development of river sports and supporting the water community.  She serves as a board member for the ACA Safety, Education & Instruction Council’s Packrafting endorsement and also the American Packrafting Association’s AK Regional Chapter.  She and the board are advocating for APA & requiting new members to help support its core values: an organization invested in its community, supports packraft education, river access & stewardship.

Jule wrote & published The Alaska Packraft Guidebook: Premier Rivers & Creeks in the 49th State- the first ever packraft specific whitewater guidebook highlighting 70 of AK’s best runs ranging from Class I-IV.

When she’s not on the river, Jule lives in Girdwood, AK & spends time immersing herself in Eastern wisdom traditions of Yoga & Ayurveda…but also entertaining random cabin projects or going to silly costume themed dance parties with friends.  In the “off season,” Jule works part time as a mental health counselor specializing in trauma, addictions/substance abuse & mental health struggles while integrating yoga therapy, Ayurveda modalities  & meditation as healing paradigms.

But thinks you'll find life's medicine & answers just by being on the river.

"Go with the flow, & force nothing; all you can do is steer your ship."

Taylor Guetschow

Lead Guide, ACA Certified Packraft Instructor

Taylor moved to Alaska from Park City, UT in 2011 to ski for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Growing up in the desert, Taylor had little exposure to water sports and began paddling in 2013 after rehabilitation from a hip surgery required a shift in gears. She immediately fell in love with the water and began sea kayak guiding and training with the American Canoe Association in 2014. While guiding operations were paused in 2020, the tides began to switch for Taylor as she fell in love with packrafting. With this new found passion, Taylor left her position as a program coordinator of a remote sea kayaking operation to come back to town for whitewater access.

With a decade of experience coaching and instructing in the outdoor industry and an ACA Level 3 River Packrafting Instructor certification, Alaska Packraft School is the perfect convergence of Taylor’s passions: teaching and whitewater. She believes the best days include witnessing someone find new skills, joys and high moments on the water, then finishing the day sharing snacks in the takeout.

Taylor Guetschaw packraft ACA certified instructor
Matt Campo Denali packraft

Matt Campo

Lead & assistant guide, Certified ACA Packraft Instructor

Matt moved to Alaska in 2010, initially exploring rivers as a fishing guide.  Looking for a way to access more remote waterways, he found packrafting & quickly took to whitewater.  Living in Talkeetna meant frequent laps on Willow Creek, his perfect whitewater training ground while also pursuing wilderness packraft opportunities in Broad Pass and Denali areas.

His insatiable appetite for whitewater has inspiried him to spend more time hardshell kayaking & chase water elsewhere when it's frozen in AK. Matt used to spend the winters skiing, but now makes sure to get out of the state during cold months for whitewater trips- his favorites include the warm waters (& chili guaro shots) of Costa Rica and Grand Canyon’s Colorado River.

 

 

Justin Bickley

Operations Sidekick & Executive Assistant

Justin returned to Alaska in 2022 from Arizona after a transient life moving around the world. He studied at the University of Hawaii and Northern Arizona University to become an elementary school teacher and taught for 5 years.  Ultimately, he left teaching in search of a ways to become more connected with the outdoors.

Justin loves packrafting, because it allows him to connect with the water in a deeply spiritual way.  If not packrafting, he can be found in the mountains skiing, backpacking, or rock climbing.

Justin Bickley Bio
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Pete Biskind

Lead & assistant guide, ACA Certified Swiftwater Rescue Instructor

Pete began guiding whitewater in 2001 to support his kayak addiction; since then, he’s river guided throughout 10 states and 3 continents.  He has made a career of helping people explore wild places- he loves it wholeheartedly.  In the winter months he works as a heli-ski guide & avalanche forecaster. 

Moving to AK in 2017, Pete soon began packrafting- he’s passionate and looks forward to sharing his skills & love for Alaskan rivers with students.  If he's not skiing or paddling, he’s spending time building his dream home & airplane hangar near Tonsina, AK.

Pete holds several certifications including Advanced Swiftwater Rescue, Emergency Medical Technician, Rope Rescue Technician, Avalanche Level 3, AMGA Ski Guide, and Leave No Trace Trainer.

David Apperson

Lead & Assistant Guide, skilled handyman-jack of most trades

David grew up in Seward and fell in love with the Alaska backcountry while romping around the mountains and forests of the Kenai Peninsula. He was drawn to packrafting because of the capability of the boat to access untamed areas. Like a typical packrafter eager for adventure, but still new to rivers, David created a resume filled with safety and trip planning mistakes.  After these difficult lessons & a few “near misses,” David took some packraft classes & learned more river skills.  Now, he’s fired up and truly enjoys sharing the Culture of Safety with others & spreading the good word.

When not paddling whitewater, Mr. Dave spends his work week solving mechanical problems, & fixing large industrial boilers before going home to chill on his couch & listen to sweet dubstep beats. 

David Apperson sending the 2nd canyon's entrance rapid; this is the hardest move on the run
Amy Cyr packraft instructor

LEAD & ASSISTANT GUIDE, ALSO QUITE POSSIBLY OUR MOST ORGANIZED STAFF MEMBER 

Amy Cyr

Amy has lived most of her life as a nomad. But after spending her career guiding and teaching outdoor education all over the US, Asia, and New Zealand, she has ultimately found the one place she can’t get enough of: Alaska. Her introduction to whitewater and packrafting was cold and fast on a Grand Canyon rafting trip… no wonder she got hooked!

Amy says she loves packrafting because it requires both physical and mental strength from the individual, while at the same time naturally creating an encouraging and caring community of people that are working toward the same goal.

When she isn’t guiding or eating a corn dog, Amy can usually be found climbing up a rock wall, paddling through whitewater, skiing down a mountain, or rappelling into a crevasse...usually in a dinosaur onesie.

Tim Kelley

Lead & Assistant Guide, aca certified ww kayak  instructor, nols educator

Tim has worked over 10 years as an outdoor educator leading whitewater paddling, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing and backpacking courses around the globe. He has taught packrafting for NOLS, the Montana Wilderness School, and Westminster College. While he began his paddling career as a whitewater kayaker, Tim has fully embraced the “liquid sports couch” and all the possible adventures a packraft enables. When he is not combing over satellite imagery of remote rivers, he can be found wandering with a camera, playing board games, or discovering new ways to eat chocolate.  You can check out some of his adventures on his site. Tim shares helpful descriptions, amazing photos, integral details for planning & overall useful information-a valuable tool for anyone seeking inspiration or quality trip beta. www.timkelleyimages.com

Tim Kelly NOLS packraft
Kevin Kelly Packraft Alpacka

LEAD & ASSISTANT GUIDE, ACA CERTIFIED PACKRAFT & SWIFTWATER RESCUE INSTRUCTOR

Kevin Kelly

Kevin teaches courses with the Alaska Packraft School, Luc Mehl, and the State of Alaska. He grew up paddling canoes and kayaks on the Midwest’s Rivers, Great Lakes, Boundary Waters, and the Quetico. His packrafting career began at the Six Mile Creek Whitewater Festival in 2019 and he's been hooked since. Besides packrafting you'll also find him skiing, nordic skating, figure skating, whitewater kayaking, and biking.  Kevin also serves on the Alaska Chapter of the American Packrafting Association Board.

Kevin is certified as an ACA L3 Packrafting Instructor, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Wilderness First Responder, and Swiftwater Rescue Instructor for the State of Alaska.

 

Haley Johnston

Lead Guide, Impressively Motivated at Life & a Certified ACA Packraft Instructor

Originally from Colorado, Haley began professionally guiding and instructing Alaskan wilderness travel in 2010.  She enjoys using her packraft as a tool to access longer distance wilderness routes- her favorite place for AK trips is the Brooks Range; big country with endless options to integrate both river & mountain travel.  She loves it up there so much, Haley started her own guiding company "Tundra Travels," offering rugged & challenging expeditions that go deep into the Arctic.  She's a Wilderness First Responder, ACA L3 Packraft Instructor, holds an AIARE PRO1 Avalanche Certification and is trained in Swiftwater Rescue.

When not guiding, you'll find Haley skiing, cooking, gardening, taking too many photos of her dog or going hog-wild on Cheez-its or any salty/crunchy snack to fuel her active lifestyle.

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Russ headshot

ASSISTANT GUIDE, ACA CERTIFIED PACKRAFT & SWIFTWATER RESCUE INSTRUCTOR

Russ Hathaway

Hi, I’m Packraft Russ. A semi-professional noodler on the xc sticks, and a white water enthusiast. I began packrafting in 2019 after seeing my first boat, and being blown away about the possibilities of travel and adventure it that would open up. It truly reinvigorated my outdoor enthusiasm.

I love sharing that stoke and I really enjoy teaching. I work in the summers for New Wave Adventures in Denali, and have had the opportunity assisting Swiftwater Rescue courses with The Rescue company. I feel humbled to be a part of Alaska Packraft school and can’t wait to continue the learning process on and off the water!  WAA-HOO!!  LETS SKO BOATIN!

Penelope Cruise: Penguin Mascot

COMPANY CEO & FOUNDER OF THE POSITIVITY & JOY DEPARTMENT

Adopted from a GoodWill thrift store in Arizona, Penelope was originally raised near the South Pole, before happily joining the Alaska Packraft School in 2021.

She immediately took to whitewater on a Grand Canyon trip- now she lives & breathes for time on the river.

While Penelope has zero formal training or certifications whatsover, she has a positive presence & contagious joy that brightens anyone's day- capable of curing hangovers, making bad weather better- a loyal buddy, always there with a listening ear.  This river penguin not only floats when sopping wet, but is a skilled breakdancer, can sort of play checkers (watch out, she cheats!) & is currently learning how to row rafts.

Grand Canyon silly
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Lead & assistant guide, ACA certified WW Kayak instructor, NOLS educator

Kurt Hotchkiss

Howdy! My name is Kurt, I love floating, boating, fishing and fungi- all over the world, but especially in Alaska.  I’ve been leading wilderness trips for NOLS in AK every summer since 2012 including several month long packrafting course expeditions.  In the off-season, my wife and I spend a good portion of the year in the Mojave desert, working with endangered tortoises and enjoying sandy beach vibes.  I’m passionate about wildlife conservation and environmental stewardship-I want to play, explore & take care of our AWESOME planet

AMANDA KALYN

ACA CERTIFIED WHITEWATER KAYAK INSTRUCTOR, LEAD & ASSISTANT GUIDE, NOLS EDUCATOR

Hi! My name is Amanda and I love rivers! I grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada so naturally I began my love of rivers in an old canvas canoe on the prairies. In the years that followed I fell in love with rafting, kayaking and packrafting as I explored wild places. Since 2008, my passion for expeditions and rivers turned into a career of Guiding and working as a NOLS Instructor ever since. I've been lucky enough to explore rivers in NZ, India, Borneo, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Canada, Alaska, and many rivers in the lower 48. I'm so excited to be working for The Alaska Packraft School this summer because I love coaching students to their full potential in skills and risk management in the river environment. I look forward to meeting you on the river!

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Assistant Guide, ACA Certified Whitewater Kayak and Swiftwater Rescue Instructor. NOLS Educator.

FIONA BROWN

Hi! I'm Fiona. I began teaching paddlesports in 2009.  I grew up in faraway Cambridge, Massachusetts, but couldn't sit still in class, and eventually found my way to Alaska.  I paddled a packraft for the first time in 2014 on the Matanuska river and couldn't stop giggling.  I have led packraft expeditions for NOLS but also work rafting, mountaineering, skiing, hiking and sea kayak programs because I can't pick just one fun thing.  Indoors, I'm an ambitious cook, reader, and parent to a demanding herding dog.  I am also four feet, eleven inches tall.