Traverse Alaska was founded so that visitors can experience what makes Alaska so special. Each and every adventure is personalized to challenge clients, while discovering the last frontier at their own unique pace. It is our quest to inspire a deeper connection with the natural world and foster a greater respect and understanding of wild lands. We believe that the only way to do that is to get outside. Feel what it’s like to walk on the tundra, splash glacial water on your face, and learn about the flora and fauna that have also chosen to make this land home.
Meet the Traverse Alaska Guides
I came north from Kentucky in 2007 to play outside in the wildest mountains I could find, and decided to make Alaska my home. Since I arrived in Alaska I’ve been guiding visiting family, friends and clients through this wild and amazing territory and I’ve always taken pride in knowing they’ve experienced some of the best Alaska has to offer. You have to get out and play. Being a part of the land of the Far North for even a moment is an incredible experience. My initial plan, when I first stepped foot in Alaska, was to “check it out” and after all these years, I’m still “checking it out”.
You don’t have to be a world-class outdoors person to go on a trip with me, however, you must have an adventurous spirit, enjoy being active in the outdoors, and have a positive attitude.
I arrived in Alaska in 2009 for a photography job for a summer. One summer in Denali spiraled into the next, and summers spun into winters, and before I knew it, I became a year-round Alaskan. My work experience in this wild landscape includes Author of “Hiking Alaska”, directing and guiding week-long educational programs, guiding small-group photography courses, photographing river rafting adventures, and writing/photographing stories for a range of media outlets across Alaska. I spend most of my time exploring Alaska by human power—biking, hiking, skiing, and packrafting—always with a camera in hand to document experiences along the journey. Every day I feel lucky to witness this untamed frontier and love learning about its natural history, culture, and impacts on the future. Alaska’s wild landscape has a way of grabbing you in a way few other places do, and I look forward to sharing those elements that make this environment so captivating.
In 2008 I knew nothing about Alaska; only that I had to see it. I found a summer job and spent my free time hiking and tripping over my jaw. I had never been anywhere so vast, and I was in complete awe of the wilderness and wildness. In short, I fell in love. I came back in 2009 for “just one more summer.” That summer, I met the person I would eventually marry. We gradually began to arrive earlier for our summer jobs, and to stay longer before we left. Eventually we wanted to see what the winters were like, and somewhere along the way, Alaska became our year round home. Over the last thirteen years, we’ve had incredible opportunities to explore Alaska together by boat, bike, boot, and ski. The single greatest lesson Alaska has taught me is that there is always something new to learn. Whether you’ve lived here for years—or you’re visiting for a week—Alaska rewards the curious.
I had a family friend tell me about Alaska from his experiences being here in the 1950’s. So when I finished my high school biology teaching in 2001, I loaded up the truck and headed north along the Alaska highway to see for myself. Everywhere I looked was a new place I just had to explore! I came back to be a naturalist guide in the Denali area for over a decade and did as much exploring as I could under the midnight sun. The incredible scenery and wildlife sightings bring me such pure joy. There have also been so many wonderful people on my journey that have shared their love and knowledge of this amazing place with me. There is nothing I like more than passing that on to the next intrepid and curious travelers. So let’s get out there!
I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska while my folks were full-on hobby farmers. My earliest memories are of chasing chickens or getting chased by turkeys. The original homestead was entertaining but it really did fill the gaps in the freezer between the salmon and caribou. This is the lifestyle I strive to exist in to this day.
In 2006 I moved to Bozeman, MT for college and earned a degree in Environmental Studies. During my summer breaks I would work as a wilderness guide leading canoe trips in Minnesota and Canada. This kicked off a streak of nine years in the guiding and outdoor education world.
I returned to Alaska in 2012 to reconnect with the homeland, and have finally found my people scattered along the banks of the Nenana River.
Justin La Vigne
I first came to Denali in 2003 as a naturalist guide and for research to complete my Master’s in Recreation Management. I returned to Alaska on and off over the years for climbing, seasonal work, and vacations, as did my wife. After living the nomadic life for 10 years, we made Healy Alaska our permanent home in 2019.
Over the years, I’ve worked as a municipal parks and recreation director, environmental educator, gear writer, property caretaker, and motivational speaker. My experience in the outdoors includes two expeditions on Denali and more than 7,000 miles on backcountry trails, including thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail and New Zealand’s Te Araroa. I have a goal to climb the highest peak in every state and explore all 63 National Parks. My favorite National Park is … Denali National Park and Preserve.
Bill “Buckwheat” Overington
My first opportunity to experience the allure of Alaska was in 1989 when I was hired as a raft guide on the Nenana River in Denali. I arrived in Anchorage on summer solstice and ventured out to find the notorious celebration of the longest day of the year. I meandered for a while, and after finding no one around I happened to notice a clock that displayed the local time of 2:37am. Apparently, the party was over for that evening—but the adventure had only just begun.
When I left my hometown of Durango, CO, the Animas River was running a meager 500cfs—frustratingly low water for mid-June. My first day on the Nenana River, the water was running around 15,000cfs—exhilaratingly high water for a rookie guide in Denali. The rest is history as they say. After operating my own whitewater outfitting business in Denali for 26 seasons, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back to my roots by guiding trips with Traverse Alaska and sharing my 30+ years of experience, knowledge, and love for this amazing river and all Denali has to offer.
A week after graduating from college I got my first taste of Alaska. I had flown, hitchhiked, and ferried to Kodiak to spend the summer commercial fishing for salmon. That initial feeling of freedom and adventure inspired me to travel the world and ultimately spend time on all seven continents. I fell in love with whitewater rafting while working as a river guide on the New and Gauley rivers, not far from my mother’s childhood home in West Virginia. Life on the river captivated me and steered me west to work on the rivers in Idaho and Arizona; the Lochsa, Salmon, Snake, and the Colorado. The idea to return to Alaska came to me during the eight months I worked in McMurdo Station over an Antarctic winter. In 2003, I packed up my van and drove north to Alaska for just another adventure and never left. When I’m not working on the home my husband and I built in the woods or guiding multiday trips in Alaska and Grand Canyon, I can be found skiing, bicycling, backpacking, or kayaking in my backyard and beyond. I delight in sharing new adventures in the Alaska wilderness with folks eager to observe, listen, and learn from the natural world.
I moved to Alaska from Minnesota to work as a sled dog handler at a small family kennel in Denali Park and have been loving every minute of the adventure. In my free time I like to go skijoring, packrafting, hiking, canoeing and biking – trying to explore as much of my new backyard in as many ways as possible! Before moving to Alaska I lead 10-40 day canoe trips on remote rivers in Northern Minnesota and as far north as the Arctic Ocean in Canada. I love sharing my passion for reveling in wild places with those around me. Alaska is an incredible untamed place to explore. I enjoy the freedom of being able to take off in any direction and immerse myself in wilderness whether it’s discovering a patch of sweet cranberries, rinsing my face in a glacial stream, smelling the aroma of Labrador Tea or spotting other wildlife that call this place home.
Mountains have felt like home for as long as I can remember. I have worked as a guide on and off for more than ten years, sharing my passion for the backcountry with people by foot, ski, and climbing rope.
I grew up exploring the wooded hills of New England. A passion for nature took me west. After 6 years of summers in Denali and winters in Colorado, I ended up with a Ph.D. in environmental philosophy and a love for the 49th State. I now teach philosophy as an Assistant Professor at Alaska Pacific University and use the outdoors as my ‘thinking laboratory’—doing research and writing on the ethics of conservation and environmental change.
My experience in the mountains includes ascents of Denali (20,310ft), Pico de Orizaba (18,491ft), over 60 summits of Colorado’s ‘14ners’ (several in winter, and several by ski descent), expeditions to the Alaska Range, the Canadian Rockies, the Cascades, South America, and beyond.
Nan lived and worked throughout the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada as a biologist and naturalist guide for seven years, before finding her home in Alaska more than 30 years ago. She resides in the Denali National Park area year round with her family, which includes a team of sled dogs. When not birding, hiking, canoeing, dog sledding or conducting botanical surveys in the wilderness of Alaska, Nan works as a science instructor, trainer and bird guide for Denali area outfits and organizations.