Lodge and Program Managers
Our Lodge and Program Managers are the people on the scene at Alaska Wildland Adventures. These are the folks who make sure each and every experience you have with us is special and unique. This team is friendly, hardworking, and committed to providing you with the best Alaska Wildland Adventures has to offer.
John Beye, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge Manager
John grew up exploring the lakes, forests and rivers of Wisconsin, but summer road trips to the Western U.S. as a kid quickly sparked a passion for life in the mountains. Amidst many adventures skiing, sea kayaking, backpacking and rock climbing, John earned a graduate certificate in Outdoor Education in Grand Teton National Park and completed his Master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism Management at Colorado State University. His true passion is exposing students of all ages to the wilderness in responsible and respectful ways. This career path has led him to South Africa, India, Norway, Seattle, Lake Tahoe and, of course, Alaska. After guiding for Alaska Wildland Adventures last summer, it became clear that one summer in The Last Frontier simply wasn’t enough. John couldn’t be more thrilled to spend another season in enchanted Aialik Bay at the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge!
Casey Hawkins, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge Manager
Casey is originally from Michigan, with the beautiful Great Lakes as the backdrop to her childhood memories. After graduating with her Bachelor’s in Nursing from the University of Michigan, she moved to Denver, CO to start her nursing career close to the Rocky Mountains and all the adventures they have to offer. After a few years, she began travel nursing, taking her to Petoskey, MI, Seattle and, most recently, Truckee, CA. This nomadic lifestyle allowed her to take a break from nursing in the summer of 2015 and push the reset button while working for AWA at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. After last year’s magical summer, she is extremely excited to return to the Glacier Lodge for another season!
Dave Story, Kenai Riverside Lodge Manager
David Story grew up pedaling his bicycle in the flatlands of Nebraska but learned to love the wilderness during summers with friends of the family in the Canadian Rockies. During college he kept venturing outside by foot, bike and boat and found he loved sharing the experience with others while guiding trips and teaching semester long courses in canoeing, climbing and backpacking. David met his wife Martha at a bike rack while locking up in Lincoln, NE and it wasn't long before the two of them stuffed all their belongings (including two bikes and a unicycle) into a two door vehicle and moved to Alaska. In 2010 they reconnected the two places by pedaling their bicycles from Seward, Alaska to Seward, Nebraska. David has chased the midnight sun for years. He built and maintained public use cabins for the Chugach National Forest that surrounds Cooper Landing during the boreal summer and set up remote field camps for the US Antarctic Program in the austral summer. Seasonal life in Alaska and Antarctica was rewarding but, "Once I saw Alaska, it ruined me for everywhere else and once I arrived at AWA I knew I had to stay." Now David manages the Kenai Riverside Lodge in the summer and caretakes the lodge in the winter. When he is not scheduling shuttles or maintaining the grounds you can find him biking or skiing while capturing photos along the way.
Ruthie Puckett, Kenai Backcountry Lodge Manager
Ruthie grew up in Decatur, Alabama and spent her childhood summers in and out of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, camping and hiking with her family and friends. Her instincts to explore everything she could reach were balanced by a profound respect for conservation, leaving a minimal footprint and constant education on environmentalism, preservation and maintaining nature’s equilibrium throughout her childhood. After several years in the restaurant industry, she returned to her beloved Smokies where she worked and managed Leconte Lodge, a backcountry hike-in lodge in the National Park for two years. When she’s back on the grid, she spends her time cooking, knitting and trying to figure out if she can bring her cat on the next trip she’s planning (she cannot). She is so, so thrilled to have finally made it to Alaska.
Heather Craven, Guided Journeys Program Manager
Originally from Colorado, Heather now calls Alaska home for the majority of the year - although she still makes time to explore and travel to stay inspired. Heather graduated with a degree in zoology from Colorado State University and has a deep background in wildlife and wildlife management. Through these experiences, she gained a passion and love for the outdoors and nature which has only grown since taking on a year-round management position with Alaska Wildland Adventures. A few of Heather’s favorite Alaska memories are learning how to drive a snow machine, dog sledding and flying in a bush plane to an Iditarod checkpoint.
Renee Ransbottom, Kenai Riverside Lodge Hospitality Manager
Renee grew up in Columbus, Ohio and is grateful to have developed a love for the outdoors through family trips to national parks. When she visited Alaska for the first time in 2011, she was a guest with Alaska Wildland Adventures. The minute she set foot in Alaska, saw the breathtaking scenery and interacted with the staff here, she knew it was a special place and that she had to come back. The next summer, she quit her job and found herself working for AWA in the Kenai Riverside Lodge office. She then spent a summer at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge as the Lodge Coordinator. In the off-season, she’s worked everywhere from Crystal Mountain, Washington to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Most recently, she spent a couple of years working at a luxury resort in Napa Valley. She is extremely excited to bring her hospitality experience to Kenai Riverside Lodge as the Hospitality Manager.
Michelle LeFever, Lodge Combination Coordinator
Michelle and her husband, Johnny Hughes, are originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Johnny owned a small construction company and she was a manager in a linens company as well as a server/bartender at a corner bistro. Even in Lancaster they spent as much time as they could in the outdoors, either fishing at their cabin on the Susquehanna River or driving to nearby states to satisfy their addiction to whitewater kayaking. About eight years ago, their adventures brought them to Alaska to visit friends living in Moose Pass, and the seed was planted. Shortly after arriving home from that vacation, they sold their business, quit their jobs, and set their sights north. They took their love for one another and the outdoors, purchased a 24-foot travel trailer, grabbed the dog, and headed up the Al-Can Highway to Seward, Alaska. Michelle joined the AWA family working as the office manager for Weather Permitting and Johnny traded his whitewater kayak for a sea kayak, guiding in Resurrection and Aialik Bays. Last year Michelle took the position of Lodge Combination Coordinator and Johnny is part of the AWA team, too, guiding guests to great fishing on the Kenai River. Michelle says, “Each year brings a chance to learn something new, see something completely breathtaking, make an incredible memory, discover a little more about ourselves and share our experiences with others in hopes that they will be as wowed and excited about Alaska as we are.”