A Mother, Author, Pioneer Outfitters Manager & Guide, Guide Trainer and WebMaster. Born a Capricorn 1, Week of the Ruler, Day~The Indomitable One. Typically the ring leader, thought to be a bit precocious, I wear pink chaps to ride in because I can. I am Alaska Chick and I am right where you left me. ~ Alaska Chick
A little background…My name is Amber-Lee and I am the Manager and a guide of Pioneer Outfitters. I have been with Pioneer Outfitters and Master Guide Terry Overly for 20 years now. I grew up in South Western New York State, in a dairy county, Chautauqua County, in a small town called Sherman.
I am a farm girl. I have always been proud of that and loved the fact that I could say that. While others of the same young age were partying, studying or planning for whatever future they hoped for and dreamed of, I knew exactly where I was headed and what I would do. Meanwhile, I had the farm.
Did I dream of becoming a Big Game Guide in Alaska? Not hardly. I dreamed of and knew the one thing I was meant for was the military. I joined the United States Navy directly out of high school and was on my way!
After bootcamp and schooling I was stationed in Hawaii at Barber’s Point with VP-1, to begin my service to the United States of America and my journey through life. After returning home after deployment to support Desert Storm, I re-evaluated my future. I decided I was more of a farm girl than someone strong enough to have automatic rifles pointed at.
What do you do when all your dreams and plans turn out to be smoke? If you are lucky, and I was, you go home.
So, within a few months of receiving an Honorable Discharge and returning home, I was milking cows again, training a new puppy and enjoying my life. It was here that things would change again.
In The Paint Horse Journal, I found my dream. Alaska. The article on Pioneer Outfitters and Master Guide Terry Overly written by Bob Robb was a hope and wish long buried, suddenly found and brought into the light again.
I wrote a letter to Master Guide Terry Overly, 8 pages long asking questions about everything I wondered about, then went back to milking cows and dreaming what could it possibly be like to live in an area of Alaska the article had described as a incredibly remote place of unspeakable beauty.Training to be a guide means you are in the field.
I only got a response at all, Terry said after I had been with them for a while, that he couldn’t figure out if I wanted to take a trip or if I wanted to work for him because of the incredible number of pages of questions!! Terry asked me if I had plans or if I would be around home for the next week. Where would I go? I milked cows three times a day?!
A surprise was on it’s way. The Fed-Ex truck pulled into the drive a few days later and delivered an envelope. The envelope was a bit disappointing as I thought it was only another letter, and opening it, was speechless. It had inside it airplane tickets to Alaska. That was the next bend in the road leading to my future.
Terry had told me he would meet my plane, so he was right there when I stepped off the plane! I walked right by him!! (I was so not ready to meet him!) Seriously, have you seen Master Guide Terry Overly?? Alrighty, so I figured he could find me at luggage pick up and hopefully I would find my backbone and courage in the meantime.
Pioneer Outfitters has been my home from the first moment I woke here in Chisana. I knew, even so young, that I had found my place. Chisana. There is a pure beauty here and space to breathe. We are surrounded and held close by the high mountains surrounding us.
I am often asked certain, key questions. I will answer them for you here: “What is involved with or does it take to be a guide? A female guide? The Manager of Pioneer Outfitters, a girl, and one of the guides?” Hmm, I most often respond with humor or sarcasm, or a little of both, because it is rarely possible that an outsider can truly understand. A guide, whether a hunting or horse pack trip guide, has more to do with the client than anyone else. This means, as I have realized through learning, watching and training others myself; that a guide has to be a leader.
A guide must know all of the options, answers and, in our world, so remote and inaccessible, a guide must not show fear or worry to a client. I’d have to say, after serving proudly in the United States Navy, after experiences during my enlistment in Desert Storm, and coming to Alaska and Pioneer Outfitters, there are places that are still truly a man’s world.
Guides, as a rule, are as different of individuals as you and I, of course, but they (we) all do share many of the same characteristics. Some of these character traits include: highly competitive, aggressive, multi-tasking “stress-junkies”…. and these are the most positive points! Sill learning this one!
“What a person needs to realize is that a guide is responsible, not only for being a companion and adviser on the trail, not only to find and judge the game he (or she) encounters–if this is the type of excursion the client is on–but the well being and safety of the client and the horses. This must come first, and it isn’t generally an up-front and in-your-face issue, chaos does happen, and the guide has to be able to react quickly, decisively, calmly and autocratically.
If you throw in being a female, and a small one at that, the hurdles grow! A female trainee must also posses thick skin and either a really good sense of humor or a really strong sense of self worth. “Why stay here, out in the mountains, isolated and away from any chance of a life, husband, anything..?” Is another favorite question of folks who come and stay for a few short days up to a couple weeks. I knew this was my place, my home from the first moment I woke here in Chisana.
I stay and always have stayed because of the beauty of the land, the true goodness, generosity and wisdom and knowledge given so freely by Terry Overly, the family I have made here and the wonder of the fact that I can sit back and say this is what I do.”
Remember! I am Alaska Chick.
** Alaska Chick’s Blog is indeed a window into our lives, personally and professionally. It is also written by me (other than the rare times I can beg, plead, bribe or threaten one of the Team to write something!), giving you an even greater insight of my own life, in writing, every week. Please be welcome, where ever I am.