Every member of our staff has a love of the outdoors and adventure and each has a unique set of life accomplishments that make AOA a very special organization. Everybody on the AOA team wears many hats and some of our best guides are among our office staff. We are dedicated to making every guest’s experience extraordinary (often life-changing), while respecting and preserving the very special places we visit. We believe AOA is an exceptional place to work and we strive every day to share our enthusiasm for the outdoors with our guests, corporate customers and others with whom we work.
Seth Heald – President/CEO
Born in Canada and raised on the coast of Maine, Seth was a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in Biology and a recipient of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship. After leaving academia, he worked as a site selection and reptile specialist for the Natural History Unit of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and was a cast member of the Lost World documentary, a 37-day expedition to a remote corner of Venezuela for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. As an adventure guide and entrepreneur for over 15 years, Seth has founded or acquired a diverse portfolio companies within the Adventure Travel industry and has twice been an invited speaker at the World Congress of Adventure Travel. Seth also sits on the Board of FarBlack Ltd, a London based eclectic portfolio brand representing the Historic, Natural, and Creative worlds. Seth’s keen interest in natural history and wildlife, travel, and endurance sports keep him on the go. In his free time, you can find Seth on adventures with his wife and daughter, always on the lookout for interesting snakes and lizards, or spending time on his mountain bike. Seth is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Jon Colby – Director of Single-Day Tour Programs
Jon Colby has been exploring and enjoying the outdoors for four decades, and has been a guide for nearly three. He has managed river rafting tour operations for 25 years, during which time he served as a Swiftwater Rescue instructor, equipment repair tech, and chief cook and bottle washer. He has a degree in English from Arizona State University which he is pretty sure his mom has in a drawer somewhere along with his award-winning toothpick sculpture from third grade. He also has been trained as a Wilderness First Responder. He enjoys baseball, hot dogs, long ridge traverses, loud music, and IPA.
Alyssa Gallagher – Day Tour Operations
Growing up in Michigan, Alyssa has always felt the need to be out and about exploring her surroundings. She attended Northern Michigan University where she played Division 2 soccer for three years and received a degree in Secondary Education with concentrations in both Spanish and Health Education. Upon graduating, she taught high school Spanish for one year, but felt that something was missing in her life – that little spark of adventure. Alyssa then went on to guide at-risk youth through backpacking excursions in Southern Utah. She also had the unique experience of spending a summer in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming exploring and hiking to her heart’s content. In her spare time she enjoys spending as much time out in the hot Arizona weather doing anything from mountain biking to backpacking. Alyssa holds a Wilderness First Responder certification.
Courtney Cox – Day Tour & Bike Rental Coordinator
Courtney is a third generation native of Arizona. Inspired by the outdoors and the pursuit of a sustainable livelihood, she has always been keen to explore the world, she has studied and explored in Australia, Europe, and South Africa, but her love for the desert always brings her home to Arizona. Whether it be hiking, cycling, surfing, or snorkeling Courtney is always up for an adventure. Her passion for travel inspired her to obtain a Bachelors of Science degree in Tourism Development and Management with an emphasis in Sustainability from Arizona State University. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, camping, kayaking, yoga and spending time with friends and family. She is an adventure seeker who has cage-dived with sharks, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, and backpacked in the Table Mountain National Park. On her days off you can find her paddling on the lake or river in her hot pink kayak. Courtney is also trained in Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace principles.
Brian Jump – Director of Multi-Day Tours
Since his earliest years growing up in Maine, Brian could be found exploring the outdoors – bicycling, hiking, climbing – his sense of adventure intact from day one. He ultimately attended the University of Denver where he graduated with a degree in Philosophy. In further pursuing his interest in the outdoors, he then completed a course with the National Outdoor Leadership School — a 95-day rock climbing, backpacking, winter camping, canyoneering, spelunking, and backcountry skiing leadership course. As a professional outdoor guide across the Western United States and Canada for the past 15 years, Brian loves sharing his wealth of knowledge as he leads guests on incredible cycling, hiking and backpacking adventures. His travels have taken him on foot or in the saddle into a multitude of our country’s most prized natural treasures. In his spare time Brian enjoys music, food & wine and spending quality time with friends and family.
Hansi Ebert – Multi-Day Tour Program Manager
A native of Arizona, Hansi graduated from Black Hills State University with a BA in Tourism and Business. She subsequently completed the Idaho Whitewater School in 1990 and then guided on a number of rivers throughout the western US. After resettling in Phoenix, Hansi worked full-time leading rafting, biking, and hiking tours in the Southwest and then transitioned to event planning at the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Events Group and PGI. Seeing the opportunity to combine her career aspirations with her love of the outdoors, she joined AOA. Utilizing her vast experience and providing unequaled customer service, Hansi handles the details that ensure your next AOA adventure experience will be worry-free and memorable.
Chris Jolley – Multi-day Partner Development
Chris was born in Orem, Utah. Having devoted his adolescence to mischief, he left home at 18 and headed to Arizona State University in search of greater adventure. He graduated from ASU in 1993 with a BS in Marketing and signed on as a river guide for an Arizona rafting outfitter, getting his toes wet in the lower Salt River and foreshadowing that the wilderness would always be his favorite office. After Chris jumped ship (raft) on the Salt, he roamed across the Americas taking odd jobs; steer-wrestler, tulip planter, and bouncer at a local Paradise Valley haunt. Despite feeding the corporate giant with twenty years in the medical industry and various entrepreneurial endeavors, Chris never dropped his ties to the outdoors and now enjoys guiding in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California and hiking with his dog, Logan, on his days off. Chris’ ever-constant smile and wonderful sense of humor puts all his clients at immediate ease and make every tour he leads unique, fun, and unforgettable.
Bethany Cava – Multi-Day Adventure Sales Specialist
Bethany was born on Long Island, New York and grew up moving all over the east coast. Her parents worked in a missionary organization that had their family of 6 traveling the world every summer. These early years instilled in Bethany a huge love for travel, adventure, and making new friends. She went on to graduate with her Bachelor’s in Outdoor Education and has spent the last several years working at various team-building, backpacking, and recreational therapy organizations. Besides rock climbing and hiking, one of Bethany’s favorite hobbies is trying new things, whether it’s swing dancing, sky diving, baking recipes, or learning a new song on electric guitar.
Kristen Countryman – Multi-Day Trips Admin. Coordinator
Born and raised in the great state of Arizona, Kristen’s parents introduced her to the outdoors at an early age on family trips to Denali and Glacier National Parks. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Design from Arizona State University. While she will not deny the grandeur of sweeping vistas, Kristen is drawn to the finer details of the outdoors: the rocks, leaves and patterns in tree bark, etc. She is unabashed in her enthusiasm for birds and the scientific names for plants. Kristen loves baking and has proven herself to friends and co-workers as a master pie-maker. When she’s not hiking, biking or baking her attention to detail and love of beautiful results are made apparent in her work in bringing all details of AOA’s guided trips together to present guests with the experience of a lifetime.
Josh Kloepping – Multi-Day Tour Program Manager
Josh’s attention to detail and keen awareness of what makes a great trip is apparent from the time you meet him. You also can’t help but notice his southern charm which comes from having been raised in Texas. After graduating from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, Josh began a National Outdoor Leadership course earning his Wilderness First Responder and even becoming a certified Master of Leave No Trace. In addition to his guide work, Josh utilizes his other talents designing dozens of custom adventures for our guests each year and leading AOA’s adventure vacation sales efforts. His passion for exploring has taken him on adventures such as backpacking North and Central America, canyoneering in Europe, mountain biking and kayaking in New Zealand and many snowboarding and rock climbing trips. An Ironman Triathlon finisher and recipient of REI’s Top Guide Award for 2011, Josh loves to share his appreciation of nature, adventurous spirit, and curiosity for the outdoors with his guests.
Megan Anderson – Multi-Day Tour Coordinator
At an early age, Megan was blessed to be able to spend over a month backpacking through Australia and Fiji where she decided she wanted to guide others through all the blank spaces on the maps. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University in Natural Resources Recreation Management and Tourism and holds a Wilderness First Responder certification. She’s been guiding in the Southwest since 2005 and has specialized in survival, primitive skills, and wilderness experiences for special needs and at-risk youth. In her spare time Megan enjoys rock climbing, biking, backpacking and general wilderness-bound exploration. Her passion for teaching helps to empower people from all backgrounds and ability levels to take that adventure vacation of a lifetime!
Aya Nameth – Multi-Day Trips Admin. Coordinator
Aya graduated from Arizona State with a degree in Theater performance. Musical Theater was her first love and intended career choice, while her love of the outdoors was an important hobby. Plans quickly changed for Aya when she began guiding AOA’s single-day tours and found herself head over heels for the outdoor life. Aya soon traded in her dancing shoes for hiking boots and kissed her Broadway dreams goodbye. After getting her feet wet in AOA’s single-day tours department, she left for Skagway, Alaska and developed her outdoor skills while working as a hiking, glacier trekking, and heli-hike guide. After leaving the great white north behind, Aya returned to AOA to join the AOA office team working “behind the scenes.” She spends her weekends adventuring as much as she can. As a guide, Aya combines her passion for musical theater with her love for the wilderness, lending a certain style to any story-telling session, and will always join in a campfire sing-along. Aya is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Lucas Brown – Operations & Logistics Specialist
After he graduated from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse with a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Management, the pursuit of adventure called Lucas from the flat-lands of Wisconsin to the mountainous wilderness of the west and brought him here to Arizona. Lucas spends each summer performing service work in countries around the globe. His travels have included Nepal, India, Tanzania, and Kenya. He loves hunting, fishing, hiking, and the Green Bay Packers. Lucas’s escapades are often determined by his “bucket list,” while others simply sound like good ideas at the moment. Lucas gained immediate fame as an AOA intern when he rode a bull affectionately dubbed “Hell Boy.” Since then, he’s been known among his co-workers for his easy smile and good-natured laugh, and has become integral to the AOA community. Lucas is a certified Wilderness First Responder and in between guiding in Havasupai, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley he works with the multi-day operations staff and manages AOA’s gear warehouse.
Taylor Bishop – Multi-Day Tour Operations
Born in southern California, Taylor began his outdoor life riding the waves of the Pacific. After living all over the west coast and traveling the world exploring, Taylor found his home in Arizona as an outdoor wilderness guide. Following his love for wildlife, Taylor received his Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Arizona University in Animal Behavior and uses his knowledge and passion to help his guests better understand the creatures who share our Southwest home. When not in the field or searching under the nearest flora for a jackrabbit or a gila monster, you can find Taylor a few hundred feet up the closest cliff, rock climbing and constantly pushing himself to new heights. As guide, Taylor brings enthusiasm and patience as he instills in his guests the confidence to explore and experience all the Southwest has to offer.
Brianne Tuinstra – Multi-Day Tour Operations
Brianne hails from southeast Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan and has enjoyed spending time in the outdoors since a young age. In high school, she spent time backpacking the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula and kayaking on Lake Superior. She went on to get her B.S. in Outdoor Recreation at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, gaining experience working with team-building events and spending much of her free time rock and ice climbing as well as adventuring further afield, canoeing in the Everglades and swimming with manatees. After serving in AmeriCorps for a time, Brianne went on to grad school where she got more hands-on experience with team-building events utilizing high and low rope challenge courses. She wandered the South and Midwest, working odd jobs and living in odd places, trying to find where she would like to be and what she would like to do, before finding Arizona Outback Adventures. It didn’t take much for Brianne to fall in love with the desert mountains. In her spare time she can be found mountain biking, climbing, and enjoying all the desert has to offer. Brianne is a certified Wilderness First Responder and EMT.
Cary Cox – Bike Shop Manager
Since moving from Iowa, Cary has run our bike shops for nearly two decades. He is responsible for the day-to-day management of our fleet of equipment. Formerly a professional musician, Cary is an expert bicycle mechanic with more than 30 years of experience. Cary possesses an innate ability to fix and fine-tune anything with moving parts. From children’s bikes to top of the line high performance road bikes, Cary never fails to come to the rescue when nobody can figure it out.
Steve Boggs – Bike Shop Master Technician
Steve has an outdoor equipment and bicycle shop background. He is originally from Illinois where he worked for REI as a bicycle technician and bicycle shop supervisor. He is certified as a Master Bicycle Technician by Barnett Bicycle Institute. He has also completed a semester-long N.O.L.S. (National Outdoor Leadership School) course including backpacking, alpine travel, rock climbing, sailing and outdoor ethics. Steve’s outgoing, upbeat outlook and passion for the outdoors makes him a great part of the AOA team.
Rick Hill – CFO and Director of Technology
After receiving an M.B.A., Rick’s professional career has spanned almost three decades of work in technology consulting, software design, software development, and project management in a variety of industries. Rick worked successfully for sixteen years at Arthur Andersen (now Accenture) and ten years at National Health Enhancement, Inc., where he was responsible for all software development of products which formed the basis for the Company’s growth from revenues of about 3 million dollars to revenues of about 50 million dollars during Rick’s tenure. Rick joined AOA in early 2007, after consulting with AOA for several years on technology, web site management and design, and accounting issues. AOA provides the perfect opportunity for Rick to use his corporate and technology experience combined with his love of bicycling, fishing, travel and photography.
Annemarie Medrzycki – Director of Marketing
A native of the Puget Sound region, Annemarie was inspired to adventure at an early age. The beaches, mountains, and forests of the Pacific Northwest encouraged exploration and helped her develop the deep love of the outdoors which brought her to the Sonoran Desert. Annemarie has a diverse mess of interests from hiking, mountain biking, scuba diving, and yoga to baking, cooking, “up-cycling” furniture, reading history books, and gardening. She has a BA in both History and German Studies from the University of Portland in Portland, OR (and is a self-proclaimed Germanophile). Ask her about Google, social media, or smartphones and she’ll give you a rundown on the latest tech news but come the weekend you’re far more likely to find her on the trail than at the Apple store. Annemarie is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Maryanne Heald – Special Projects
Maryanne grew up in Washington State, exploring every beach and path she could find. Always motivated to mesh her career with the great outdoors, her first job was as an adventure camp counselor and during college at Pacific Lutheran University she joined the university’s Outdoor Recreation program, sharing some of her favorite Washington spots with fellow students and spening summers teaching kids to rock climb, mountain bike, and canoe. She led sea kayaking tours on Puget Sound and backpacking expeditions in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains before making the move from the rainforest mists to the desert sun. Backpacking was her earliest outdoor passion, and she has traversed National Parks and Wilderness areas throughout the American West. She enjoys survival and medical training, and is a certified Wilderness First Responder. In 2010, Maryanne was named one of REI’s Top Guides for the trips she leads in the Southwest. Her dedication to safety, well-being, and enjoyment of her guests has made her one of AOA’s most talented guides and an integral part of the office environment. She currently spends most of her spare time with her daughter and husband, mountain biking, road biking, and hiking in the Phoenix Valley.
Mark Morgan – River Logistics & Equipment Manager
Mark was born and raised in Arizona and has always enjoyed spending time in the outdoors. At the age of sixteen Mark started training as a river guide and found his true passion. He joined the AOA team in January of 2012 and took on managing the equipment for AOA’s single-day tours and working with vehicle fleet management and maintenance in 2013. He is knowledgeable in Arizona wildlife, foliage and history. In his down time, Mark enjoys relaxing with a cold beer, enjoying time his family and young daughter and getting his two boys out on the water or on bikes as often as possible. He holds a Wilderness First Aid certification.
Ed & Sue Ford
Both Natives of Western Canada who spend each winter in Arizona, Ed and Sue fell in love with adventure travel while cycling through France. Ed is President of Dockside Capital Group and is a Chartered Accountant with over forty years of experience creating and implementing financial development plans for client enterprises in Canada and the United States. He specializes in the start-up of emerging growth companies, arranging seed capital, financial control and management systems.