Saturday, May 31, 2014

....Aaaaannnnddddd.... GO!

As I type this I am at the National Outdoor Leadership Schools, Palmer Alaska location. When I was a NOLS instructor this was where I worked courses out of, and they were nice enough to allow us to spend the night, and finish prepping gear. Tomorrow morning we will head to Whittier, Alaska and hit the water with the goal of photographing at least six glaciers - though we have photos from 12 glaciers from 1957 we will see how many we can actually match.

The last six days have been whirlwind to say the least. We departed North Carolina on Sunday the 25th and moved pretty much non-stop to get here - if you’re counting, that means we have done 4400 miles in six days. We really have only done two long days, The last two nights of the drive. Most of the drive is pretty boring. It is really just about keeping the entire team fueled and moving. But once you hit Dawson creek and get on the Alaskan Highway proper it starts to get very interesting. You go from highways to two lane roads, with very few services, but what really changes is the wild life. We saw a massive amount of bison, we lost count of how many black bears we saw. We saw Elk, Porcupines, rams, foxes, and a moose. It was really pretty incredible. It was also weird that I had driven most of the road in the past - when I paddled the inside passage - and by myself. So I was constantly feeling like I was just vaguely remembering things, which I was. I was also constantly wondering how I did this drive by myself. 

My companions are getting along wonderfully. The first is an old - but younger than me - friend, named Beth. Beth and I met through work, but she quickly became a paddling student of mine, and then a friend - which is generally what happens with my paddling students. She almost did the inside trip with me, but wasn’t able to make it happen. As she has just finished her Masters program the timing for this trip was excellent. She has her masters in exercise physiology so it will be nice to have someone with us that knows about exercise and the human body. 

The other person joining us on this trip is a young man named AJ. Two years out of college, he has spent the past few years working, and gaining experience in the outdoors. He has an even more extensive knowledge of martial arts than I do - though he would never admit that. He too is a paddling student of mine. He also happens to be my step son. 

They are both 24, both very physical, and excellent - if relatively novice - paddlers. They also share something else. They have both ridden bicycles across the United States from coast to coast. AJ did it with a charity called journey of hope. Beth did it with a charity called bike and build. This tells me that if nothing else, they know how to persevere through a lousy situation. And since the next four days are calling for rain, they may get to prove that. . 

The biggest issue I am having at this point is guilt. In 2006 when we moved to North Carolina, I left a week after we moved to come here - Palmer Alaska - to work a course for NOLS. It is amazing that my wife was okay with me doing that. This time, I feel very guilty about being here with her there. We are again moving - the coincidence is amazing - and she is forced to do the bulk of the work for our coming house purchase, and again I am going kayaking. I should point out, she has never tried to make me feel guilty. I have done that all on my own. ( and it isn't really guilt, it is a sadness that I am not supporting her, as much as she is supporting me.) So as I prepare to do this trip, I also realize this will be the last trip I do like this. Certainly I will paddle in the future, but no more five week trips for this guy. She has been extremely supportive, and has always been happy for me to do the things I want/need to do. I think it is time for me to dial it back a notch. 

So tomorrow it begins again, and for the last time - at least at this scale. I am excited to get it underway, make it happen and get home to move and edit a movie!

Super big thanks to all the kickstarted supporters, My employer for allowing me to go and do this again. And of course, my amazing wife. I miss you, and I will be home soon. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In about 13 hours

Tomorrow morning at 7 am it all begins. The three of us will meet at my house, and cram all our gear into my little car. We will then head to a location to shoot some video, get some coffee, and then - because what else are we going to do on a sunday - we are going to drive 4300 miles to Alaska.

I will not be posting here during the trip, but will be posting on instagram during the travel. That is the best place to follow us.

Our plan is to be paddling on June 1, and off the water on June 21. I would like to spend my birthday in Anchorage, on the 22nd.

I want to thank all the people that helped make this possible, in particular, our kickstarter backers. You all rock.

See you all in a month.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

So little to do, so much time...

Wait.. Stop... Reverse that.

Here is today's agenda:

Test the SPOT
new guyout lines on the tent and tarp

Pack spice kit
Repack food in different bag
Repack coffee
Repack personal bag
Re fold charts in map case

Buy whiskey
Buy filters for coffee maker

Print tide charts
Print list of kickstarted backers

Charge and update iPod
download a new audio book (or two) and some podcasts

Here is the tough one... Make sure everyone else has all the gear they need.

All this while working 11:30 to 8....

yeah, its going to be a full day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Nicest thing

I think it is important to do nice things for people, and I don't think we do it enough. And what I am talking about is doing something because it is the right thing to do. Not because it makes you money, or you are required to do it, or the person you do it for will some how repay you. I am talking about selfless acts of kindness.

We don't see enough of them, and I think it is the biggest problem our world is facing. Wars are fought, people are trafficked, food that is harmful is marketed as healthful all to make people wealthy(or wealthier if you prefer). A quarter of Americans don't believe climate change is real because politicians are lying to them, and those politicians are lying because they are getting paid to lie by companies making billions who don't want the status quo to change. Negative of me to think this way, I know, But it is hard for me to escape reality.

This is a commercial for a bank in Thailand. And while this bank probably isn't doing anything great for the people who use it, the message is amazing, and it makes for a heart warming ad.

I mention this because someone did something for me recently that in retrospect was amazing. About two years ago when we started planning AGAP a young woman I worked with named Mel, asked me about the trip I was planning and said she always wanted to do a trip like that. I said "why can't you" she came up with all the reasons she had not to do a trip, and I refuted - as I am practiced at doing - each and everyone. She finally realized that I was right, and that there was no real reason that she couldn't do a trip of this nature. She delved into the planning with me whole heartedly. She bought a boat, and a drysuit, and a paddle. She worked on her paddle skills and became an amazing paddler in just a year or so. I was excited to paddle with her in Alaska.

Then she got a job offer she couldn't refuse, and that put her dreams of a big Alaskan paddling trip on hold. She immediately offered up her boat and a large portion of her gear to anyone who might need it. She was never asked, it was completely selfless, and at the time it didn't occur to me how wonderfully selfless it was. She did it because she wanted to make sure the trip that she had worked so hard on, happened. With her or without her. Her reward was the trip being completed.  I don't know that I would loan out my boat without being asked... I don't know that I would loan out my boat anyway.

A number of people have come forward with gear loans to help make this trip happen, and each and every one is doing it for no reason other than to help us out. It is a really wonderful thing to see occur.

This is what the world needs more of, because it makes the world a better place.

Thanks Mel, You are amazing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Great Progress with 16 days to go.

Today I didn't have to work, and got a lot done in a remarkably short time.

The repair kit is completed, restocked and updated. Inside the repair kit is a tent pole splint, wrapped with duct tape. An MSR whisperlite expedition repair kit. A sleeping pad repair kit. Stainless steel screw eyes - one of my favorite tricks, Any idea what it is? Two syringes of plastic weld for boat repairs and about 2 feet of the tape I used to repair the Delta 15.5, a large syringe for back flushing sawyer water filters and a multi tool. With this I can fix just about anything.

I have solved along standing water problem. On the inside passage I brought along a sawyer 4 liter two bag system for treating water. We used it once. The bulk of the time we used Aqua Mira drops. This time we will have aqua mira with us, but I have two other options going from Sawyer. I love there .1 absolute filters, they are easy, quick, and require no pumping. They don't get out odors or flavors but that is rarely a problem. Here is what I am bringing this time.

A Sawyer Mini with three 64 ounce bags.  It takes up very little space. Which means we can paddle along, when we see water flowing into the sound, we can fill the three 64 ounce bags and a minute or so later have a gallon and a half of filtered water.

We will also have with us, the larger - if you can call it that - sawyer squeeze, connected with a short length of tubing to an MSR dromedary bag. On the outflow end it has a longer piece of tubing I can stick in any container. Be it a another dromedary bag, or a water bottle or a reservoir for water while paddling.

I am confident all of our water needs are taken care of.

I also purchased a collapsible tarp pole to use with my Kelty Noah's tarp. It is a piece of Kit I have been meaning to add for quite some time.  I also purchased our fuel for the trip, and brought home the bear spray. It all starts coming together.

Still a lot to do, but I made a lot of progress today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mere days...

As I write this departure is only 18 days way. There is still A lot to do.

My team has shrunk by one, one paddler decided she didn't have the resources to commit to the trip. Another paddler - who worked from the very beginning helping me to plan, and was 100% on board, got a job opportunity that was too good to pass up. She made the bulk of her gear available to a friend, who needed some help. But we gained a paddler, a young man asked if he could join us and he is.

So it will be myself and two other paddlers, who you will get to know shortly. They still have a little work to do, both are novice paddlers, and they have come far with hard work. We still need to work on assisted rescues, but for the most part they are ready to go.

In about 10 days we will buy all of our food, and package it to go. We will do one final test pack, once the food is purchased. Then we begin the long drive north.

still on my todo list? Activate our SPOT device. Buy fuel. Little things like that. But for the most part, our systems are set, and we are ready to go.

18 days...