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.