I wonder whether I’ll have those manly 6-pack abdominal muscles by the time I reach Alaska? Back in high school, muscle definition (as well as $140 basketball shoes) somehow seemed very important at the time. But though I spent long hours in the weight room for basketball training, I never did develop the coveted 6-pack.
I haven’t given much thought to my ab muscles for the past decade or so, but now, on my paddle up the Inside Passage, I’m using them more than ever. Read more
I have a secret to tell you: when I arrived in Port Angeles, I didn’t simply stay there resting and gearing up for the Inside Passage, like I said. Actually, I flew straight back to California for a wedding. Over long trails and highways, I had debated whether I should go — something about it seemed incongruous with the premise of this whole trek: going home to Alaska under my own power to start a field school dedicated to ecology and sustainability. Should I really board a commercial airliner right in the middle of it? Would this act somehow pollute my journey, tainting its purity to a grubby off-white?
My dear friends, I’ve made it to Port Angeles! My long walk is over! My shoes, brand new at the start, are now in tatters, and I rolled into town on fumes after Olympic National Park — my only remaining food (no kidding) was half a stick of butter. But walking through the Olympic Mountains was stunning, making quite the capstone to the first leg of the journey. No more highway — in fact, no other people period — just a 44-mile trail right through the heart of the park, lined with big Douglas fir and delicious salmonberry. This stretch had the aded bonus of bringing me along the Elwha River that now runs free — the site of the largest dam removal project in history. As an environmentalist, it felt like a pilgrimage to a sacred land. I broke into the construction site to poke around, marveling at the river tumbling through the gorge below.
I’m deep in the Pacific Northwest now — Bigfoot territory. Walking into Astoria, the northernmost city in Oregon, I started asking around for a boat ride across the river. Down to the docks and among the charter fleet, I finally ended up at the Harbormaster’s office. “If you were here in August, during fishing season, there’d be all kinds of boats heading back and forth, but it’s pretty dead out there right now.” Following her gesture over the water, I could see she was right. It looked as though the bus would be my only option to get across the Astoria Bridge — I’d been warned that it was impossible (and strictly illegal) to walk its 4-mile expanse. So I followed the train tracks further into town, stopping for a veggie burrito, soon reaching the bus terminal, and scribbled in my journal to wait. Read more
“Are ya lost, hon?”
I looked up from my guidebook, surprised, and gave her a smile. “No ma’am, I just want to get a beer!”
“Yeah Annie,” chided one of the locals seated at the bar, “he just wants to get a beer, give him a break!”
“Well I’m sorry,” she replied in a delightfully endearing countryside voice, “I figured nobody comes in here, this is a nowhere place!”
She wasn’t wrong — Smith River, California is one of those barely-noticeable, instantly-forgettable crossroads towns surrounded by ranchland. The Bank, as the little tavern I’d stumbled into was called, sat on the northwest corner of the town’s one intersection. I stretched my sore legs before sitting down, noticing framed black & white photos of the old-timers, loggers and cattlemen. But I wasn’t here for a history lesson — it was Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, and I’d walked hard all day to get here and reward myself with a beer. Read more