A Trip North begins!
This is probably not a great idea.
The plan to travel from Stanford to the Hobbit Hole under my own power after finishing my PhD, walking 1000 miles to Puget Sound and kayaking another 1000 miles up the Inside Passage, came about naturally enough, chatting with a couple of friends walking back from lunch one day. Jess mentioned that when people are trying to raise money or awareness about a cause, sometimes they attempt some sort of heroic physical feat. Think of the Boston Marathon’s “Miles for Miracles,” or Kevin and Hunter Steele, who are hiking the Appalachian Trail right now raising money to build a center for the treatment of veterans. The idea appealed to my reckless nature immediately. I already knew that I was heading home to Alaska. Why not go under my own power? I could meet new people, spread the word, and maybe even give a few presentations about our plans for Inian Islands Institute along the way — brilliant!
The only problem is, I committed to this plan long before researching whether it was actually feasible… By the time I sat down to do any sort of planning or research whatsoever, I had already told dozens of people about my plan. I guess telling people about the trek was my way of forcing myself to not turn back. I figured that a lot of people talk about big adventures, but soon enough their busy lives get in the way, and they end up putting the adventure off… and off, and off. If enough people expected me to go, I reasoned, then I’d have to keep my word. So I blithely told them, “yeah, I figure it will take me about 5 months,” without the faintest idea whether that was true.
With the rigors of finishing my PhD, I put off any planning until the past couple of weeks, which have been an absolute maelstrom of gathering gear, contacting friends and relatives for places to stay, and looking for advice from people who have done something like it before. As I looked into things, I began to realize that I was in for a far more serious venture than I anticipated… Reading the introduction to a book called “Kayaking the Inside Passage,” it seemed that the author took months planning his route and all the resupplies along the way — at this point, I’ve devoted about a day. As for the hike, I sent an email to a guy by the name of Nate, who hiked the entire west coast of the U.S. from the Canadian border to Mexico. He wrote back, “Hey there. Not much time to type now but i HIGHLY advise not walking northward as you will be going into the wind, which is painful on dry sands. Go south instead and have the wind at your back.” Hmm, I thought… that’s a good point, Nate. Shoot. But I’m headed to Alaska, so I guess that’s that.
For better or for worse, my plan worked — I told enough people about my plan that I never turned back. And as unprepared as I feel, the trip is happening, and it starts this morning!
I’m signing off for now — my next check-in will be from San Francisco, about 30 miles to the north.
With love, Zach