Just two weeks to go until I head out on the Yukon River Expedition. I will be following the route of the early gold miners: taking a ferry from Bellingham, WA to Skagway, AK, hiking the Chilkoot Trail to the headwaters of the Yukon River and then paddling from there out to the Bering Sea. The trip will be just over 2,000 miles not including the ferry.
With just a few weeks to go, I am unexpectedly down an expedition partner. This is not a trip that I would have chosen to do solo. Last summer was enough of this solo business for a while.
I tried posting this help wanted ad online using that old Shackleton quote to see if I could find another crazy adventurer. It didn’t seem to work but it sure gave me a good laugh.
So. Here I am. The maps are printed. The mail drops are set. A tough Fōlbōt Kayak is being sent my way.
Is this situation going to stop me from paddling the Yukon this summer?
I still want this adventure. I still want to see the Chilkoot Trail. I still want to see the length of the river and know what it’s like. I still want to meet the heart of the Yukon Territory and the heart of Alaska. Mother Yukon. I am still young enough, strong enough, and stupid enough to paddle this river. If I don’t right now, I might never.
There are distinct advantages to traveling solo too of course. It is much simpler when it’s just you.
- You get to decide on the route yourself (mine will be from the very beginning just like the gold miners)
- You can go at your own pace
- You won’t have to worry about anyone being too hungry or cranky or cold
- You don’t have to consult anyone when you want to take a break or keep going
- You can listen to whatever terrible music you love
- You can sing as loudly as you want
- You can dance as wildly as you choose
- You can play guitar every night without apology for your ineptitude
- You can choose to adhere to a strictly soiree formal dress code, no questions asked
- You will be 100% open to the world and every person you meet
When I first found out I’d be going alone, I think I was more surprised that my friend thought I wouldn’t still go than that he wasn’t coming. There was a moment, I suppose, when I questioned it- whether or not I’d go. It is definitely not a trip I would have planned to do solo especially after doing such an intense solo expedition last year . . . But then I thought of my heroes. I thought of Captain Lizzie and Alastair Humphreys and Audrey Sutherland. Would they have let going solo stop them from adventure? No. Never. Will I? No. Never.
Without someone to split the costs with, money will be a little tighter than anticipated. But I’ll bring the gear I have. Figure something out.
My Dad says:
What did you do when a forest fire burned across your route on the Pacific Crest Trail?
What did you do when the rivers were too deep and swift to cross in the Brooks Range?
What did you do when three feet of snow buried the Arizona Trail?
You found another way around.
Find another way around.
Find another way around.
I am going to have to fish for my food in order to afford the trip and probably ship myself off to Prudhoe Bay for work once I make the ocean . . . but, in the words of my hero, Audrey Sutherland:
“Go simple. Go solo. Go now.”
Go simple. Go solo. Go now.
Go now. Act now. Live now.
Now is all we’ve got. Use it.
Very well then. This summer just got a little more interesting. I am determined to squeeze every last drop out of it. I am determined to live.
Hope you’ll follow along!