In early June, a group of friends set out from Juneau for an adventure of a lifetime. They are journeying by kayak from Southeast Alaska to British Columbia, and then cycling from Canada to the tip of Argentina.
A dozen kayakers, all in their 20’s, are currently paddling along the coast of British Columbia, expecting to reach the southern part of that province by late September. A little over one month into their journey, the kayakers made a stop in Ketchikan. I asked one of the adventurers, Christopher Hinkley, what their plan was.
“The plan is that we really have no plan. The general plan is to go and see the place we grew up in and ultimately see places we’ve never been and try to experience cultures and different perspectives along the way.”
Hinkley says most of the travelers grew up together in Juneau. He says so far, this trip has allowed them to visit Southeast communities they’ve heard of, but never seen.
“We paddled down the east side of Prince of Wales (Island) and ran into little towns like Whale Pass and Coffman Cove. We were flexible enough to be able to spend a couple of days in those towns and we got to know a bunch of the people and they took us in. That gave us the ability to say, ‘This is something we want to do. Let’s stay here for a couple of days.’ To be able to go in the little nooks and crannies that most people don’t have time to go in and see, and spend time just hanging out and really getting to know different places.”
With 12 kayakers camping on beaches and pulling into harbors en masse, Hinkley says they are often asked what organization they are with or what cause they are trying to draw attention to. He says they are not travelling for a purpose other than to do something now, while they have the time and means to do so.
“We’re just a bunch of friends. It’s not part of anything. We just like to hang out with each other and it’s a good time, so everybody decided to come along.”
Though they are not representing any organization or cause, Hinkley says they have received help from several sponsor. The kayaks are on loan from Seaward Kayaks of Canada, and numerous organizations and Juneau businesses donated or offered discounts on clothing, gear and other equipment. They also held several fundraisers to help finance the journey.
Hinkley’s girlfriend, Elyse Kennedy, is the only kayaker who is not from Juneau. She is originally from Massachusetts and now lives in Colorado. She says she has never done anything like this before. Kennedy says she initially did not plan to be part of the trip.
“It just comes down to financially ‘biting the bullet’ and committing to something amazing that you may not necessarily have a chance to do again. I think it’s definitely worth putting things on hold back in the real world per se. Seeing Alaska and Southeast Alaska has definitely been amazing so far.”
Kennedy is participating in the kayaking portion only.
Colin Flynn is also part of group. He says while several have done shorter trips, none of the twelve have undertaken a journey this lengthy or complex. Flynn says while they will “wing it” somewhat, a lot of planning was involved.
“Everybody was in different cities for the last year, so we were doing Skype meetings every week with the whole group, figuring stuff out. I guess the biggest thing is that we sent food ahead. Obviously food is an issue when you’re in the middle of nowhere. So that was probably the biggest thing, just making sure we had all the gear that we think we’d need.”
Flynn says he looks forward to taking time to see the world.
”If you have two weeks of vacation, you go somewhere and try to do the few sightseeing tours and then you get out and you don’t have time to see the local spots and see really how people are living and get a deep sense of how a different part of the world lives. Biking takes a long time. Hopefully that will help us find where we’re really looking to go.
The 12 kayakers plan to reach Vancouver, British Columbia in September. From there, five – Flynn, Hinkley and their friends , Andrew Flansaas, Kannaan Bausler and Max Stanley – will continue south on bicycles. Their ultimate goal is to reach Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.
The group is also planning to produce a documentary of their journey, filming the people and places they encounter along the way.
They expect the journey will last more than a year, possibly two, but may end sooner if money runs out. Flynn says strangers learning about the adventure have offered them places to stay, and some have expressed interest in joining them.
“We’re definitely encouraging people to come out for a week or a few days and bike with us, come to talk with us. We’d love to share our stories and our adventure with other people. I think a lot of it is inspiring young people, or anybody, to go out and just do something that they’ve wanted to do. You only have so much time on the planet, so you might as well go and see and do the things that you truly want to do.”
Those interested in following their kayak and bike adventure from Juneau to Argentina can go to the group’s web site – www-dot-a trip south- dot-com. They’ll be posting pictures and stories, and you can learn more about the travelers and their sponsors.