Photos courtesy of Bjorn Olson and Neil Wagner
Brentwood Higman and Erin McKittrick made a stop in Homer after walking the beach from Dog Bay to Kachemak Bay and around the rim to the Fox River flats. The couple from Seldovia is making progress on their 800-mile journey around Cook Inlet. After a visit with friends, including a dinner in their honor, the couple and their two children resumed their long walk. They expect to take several months to complete the journey around Cook Inlet to Cape Douglas. Homer people met them at Bishop’s Beach to walk and talk a bit as they went.
Trekking at toddler speed: Seldovia couple goes on adventure
By Naomi Klouda
Brentwood Higman and Erin McKittrick are leaving for another wilderness walk, this one involving 800 miles around Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet with their two toddlers.
They Seldovia couple, with 2-year-old Lituya and 4-year-old Katmai, will set down Wednesday, weather permitting, at Dogfish Bay north of Nanwalek for the first first leg of their journey. They figured out a lot of tricky things on previous walks, like how to change diapers in the middle of no where and what to pack. They took their oldest child, Katmai, on an expedition around northwest Alaska’s Chukchi Sea in 2010, when he was still a baby and the next year, the family set off for Malaspina Glacier for a two-month trek with Katmai and Lituya, when she was one.
Higman keeps a blog, www.groundtruthtrekking.org/blog to share information from these walks. He explains that expeditions are how he frames his life.
“It seems like half the talk on any given expedition is spent dreaming up the next one. I feel naked without those plans—never quite comfortable until we schedule the next adventure,” he writes.
They will start walking with their two pack rafts this week. “We’re expecting when we start it will be low tide. We’ll come upon big cliffs, and at that point, use the raft,” Higman said. “They’re light – 5-6 pounds. We can walk with them as well paddle them. I’m hoping people will walk with us, especially from Nanwalek to Port Graham.”
They will follow the coast around the bay, past Halibut Cove then down to the Fox River Valley and over to the Russian Old Believer villages, then down the Homer beach side. In Homer, they’ll stop for a visit with friends who’ll join them in the walk. Then Homer people can catch up with them at Bishop’s Beach for a walk-and-talk along. Look for them around the date of April 12.
“I’m sure we’ll be easy to spot on the beach,” McKittrick said.
Since they have allotted four months for the undertaking, Higman and McKittrick say they’ll follow the terrain and let their four-year-old set the pace.
“We’re looking to meet people and experience the variety of the landscape around Cook Inlet, toward Anchorage then the west side of Cook Inlet at Toynek and all the way to Cape Douglas,” Higman said.
They’re aiming to be at Cape Douglas, near Mt. Augustine, by late July.
The only real expense is food, which will be supplied along the route by air or mailed ahead of time, and a few transportation links like a barge at Williams Port. They’ve accumulated gear and make their own.
“Every resupply has to be figured out. The trickiest part is carrying everything,” McKittrick said. “We are light on what we bring and I carry my two-year-old. We put a lot of figuring into how to fit everything.”
As they go, Higman hopes to blog on what they see and include information about the areas they pass through. The concept of Ground Truth Trekking is to explore and document the terrain with an eye toward development, environment and cultures.
“We’ll talk about the future of Alaska and what we see along the way. This will include the Chuitna (coal) prospect – any and all issues that we talk to people about it,” Higman said. “We want a big picture of Cook Inlet, not a smaller one. When we’re in Tyonek, the conversation will be about that. But in the same area, there’s also a coal gasification proposal – and there’s renewables like the geothermal project at Mt. Spurr, and in Cook inlet, there’s oil and gas development off shore. We hope we can get a lot of different perspectives so we can share through our outreach as we go along.”
Higman and McKittrick have taken 10 walks, starting with their first trek in 2001 from Drift River to Chignik. After graduating from the University of Washington, they launched their biggest effort by walking and paddling their way from Seattle to Seldovia in 2007-08.
McKittrick’s book, “A long Trip Home” discusses that epic wilderness adventure as a journey of learning and discovery.
Now the family of four continues to find new places to discover and learn from. Katmai and Lituya get the parents’ undivided attention.
Talking about how exited he is to walk 800 miles.
“I am excited to go paddling – we might find fossils,” little Katmai said Monday.
Higman has a PhD in geography and McKittrick has a master’s degree in molecular biology. Now she is a writer, primarily, with a second book coming out this fall called “Small Feet, Big Land.” It follows the young family through an Arctic trek and explores the intersect between wilderness and industry in Alaska.
When they return, the couple will give a presentation on this 800 mile journey in Homer. In the meantime, “we’d love to have people catch up with us,” Higman said.
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