Snapshot of a marathon sewing session to repair 24 inches of bear-slashed gashes in the shelter.
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Hig Higman and Erin McKittrick left their apartment in Seattle, Washington on June 9, 2007. They completed their journey on Unimak Island on June 27, 2008. Two days later they were aboard their first motorized transport in over a year – the ferry to Seldovia, Alaska. At the time of this interview, they have spent the last few weeks in Seldovia visiting family and friends. I called them at Hig’s mother’s home so they could share some final thoughts on their epic journey.
Erin and Hig begin by recounting their only destructive bear encounter, which ironically happened on the very final leg of their long journey. A brown bear on Unimak Island found their Therm-a-Rests, tent, and packraft tasty – without paying much attention to their food. Hig gives a detailed account of repairing the two-foot bear tear in his packraft. His method is different than depicted in the famous Sheri Tingey video (where she simulates a field repair on a bear shredded packraft). Hig uses only dental floss and Aqua Seal and is proud to say his repair holds air the first time (which he tests with his tongue) and is trustworthy enough for a few miles of ocean paddling.
Hig and Erin go on to list their favorite gear and talk about the top option for their next big adventure. They hope to “follow the coal” by visiting the northwest Arctic – site of huge coal deposits – then visiting coal-fired power plants in China (likely the biggest customer for Arctic coal), and following the plants’ carbon dioxide emissions to the Gulf of Alaska where they will closely examine any existing evidence of climate change.
Finally, they talk about what it is like to be back in semi-civilization in Seldovia after a year-long trek. Surprisingly, they have made the transition with ease. They are full of plans for future joint adventures, and Erin is eagerly beginning a book about their Wild Coast journey. Both realize that they have a gift for transitioning, having done it repeatedly on the Wild Coast – they estimate they stayed with thirty families on their journey. They laughingly describe the advantages of their next home. They plan to erect a yurt or maybe a ten-foot-square garbage shed on Hig’s Mom’s property in Seldovia. They muse that it’ll be roomier than their pyramid tarp, since the sides are vertical, and they are happy they won’t have to set it up over and over again night after night.
The sense of humor that seems to have helped them withstand months of physical and mental challenges with relative ease is still obviously intact. Their sense of adventure is undaunted. There is no doubt they will be off on another adventure soon enough.