Editor’s Note: Lyons resident Kelly Yelverton recently graduated from college in Washington state. To celebrate her accomplishment, she and a friend have decided to paddle their sea kayaks on a 1200-mile journey through the Inside Passage to Alaska. She will be sending written updates and photos of her adventure throughout the summer.
“So, what next?” I can’t count the number of times I was asked this question over the course of my last semester of college. Each time I answered it, I couldn’t suppress an excited grin. “I’m kayaking to Alaska.” Nearly everyone reacted by re-stating, “You’re kayaking TO
Alaska?!” My friend and kayaking partner, Brooke Greene, had wanted to paddle the Inside Passage ever since she guided in Alaska in 2010.
We met when she came to the San Juan Islands to be a sea kayak guide, and after instantly hitting it off as great friends, she shared this aspiration with me and we decided to go for it. We considered holding out for one more summer, given that I was going to be busy graduating this spring, but in the end neither one of us wanted to wait and risk unforeseen elements of life preventing us from embarking on the adventure.
The Inside Passage is the stretch of protected waters stretching from Seattle, Washington to Skagway, Alaska. It is approximately 1200 miles long, but the winding maze of waterways between islands makes it impossible to calculate the distance we will be traveling with precision. The route has been done multiple times before and sections of it are popular destinations for sea kayakers and sailors because of the spectacular scenery and variety of wildlife. As beautiful as the area is, however, we are expecting to deal with many days of challenging conditions. While we will be paddling with seals, sea lions, and orcas, we will also undoubtedly encounter the infamous grizzly bear along the coast. Proper food preparation and storage is crucial to any adventurer’s safety in bear country. Inclement weather and strong currents are also major factors we have taken into consideration while preparing for this trip. We expect the expedition as a whole, including the challenges and dangers will be an amazing experience.
Our departure is scheduled for the morning of May 31. My mom and aunt (Eileen and Nancy) will be accompanying Brooke and I on the first leg of the journey from San Juan Island to Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island. From there, we will set off by ourselves, stopping along the way at Port Hardy, Bella Bella, and Prince Rupert to pick up food caches we have sent to ourselves. We hope to find the occasional internet and cell connection in these towns in order to contact home and update our blog with a few photos (paddlethepassage.com).
After spending the last eight months in the school library, taking study breaks by googling images of Alaska, it is incredible to finally be starting this trip. Many people thought we were crazy for wanting to spend three and a half months living out of our sea kayaks. They would laugh and ask, “but how will you shower?!” But even these people, I could tell by the look in their eyes, were intrigued by the idea of such an adventure. Everyone we talked to was genuinely interested in the trip and gave us support even if it was just in the form of a “good luck!”
Thank you to everyone who helped inspire and aid in the planning process of this expedition, we couldn’t have launched without you!