The invididuals listed below gave us invaluable help and advice in planning the expedition and the media projects.
For decades, Roman's name has been synonoymous with creativity, ambition, and flat-out craziness when it comes to all things outdoors. His exploits have taken him up unclimbed Alaska peaks, down remote rivers in Mexico, and into forest canpopies in Borneo. He regularly makes appearances in great outdoor literature, including works by David Roberts and Jon Krakauer. An enthusiastic early adopter of new outdoor gear, Roman played a central role in making "packrafting" a household word in Alaska and beyond. He wrote the book on packrafting, literally (Packrafting: An Introduction and How-to Guide).
Roman was the first person we met with when we were in the initial planning phases of Expedition Arguk. In return for a six pack of good beer, Roman pored over maps with us at his home in Anchorage, often calling upon his encylopedic knowledge of distant airports, post offices, and remote terrain. By the end of the evening, we had the rough outline for the route that Expedition Arguk would ultimately take. Roman also gave us extensive advice on boats, clothing, and other considerations for an Arctic trip. After the Expedition, we met with Roman again for dinner to talk about media projects and plans for future adventures.
While looking over a map of Alaska, Roman pointed to a remote region and regaled us with stories of untraveled wilderness and otherworldy terrain. "Go here if you can," he told us, "but if you don't, don't tell anyone about it. Nobody knows about it yet." The region he was pointing to was about the size of Pennsylvania. Alaska is still a vast, challenging, and wild place, but a few people have the outlook and energy to turn the whole State into a playground. Aside from the practical advice, this enthusiasm for wildness and far-off places was a big inspiration for us.
For more about Roman, visit his blog, The Roaming Dials.
Bretwood "Hig" Higman & Erin McKittrick
While doing the intitial research and planning for the trip, we bought and read Erin McKittrick's "A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft and Ski", the story of Erin and her husband Hig's ambitious trek from Seattle, WA to Alaska's Aleutian islands. Erin and Hig's odyssey proved the durability and usefulness of packrafts as serious wilderness craft, and Erin's writing provided a lot of insight on long-distance wilderness travel. We e-mailed Hig to ask for some advice for our trip, and struck up an ongoing conversation about planing, media, fundraising, outreach, and more. Hig and Erin's organization Ground Truth Trekking became an official sponsor of Expedition Arguk, and their advice and support was invaluable to our planning.
A week or two before the Expedition, several of us met over Google Video chat with Hig from his yurt home in Seldovia. His kids scampered around in the background, and Erin popped in from time to time offer us a quick word of advice. We grilled Hig on everything that came to our last-minute-trip-anxiety-fueled minds: What kind of rain gear should we have? Did we have the right bear protection? Wool gloves or waterproof for packrafting? Hig gave us solid, practical advice, but also told us, in so many friendly words, to relax. You can think about gear forever, he told us, but at some point you just have to go, "and if it doesn't work, make it work." This ended up being some of the best advice we received. There's no way to know exactly what conditions and challenges you'll face on a trip, and meticulous planning can be self-defeating without an equal commitment to ingenuity and creative thinking about gear.
For more about Hig and Erin, visit Ground Truth Trekking
Photo courtesy Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking
Ed got in touch with the Expedition early on and offered us advice and a generous sponsorship through his company Northern Alaska Packrafts. Based out of Fairbanks, AK, Ed is the man to know when it comes to advice on wilderness travel and packrafting in the Alaska Arctic. He gave us extensive advice on equipment and helped us with our trip planning. Ed also hosted us for the night when we headed through Fairbanks on our way north, and stocked us up with last-minute material for packraft repairs.
Lindsey is the Associate Regional Representative for the Sierra Club, Alaska Chapter. Lindsey was very helpful not only in helping us arrange a sponsorship for us from the Sierra Club, but with connecting with other organizations. Lindsey sent us a number of links and information on a range of Arctic issues, from caribou hunting management to community relations with petroleum companies. This helped us greatly broaden our perspective on economic, social, and enviornmental issues facing the Alaska Arctic.
To visit the website for the Sierra Club, Alaska Chapter, please click here.
Photo courtesy Lindsey Hajduk