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Tracing the Heart of Alaska - A journey around Cook Inlet

Last Modified: 22nd November 2013

Walking on mud flats

Fine mud streaked by tidal currents covers gravel.

Fine mud streaked by tidal currents covers gravel.

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Examining Moose-poop

Piles of moose droppings like this proved very fascinating to Katmai and Lituya.

Piles of moose droppings like this proved very fascinating to Katmai and Lituya.

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Cook Inlet---the Heart of Alaska (March-July 2013)

(Completed in July 2013 - see blog posts, etc... in the sidebar on the right)

Why Cook Inlet? Cook Inlet is the heart of modern Alaska. On Google Earth, it's a thin line tracing 800 miles of coastline, from Dogfish Bay to Cape Douglas. It has Native villages and Russian villages, hippie towns and tourist traps and Alaska's biggest city. Cook Inlet is our home. It's home to oil rigs and natural gas plants, coal mine proposals, wind turbines and tidal power proposals, endangered whales and abundant bears, salmon and melting glaciers. It's home to most of Alaska's population, and hundreds of miles of nearly unpeopled wilderness. 

The future of Malaspina Glacier is clear. The future of Cook Inlet is muddier and more conflicted, and more important. It's a place where all the diverse issues of Alaska's future collide with the diversity of all its people. We walked and paddled through the blizzards of early April and the sweltering heat of early June, through snow and mud and cobblestone cliffs, floating rocketing tidal currents and fighting to launch in the surf, from the beaches just below the highway to the beaches visited only by bears... Along the way we met and stayed with people from Nanwalek to McNeil River, in villages and cities, and setnet camps and bear-viewing operations, asking all of them the same question.

Here in Alaska, and on Cook inlet, what does the future hold?

Tracing the Heart of Alaska - A journey around Cook Inlet

Our planned route for a Spring/Summer 2013 expedition

 
  • Arrival dates
    • Start: 3/27
    • Nanwalek: 3/30
    • Port Graham: 3/31
    • Seldovia: 4/2
    • Vosnesenska: 4/11
    • Homer:4/13
    • Anchor Point: 4/18
    • Ninilchik: 4/21
    • Kasilof: 4/25
    • Kenai: 4/28
    • Nikiski: 4/30
    • Hope: 5/8
    • Portage: 5/10
    • Girdwood: 5/11
    • Anchorage: 5/14
    • Beluga: 5/26
    • Tyonek: 5/28
    • South Trading Bay: 6/1
    • North Tuxedni Bay: 6/10
    • Silver Salmon Creek: 6/14
    • Chinitna Bay: 6/18
    • Williamsport: 6/24
    • McNeil Camp: 7/4
    • Douglas River: 7/8
    • Sukoi Bay: 7/11
    • Four Peaked Glacier Lake: 7/12

Seaweed driftline

Lituya stands above a driftline along Cook Inlet.

Lituya stands above a driftline along Cook Inlet.

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800 miles at Preschooler Speed

Back in 2001, when I was a new college graduate, I hiked 800 miles on my first big Alaska expedition, from the Drift River to Chignik. At the time, I was proud of that vast-seeming distance. Now, my four-year-old has done the same. Well, he's probably walked a few hundred miles--with the remaining distance covered in our packrafts. He'll tell you, proudly, that he once walked 8 miles in a day. My two-year-old walked and ran circles around us all at breaks, riding on my back the rest of the time. And neither of them have any sense of the scale.

 

Raft towing in the flats

Hig and Katmai approach some cabins on the Susitna Flats, towing the packraft for slough crossings.

Hig and Katmai approach some cabins on the Susitna Flats, towing the packraft for slough crossings.

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What's next?

Erin is planning another book on this adventure and the things we've learned there, probably for 2015 or 2016. In the meantime, look at pictures from the journey on our Heart of Alaska slideshow and on FB, stay tuned for more installments on the blog, and probably some speaking events, TBA.

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By Ground Truth Trekking

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Date Created: 19th January 2012