Alaska keeps calling

3 minute read

NOTE: We are finally updating our blog about our trip back to Alaska in 2023. We plan to release a post every week for the next few weeks, and we will be announcing each post on Salomé’s instagram account. We are also working on enabnling comments on the blog again.

On September 7th, 2021, we woke up in Icy Bay to our last day on our journey, a beautiful sunny day. We paddled across Icy Bay that we couldn’t cross in late May 2021. We set up camp one last time and took the time to make a fire. Both deep in thought, we started reflecting on how hard it had been to give up in this same spot 2.5 months ago. We did not realize back then how burned out we were in May from the bad and cold weather. The Inside Passage and Lost Coast had been harder than expected. And when Ricardo got injured and a storm that would last 7 days made it impossible to cross Icy Bay, we had to take a break that we should have taken earlier. The forced break made it impossible to do the whole route; we had to leave out the Brooks Range and Noatak River. But on that night, we were so grateful that we had given our dreamed trip across Alaska a second chance. We restarted in July in Denali National Park, had a blast hiking through the gorgeous Alaska Range and Wrangells, paddled down the Copper River which unexpectedly became one of the highlights of the whole trip, and hiked two weeks south along the Lost Coast in much better weather back to Icy Bay.

Our heads full of memories, we stared into the fire. Above us, the sandhill cranes flew south. Winter was coming. We had closed the loop. Ricardo felt accomplished and ready to go home, but Salomé was sad that the adventure had come to an end. She leaned onto Ricardo’s shoulder and quietly whispered into his ear: “Next year we come back and finish the crossing, okay?”

We made a promise to return. And six months later we started planning the rest of the Alaska crossing in 2022. We enlisted two friends to join us, but both of them had to cancel. We felt relieved. We couldn’t bring ourselves to organize the logistics of this part of the adventure. We realized we were not yet ready for it. While extraordinarily beautiful and filled with many enjoyable moments, the 4.5 months in Alaska had also shown us how hard it is. We had wet feet every day, walked through icy cold rivers every day, fought through brush regularly, and had rain and cold temperatures often. It was often hard, not just physically, but also mentally. And we did not feel strong enough yet to brave the cold, the rain, the rivers, the bears, the mosquitoes, the same food every day, no showers for weeks, or the uncertainty of whether we would succeed or not.

But this little voice from Icy Bay kept coming back to us. It felt like we had unfinished business in Alaska. And the following year this voice became very loud for Salomé! Ricardo was on board to finish our adventure — after all, he has a particularly bad memory for hard times.

We started planning - Salomé packed food for 1.5 months, and mapped the route. Ricardo organized a food drop by bush plane in the Brooks Range, handled logistics around biking the Haul Road, and prepared our bikes for the needs of bikepacking and gravel roads. Leaving was as hard as the first time. Salomé was still recovering from jet lag from a work trip, Ricardo from food poisoning when we flew to Fairbanks. We like to travel light, but this time we checked in more bags than ever before: A backpack full of gear, two bikes, a large bag of food for our section from Fairbanks to the Brooks Range, and a box of food for the second part of the hiking section through the Brooks Range. This is in addition to three more boxes of food we had shipped from the post office just before heading to the airport.

As we boarded the plane, doubts we knew so well came up: “Will we be able to do this? The Brooks Range is more remote than we have ever been before. Did we plan for everything? How will the weather be? How bad will the mosquitoes be?”

Our last night at Icy Bay, where the asked ourselves whether we will come back to Alaska to finish the trip?

The of our planned route for 2023, 480 miles biking, 200 miles hiking and 450 miles paddling, packed into 6 weeks of vacation.

Our practice two-day bikepacking adventure around Seattle. That morning we installed an old bike rack on Salomé's bike, and bought panniers for it.

Checking in at Seatac, never had so many bags!.

Assembling the bicycles in Fairbanks, Ricardo is excited about his new bike.