We have been asked by many friends and family members, what are you doing at the moment? What goes into preparing such a trip?
The preparation of this expedition can be split into the following subsections:
- Route Planning: This entails firstly to decide roughly on a route. We had read a few books of long trips in Alaska (see the about section), and we settled on the idea of going from Ketchikan to Kotzebue with a stop in the Arctic. The finer planning had us look at maps for hours, read trip reports, and ask questions to Alaska backpacking and packrafting veterans. Ricardo ended up getting so tired with the available software since none combined the best satellite imagery, and all the functions that are useful to draw tracks, split them, label them, etc. So he built a tool that we both extensively used for drawing routes. After determining the length, difficulty of the terrain, and elevation gain we determined how many days each section would take us. For this we also used trip reports, trying to gage whether we travelled at the same speed or slower than other adventurers.
- Gear Planning and Testing: Drawing on previous experience and after doing some research on the weather encountered, we made the choice to go for a slightly sturdier tent that would withstand storms better than our previous one. We also switched to a two person quilt to save some weight. We had to learn a lot when it came to packrafting gear, since we are pretty new to this sport, but luckily Alpacka Raft was very helpful as well as Erin and Hig, and Luc Mehl’s website. We also realized that when paddling you get much colder than when hiking and added some additional warm gear. In order to cut weight, Salomé customized a lot of gear or made gear herself. We also went for a mid-week camping trip to test our gear!
- Food Planning: This is not the first time that we planned our food for a longer backpacking trip, but never before have we purchased 1.5 million calories and allocated them the 18 different resupply points. Salomé found recipes for dinners and breakfasts, prepared testing meals and then mixed them together. She also did extensive research on what new and interesting food was both calorie weight efficient, as well as tasting good and not too voluminous. We stuck to the rule that nothing under 400 calories per 100 grams was coming with us and ended up with a lot of nuts, chocolate, cookies, as well as oils and butter.
- Logistics: We spent countless hours online and our phones, talking to post offices and bush pilots, talking to lodges in remote locations to find resupply points to lighten our load. We also put together a ground team sending us our food resupplies as being point persons in case of an emergency or in case we need a detailed weather forecast. Also, due to the ongoing pandemic, we spent time to find good solutions to keep ourselves and local communities as safe as possible. Leaving for 6 months also meant finding a tenant, finding someone to take care of our house, selling our car, etc.
- Training: Luckily we have a lot of backpacking experience, so we ended up not training as much as originally planned but instead focussed on training with our packrafts since we are new to packrafting. We spent most of our weekends in January and February practising in the Snoqualmie River. We were lucky that our good friend Theo spent a day with us teaching us how to ferry across rivers and then also took a 2-day class with a river guide who did an amazing job at teaching us new paddle strokes that we did not know from sea kayaking, as well as teaching us how to read rivers. We spent evenings practicing wet exits and paddle strokes in Green Lake right next to our house.
We are taking the ferry this Friday from Bellingham to Ketchikan. These past few weeks have been a mad rush to get everything ready and we do not anticipate to get much sleep before we go. We are really looking forward to our 37 hour ferry ride through the stunning Inside Passage, and then to get started with our journey.