Thursday, April 17, 2014
As most of you know, I'm transitioning out of the Coast Guard. I'm tremendously proud of my service, the training and experiences I've received, and the outstanding individuals that I served alongside. I'll miss many things but I reached a decision point in my career and I decided to give a long-held dream a shot. It's my goal to blend my passion for adventure and conservation with the leadership, risk management, and environmental science background that I've developed and pursue a new career in Outdoor Education.
The good news is that I've already been accepted into the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, Wyoming. There I will take a four month course and obtain necessary experience in backcountry skiing, avalanche awareness, wilderness medical response, whitewater boating, canyoneering, rock climbing, and Leave No Trace principals. I hope to carry that experience into a full time position with the "Adventure WV" program at West Virginia University, the Boy Scouts' new High Adventure Camp in the New River Gorge, or NOLS itself.
The even better news is that the course doesn't start until February 2015, giving me eight months off to see and do some awesome things across the country that I've always wanted to do! Those travels will be the first things covered in this blog. As a primer, I wanted to cover a basic outline of the trip in my first post. Please leave my a comment or shoot me an email if you have any additional suggestions. I'll also have an extra seat in my truck for part of the trip, so think about coming along!
May 23 - Bellingham, Washington to board the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry bound for Juneau, Alaska! I'll cruise up the Inside Passage looking for whales over the next three days and camp out on the open deck to save some money
May 29 to June 4 - A seven day sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay National Park with fellow CGA buddy and tactical badass Jason Acuna.
June 11 to 22 - Fairbanks, AK to begin whitewater rafting trip on the Kongakut River thru the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) with a guided company. This trip should coincide with the caribou migration and I'll be above the Arctic Circle for the summer solstice!
Late June thru Early July - A loose itinerary that will include a week or so backpacking in Denali National Park, checking out the Moose's Tooth Pub in Anchorage, some fishing, and a visit to Kenai Fjords National Park.
July 12 to 25 - The highlight of my Alaskan trip: a two week mountaineering expedition in Wrangell/St. Elias National Park. Wrangell (plus Canada's Kluane National Park and some other stuff) makes up the largest protected wilderness in the world. Something on the order of Switzerland sized. It's so big that there are places that have yet to be explored. So I'll fly in with a guide on a ski plane, land on a glacier, and climb mountains that no one has ever climbed before. This has always been at the very top of my bucket list. Call it my inner Ernest Shackleton but I think it one of the few chances at real adventure and exploration left in the 21st century.
Late July to Early August - Drive from McCarthy, AK thru the Yukon (stopping in Dawson City) and British Columbia (stopping in ???) back to the US. My buddy Phil is having his change of command on August 5th in Port Angeles, WA and I want to make it back for that.
August - completing what I'll call "unfinished business" in Washington. I've really come to appreciate all that the Northwest and Washington in particular have to offer, especially in outdoor recreation. There are some trips I've had my eye on for some time but haven't yet gotten to for one reason or another. I actually have a bigger wish list than I'll likely have time for, but it includes:
Luna Peak in the remote and rugged Pickett Range
The North Cascades National Park classic Sahale Peak
5 day loop thru the Quinault Valley and Skyline Ridge (the last big part of ONP that I have yet to visit)
And then whatever else I can fit in - Mt. St Helens, sailing, Torment/Forbidden Traverse (if I can get a climbing partner!), Mariners games, Three Fingers Lookout, Enchantment Basin (if I can get a permit!)
Sept 6 to 22 - I'll pick up Mom in Portland, OR. She's always wanted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from the Redwoods to San Francisco, so that's what we'll do. With a stop in Crater Lake National Park and continuing past San Fran to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Death Valley National Parks. We'll have time to visit one of my favorite breweries and the "best preserved ghost town in California" before we meet up with Chel in Las Vegas and they fly home together a few days later on the comped tickets I win from throwing craps like a boss.
Late Sept to Oct ??? - This is where the itinerary gets really loose again. I have plans for lots of sights and National Parks but no timeline. I could use a road buddy if anyone wants to come along. Was thinking about a route that included: Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon (North Rim only) National Parks, the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, NM, Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Parks, the Johnson Space Center in Houston (huge space nerd), Gulf Islands National Seashore, New Orleans, Nashville, TN (yes I like country music), and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
Whew! That's it. Thanks for sticking with me. I'm pretty excited about the upcoming trip and have a tendency to get long winded about it. It really is the chance of a lifetime and I'm very fortunate to be in a place where I can make this happen.
Stay tuned for more posts. Again - comments, suggestions, and road buddy volunteers appreciated.