M Thru-Hiking Alaska’s Arctic: A 1,000 Mile Solo Traverse
by Kristin Gates
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How does a 26 year-old girl from Greenwich, Connecticut end up alone in the Arctic, with hundreds of miles between her and the nearest human being and only the contents of a thirty eight pound pack to keep her alive?
It started with a day dream.
I grew up hiking in the White Mountains with my Dad. We would often find ourselves on the white blazed Appalachian Trail. My Dad would tell me how that trail ran through the mountains from Georgia all the way to Maine. The idea of hiking it got into my head and it stuck. I don't know what other kids day dream about when they are young but I day dreamed about the Appalachian Trail. I remember meeting an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker in New Hampshire when I was ten years old. I was so excited and stunned that I could not get a single word out. I just stared. Forget the people in magazines and in the movies. Forget the Spice Girls. Forget the Backstreet Boys. These thru-hikers -these people hiking the length of the entire country, they were my heroes.
I went on my first thru-hike when I was 18 years old on Vermont's Long Trail. It was my first backpacking trip, my first camping trip, and my first time out in the woods alone. I had no idea what the heck I was doing and that trail beat me to a pulp. For some reason I still headed out on the Appalachian Trail the following spring.
I went down to Georgia thinking that the hike would be the one big adventure of my life. I thought that it would completely satisfy my wanderlust and that I would reach Katahdin with some good stories and hop right back on that conveyor belt of school and work. For better or for worse, that was not the way things happened. Instead, I fell in love. I started walking and I never wanted to stop.
I have celebrated most of my birthdays since on one long distance trail or another. I turned 19 by Camel's Hump on the Long Trail, 20 at a shelter on the Appalachian Trail in New York, 21 on the top of Mt. Whitney on a side hike from the Pacific Crest Trail, and 23 while battling a snowstorm in Glacier National Park on the Continental Divide Trail. I grew up in the long distance hiking community. I learned how to navigate, ford rivers and cross snowbound passes along the way. I met good people; people who, like me, wanted desperately to live life to the fullest. Dreamers who insist on making their dreams come true.
. . .
- Becoming a Thru-Hiker
- Moving to Alaska
- The Start:
- The Yukon Border to the Road
- The Road
- Anaktuvuk Pass to Ambler
- The Kobuk
- The End
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