The Continuing Adventures of Eli Andersen
Posted by Ross
A Thereauvian e-mail landed in my inbox the other day from Eli Andersen, who, if you might recall, is in the middle of an epic 3 month solo kayaking journey from Alaska to Washington.
Here's what he has to say:
Dear family and friends,
I am very alive and well, currently in Wrangell, AK. As you can imagine, opportunities to communicate through the computer are hard to come by in these parts so allow me to make up for this infrequency with length and detail.
I should start somewhere near the beginning;
After Ben dropped me off at the terminal in Bellingham I eased Northward aboard the MV Columbia under brilliant open skies. For three days on the ferry I kept an eye on the map
tracking where we were and transfering the images that I've emblazed on my mind into what I could see and finally grasp on a worldly scale. I relaxed and let my emotions and thoughts simmer and swirl within my body.
Plans changed in Juneau. After meeting the friends of a friend I stayed with in town I cancelled the final leg of my ferry ticket to the town of Hoonah, and used the money to buy a pair of the rubber boots everyone here walks around in. I was happy to be able to wave bye to new friends on the dock as i started off, rather than as a stranger in a new town. So I began paddling West to Glacier Bay.
To begin with the weather held magnificently contributing to a feeling that for as much as I am out on this adventure I am being ushered into something. The very literal immersion of this experience, the moving with the water in all its authority and patience, gliding over depths i can only imagine extends back onto land where daily and nightly I'm exposed to the sounds and encounters of the creatures there. And as for the creatures, I have never before been in a more richly alive part of the world as I am now. I shared the confines of a small bay alone with a group of humpback whales bubble feeding, a feeding method by which a few circle around blowing bubbles to corrall small prey and then take turns coming up from beneath to surge into the food and blast through the waters surface. Their size and mystery caused an aweing sense of humility to pulse into me. They are creatures in the realm of the biggest and most powerful of all that has ever lived on this earth. I did not feel vulnerable that they might eat me-- they don't have any teeth. I felt something more like that they knew I was there and that they could know anything important about me, they spend their lives criss-crossing the Pacific ocean in an ancient rythym staying tuned to some purpose and sufferring the imposition of cruise ships and motorboats and silly little kayakers with amazing grace. I have seen them or heard them breathe almost every day so far.
In Glacier Bay i came face to face with a Black bear that surely outweighed me. It lumbered into my camp and was surprised to find me there. It was not after my food or a hassle. I heard it heavy stepping right near my tent one morning and i dashed outside to do I don't know what and we stared at one another for a few long seconds then it snorted and huffed raising its body up and pivoted on its hind legs to mosey back into where it came.
On my first day South I crossed 6 or 7 miles over Icy Strait, it was a beautiful day and i left early with the tide, before the wind would come up. With a sense of how long to go and the energy increase i've felt with each significant crossing I was talking to myself wildly and singing and paddling hard. There was a lot of action all around with sea lions prowling, so many eagles and other sea birds swooping around and whales underneath it all. On that day out in the middle of Icy Strait a name came to me for my kayak. I call this ooligan Open Eyes.
I am very proud of this kayak, it is just right. It has been faithfully with me through some hard times, every night i drag it up the beach or rocks and every morning I drag it back down. In it I have been capable if not all that comfortable in windy, chaotic and over-the-deck washing 3 and 4 foot seas. We have pierced swirls and eddy lines that try to change our course and have pushed against currents when i have not managed to be perceptive enough to find a helpful water vein. Slow travel builds such intimacy.
The weather has changed as it must and held me up at times i've wanted to go and other times i've been so glad to rest. There have been days without a glipse of sun or any blue and rain and coldness that come with that. It has been heavy and grey for over a week. As funny as this might sound, for me it has taken on the character of a host who upon greeting you is most gracious because they want you there, they want you to come in and be comfortable. But once they have you in with them and they have your commitment to be their guest more important to them then your comfort is that you learn to the best of your capacities what it is that might be going on in the house -- for your own good.
along with the weather and the creatures, the sense I have of being ushered owes to the great care I have received from many people along the way. Over and over I have been filled by the generosity of very good people. It has caused me to at times find myself alone on the shore crying while feelings overwhelm and wash over me, this fortune is such a wonder.
For all I have written and all I have not, I am a third of the way through. So much will change, the struggle and the beauty will continue. The coming third stands to be more desolate and unpopulated. Bigger and rougher water will likely come, along with a deeper exhuastion. I am often thinking about the people i care about and can not now be with and how i might more fully embrace the next opportunity.
thank you for allowing me to share.
in water, on land, under sky