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The End of the Road

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Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman finally arrive
(Courtesy Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman)
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On Saturday, June 7 of last year, Erin McKittrick and Bretwood (Hig) Higman were just about to start walking. They were a young couple, a biologist and a geologist who had decided to walk, raft and ski -- mostly walk -- from Seattle through Canada, through Alaska, all the way to the Aleutian Islands. That weekend before they left, we asked them whether they were in their right minds, and along the way, we talked about bears and exhaustion and frostbite and the limits of the human foot. Also about the environmental issues to which they wanted to draw attention.

Bill Radke: Three-hundred eighty-five days later, Erin and Hig, congratulations.

Erin: Thank you.

Bretwood: Thank you very much.

Radke: You reached the end of the road. You're in Seldovia, Alaska now. I have a million questions. But first, it's really hard to picture 4,000 miles. How far is that?

Erin: It's really hard for us to picture 4,000 miles, and we did it. It took us a year.

Radke: I figured it out this way. It's like walking from Seattle to New York City to Orlando, Fla., and then walking all over Disney World. And, as we know, Disney World is exhausting.

Bretwood: Yes, that's where your feet would really get sore.

Erin: I think there are probably fewer bears in Disney World. More people though!

Radke: Well, for a lot of us, we dream about this and maybe fear an adventure like this. So we want to know, what did it do to your state of mind?

Erin: For one thing, you have probably more time than anybody ever has in our modern society to just think--to think about anything. And I think that's actually some of the biggest effects. It's like, what if anybody just had months to think about everything?

Hig: And actually, that was one of the biggest things that transitioned through the course of this trip. We stayed in inner-city apartments, trailers; we stayed in remote homesteads, with people who ate black bear as a major part of their diet, and it gave us an opportunity to not only talk about that, but to see all these different lifestyles. And I think we have a really different picture right now of where we want to be, in Seldovia, as it turns out, than we did when we started this trip.

Radke: What have you learned?

Erin: There's a freedom that comes with the confidence that you can figure out whatever situation you are in with whatever you happen to have. There was one incident near the very end of the trip, when we had gone down to the beach to cook some dinner and left our stuff all set up just 100 yards away, and we came back and a bear had destroyed it, completely shredded the tent, even put a dent in our credit card and passports! I think that once you're that confident that you can figure out whatever comes up, then I think we can do that in the rest of our lives too.

Radke: So when you left, you gave away your stuff and you left your home. What does home mean to the two of you now?

Bretwood: For a long time, home was that little one pound, eight-by-eight, pyramid shelter.

Erin: Yeah, people would ask where we live, and we'd say, "Oh, we live right here. That's were we live today, and we will live somewhere else tomorrow."

Bretwood: Now we're coming back actually to my hometown. I grew up here in Seldovia. It's out in the mountains by itself, and I think that's going to be our home. I don't think we are quite to the point that it's home yet, but we are getting there.

Radke: Well, Erin and Bretwood, thank you for checking in with us over the last year.

Bretwood: Oh it was really good to talk to you

Erin: Thank you. It was great.

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