Adventures on the Outer Coast


Wow, so a whole lot has happened since I wrote my last post! My mom and I did the “southernmost trek in the world” (Los Dientes de Navarino), then flew all the way up to the northernmost state in the Union. Back home, I finished my treehouse (because who doesn’t want a treehouse?!) and joined a scientific research ship which was performing the first-ever underwater exploration of Glacier Bay with an ROV (more on that in the blog post I wrote for NOAA). Then, having almost run out of time, I packed frantically for an epic backpacking trip with my dad, and headed out to the dock to catch our floatplane. We survived six weeks of walking, and now I’m back in my treehouse happily typing this blog post, figuring out what my summer will look like, and getting hyped for Olin!

Photo by Ellie Sharman

The hike was about 270 miles, divided into five “sections.” For four of the sections, one or two people joined us, bringing food so we never had to carry more than ten days’ worth. We’ve been building up to this six-week adventure since my dad first took me out to the Lost Coast seven years ago. Every year since then, we’ve hiked one of these “sections,” so this dynamic and remote coastline is as familiar to us as it can be to anyone. And in fact we probably are more familiar with it than anyone – in those 270 miles, we didn’t see a soul (and never do) except for the odd holdout gold miner, fisherman, or bear hunting guide. It’s quite an experience to walk for weeks and see no one’s footprints but your own.

Naturally, places like this aren’t exactly designed for humans. Trails are built and maintained by bears, wolves, and moose. Beaches vary from hard sand and easy walking to house-sized boulders that slow progress to a crawl. Rivers require packrafts, ingenuity, luck, and sometimes getting wet. Glaciers challenge hikers with fast, milky outwash streams and rocky moraines.

Where’s the trail crew when you need them?

My dad pulls my cousin out of the river during a bad crossing (yes, there’s a raft under there somewhere…). Photo by Ellie Sharman

A more mundane crossing, this one 3/4 mile and salt water. Photo by Gordon King

Dirty Ice

Crossing a glacial outwash stream

Glacial “geysers” – icy meltwater upwelling violently from underneath the glacier. Photo by Gordon King

Of course all of those things are what makes this place so special to my dad and I and a handful of other people. You never know exactly what’s ahead or what you’ll find washed up on the beach. There’s always the chance that you’ll be turned around by a swollen river or a surging glacier. And of course there’s the natural beauty – the mountains on a (rare) clear day, and the Shy Maidens or even a Devil’s Club bud sprouting out of the moss in the rain.

Photo by Ellie Sharman

A massive sperm whale jaw

These old glass Japanese fishing floats are the prize of the beaches. Large ones are especially rare.

Because we all know how expensive stainless steel hardware is…

It’s not every day that one gets to climb a defunct Cold War-era tropospheric scatter antenna.

Well, that about sums it up. Next Big Adventure: The East Coast. See you in the fall!


Posted in: Gap Year Blogs