Two young women from Salt Spring are spending the fall and winter solidifying preparations for a trip that will take them all the way to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska under their own arm-power next year.
Paddling North: Voices of the Inside Passage is the name of the project being mounted by Rebecca Grim and Leonie Mahlke. Set to launch from Southey Point on May 15, 2018, their epic adventure will see them paddling kayaks for 2,000 kilometres over four and a half months. Stops are planned at research centres and communities along the way to hear from the people living and working on the coast. The goal is to raise awareness of the threats to local wildlife, ecosystems and communities, and ultimately, to help reduce or prevent those threats from doing harm.
“Howling wolves, grizzly bears, soaring eagles and killer whales are becoming drowned out by increasing marine traffic and expanding industries powered by urban demands,” project material explains. “The people here, whose lives depend so directly upon nature, have become first-hand witnesses to the irreversible changes being wrought upon both their own communities and the ecosystem they are so reliant on.”
The trip started with an idea planted in 2015 in the very place where they will set forth next spring. Grim and Mahlke were at Southey Point when Grim casually mentioned that she’d like to paddle to Alaska one day. Planning for the eventuality started the very next week when Mahlke announced she would like to join that trip.
Though they have different professional backgrounds, each part of the duo is passionate about the marine environment and creating positive change in the world. Mahlke is a biologist who has worked with the Alaska Whale Foundation and Cetacea Lab in the Great Bear Rainforest during the past few years. Grim is a yoga teacher and avid hiker who designed her own tiny house. In the past year the friends have been involved in community initiatives such as forming a coastal clean-up group to collect and dispose of marine garbage (for which they received a Salty community award nomination), created a “ban the bag” campaign and participated in Pull Together rallies to support First Nations legal challenges to pipeline expansions.
T-shirt purchases supporting the trip and direct donations can be made through the website paddlingnorth.com. The website will also have more detailed routing and the names of “voices” to be interviewed as the women develop their contacts.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 15, 2017 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.