A family of outdoor adventurers from Seldovia has completed its latest epic adventure. Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman – joined by four-year-old Katmai and two-year-old Lituya – hiked and packrafted more than 800 miles around the entirety of Cook Inlet.
The Higman-McKittrick family started its long journey around Cook Inlet back in March, when winter was only beginning to loosen its grip and a world of snow and ice was making way for water. The crusty edges of ice along the beaches of Kachemak Bay made a fun game for four-year-old Katmai, who raced with his dad, running along and smashing the ice into the ground.
McKittrick says that keeping the kids entertained and the traveling fun was the key to being able to cover such a great distance with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.
"They had a great time," she said. "Because a four-year-old was our limiting factor, we designed a trip that was pretty much ideal for a four-year-old. He got to relax when we were paddling on the raft (and) he got to have fun on the beach."
When we last checked in with the family, they were just about to depart from Anchorage, transitioning from the populated east side of Cook Inlet to the west side.
"When you start going down the west side, pretty soon there are far more brown bears than people," she said. "A lot of really incredible coastline and waterfalls and just all of that gorgeous wilderness."
There were, of course, some people on the west side, including families of Cook Inlet setnetters, inhabitants of the village of Tyonek and workers at oil industry facilities. Higman says some of these people helped the family with its pre-arranged food supply drops along the way.
He says the most technically challenging stretch of the trip was the tidal flats at the head of the inlet. With very muddy conditions all along the Susitna delta, the family took to their two inflatable packrafts to get through most of the area. Higman says fair weather and swift tidal currents made that part of the journey less difficult than it could’ve been.
Of course, not all of the trip was sunshine and roses and the family spent more than a few days holed up in a tent. On one particularly nasty day, when McKittrick’s mother was along for part of the trip, two-year-old Lituya had to resort to doing her sundance under the rain-spattered tent.
McKittrrick says it was worth it in the end, when the family came to its end point at Cape Douglas, where Cook Inlet turns into Shelikof Strait. They arrived there on a Friday, July 12th.
"It was neat to see Kodiak in the view," she said.
Eight-hundred miles and four months around the coastline of Cook Inlet. So … what did you do on your summer vacation?