Going Solo

Inside the Inside Passage



WHAT: Oceans of Uncertainty to a Sea of Revelations: One Woman’s Solo Odyssey on the Inside Passage
WHEN: 7pm Fri., Nov. 18
WHERE: Firehouse Performing Arts Center, 1314 Harris Ave.
COST: Suggested donation is $10; proceeds benefit educational and youth scholarships at the Community Boating Center
INFO: http://www.boatingcenter.org

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That’s one of the reasons why, when it came time to plan for her 1,100-plus-mile journey on the Inside Passage, she wrote out a directory of reasons she’d decided to celebrate her then-imminent 50th birthday by kayaking, solo, from Anacortes, Wash. to Skagway, Alaska. 

The short answer, she recounted, was that she wanted to, and she could. The longer response had to do with her passion for the outdoors and her longtime lust for kayaking.

“Perhaps for the first time in my life, there’s confidence and belief in myself that I can do this,” she wrote of undertaking one of the most scenic—and challenging—paddling excursions in North America. “Life is short and I don’t want to come to the end of my days feeling any sort of profound disappointment that life has passed me by.”

In the self-generated Q&A, Conrad acknowledged there’d likely be unforeseen circumstances that might dampen her enthusiasm but, thanks again to those lists, spent months planning what to bring to alleviate concern generated by family and friends (an emergency bail-out kit, a wetsuit, GPS, a satellite tracker, a VHF radio and a cell phone, among other things).

When Conrad presents “Oceans of Uncertainty to a Sea of Revelations: One Woman’s Solo Odyssey on the Inside Passage” at a fundraiser for the Community Boating Center this coming Friday, it’ll be with the hindsight of having successfully completed her journey in mind.

In addition to viewing the breathtaking photographs Conrad culled from the more than 5,000 images she shot in the summer of 2010, attendees will also be privy to stories about some of the magic moments of the adventure, as well as a few concerning the logistics, hardships and fears of being a woman alone in nature.

Recounting her worst day—which focused on her paddling 38 miles to avoid grizzly bears who’d taken up residence in more than one of her planned camping spots—Conrad says she considered it might have been the end of the line. 

“I was exhausted, wet and cold,” she says. “I was hypothermic that night, and thought I’d have to call for help. I persevered and got a grip on my mental status and did what I needed to do in terms of survival. I didn’t want it to be over, but I thought it might be because I’d made some poor choices that day.”

She rallied, and says there were way more amazing moments than frustrating ones during the rest of the adventure. She met friendly strangers along the way, spent part of the 4th of July surrounded by three pods of orcas, almost bumped into a sleeping humpback whale, paddled among icebergs and used her time in the wilderness to do some serious soul searching.

“In many ways, the trip exceeded my expectations,” Conrad says. “The sea taught me patience, and I learned to live in the moment. I found out how stubborn I can be, and learned I don’t have to be so tough or do it exactly as I planned it. Mainly, I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

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