October 24, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 43

Diapers and pack rafts: A traveling family visits town

Erin McKittrick, author of “A Long Trek Home,” and her husband Hig, visited Petersburg to talk about their expeditions across Alaska and promoted her new book “Small Feet Big Land: Adventure, Home, and Family on the Edge of Alaska.”

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot
Hig (wearing the hat) shows people the various gear his family and he uses during their treks and expeditions.

The latest book chronicles her adventures with her husband and two young children as they tour the landscape.

“Our life is somewhat made up of journeys and this book is a story of journeys,” McKittrick said. “It’s a story of some big capital J journeys up the Arctic coast and the Malaspina Glacier for a couple months and also smaller journeys, journeys towards finding our home and family and a life in Seldovia.”

McKittrick read passages from her book in the public library Saturday night as Hig presented a slideshow of photographs taken during their expeditions.

“The impending arrival of our son presented an obstacle that seemed far more formidable than any ice choked bay or miles long bushwhack,” she read.

But bushwhack she did with a toddler and an infant over distances of thousands of miles.

McKittrick and her husband began exploring long before the birth of their children, taking summers off between graduate studies to hike around Alaska. And McKittrick writes honestly about the anticipation she felt about her first pregnancy while imagining her next adventure and simultaneously facing a reality of dirty diapers and a crying baby.

“Before I ever saw our child I was already wondering how to get some time without him,” she read.

But ultimately she could not imagine leaving her son behind and so he became part of the journey and a new logistical challenge.

“The awkward diaper change by unpracticed parents in 20 degree weather went a little less smoothly,” McKittrick read.

McKittrick said before she had kids she thought they would limit her to doing “kids stuff” and that if she wanted to do “grown up stuff” she would have to hand them off to baby sitters.

“But out in the wilderness in these expeditions we could go places that almost no adults have never been and do things that are amazing and wonderful and do them as a family,” She said. “It’s just a little slower and a little awkward but it really works.”

The McKittricks also spoke about the gear they’ve used during the expeditions. They displayed their pack raft—a vessel they navigated through the Inside Passage and visited Petersburg in during 2007 when they trekked from Seattle to the western tip of the Aleutian Islands.

The family erected a floorless tent with an in-tent wood stove that heats the inside of their shelter. They also carried an electrified wire fence that surrounded their tent meant to shock bears that come too close.

The family receives gear as part of sponsorships from outfitter companies among others.

“I think we’re the only glacier expedition ever to be sponsored by a diaper company,” McKittrick said.

The McKittricks live in a yurt in Seldovia and they’ve issued a general invitation for anyone passing through to stay in their home to make up for a “hosting karmic debt” accumulated from all accommodating Alaskans who have hosted them on their travels.

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