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Juneau to Poulsbo
POULSBO — Summer’s blue skies and sunshine took a break on July 23, but members of the Young family were still beaming through the afternoon rain as Benjamin Young and Brianna Shepard coasted onto the Liberty Bay shoreline.
The couple completed their 84-day journey via kayak from Juneau, Alaska to Poulsbo, pulling right up to the Young family home on the western shores of Liberty Bay.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Young, 28, a graduated from North Kitsap High School. “I’m blown away by the scale of it.”
Young wasn’t five steps from his kayak before he had a beer in hand, greeted with hugs from his family.
Young and Shepard traveled nearly 1,300 miles along the Inside Passage, a coastal route that weaves between islands and along the mainlands of Alaska, Canada, and finally Washington. The pair camped along wild shorelines and in waterside campgrounds. From time to time, they came by a town and stopped in for some ice cream and a beer.
It was the first such trip for Shepard, a Maine native, who was struck by the natural beauty of the journey from the start.
“Day one, we were paddling out and this pod of orcas came up,” she said. “They were really quite close. It was the first time I had ever seen orcas.”
She said that it was a great trip, and easier than she expected.
“It was an amazing trip,” Shepard said. “People make kayaking seem like this big impossible feat, like it’s really hard but it wasn’t actually that hard. It was rugged, but not particularly hard.”
But it wasn’t all easy.
“Rounding Cape Caution (Canada) was rough,” Shepard said. “There were huge seas, and big winds. I almost got capsized a couple of times.”
In the end, it was worth it, the pair said.
“It’s a great adventure,” Young said. “If you want to do it, you should just do it.”
Shepard added, “Do not let financing and lack of experience get in the way. Because we didn’t have either and it worked out fine.”
“It’s pretty huge, but it fits who he is,” said his mother, Karin Young. “He has these kind of instincts. He backcountry skis. He helped sail a small sailboat from Hawaii to Alaska with two other people. Next summer, he’s going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.”
Young and Shepard met while working at the Yellowstone Club in Montana.
Their journey began on April 25, when they walked onto the ferry for Juneau out of Bellingham, their kayaks on utility trailers. They were in Juneau for two or three days before they hit the water.
While kayaking along Canada’s coast, the couple couldn’t call home but they emailed their latitude and longitude. They had to wait out the weather periodically.
Was mom ever worried during the journey?
“Oh, sure,” Karin Young said. “But I’m a praying mom, so I don’t get too nervous.”
— With additional reporting by Richard Walker of the North Kitsap Herald