With paddle ruddering in the foam pile, Kim McNett surfs gracefully onto the smooth shale pebble beach. As the wave recedes, she pulls her spray deck, quickly steps ashore, and slides her slender kayak above the high tide line. She tethers her craft to a bleached driftwood log, and wanders to the white cascade that beckoned her to shore. Below the clear spring, salmon stranded by the tide splash in shallow pools, fins and tails exposed to the sun. She gulps cool fresh water, as it rinses the salt and sand from her shoes, and refills her water bottle. Ripe salmonberries and rose-hips accent the green understory of lichen-draped spruce forest beyond reach of storm tides. She takes note of the floral composition before returning to her kayak.
Kim’s explorations of wild coastlines provide her with skills, confidence, and judgement required in her role as an Alaskan sea kayak guide. During the summer of 2010, she paddled a month-long, 500 mile circumnavigation of Prince William Sound. Much of the previous winter and spring, Kim and her partner, Bjørn Olson, shaped, stitched and glued plywood into the sleek tandem kayak they would pilot. This expedition and and her extensive paddling trips in Kenai Fjords and Kachemak Bay give Kim an intimate knowledge of rugged but fragile coastal ecosystems of South Central Alaska. Kim’s close relationship with this environment inspire her to share her expertise with kayaking clients and with the school groups she leads on tide pool field trips as an Environmental Educator.
Kim is equally at home pedaling across windswept arctic expanses as she is paddling along rugged and remote Alaskan coastlines. In the winter of 2014, Kim and Bjorn rode fat bikes 1100 roadless miles across Alaska. Their five-week journey followed the Iditarod trail from its start in Knik north to Koyuk, traversed the Seward Peninsula, and continued north of the Arctic Circle to the village Kotzebue. They often pedaled 11 or 12 hours per day, then divided the daily tasks of winter living in the far north. They cooked, dried clothes, and heated their ultralight pyramid tent burning gathered wood in a two-pound titanium stove. An expedition of this scale would leave many physically and emotionally drained. Kim describes her arrival in Kotzebue as “healthier and happier than I’d ever been, with a feeling that we could go on forever.”
Kim, who modestly describes her physique as “skinny”, has discovered that “strength of body follows strength of mind”.
“I spent my childhood jumping fences, catching bugs, and ignoring the underestimations of others… I’ve tested the material I’m made of, it’s rebar.”
Kim’s focus on developing strength through self-awareness, balance and harmony shapes her outlook on wilderness adventures. Disappearing into the natural world for long periods appeals to her far more than striving for long distance or endurance records.
“I like to stop and draw the flowers, gather the mushrooms, and talk to the locals. Tangible and experiential connections to nature are my key to happiness… I prefer wilderness because you can sleep where you choose, cook on a fire, drink straight from a stream, and have encounters with wild creatures.”
The sketches and notes of her nature journals capture Kim’s personal connections to wild Alaska. A self-described “nature nerd for life”, she finds creative inspiration in these reflections. Her discoveries come to life in her artwork: realistic pen and ink illustrations, impressionistic block prints, carved bone and feather jewelry.
A tiny cabin in Homer, Alaska serves as home base for Kim and Bjørn. They embrace their “power of choice”, which includes running errands by bike and living without running water. A freezer stocked with wild salmon and berries extends summer’s bounty deep into winter . Their minimalist lifestyle affords freedom to pursue creative passions, prioritize personal goals, and plan their next grand adventures.
Kim came to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula in 2009. She values the sense of community in which the town prides itself.
“Perhaps it’s because of our remoteness and harsh climate that Alaskans tend to be especially cooperative and set superficial judgements aside for the sake of having a strong community. I’ve noticed that people up here are highly skilled, self-reliant, friendly, tougher than nails and humble about it.”
Kim serves as president for the Homer Cycling Club, a group committed to promoting bicycling in the community, establishing safe bike routes, developing mountain bike trails, and hosting fun and competitive events.
- Kim’s Nature Drawings
( Replace with new Art website?)
- Fatbike to the Arctic Journal
- Wood Stove for a Tent
- Circling the Sound by Kayak
Photos of Kim courtesy of Bjørn Olson – http://www.mjolnirofbjorn.com