Alaska or bust for Danny

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HE describes himself as the kayaking hobo in his blog.

Last year, Earlston’s Danny Wilks decided he’d paddle 1,100 miles from Vancouver, Canada, to Alaska, solo, after “around four days’” kayaking experience.

“I figured I would learn on the way,” he emailed this week – he is still travelling, currently learning to rockclimb and planning an assault on the Bugaboos, an alpine climbing area in Canada.

The construction worker, 36, has been travelling around Asia and North America for the last three years.

By way of explanation about the kayaking odyssey, he told us: “I’ve never done anything like this before, but always wanted a good adventure.”

Nothing in particular inspired him, though he says bushcraft guru Ray Mears is a strong influence.

He had always wanted to go to Alaska, but “flying or driving seemed to be cheating”.

Then he found out about the Inside Passage, a route along the Pacific coast of North America, through the islands between south-eastern Alaska and western British Columbia in Canada, to north-western Washington state in the USA .

And, “It just kind of happened”.

The weather was the worst in decades, said locals, but Danny relished the two-and-a-half-month trip.

“Highlights were getting to Alaska, seeing a bear, getting chased by a pack of wolves from the safety of my kayak and all the great people I met on the way.”

He had set up a blog for people he met to post on so his family at home would know that he was okay.

“My mum Catherine told me before I left not to do anything more silly than what I was (already) doing!”

He continued: “The tough bits were when my hands got really bad pins and needles in the mornings...so bad I couldn’t tie my shoelaces. I thought it would be over one week in.

“But I fixed it by sleeping with my flip flops on my hands to keep them straight – it worked wonders.

“The other tough bit was the rain – it rained really bad a lot of the way,” said Danny, whose hobbies include rugby, boxing, running, paragliding and snowboarding.

His diet was largely mussels, oysters and later salmon as he made his way along the remote coast on the solo journey.

“The plan was always to go alone, something about being alone in the wilderness appealed to me,” he has said and he refused to carry a radio or ‘spot’ device on the grounds of it being cheating.

His bear encounter happened on an island he thought too small for the dangerous foragers, but as he turned over in his hammock that night he startled a black bear two metres away sniffing for food in his camp.

It bolted and Danny went back to sleep. Later, he met a paddler, two weeks behind him, who’d encountered a grizzly on the same island.

But landing in Alaska was a rude shock as Danny had to battle with US customs who told him he needed a pleasure craft visa and he faced a fine of $5,000 for not immediately reporting to them as soon as he landed. Eventually he evaded the fine because there was no sign saying he had to report in at the dock he landed at and he was given time to leave for Canada again.

“The last three weeks on the water was tough and I didn’t want to ever see a kayak again,” Danny said, but added that the trip had changed him: “Now I believe I can do anything.”

He has posted more than two hours of footage of his journey. Scan the QR code below with your smartphone to see a teaser trailer – or visit www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zLxoZjSd0-g