Art “Karts” Huseonica, 71, of Sun City, Arizona, is on an epic, record-breaking journey down the Yukon River from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea, a distance of approximately 2,020 miles or 3,251 kilometers.
It started on May 27 with a flight to Lake Bennett and plans to reach the Bering Sea on August 4.
The Star caught up with Huseonica on Thursday and asked her the obvious question: Why the trip?
“I originally chose the Yukon River because when I set a record on the Amazon River several years ago with Expedition Leader Jackie O’ Murphy from Great Britain, after completing that – we had a great time, very successful – she always wanted to go further north…she kept mentioning the yukon river, and i had loads to do, i was yo-yoing on the trail from Arizona, setting records in Death Valley and rock climbing, and then once I got around to getting really serious, she had other plans too…so I said” OK, well, I’m going to go on my own” and so that was the tilt for the Yukon River but I just got this thing because… I’m scared of getting old. I really am. Scared of getting old and to die. So I always push the limits, no matter what. That’s part of it.
“And when I get up in the morning, I have to have a plan. I need a short term plan and a long term plan. Otherwise, it’s like… going back to sleep. I need to have that excitement. This energy… it keeps me going. I think it also helps me stay young. And good for your health.”
Huseonica has its detractors.
“I also have my enemies there. It’s just like, ‘why are you going there on your own? What are you trying to prove? Set another record? You don’t need to set another record, especially at your age.
“This is the first time that someone has invited Aboriginal people to accompany them on their journey.
“I’ve always had a pretty big ego. I have never been modest. Hey, set a record. I like this. I love seeing my name in the newspaper. I love seeing my name and face on TV. So it works. »
Shipping is expected to take 60-66 days.
“Right now we’re on schedule,” Huseonica said.
“I spent several days here, busy outfitting Up North Adventures, Overland Yukon and Total North… I can’t carry everything here. It’s impossible. I already had four cargo bags and two other bags. I just can’t afford to contribute much more than that.
“The weather is looking good, maybe a bit of rain tomorrow, but I think Adam Scheck of Alcan Air can get us in. In fact, he’s out there today looking for a decent place with not too much mud where he can land me and my film crew, who are only staying 24 hours on Lake Bennet.
“It officially starts on this day, insertion day, Friday May 27. We’re going camping on Friday and I’m not going anywhere until Saturday after the film crew leaves. Because we have to shoot footage of background, we’re going to do some mock shooting – set up camp, take it down, I’m going to go out in a canoe, paddle it in a certain direction, come back, change clothes, go back up, paddle in a different direction, this kind of stuff.
There are several supply points along the way.
The plan is to arrive at the Bering Sea on August 4, return to the last village, Emmonak, and fly to Anchorage on August 7, then to Phoenix on August 10. If he survives the trip.
“My biggest challenge along the way will be the water. It’s cold. What’s 32, 33 degrees Fahrenheit? It’s one or two degrees Celsius. That’s my biggest danger. If I lose focus or do something stupid like paddling on Lake Leberge and the waves are two, three feet high and the wind is blowing why am I there I should be down because paddling in high winds, that’s just asking for trouble.
“So if I tip, I have three minutes before hypothermia sets in. My muscles are starting to cramp. My brain is racing – which is probably half way through since I’ve been doing something like this – so that’s my biggest danger. Hypothermia and just die. My joke, especially among the First Nations here, is “yes, everyone wears a life jacket, but if you roll over you’re probably going to die, and the life jacket is just a great recovery device of the body,” Huseonica shared.
“Other concerns I might have are bears – grizzly bears, black bears, any type of bear I guess. Mosquitoes torment me. I also have to be careful of my surroundings with people. Because that I have all this equipment. They see this bald white guy coming; it looks like a great opportunity.
“We had all kinds of problems when I got to the Amazon. But we also had two security guys with us, who could protect us. because we were going through the ‘red zones’ there, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil. In the red zone, there is no police, no government, everyone carries a gun , it’s just no man’s land. So I have to be careful of that. But I always have a careful approach on the highway… you’re not safe anywhere, really, but I have to be careful, because I can get robbed in town, in Phoenix, where I’m from, and life goes on, but if I get robbed here, they steal all my safety gear, all my gear, you know, it’s almost – to me I equate this to manslaughter or attempted manslaughter You are trying to kill me I take this seriously,” he said.
Huseonica explained why he decided to go solo on this trip.
“I’ve never done solo. Always climbed mountains, hikes in the desert…it was always with teams or teammates…I found myself slipping a bit due to the fact of being in teams… the problem is you bring these people in, they bring too much drama Even if it’s a single person they can’t handle things at home or people at home house can’t handle things without talking to this person every hour, seriously. And that’s no exaggeration…and it kept us from having a successful ascent. Especially on Denali. God, I’ve had so many bad. And so I come home and my wife is like ‘I’m just paying the extra money to go solo’. Stop doing that with these bands and people. They’re just pulling you down. This they were. So I kinda gave up on that.
“You have to find someone who is willing to do this kind of thing. Leaving work, leaving home, having enough money to attend – such people are rare. Really rare.
Huseonica was contacted by an Aboriginal paddler who wanted to join his expedition, and Aboriginal interest grew from there.
“It’s really exciting to have them on board, because it really brings a lot to the expedition, because I’m going to learn a lot from them, obviously. And earn the respect that people like me just don’t get here.
Huseonica said spending time with First Nations people will be special, among other aspects of the trip.
Every bend, every kilometer of the river will be different for me. It’s endless. It will always change constantly. And time too, by marrying the river, it changes the conditions of the river. Every day will be memorable, every mile will be memorable.
Huseonica expects First Nations to have an impact on the expedition.
“Individuals are going to have a huge impact on me. First, I will get to know them, their culture, the peoples and most of them have already approached me about the issues they are facing. Like Carcross, they want to build a healing center. You have so many people dying or addicted to opioids. It’s everywhere here I guess.
“I will visit their villages, their cultural centers and talk to elders there. We have already held meetings and are just getting to know the challenges they are facing. Because they want to spread the word. They feel like they’re not getting the word out. Like Cora Johns tonight. She’s going to talk about salmon. She’s very passionate about it… nobody here talks about it. It’s just pollution and overfishing.
“They want me to spread the word about the things they’re dealing with,” he added.
Huseonica is hoping to strike a deal with Netflix or Amazon for a video production, and has a producer working on it.
At the very least, he hopes to end up with top-notch production on YouTube.
He plans to use a drone.
“Most of the time I can just throw it away, just to get a visual, and especially in Alaska, in the flats, where I’m trying to figure out my route, which channel I’m going down. And the rest of the time, I’m just going to fly a few feet away from me, on my side, on my belly or on my back, because I can make it work where it just flies, follows me. I have nothing to do. I can just fix it and I can go; I can just keep paddling.
Huseonica would power the drone with solar energy.
“Overland Yukon gave me two power boxes, charging boxes and two huge solar panels. I brought a couple of mine, but these are really nice and I’m going to keep them, try to recharge – next week is going to be fun. I will have lots of sun. I will be able to keep everything well charged.
“So I have a drone, I have two smartphones, I have two Go-Pros, I have two camcorders.” Huseonica will ride the Go-Pros on her canoe.
“I can operate them remotely from my smartphone and take videos or photos. I can have them in different positions – on the side of the boat, I can have them in the water if it’s clear, just to show me the paddle and that sort of thing.
Asked about photos of him toppling over in a canoe, Huseonica said he was practicing righting himself again.
“I’m still out there tipping and training, but not in such cold water. I can’t find water that cold in Arizona.
“It’s just nice to get back into a canoe, because when you’re alone it’s impossible to get back into a canoe, so – in reversing exercises, I tip over and push the canoe and all the equipment aside.”
Huseonica maintains that if he tips over, it won’t be the end of his journey and is determined to see it through.