PHOENIX – A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step, and in the case of a man from Arizona, a 2,000 mile journey down the Yukon River in Canada begins with a single paddle.
Art Huseonica is about to embark on a solo journey that will take him from Canada to Alaska, before emptying into the Bering Sea.
Huseonica knew that when the time was right, he would face his next adventure.
“I’ve had many, many adventures in my life,” Huseonica said. “I’ve set multiple records. I’ve set records on the Arizona Trail, I’ve set a modern era record on the Amazon River. Now I’m heading up the Yukon River.
An arduous journey awaits us
At 71, the Arizona explorer is going to paddle on an icy and remote river, in a journey that he will attempt alone.
“I’m going solo this year because it’s really hard to find an expedition teammate,” Huseonica said. “It’s a dangerous expedition. It’s a long expedition, and anyone coming with me, I would have to leave their family, leave their friends for about two and a half months to do this whole 2,220 mile expedition.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the international border closure in 2020, when Huseonica first planned the trip with a partner. It again encountered delays in 2021, but Huseonica never gave up on its dream and stayed the course.
“Expectation is expecting the unexpected,” Huseonica said. “I love the excitement that comes with my adventure, and adventure is the unexpected and the challenges.”
Learning more about the land and the people is part of what Huseonica says he is most looking forward to.
Huseonica will not be alone
While he’ll be tackling this journey solo, he won’t be alone.
“There’s a lot of good that came out of it, actually, if you want to put a positive spin on it. I have several Yukon First Nations people paddling with me, and also in Alaska,” Huseonica said. “We’ll finalize those arrangements. We’ll see what my schedule is when I get into Alaska.”
Coralee Johns is among the people who will accompany Huseonica. Johns was born and raised in Whitehorse, which is located in the Yukon Territory. For the past 18 years, she has worked in the fisheries, wildlife and natural resources industry, and currently serves as the Communications Liaison Officer for the Conservation and Fisheries Council. Johns says what most people don’t know is that the Yukon River is home to one of the longest salmon runs in the world. She can’t wait to paddle with Huseonica.
“I grew up here. I never took the time to paddle, even from Whitehorse to Dawson, and I always wanted to do that,” Johns said. “So when I was approached through a family member she said we could paddle a while. Lake LaBarge, part of the Yukon River. She had mentioned we could paddle with him and talking about salmon restoration projects, and a project that I personally led and took the lead in establishing and returning the Chinook to our traditional territory at Fox Creek, I thought would be a great transition to the opportunity to share this important and invaluable knowledge.
Huseonica describes the desire to surpass oneself
“I’m afraid of getting old,” Huseonica said. “I’m afraid to sit down, I’m afraid to die. I constantly push myself when I get up in the morning. I must have something to do. I must have an adventure to look forward to.”
As it is spring and the Yukon will thaw out of the winter freeze, temperatures will range from 30 to 60 degrees. Huseonica is ready to withstand wind, rain and even snow if need be.
“My biggest challenge on this trip will be to stay safe. This is at the request of my wife, Karen,” Huseonica said. “There’s going to be a lot of bugs there. Mosquitoes, it’s going to be black bears, grizzly bears. I just have to be very careful. [The] The most dangerous aspect of shipping is water. It’s a glacier, it’s snowmelt water. It will be extremely cold, especially for the first half of the expedition. I have to pull myself together within three minutes before my body shuts down. I have to undress, put on dry clothes, make a fire, recombobulate and make sure I’m in good health to continue.”
Paddling, for Huseonica, brings peace. The Yukon will bring the unknown, as it will guide him to remote villages. It will also challenge him physically and mentally. Huseonica, however, says that once he conquers it, the Yukon will be a chapter in his book, a moment in time never to be forgotten.
Huseonica is already in Canada and is set to begin her journey on the Yukon River on May 27. He will record and document his entire journey.
Art “Karts” Huseonica
Other only on FOX Special Reports