"I'd known about the Northwest Passage since I was a teenager. I wanted to do it nearly ten years before I started.

In 1997 I [was] living in a cabin by myself up in the mountains of Colorado. That winter I was haunted by the idea. I knew that I was ready for it. So I picked up all the maps and went for it. [That summer] I threw my kayak in my truck and drove for a week to delta of the Mackenzie River [in Canada]. I started paddling west. My goal was to get at least to [Alaska's] Prudhoe Bay. If I could do that and be safe then I determined the following year I was going to go the opposite direction, all the way across, essentially completing the Northwest Passage.

It was the hardest thing I had ever done. By the time I got to Prudhoe Bay—after several days in a snowstorm, paddling in big seas—I was really wigged out and scared. It took me a couple weeks to get my courage up to commit psychologically to going the opposite direction.

I knew it would take a half dozen trips over the next two years."

—Writer-photographer Jonathan Waterman

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