Whitehorse Daily Star

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PADDLING PRACTICE – Art ("Karts") Huseonica practices for his big adventure in the Yukon prior to arriving in the territory. The 72-year-old is attempting to set a record by paddling all the way out to the Bering Sea from Carmacks.

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NOT MADE FOR LAND – Melinda Land of Kentucky is joining Art Huseonica for part of his journey to the Bering Sea. She is planning on paddling with him from Carmacks to Dawson City.

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VETERAN PADDLER – Bruce Jobin is planning on accompanying Arts Huseonica from Carmacks to Dawson City. Jobin has participated in five Yukon River Quests.

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FULL OF COMPASSION – Myryja Friesen of Compassion Yukon is planning on paddling with Arts Huseonica to Dawson City.

72-year-old making second attempt to paddle from Yukon to the Bering Sea

72-year-old Art "Karts" Huseonica, of Sun City, Arizona, is making another attempt at an epic, record-setting journey on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea, a distance of approximately 2,020 miles, or 3,251 kilometres.

By Morris Prokop on May 30, 2023

72-year-old Art "Karts" Huseonica, of Sun City, Arizona, is making another attempt at an epic, record-setting journey on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea, a distance of approximately 2,020 miles, or 3,251 kilometres.

This time, however, he'll have company.

Veteran paddler Bruce Jobin, 44, of Whitehorse, Melinda Land, 52, of Kentucky and Myryja Friesen, 33, of Compassion Yukon will be joining him.

They'll only be going with him from Carmacks to Dawson City. Huseonica is starting from Carmacks since he made it that far last year.

Huseonica will be going solo from there, but will have some Alaskan First Nations citizens paddling with him on parts of the journey.

The Star met with the four paddlers Thursday.

Huseonica recalled his experience on the river last year.

"I've got to recover from last year when I was forced off the river at Carmacks. The RCMP was there. They found me, told me to go home. It was too dangerous. They couldn't stop me. I could have went on but if something happened, they said, it's gonna come back to bite you really bad.

"Carmacks First Nations was there telling me 'Go home. Kart. You're disrespecting the river. The river's angry, and nobody's here except you.' And so we were probably better to go home and then come back this year and try it again."

Huseonica described his plan of attack to reach the Bering Sea this time.

"What we're going to do is Saturday, go up and put in at Carmacks. The four of us got two canoes. We're going to paddle through Five Finger Rapids the first day then continue on up to Dawson City. And I'm going to drop these three folks off at Dawson City and I'm gonna spend another day there. I'm going to meet with First Nations up there. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. And then they also asked me if I'd stop at Forty Mile and help a couple of days for rebuilding there. If they can get things cranked up by the time I get there. Because of all the flooding there.

"Then I'm going to continue on out, pick up a few Alaska Native paddlers, maybe two, at the very most three, and continue on out to the Bering Sea by the end of July. And if the winds and tides are favourable, I'll go on out, sit in the Bering Sea for 30 minutes, let my GPS ping to record the fact that I'm out there, then I'll probably contract with a fisherman to come out and pick me up, tow me back in or just put me up on the back of his large fishing boat."

Huseoncia added, "The goal is still to paddle in an open canoe the entire Yukon river from one of the source lakes, which is Bennett Lake but I just have to put the caveat that it's over a two calendar year period."

Huseonica and his group planned to start May 27 from Carmacks. He expects to reach the Bering Sea by July 31.

Jobin explained why he decided to join the expedition.

"(I) met Art through a mutual friend who's paddlin' and said 'Hey, I have a friend who needs a little correction. Not too much, but make it easier on him. So met him. The way he's going about it is being respectful."

Jobin pointed out that Huseonica also asked the various Yukon First Nations for permission to do the expedition, which most people don't normally do.

"I really like paddling. And I like the water," added Jobin.

Huseonica added, "I met him last year when I stopped in Whitehorse here for a resupply. And he gave me a map and he was kind of looking at me like 'Hey, I want to come really bad.' I could see it in his face. He has a peddler's face, right? His eyes light up when you start talking about paddling."

"I wanna see you finish. I'm wanna see you get your goal," said Jobin.

"I appreciate that," replied Huseonica.

"That would be awesome," added Friesen.

Jobin had an interesting insight into paddling in the Yukon Quest and in general.

"There's the person on the street and there's the person on the river. There's two different people. For everybody.

"When you do River Quest or any paddle, people you meet on the street are different. Buddy is competent on the street, pre-race or anything. It's totally different on a river and they realize that there's three kilometres between them and everything.

"All of a sudden, that big ego becomes tiny."

When asked if he's ever seen people grow on the river, Jobin replied, "I've done it once. Only once though. Did a solo. Just like you're (Huseonica) doing."

Land explained how she got roped into the expedition.

"I followed Art online years ago, and just watched his adventures and we've kind of commented on each other's posts, but I tend to gravitate towards people that are adventurers, and I'm more of a solo person, but I just think it's really nice what he's doing. So then he invited me along.

"I grew up with an outdoors family. On Kentucky rivers. We've canoed along through there for years. We just canoed only and then I gravitated towards kayaking, and Ohio River, Cumberland River.

"My vacations are pretty much spent outside; weekends."

Huseonica added, "I knew her experience and her background and everything and I was looking for somebody with some solid experience on the water and off camping too because camping, getting onshore, setting up camp, eating, doing everything else you need to do and then breaking down camp and getting back in a canoe, that's really tough work and it's time consuming too. And I knew she had the experience doing that."

Friesen took her turn explaining why she joined in on the paddling adventure.

"He called me up because of the work I've been doing, as Compassion Yukon, to help educate and make real viable change for accessibility in the North.

"Art called me up and said, 'Hey, I like the work you're doing' and explained about his brother who has had cerebral palsy and was made to feel included in everything they did.

"So that's what we want. We want inclusivity for all and I couldn't help but take up this adventure because otherwise I wouldn't get to see parts of the Yukon that I've never seen before. And I think it's a real chance to get back out on the land and get my feet in the dirt and wet and just get back to Mother Earth and hanging out with some good people."

Huseonica said he expects each of his new mates to have a different different impact, personally or professionally. Jobin is going to be doing some route finding for the upcoming Yukon River Quest, which runs July 4-7.

"He wants to support me too, because we've been talking about this for a long time," related Huseonica.

"Melinda, it's gonna be a great experience … She's got a high stress job. I want to get her away from work, get on the river and try to forget about it for a while. She obviously likes expeditioning, something big like this, and then if things work out and we actually can tolerate each other, maybe we can do something again in the future, because I'm always looking for long term relationships as far as adventures go."

Regarding Friesen, who is differently abled, Huseonica said "My brother, Bobby died of cerebral palsy and my family always wanted accessibility and inclusivity.

"The work she was doing, I just gravitated towards that. And I wanted to get her the experience to show people like her that, 'Hey, you can go out and do stuff like this. You can get on the river.' This is an extreme adventure. It's dangerous, too. And it's just one week but it's going to be an intense focus on life, and so I need her to prove to herself and to others up here, 'Hey, she can do this.'

"Deep down I know I can do this," said Friesen. "It's just getting back into the rhythm of stuff. That's all it is."

"Of course you can," agreed Jobin. "Just keep paddling."

"At this stage of my healing, needing a group is kind of so we can all help accommodate each other and accommodate what I have to do to stay safe and healthy on the trip," expressed Friesen. "I'm pretty confident that his confidence in me is good."

Huseonica added, "I wouldn't have invited you if I wasn't confident that you could do it. I know you can. I have a sense."

Husonica was asked why he decided to come back again after an aborted first attempt to reach the Bering Sea last year.

"Number one reason is I complete anything that I start, it's just ingrained in me from my family. If I start something, I'm gonna finish it. And it's been financially devastating for me; time-wise, energy-wise. But I get to come back here and do it and prove that I can do it. Because I can't just not come back. It's hanging over my head, you know, 'Finish this.'

"Yeah, it's an ego thing. In fact, my wife said, 'Don't come back until you finish it because you ain't gonna come back there again.'"

Huseonica will also be documenting their journey with drones and GoPros.

Their progress can be tracked on yukon2020.com

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