Photo courtesy Zachary Brown vie the Juneau Empire Zachary Brown arrives at the Hobbit Hole.

Photo courtesy Zachary Brown vie the Juneau Empire Zachary Brown arrives at the Hobbit Hole.

A trip north: Gustavus scentist kayaks to Alaska

A Gustavus-grown scientist recently completed a 2,000 mile journey by foot and kayak from Stanford, California to Southeast Alaska, aiming to raise money for a science institute he plans at the Inian Islands location known as “the Hobbit Hole.”

Zach Brown, who graduated from Stanford University’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science with a Ph.D., began walking north April 25.

He started off in style: when it got to be time to set up camp his first night, he was passing through an affluent section of San Francisco. He knocked on the door of a nearby house and explained, to the woman who answered, his trek to bring awareness to the Inian Islands Institute, which its founders see as “an ecological field school like no other, bringing students for wilderness immersion courses in Southeast Alaska focused on the rich local ecology and our place within it.” He asked to camp on her lawn.

She told him no and closed the door. He moved on. Then she called the cops on him.

Most interactions along the way have been much more friendly. Brown, a self-described gregarious person, said one of the most challenging aspects of the trip was being alone for the majority of the 113 days it took him. In that way, he said, some of the trip’s most memorable moments had to do with people: The caretaker of Addenbroke Lighthouse, in British Columbia, invited him to stay for the night; two fishermen from Sitka fed him venison burgers and fresh prawns.

Along the way, he stopped at the Salmon Coast Field Station in British Columbia.

“It is a very close analogue of the Hobbit Hole: small-scale, off-the-grid, beautiful,” he said.

His two favorite parts of the trip, he said, were hiking in Redwood National Park, through old-growth redwood trees, and paying a visit to the White Sulfur Hot Springs on Chichagof Island. Over the course of the trip, he passed, in one way or another, through most of the West Coast’s coastal temperate rainforest.

The best part of the trip, however, was his arrival at his final destination.

“…The biggest highlight had to be arriving at the Hobbit Hole, the culmination of the long journey. That night, a bunch of people from Gustavus came out there in their boats and we had a wonderful party, and a rare evening of sunshine. It was surreal and magical for me,” he wrote in an email.

Now that the journey is finished, he plans more work on the Inian Islands Institute.

Brown and those he’s working with — founders include Lauren Oakes, Aaron Strong, and Lida Teneva, all Ph.D. candidates at Stanford who have done work in or relevant to Alaska — have “our website, video, logo, advisory council, business model, a fantastic Stanford course under our belts, and more courses in the pipeline for next summer,” he wrote. “But we are still looking for our “angel” to help us purchase the Hobbit Hole property before it falls into the wrong hands — that is priority number 1 for us!”

They raised about $25,000 through a fundraiser over the winter. With that money, they got a professional appraisal and did some media work, he said. But right now, they’re mainly focused on looking for their angel donor.

The property is listed for $2 million.

Brown plans to be an instructor at the institute. Over the winter, he’ll be organizing courses and visiting researchers and “generally furthering my education about the ecology and practical skills and living in this area, so that I will be as able an instructor at Inian as I can possibly be,” he said.

As he wrote on his blog about the journey’s conclusion: “Finally I gathered myself to say a few words. They might’ve been totally incoherent — something about how the trek was long, not always fun, not always safe, but it was worth every mile just for this moment. And I said something about the Hobbit Hole, and our dream to use that special homestead in the wilderness to create a public institute for education and research. And then some thank-yous, because while the trek might’ve been under my own power, I certainly wasn’t on my own out there.”

More in Life

Fresh dinner rolls made without the addition of dairy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Baking for everyone

Dinner rolls skip the dairy, but not the flavor

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: ‘Tis the Season

The Kenai Community Library has always been one of the stars in the crown of the community.

Homer News Ben Mitchell, left, serves spaghetti to helper Pat Wells in the kitchen at a past Share the Spirit spaghetti feed. (Michael Armstrong/Homer News file)
Looking to share some holiday spirit? Here’s how

Share the Spirit serves the Homer community by donating food, essential needs and Christmas presents.

Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tots to be thankful for

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son.

Minister’s Message: Keep in step

Sometimes it takes going half way around the world to learn how to “keep in step” as I journey.

Shelli and Mike Gordon pose in October 2011 at their Halibut Cove, Alaska, home in an Alaska Gothic version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. (Photo courtesy of Mike Gordon)
‘Dagnabit’ features tales of ’80s wild Alaska

Gordon’s second book also tells of Ruben Gaines, creator of Chilkoot Charlie.

Before boiling, this handmade pasta is rolled, cut and tossed in flour to keep from sticking. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Pasta by hand

Learning one of the most important task of the Italian kitchen: making the pasta.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
The Great Thanksgiving dessert debate

Our holiday gathering is going to be smaller than it sometimes is, and it was argued that we didn’t need two desserts.

Dianne Spence-Chorman’s “Fig Study” is one of the works showing in the Homer Council on the Arts “Fun wtih 5x7” show through Dec. 22, 2021, at the gallery in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Fun with 5×7’ offers affordable art

HCOA annual art show presents art in a variety of media, all in 5x7 format.

Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: In honor of ‘Cupcake Mondays’

Pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes brighten up the dreariest of work.

Nick Varney
Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Back off, Zeus

If this wet-n-warm, freeze, then start again, continues much longer, Kachemak Drive will need a complete redo.

The cover of Tom Kizzia’s book, “Cold Mountain Path,” published by Porphyry Press in October 2021. (Photo provided)
‘Cold Mountain Path’ explores ghost town history of McCarthy

Kizzia’s book looks at McCarthy history from 1938 to the town’s revival as a tourist destination.