Vail Symposium program shares stories of a 4,000-mile human-powered journey to Alaska |

Vail Symposium program shares stories of a 4,000-mile human-powered journey to Alaska

Caroline Van Hemert and her husband traveled entirely using human-powered energy: they hiked, kayaked and skied.
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What: “The Sun is a Compass: A Human-Powered Adventure Across Alaska”

When: Thursday, Feb. 6. Doors open at 5:30p.m.; program from 6 – 8 p.m.

Where: Vail Interfaith Chapel, Vail

Cost: Tickets are $10 in advance; $15 at midnight the night before the show and at the door.

More information: Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Alaska is a bucket-list destination for many. Caroline Van Hemert and her husband chose to see the state in a decidedly different way. The couple traveled 4,000 miles using only their own energy. On Thursday, Van Hemert will discuss her book about the journey and how she hiked, kayaked and skied alongside birds, bears and caribou and discovered the wonder of Alaska’s wild lands via the human-powered journey to the Arctic.

“Van Hemert’s book reads like a novel,” said Claire Noble, Vail Symposium program manager. “Her story is both intensely personal but also epic in scope. Like any good story, there are challenges and achievement woven throughout her tale. The great thing about her program on Thursday night is that she will be sharing her story, in her voice, with stunning visuals.”

During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of black-capped chickadees, ornithologist Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab and increasingly distanced from the natural world. Embracing the concept of Zugunruhe — migratory restlessness typically described in birds in springtime — she launched with her husband on a journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic.

For six months, they traveled by rowboat, ski, foot, raft and canoe across some of the most remote places left in North America. The pair survived spring storms, predatory bears and hordes of mosquitoes, while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace: a trumpeter swan bathing on an icefield, moose swimming in the Arctic Ocean and thousands of caribou on their fall migration.

During this presentation, Van Hemert will present images, film and readings from her recent book, “The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds.”

This program is presented in partnership with the Vail Public Library. For tickets and more information, visit

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