Not long after we launched the Adventurer of the Week feature, I heard from another Northwest news organization that planned to borrow the idea.
But, once a week seems like a tall order, they said. Is it realistic to expect to find somebody each week who’s pulling off a newsworthy adventure?
As it turns out, the South Sound has no trouble rising to this challenge. The problem, as I quickly learned, wasn’t finding enough people who were doing interesting things. It was setting the bar too high.
In our first month, we found a 90-year-old Tacoma man competing at the world rowing championships, a man who ran the 93-mile Wonderland Trail in less than 19 hours, a man who swam from Tacoma to Seattle, then across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a Tacoma woman who finished second at the world triathlon championships.
Never miss a local story.
There was an Olympic athlete, a skiing hall of fame inductee, a world mountain running champ, two Mount Everest summiters, a man who climbed Mount Rainier 500 times and another who climbed it in record time.
But the intent of the feature was to also include people’s personal adventures that are inspiring and more within the realm of the attainability for us mortals. People like Craig Davidson of Gig Harbor taking a challenging bicycle tour in honor of his wife and son, both cancer survivors. Like Troy Hodge, a Puyallup principal who climbed Rainier while battling leukemia. Like Olympia’s Dave Lovely, who quit his job to explore the world by motorcycle. And like Rochester kindergarten teacher Michelle Bretherton, who explored the Arctic on a National Geographic expedition.
Clearly there’s no shortage of South Sound residents challenging themselves and inspiring the rest of us.
Two of our recent Adventurers of the Week were profiled over the summer before they completed their challenge. Logan Fitzgerald of Puyallup was about 1,000 miles into his attempt to bike across the United States. Kara Lynn Sampson of Olympia was preparing to shove off for a 60-mile Puget Sound kayak trip.
I recently caught up with both for a quick update.
THE ADVENTURE: In June, Fitzgerald, 20, set out on a bike ride from Long Beach, California, to Washington, D.C. Fitzgerald had just finished his sophomore year at the University of Washington and was taking part in the ride coordinated by his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.
The ride, called the Journey of Hope, includes regular “friendship visits” with people with disabilities. Activities include visiting water parks, wheelchair basketball, dancing and other activities.
CATCHING UP: On Aug. 13, Fitzgerald and 23 other cyclists arrived at the U.S. Capitol. The ride took nearly two months and covered more than 3,600 miles. Many memories were made along the way.
Fitzgerald enjoyed visiting small towns he figures he would never have otherwise experienced.
“Oddly enough, it (traveling by bike) made the country seem a lot smaller and more connected,” he said. “Adventures in little towns like Muleshoe, Texas, where we walked down Main Street at night and got to experience the culture and background of far off cities made the trip special to me.”
The afternoon “Friendship Visits” also won’t soon be forgotten.
Oddly enough, it (traveling by bike) made the country seem a lot smaller and more connected.
Logan Fitzgerald, cross-country cyclist
“I would show up to these Friendship Visits sometimes in a bad mood and exhausted, but would usually leave feeling rejuvenated and full of excitement,” Fitzgerald said. “There is healing power in being in an environment like that. It is tough for me to slow down and appreciate a lot of things in my life, but for them (people with disabilities) something as simple as dancing with us and us saying hi to them made their day and made their eyes light up.
“Seeing them light up created an atmosphere that was full of energy and contagious, which made me forget about being tired.”
NEXT: “My next adventure is still to be determined,” Fitzgerald said. “I am currently a junior at the University of Washington and am searching for jobs and internships for next summer.”
KARA LYNN SAMPSON
THE ADVENTURE: Despite very little kayaking experience, Sampson set out to paddle from Seattle to Boston Harbor in September. The 33-year-old Olympia resident used the 60-mile adventure to raise awareness for the Kara Lynn Foundation, an organization Sampson describes as being similar to a mini Make-A-Wish Foundation for people with epilepsy. Sampson has epilepsy and says she controls it through diet and lifestyle choices.
CATCHING UP: Sampson finished her trip Sept. 18, but her three-day voyage wasn’t without its challenges.
All went well on the first day when she logged 22 miles. But on the second day the weather started getting rough, making progress challenging.
“Fought it for about six hours, then our support boat was even having trouble,” Sampson said. “I fell in the water and was never able to warm back up, so we called it a day and got off the water.”
She said sitting on the shore freezing and waiting for the weather and currents to improve was miserable but memorable. “But we got through.”
Before the trip, Sampson was most concerned about paddling through the Tacoma Narrows, an area that’s difficult for even experienced paddlers.
The Narrows was more nerve-racking than I expected. That was rough water and horrible currents along with sideways rain and wind. When we went to go through there was a small craft advisory.
Kara Lynn Sampson, epilepsy advocate
“The Narrows was more nerve-racking than I expected,” Sampson said. “That was rough water and horrible currents along with sideways rain and wind. When we went to go through, there was a small craft advisory.”
Sampson said one of her most memorable moments was paddling past sea life.
She selected kayaking because she wanted to inspire kids with epilepsy that they can try challenging and new things despite their challenge. “I think it shows people to never discount your abilities,” Sampson said.
NEXT: Sampson plans to head to Disneyland in November to work with teens dealing with epilepsy. Nov. 2-3 is Epilepsy Awareness Day at the Southern California amusement park.
Adventurer of the Week
Send nominations for Adventurer of the Week to email@example.com.