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From Nome To Shishmaref: Trio Travels Across the Tundra

James Horner, Wilson Hoogendorn, and Oliver Hoogendorn pose for a photo in the Bering Air terminal at the Nome Airport. Photo courtesy of Oliver Hoogendorn.

Under the pale light of the Alaskan spring, three adventurers embarked on a long journey across the frozen tundra. Oliver Hoogendorn, Wilson Hoogendorn, and James Horner set out from Nome determined to walk to Shishmaref, over 100 miles to the north. Battling strong winds, freezing temperatures, and vast, snow- covered landscapes, their ten-day trek was as much a test of endurance as it was a testament to the power of friendship.

The journey was inspired by a conversation following the 2020 Nome River Raft Race. Oliver Hoogendorn recalled how the idea started.

“We had just gotten done. We were standing on the bank kind of drying off and Louie and Stacy Green came up to us like, ‘Hey, you guys do all this crazy stuff. One time we walked from Shishmaref to Nome, you guys should try it out,'” Oliver Hoogendorn said. 

James Horner was a last-minute addition to the group. 

“I was like, when would I ever do something like this? And then more importantly, I don’t know if I’d want to do it with anybody else besides Wilson and Oliver,” Horner said.

The group carefully planned their route and packed their sleds with essential supplies. They calculated the amount of food needed for their trip and packed a balance of sweet and salty snacks to sustain their energy. Anticipating the snowy tundra the group also packed skis although they ultimately found their tennis shoes were sufficient. 

Despite cold temperatures that dipped as low as -13 degrees, they mostly managed without a tent. Instead, they were able to rely on cabin owners that offered up their properties along the route. They also carried handguns for protection against wildlife, a precaution that proved useful during an unexpected encounter with a muskox herd. 

“From what we saw it was alone, and we started yelling at it.” Horner said. Oliver Hoogendorn continued telling the story, “We walked a little bit further and saw the whole herd. Now there’s this like, super small baby, and we saw the blood spot where it was born. It could barely walk. It was probably like a foot and a half tall or so.”

As they neared Shishmaref, a welcoming committee of locals appeared on the horizon to greet them. As the group got closer, they could start to see signs that read “Welcome to Shishmaref” and “Way to go Nanooks”, a reference to the Nome-Beltz High School’s recent basketball state championship win. 

Looking back, Oliver Hoogendorn wouldn’t have gone on this journey any other way.

“I’ve done stuff similar to that by myself, and it gets kind of lonely after a couple of weeks like that. It reaffirmed for me how much better it is to have good friends around you,” Oliver Hoogendorn said. 

Later this year Oliver Hoogendorn plans to finish his bike ride from the southern tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay. James Horner hopes to focus on preparing his fishing boat for the upcoming season and travel through Asia next winter. Wilson Hoogendorn is gearing up for the Iron Dog snowmachine race next winter.

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