Here’s the scoop…
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and, like most there, acquired a taste for custard and bratwurst at an early age. As a kid I spent a lot of time outside, exploring the woods near our house and fishing or swimming at the beach. In 1982 my parents purchased a couple hundred acres of undeveloped land in an area of western Wisconsin known as the Kickapoo Valley – unique because it is the only area of the state that was not covered with glaciers during the last ice age and as a result is much more rugged and hilly than the rest of the state. On weekends we often drove out to the land to camp out under the stars, canoe the Kickapoo River, climb on the nearby limestone bluffs, and track deer and wild turkey in the woods
Growing up I was also active in scouts and earned my Eagle Scout award when I was freshman in high school. Our troop was fairly ambitious and we managed to go camping at least one weekend per month all year long. Each summer we would spend a couple weeks at camp in northern Wisconsin or New Mexico.
As I grew older I began venturing further north in search of moose and wolves; to Chequamegon National Forest, the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, Isle Royale National Park, and Canada.
In the fall of ’93 I began studying at Carleton College, a small liberal arts school (1600 students) located in a cold Minnesotan cornfield. At Carleton I majored in visual art, played varsity basketball, and took additional courses in art history, south Asian studies, environmental science and anthropology. During my junior year I spent four months in Nepal on a study abroad program where I learned to speak Nepali, lived with a local family, trekked in the Himalaya (to 18,500 ft. and Everest Base Camp), and spent countless hours looking for the elusive yeti…
Over the summers I returned to northern New Mexico to work as a wilderness instructor at Philmont Scout Ranch, leading groups of students on 12-24 day backpacking trips in the Sangre de Christo mountains. At that time I also began exploring more of the west, including two trips to Alaska and numerous spring backpacking trips to the canyons of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. In the summer of ’96 after finishing work at Philmont I flew to Anchorage and spent the next six weeks driving from Alaska to Carleton by way of the Canadian Rockies, arriving just hours before the start of my first class. On second trip I traversed the Alaska Range and encountered seven grizzlies during an extended backpacking trip in Denali National Park.
These experiences were all very meaningful to me and I was beginning to feel an intimate and visceral connection to the western landscape. So when I graduated from Carleton in the spring of ’97 I immediately packed my belongings into a small trailer and began journeying west with the vague idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trial and exploring the Sierra. While many of my friends were deliberating over which medical schools to apply to, I was pouring over maps trying to decide which wilderness area I would visit first.
I have been living in Oakland for almost four years now and have divided my time between backpacking and painting, spending time with my girlfriend (Whitney) and walking my puppy (Asa). This past year, in addition to running my own small graphic/web design business, I have worked for Cal Adventures and GOAPE as a backpacking instructor. I am currently working on a large mural with a group of eighth grade students at a middle school in Oakland.
In the summer of ’99 Whitney and I spent four months hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border in southern California to Crater Lake in central Oregon (~1800 miles). Here’s a shot of Whitney and me on top of Glen Pass in the High Sierra (11,978 ft.). Click here to see other photos from the trip. That was just the beginning… On April 27th of this year I will set off on another adventure along the Pacific Crest Trail. This time I intend to walk the entire trail (2650 miles) over a period of about five months.
As for the future? I am organizing a show of recent paintings for early April, just before I leave for the Pacific Crest Trail. I hope to begin graduate school (MFA – Painting) in the fall of next year. I plan to hike the Continental Divide Trail in 2003. And I have promised myself that I will live in Alaska for at least one year of my life, if not all of ’em….
I’ve also developed a separate website for my artwork. You can view some of my paintings and photographs by visiting www.kipnuk.com. My cousin Sam, who will be maintaining this site while I am on the trail, is also an artist and has work on the site as well.
Here’s my puppy! She was actually named after Asa Lake which is located on the PCT about 25 miles north of Sonora Pass. She loves the woods and will occasionally join me on the trail this summer but first has to learn to stay away from rattlesnakes….
Also, I’m really tall (6’9″) and I don’t play basketball anymore….