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November 05, 2010

1,000 Americans: Willie of Stikine River Ranch, British Columbia



By Harry Kikstra
11/05/2010

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20080908-Willy_Williams-_Stikine_River_ranch-_MG_0735 Willie is one of those people that can fill a documentary all by himself. We arrived late, uninvited but were welcome and spent hours talking about his history, present and future. We talk about the history of the Tahltan people and the fights with the other first nations.

We verbally travelled with him from the horror stories of the missionaries taking the First Nation children away to religious experiences of his friends, fights about lands and property, to sharing very personal stories and advice about love and life. He lets us sleep in the first house he built, filled with more memories.

Besides being the host for a yearly three-day gospel music festival at his ranch, Willie organizes horseback riding trips through the wilderness of the nearby provincial parks: Stikine River, Spatsizi Plateau, and Mount Edizia. Every trip is different and some clients come back regularly.

Willie showed us a book from a German photographer about the area and almost completely shot during the trips he guided. No website, no email. “How do you get your clients?” I asked him. “I don’t know, somehow people seem to find me," he replied.

More than a week later we would meet Willie again, in Smithers where we also met his wonderful wife Grace.

To make it a bit easier to get a special adventure that might just change your outlook on life, call Willie or Grace Williams in British Columbia at 250-771-4301. Trips can take anything from a few hours to a few weeks.

Though Dutchman Harry Kikstra has a business background, he turned into a full-time adventurer and photographer a decade ago. He has climbed the seven summits—the highest peaks of every continent—and his website 7summits.com, where he offers information and statistics as well as fully organized expeditions, is well-known. Harry also runs a portal site for adventure cyclists called BikeTravellers, where bikers can create their own free blog. He has written four books (three English guidebooks and one Dutch). His photo-blog ExposedPlanet has received many positive reviews, and his photos have been published all over the world, including in National Geographic Adventure U.S., Panorama & Penthouse NL, Outdoor Australia, Getaway South Africa, Reader's Digest, and many more. Since summer 2008, Harry has been busy cycling from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the other end of the Americas at Ushuaia, Argentina, passing through all the countries on the continents. During this three-year-long trip (more than 20,000 miles) he is collecting portraits and stories of "1,000 Americans," some of which have been published on his blog WorldonaBike next to his other stories and collections of thousands of images from his travels. Some of the people portrayed in the 1,000 Americans series reflect time spent, whether it be many days or just a few seconds. Some told him their life stories, others just stared quietly. Some are famous, most are just "regular" people, but all are special in their own ways. Since these images were taken, life has continued: some married, some became parents, some divorced, and some passed away. But it is a lasting testament to the diversity of America. Harry's pictures are for sale through ExposedPlanet.com, and after the cycling expedition has ended his moving portraits and unique stories will be published in a book. Away Travel Blog will be showcasing just a few of the diverse Americans he has come across on his journeys.


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