Max Romey wants to tell stories about Alaska’s world-class trails.
But Max’s vision of trails extends beyond pathways and scenery, encompassing places, people, history, health and more. And his stories are not limited to words.
Max, a trail athlete, is an Alaskan multi-media phenom making a name for himself through his watercolor art and outdoor videography. His website has a great description:
A dyslexic Alaskan artist who found his voice through watercolors and film. Max works as an outdoor videographer all over the globe, but his true passion is being on Alaskan trails and in the community that they create.
Max has been involved in the Alaska Long Trail project, which seeks to create a continuous long trail in Alaska. He created a great video about the project that showcases his artistic ability and Alaska’s incredible scenic wonders. You can see it on the Alaska Long Trail webpage.
During Alaska Outdoor Alliance’s “Confluence AK” in October, Max was featured along with former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles and Chris Beck, Alaska Long Trail manager and former Alaska Trails Board Member, in a presentation about the project. During the presentation Max mentioned that he and some partners had done part of the Alaska Long Trail route. As the editor of both the Alaska Trails newsletter and Interior Trails Newsletter, I was curious. How much had they done? Were they planning on doing the whole thing? Were they documenting their travels?
I tracked Max down to find out more about his “ground-truthing” of the project. I quickly found out that while Max while is interested in the Alaska Long Trail project, his scope is even broader.
While Max’s current project isn’t specifically about the Alaska Long Trail, it closely parallels the spirit of the project as well as much of the geography. Max is passionate about trails and how they are more than “a way to get from place to place.” He sees trails as a way to encourage physical and mental health as well as connect people to place and history.
Max has been traveling across the globe for the past couple of years working as a videographer for Solomon and other brands. He’s seen some amazing places all over the world, but during his travels he kept thinking of home.
“There’s things in Alaska that could blow all of this out of the water.”
Then the pandemic hit, and global travel was severely curtailed. Silver lining: A perfect time to focus on home. And what more appropriate story than of the trails involved in delivering life-saving serum to Nome in 1925 during an earlier epidemic?
An idea for a project started to take form: Trailbound Alaska. Max, accompanied by others, would travel from Seward to Nome, connecting the trip as much as possible on trails. But the story wouldn’t just be about the trip. The story would be about the people, places and histories along the way such as the Mount Marathon Race in Seward, Crow Pass Trail and Raven Glacier, and former Olympian cross-country skier Holly Brooks (who now does counseling, consulting and coaching in Anchorage). Max already knows how it will finish: in Nome with Carol Seppilu and her incredible story of running and resilience.
Max’s story is still taking form. He says he will continue to collect footage through 2020 and into early 2021. He expects to start editing the video in March, when the full story will really start taking shape. As Max puts it, the story will be “Ken Burns meets Red Bull meets Reading Rainbow.”
And while Max has several brands that back him, and he’s got a few small grants for this project, for the most part it is self-funded. (You can help with the project here.) That gives Max some freedom. When he heard about the Alaska Long Trail, he knew he wanted to add that to the mix.
The Alaska Long Trail is, much like Max’s story, an idea that is still taking form. For now, the main idea is to connect Seward to Fairbanks via existing and new trails. Eventually, the idea hopes for a trail that will stretch from Southeast Alaska to the North Slope. Max especially likes the project’s emphasis on how trails can help improve physical and mental well-being.
Earlier this year, Max traveled from Seward to Girdwood via trails on the southern portion of the Alaska Long Trail, which is also the Southern Trek of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. He was joined by Lars Arneson, a GIS specialist at Kinney Engineering and top mountain running and cross-country skier. They were also joined on parts of the journey by Max’s wife, Eve, and Denali Foldager, and were supported by Eric Roberts and Lila Hobbs.
While some good trails exist along the way, some portions required some heavy-duty thrashing.
“We did not quite know what to expect and were surprised how runnable most of the trail was,” said Max, “although a few creeks, bushwhacks, and sketchy gorge crossings made it obvious why these great trails are not more used.”
Max believes his group was the first to do the Southern Trek in one go. However, he won’t be traveling all trails the rest of the way. For one thing, trails don’t yet exist along the entire route. And Max doesn’t have time. Vaccines for COVID-19 are coming. The pandemic will be easing, and then Max will be on the road again.
Instead, Max will probably be traveling portions of the route via roads or trains. Once he gets to Nenana, though, he’ll be heading to Nome via trails, since roads and trails won’t be an option. But that’s a good thing for someone who loves trails and Alaska as much as Max.
For more on the Max’s Trailbound Alaska project, including how to stay updated and how to donate, see here.
You can also check out Max’s Instagram account about the project.
For more on Max’s involvement in the Alaska Long Trail project listen to this podcast.
For more about Max, check out these links:
- Max Romey website
- Trail Runner Magazine story about Max (Love how this starts: “Max is late…again.”)
- Outdoor Explorer podcast that includes Max
All photos for this post are from Max’s website.