On July 9, 2011 6 participants gathered together in Dillingham, Alaska to launch a fly fishing expedition into the Wilderness of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Our goals were much the same as other Alaska wilderness enthusiasts who fly out in small float planes loaded with rafts and camping gear to float and fish wild Alaskan rivers. Our commitment was: "to be prepared mentally, physically, and with proper equipment to be self supporting in the wilderness". We would be dropped off at a lake beyond the tree line to navigate shallow tundra river channels, to float, fish, and camp among the notable Alaskan Brown Bears of the region. Two of the participants were especially motivated by their commitment to live the Alaska wilderness experience to the fullest! For them as each day passes their physical abilities and health are compromised by MS, Multiple Sclerosis. A third participant with a prosthetic leg, Malcolm Daly, co-led this annual Paradox Sports trip. Karen Daly and Olly Merrill and I signed on as support.
The trip fulfills an ongoing commitment shared by outdoorsmen John Merritt, Malcolm Daly, and Mark Rutherford, to make truly significant, bona fide, Alaskan wilderness expeditions accessible to significantly disabled campers. We believe that if Erik Weihenmayer, totally blind, can summit Mt. Everest and that Mark Wellman, a paraplegic, can climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, that others with disabilities will consider taking on expeditionary challenges. In this case to undertake a self propelled adventure across a vast Alaskan landscape. We undertook the first self propelled Alaska expedition with paraplegic fly fisherman Vijay Viswanathon and angler Malcolm Daly with his prosthetic leg, in 2009. In 2010 we completed a second adventure with 5 disabled participants. In 2011, to honor John Merritt's extraordinary vision we devoted the Alaska wilderness fly-fishing expedition to participants with Multiple Sclerosis. John Merritt has secondary progressive MS and his prior adventures exploring remote Alaskan fisheries are spoken of around many campfires.