Reinette Senum — community activist, former Nevada City mayor, filmmaker, world traveler — has done and seen more in her 40-something years than most will in an entire lifetime, and she’s just getting started.
In 1994, Senum became the first woman to cross Alaska, alone, while filming the endeavor herself for National Geographic. She also trained with the International South Pole Expedition and founded and organized the American Women’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition. She’s traveled throughout 50 countries, summiting various mountains along the way, such as Mt. Rainier, Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. McKinley. She backpacked around the world for 14 months on $10 a day, trekked across East Africa alone where she traveled for a month without money and most recently volunteered twice in the Hurricane Katrina area, rebuilding and helping with animal rescue.
Senum accomplished much of this before she decided to return to her hometown of Nevada City, where she entered into local politics, first becoming a city councilwoman and later the town’s mayor, where she was at the forefront of implementing green energy initiatives. To say she is a renaissance woman is an understatement.
Join Senum Friday and Saturday for her one-woman show, “Alaska Revisited,” as she recounts her thrilling solo journey across Alaska. Presented by Paul Emery Music, “Alaska Revisited” is the first production in Emery’s “Our Town Theatre Series” this fall, which includes Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” and “The Belle of Amherst” at the historic Nevada Theatre.
“Alaska Revisited” is told in a unique and animated presentation that features superb storytelling, historical and personal video and photos. Before embarking on her most grueling adventure, Senum commercial fished in the Alaskan Gulf as well as trained Iditarod sled dogs. Other highlights from the trek include cross-country skiing 600 miles down the frozen Yukon River while pulling a 160-pound sled in minus-55 degree temperatures, building a canoe in an Athabascan native village and paddling 900 miles after spring break-up without gun, radio or tent. Senum completed her 1,500-mile journey in four months and six days.
Call it crazy or inspiring, Senum herself, 18-years later still doesn’t quite understand what drove her to set out on and accomplish such an extraordinary feat.
“Even now, it does not make sense to me. I’ve always pushed boundaries and limitations, but I wanted to show that you can have an impact on the world,” she said.
Far from a Pollyanna story, “Alaska Revisited” is a courageous, heartfelt tale about self-discovery and the power of the human spirit. From being chased by a pack of wolves to being called “Fruit Cake” by local villagers when she went against all social norms to build a canoe by hand to finish her trip, Senum pushed her personal boundaries to finally gain some understanding of herself, her future, and her legacy.