Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Copper River - September 2020

After a great fly-in trip on the Chickaloon, we went back to Anchorage to refuel, check emails, repack, then hit the road for Chitina. The drive was a mix of fall colors, snowy peaks, and Planet Money. At the river the winds were blowing sand into our eyes as we loaded our boats and tucked the car behind a sad bunch of trees.

There were seals (and a few dipnetters) in Wood Canyon as we zipped thru. The water in the canyon was flat, but the eddy lines were strong, and it was impressive to see the river piling into the rock walls and spinning off 50 foot whirlpools. 

Even with the headwind and low flows we made an easy six miles in the first hour. As we exited the canyon, the winds died down, the country opened up around us, and we leaned back to look around.

The mountains rose above as we floated down the river. I've never seen 8,000 feet of relief from a river before.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Chickaloon River - September 2020

Saturday started as a beautiful, crisp, and clear fall day waiting for Mike Meekin at his airstrip above the Matanuska Valley. Around noon he was back and chatting our ears off as we loaded our backpacks into his 185 for the flight to the pass between the Chickaloon and Talkeetna drainages.

The ground fell away as we lifted off and banked north. Covered in the burnt colors of fall, the Talkeetna Mountains rose around us.

We flew past the jagged monolith of Mount Monarch covered in a white blanket by snow showers the night before.

After Monarch we crossed the colorful landscape of Chitna Pass, and then were over the Chickaloon River and looking towards its namesake glacier. Years ago we tried to go skiing up there. The terrain is great, the snowpack can be less so.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Gulkana River - June 2020

For my birthday the last couple of years Mary has given the present of a car shuttle. Last year she drove the Subie from Coldfoot back to Fairbanks, and this year she agreed to meet us at Sourdough for the shuttle up to Paxson Lake. 

First we had to get there. After working Thursday we rushed to load the car, pick up Zahalial's canoe, load the canoe, and reload the canoe. Then Emily drove as my non-weight bearing left foot still couldn't operate the clutch pedal - thanks Emily! Around 1:00 AM we rolled into the campground, found Mary's tent, and curled up in the solstice light.

In the morning Mary made cinnamon-chocolate chip-buckwheat-birthday pancakes and four humans and four dogs loaded up for the shuttle north.

The loons were calling on the lake as we loaded up the boats and pushed into the calm gray waters reflecting the cloudy skies.  

The paddle across the lake wasn't actually the slog I'd expected and before long we were sliding into the accelerating current of the river. We stopped at the old trapper's cabin for little prospecting and fishing. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wells Creeks - 8.22.2020

After hearing from Cam about the aquamarine water, engaging paddling, and hero hiking of Wells Creek, we were itching to check it out. So, after a nice warm-up on the Bull, we headed north for the Denali Highway. At the Nenana crossing we were greeted by the local porter - with attention to detail, enthusiasm for the job, and good people skills he quickly had us ready to put in.

Across the river we waved goodbye to our new friend, repacked our bags, ate grape-sized blueberries, and found the ATV trail to nirvana. A couple miles later and we were above the valley floor and looking down on the unreal blue water of Wells Creek.

In the front of us the huge peaks that make up the headwaters of the Nenana and Yanert rose of into the clouds in the distance.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Bull River to Ohio Creek - June 2019

Updated 8/24/2020 to include another great day on the Bull.

On June 8th and 9th 2019, Connor, Rey, Jordan and I returned to the Bull. The plan had been the East Fork of Chulitna, but word from Brad M. was too much snow. He recommended instead linking up the Bull with Ohio Creek.

At Pass Creek we left a shuttle before continuing to the usual trailhead at the Middle Fork Chulitna bridge. The ATV trail to the Bull was covered in prints from moose, momma bears, baby bears, and a pair of Salomon Speedcross running shoes. Sections were a bit swampy:

This May was a wet and cold one, green-up was just starting at Broad Pass.

Rey says that Broad Pass is the weekend packrafting Shangri-La: reasonable access from Anchorage, easy trails, lots of water, and killer views.