Sunday, June 16, 2013

Alaganik Slough Adventure - 6.14.2013

With the time until I get on the boat quickly dwindling I've been jonesing to get out for some exciting adventures. Friday morning's rain didn't have me feeling particularly motivated, but with the afternoon forecast calling for improving weather I headed out after lunch for a kayak adventure on the Copper River Delta.

The previous night at the bar I'd talked to our friend Micah about a possible adventure where I'd use a car shuttle to float 20 km down the delta to the gulf, then paddle 10 km back up, then ride my bike 25 km back to my car. If I timed it right I would be able to use the outgoing tide to pull me towards the gulf and use the incoming tide to push me back upriver.

I dropped my bike at the Alaganik Slough boat ramp and drove up the road to what I hoped would be an appropriate put in.

The "marine layer" holding strong:


Eventually I found this little stream next to the road; no streams had crossed the road since I crossed the Alaganik, so I figured this would probably feed into it. Apparently its called Wrong Way Creek, go figure...


Things started out a bit slow with plenty of downed trees and shallow spots blocking the way. But, pretty soon it got deeper and faster, which I was stoked on; until I found myself pinned against a snag, immediately followed by an unceremonious flipping and a swim.
Approaching a more reasonable level for my novice kayak skills:



Reaching Mckinley Lake, I was glad to see that I was on track, and had indeed started on the right little stream in the woods.

The lake was magical, low fog hung over the lake seemingly enhancing the echoing calls of a pair of tundra swans.


With 15 km of slow water to go til the Gulf and realizing that I was already running quite late for achieving my goal of using the high tide to float back up the Alaganik, I started my paddle sprint that would last for the next 6 hours.


The high pressure finally starting to lift the clouds towards the interior:

Before long the slough started to smell quite a bit like death, which was quickly explained by examination of one of the many piles along the side:


O yummy!


These little hooligan fish actually look very entertaining to catch as they run up the river each spring, I'm looking forward to becoming a resident so that I can dip net for them!

At 5:10 I was still 10 km from the gulf and had just and hour before the tide starting going out. Basically, I had managed to get the timing perfectly wrong for my adventure. Must be why its called an adventure right?

With the tide rising towards its peak, the slough became wide, slow, and really a chore to paddle down.


I made it to the gulf by 7 PM; with shaking arms and not sure I would be able to overcome the current, I immediately turned around to fight the outgoing tide back towards my bike.


The views on the way back up were amazing and quickly helped me forgot about the soul crushing paddle:


The Sheridan Glacier:




Looking east towards the Copper River:


By 9 PM I was at my bike; 15 minutes later with my bear spray tucked in my chamoix I was spinning towards the car.


A very plump porcupine:


Almost there:


Just after 10 PM and 55 km later I made it back to the car. One of the better, wetter and more painful adventures I've been on in a while!