Monday, June 22, 2015

Sheep Creek Packraft - 6.7.2015

I've wanted to do the Sheep Creek fly-in trip for a while now. But, making it happen has been a challenge. We had planned on doing it the previous weekend, but at the 3 PM the day before the pilot discovered that Crossover Lake was still frozen.

Peering into the Kashwhitna River headwaters.

We spent the rest of the day hemming and hawing between options, eventually deciding on to float from Curry Whistlestop followed by the Redgate section on Willow Creek.

Yay, not frozen!

The next week brought cool temperatures and rain to Southcentral. When Cody landed on Crossover Lake on Friday it was 34 degrees and raining. 
Are we going to fit on that little lake?

Fortunately, by the time we arrived at Alaska Bush Floatplane Service summer had returned. More shocking, we were on time despite the dire warnings from the floatplane service that we would be late, and that, like all rafters, we would HAVE to explode in their parking lot.

The flight was awesome, including views into the heart of the Talkeetnas, of past work projects, and of future ski zones.

Minutes later, with our gear sitting on the bank, the floatplane was gone.

The 1.5 hour hike down to the Creek found us following meandering game trails thru the tundra.

Followed by an almost disappointingly easy bushwhack.

Which brought us to an absolutely spectacular cottonwood forest filled with fairies.

Before we arrived at the beautiful blue-green water of Sheep Creek.

And we were off, starting with 4 miles of splashy water.

Photo: Zack Fields

Then four mellow miles.

Photo: Zack Fields

Which included beach lounging...

...and the accidental deployment of my bear spray voluntarily. Very very spicy stuffy. Happily relieved to have survived that:

Photo: Zack Fields

Saving the best for last, we finished with 13 great miles of almost continuous Class 3.

Photo: Zack Fields

Except it wasn't the end. We decided to forgo the "standard" takeout for a more "efficient" option. Obviously, this option involved braided channels, no trespassing signs, bushwhacking, and a suspicious camouflaged compound in the woods. This goes down as the most memorable and best $75 I've ever spent!

Note: On 6/18/2017 I went back with Leah, Tarah, and Max. We drove to and parked just short of the gate on Amundsen Ave located at (62.0400, -149.97062). From there we drove our shuttle vehicle to the Float Plane Serivce. This time they were sticklers about the 750 lb weight limit and made the four of us split into two flights making the trip more expensive. The Willow Creek Streamgage was at 650 cfs. At that water level there was some dragging and the rapids were mellow. All flagging had been removed from the ATV trail at the takeout. Back at the car at 10 PM there was a weirdo taking pictures of my car and telling us that we had parked illegally on a private drive. The drive is not private, and it is legal to park on the side of it.

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