Monday, January 30, 2017

Clear Creek (Chunilna) Packraft - June 2016

Clear Creek came with high expectations: a fun train ride out of Talkeetna, a hike with views of the Alaska Range, a campsite on the tundra, an exciting float back to Talkeetna, and big hype. Back on a June weekend we decided to check it out. By early Saturday afternoon we were on the train and headed north.

Tundra cruising on Saturday.

Previous rides on the train have been delayed by moose and the associated requisite halting and reversing of tons of steel. Fortunately, no moose were sited and we were on the ground in Curry relatively quickly.

After a short delay to retrieve a runaway bearspray we were past the gravel pit and thrashing thru alders onto the ATV trail.

The trail provided a sense of direction, but no break from the bushwhacking as we thrashed upward thru the green tunnel.

We were all relieved to reach brushline where we expected to find views of the Alaska Range and cruiser walking.

Unfortunately, the Alaska Range was socked in clouds, for those who want to check this trip out clear views would definitely make this more worthwhile.

A few fast miles brought us to the intertie powerline which we would follow almost to the put in.

Along with the intertie came the constant reminder of civilization: the endless humming of electricity above our heads and a brushed path under it.

I'm not sure whether 8 miles of walking thru trimmed alder pungee sticks along the intertie was better or worse than bushwhacking.

The question might be worse or even worse. A positive way to describe this section would be "character building"

As the interie began to descend the ridge towards Clear Creek we picked a campsite above a pond. The campsite was lovely: soft tundra, beautiful evening views of the Talkeetna Moutains, and a supply of water!

In the morning we packed up from our lovely campsite and picked thru a few more miles of pungee goodness.

Once immediately above the creek we dropped down towards it.

Descending, we linked meadows of ferns and cottonwood glades.

The descent was quite painless with no devils club and minimal bushwhacking. Apparently others have not been so fortunate.

At the creek we inflated our boats on a gravel bar, and transitioned to floating. Apparently this gravel bar was not present the last time Justin did this trip. I imagine another foot of water would make the river a different, more exciting animal.

I don't have particularly strong memories of the float, which means it wasn't too mind-numbling flat nor very exciting.

Generally it was a series of short class II and III drops followed by pools.

However, the water was an absolutely beautiful and a perfectly clear blue. I'm sure this would be awesome when the salmon are running.

There was also one nice, big rapid that Andalyn actually managed to go airborne off of. Go Andalyn!

Before long the creek transitioned to splashy class II before mellowing out to class I as it neared the Talkeetna.

Like all accessible big rivers during fishing season, the Talkeetna had a good collection of rednecks and children without life jackets to watch as we cruised back into Talkeetna.

Would I recommend this trip? If you are looking for an overnight packraft near Talkeetna with awesome tundra hiking, views of the Alaska Range, exciting water, and great camping then do the Jack River via Caribou Lakes at high water. If you struggle to remain positive against physical adversity this trip probably isn't for you. If you are an overflowing fountain of enthusiasm, this is worth doing once.

Justin's video:

1 comment:

  1. This is super random Mike! Its Mike Wussow - this post came up a few down on Google when I was Googling the Chunilna to remind myself what the rapids are designated as. We did this trip with 12 and 13ft rafts two years ago, getting dropped off via Robinson a ways above the powerlines. We had a good time, but were about a week too early for the silvers unfortunately. Anyways it was funny to see your name pop up. I am usually in Fairbanks once a summer but don't make it to Anchorage very often. We did the Koktuli in 2016, that was beautiful and remote af, crazy fishing. Zero whitewater however. Cheers!