Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Moody Creek Packraft - 6.3.2017

After a dry winter in the Alaska Range (and everywhere else), spring 2017 brought persistent cool weather to Southcentral. We wanted to get onto the water, but the weather history was tricky for predicting how much water we'd find. Driving north on the Parks Highway, the plan was to make a game-time decision. Passing Honolulu Creek, it had way too much water in it, so we headed for Moody.

We dropped a bike shuttle at the Healy bridge then parked at Dragonfly Creek to begin our customary late start. Following the dry drainage was straightforward and within a mile we were on the clear ridge.

Complete with game trail highways, the ridge was a great way to gain elevation towards the plateau above. Pretty good views southwest into the foothills of the Alaska Range too.

It also had vivid folding rock patterns to check out. The quartz intrusions are neat. Alex for scale:

And without Alex - I need to get back into my copy of Roadside Geology of Alaska.

Around 4,000 feet we skirted left behind the large promontory that bulges from the edge of the plateau.

Then we climbed the last little headwall to the ridge. This upper basin had several small ongoing debris flows to check out; and what looked suspiciously like an airplane door.

The ridge was remarkably flat and covered in sheep sign. It was hard to believe there could be that many sheep in one spot until we saw one giant flock. Then another giant flock.

Sugarloaf Peak coming into view. We followed a game trail to just short of its summit before dropping over the backside and down another trail towards the creek.

Looking back towards Glitter Gulch.

The rusty yellows, oranges, and browns were one of the highlights of the hike for me.

After scrambling up Point 4784, we turned towards Sugarloaf Peak and began our descent. From the top we could look east into the headwaters of Moody Creek. Its along basin, I'd be interested in going back and putting in higher up. It wouldn't be worth following the ridge to do so, maybe people have gone in from Montana Creek?

The incredible trails continued as we contoured down. Below us a large herd of sheep frolicked on the hillside. I wonder how many generations of sheep have been frolicking there.

Looking into the long headwaters of the Moody:

Now well below Sugarloaf Peak.

A good view of how well defined the trail is.

The game highway even had an off-ramp to the put in at Moody Creek. Perhaps AKDOT can hire these trail engineers?

Immediately after putting in, the creek turned into a fun game of boulder dodging thru chocolate milk.

Alex approves.

Ice persisting well into June. Look at those huge chunks of loose rock - what a dynamic landscape!

After some confusion (by me) on whether or not this rapid needed to be scouted, and a questionable brace off a bedrock ledge I setup safety for Khalial.

Perhaps I should give pointers on bracing off of rocks.

Alex and more ice. The blues of the ice contrasted nicely with the hues of the degrading rock.

I think this is the bottom of the most sustained rapid section. Based on the Tuff Shed sized boulders in the creek, this drainage must produce some major runoff!

Portaging across the one major strainer. I'm pretty sure that scrambling along loose, steep, and slippery rocks above the strainer was just as dangerous as paddling past it.

Continuous and exciting rapids continued down the small creek until its confluence with the Healy Creek. A few minutes later we joined the Nenana and cruised to the bridge in the evening glow.

By 11 PM I was on my bike, blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival, and blissfully cranking thru the last 13 miles of the day. I would do this trip again in a second - great hiking, views, geology, and water. Complete with optional bonus-exercise-bike-shuttle.

1 comment:

  1. Back in 1974, after refurbishing an old trapper cabin at lignite, I did my first winter trip up moody creek , with my trustworthy airdale dog. We stayed at the old cabin on Moody Creek one night, and camped three others. We made the plateau, and then traversed out over and down Montana Creek, emerging near Denali Park Entrance at "Jonesville" cabins. It was epic trip, rough country, deep snow and nice to enjoy your trip thanks for posting. Jay Failing