Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bull River - 6.4.2017

After doing Moody Creek the day before, we headed south for the Bull River. Our Saturday hadn't really ended until well into Sunday, so we didn't get an early start. Then a series of confrontations with campground employees further delayed things.

By early afternoon we had parked at the bridge over the Middle Fork Chulitna and were hiking west on the trail.

Looking east, I was drooling over couloirs guarded by rocky spires in the headwaters of the Chulitna and Honolulu Creek.

I don't know how often these lines are actually safe to ski. In such a cold and relatively shallow snowpack, limited further by few observations, its hard to pull the trigger and gamble on that zone. Maybe someday.

In front of us, the foothills of the Alaska Range were still holding on to a bit of snow from a thin winter.

Three miles from the car, the trail crossed a small ridge that would be a beautiful place to camp.

This ridge and other similar undulations in the landscape are old moraines from colder times past.

Just short of the Bull, we followed a tributary to the put in.

Immediately upstream of the put in was a cool gateway from the hills beyond. A quick scouting mission didn't reveal any rapids of interest, but good scenery nonetheless.

After slipping our boats into the cold, gray, glacial water, we entered the first canyon.

Choked with boulders and pinched by bedrock walls, the first canyon was a fun series of wave trains, holes, and rock dodging. I'd imagine that at higher water the flow would quickly become more powerful.

The second canyon was deeper than the first and was a mix of scenic flat water...

and sporty Class 2 plus or 3 minus.

There were many nice camp sites along this section. Although two days aren't required for this trip, it could be split up that way for those who are so inclined.

Again, another look to the east at my dream zone above the highway.

Once out of the second canyon, the valley opened up and we were joined by the West Fork of the Bull.

Though generally mellow water, the the last canyon was filled with color. Although we couldn't find them, Jeff tells me there is an outcropping of ammonites the size of dinner plates on the right wall of the canyon.

Large ice flows persisted into the summer, providing a nice contrast with the ruddy oranges and lush greens of the banks.

Another one:

Once out of the third canyon, we cruised down a few miles of fast water to the takeout. In the background of this picture you can see a nice gravel bank from when rivers flowed down different paths and deposited their load here.

We reached the takeout around 8:30 PM. At this point I was fully prepared for an epic. Who is driving north on the Parks Highway at 9:30 on Sunday night? But, low and behold, as we stepped off the trail and onto the road a car stopped for us.

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