Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pack Rafting the Alsek - part 3

Once we hit the coast at Dry Bay we had ourselves a walk ahead of us.  Before the trip began it sounded so simple:  "just walk to Yakutat!"  But peering up the expanse of beach the prospect of plodding along a slanted beach for 45 miles seemed impossibly long; inexplicably longer than covering the same mileage through the mountains.  But there wasn't much to do about it besides start marching, still lugging our too-heavy packs.
At least we had nice waves to look at. 
The first day was pretty challenging because we got a late start due to a morning of paddling, we were carrying a fair bit of water in addition to our gear, and we had 10 or 12 miles to make to get to our next water source.  The map indicated a possible ATV track inland, but off the water the sand was soft and beyond that the alders were thick.  But as dusk approached (late, right around the Solstice in AK) and the rain finally started to fall we spied a break in the forest and indeed found an ATV track that led through the woods to not only a fresh water river but also a shed owned by a fishing guide (who showed up in the morning and was happy to see us, fortunately).

The river that was inland turned out to be great; the Akwe parallels the coast for quite a ways, and in the morning we blew up our boats and were able to paddle a dozen miles of river, all the while being able to literally hear the waves crashing just over the dune.

many years ago on the day I met Greg Hanlon he did a first descent of a big drop that he dubbed the "Aqua Elevator":

By contrast, I would call our little inland river the Akwe Moving Walkway:
Not only a fair bit of water, but there was actually current, which was hard to believe given the sounds of waves crashing a few hundred yards away.  
Also shown on a map was a cabin, and since it was again raining we harbored a little hope that it might be something more than a decrepit shed.  As it turns out, it was sweet:

Propane, wood burning stove, etc; we were stoked
Brad is as tough as they come, but even he appreciated our little backcountry palace. 
Once the Akwe finally turned and headed for the ocean, more beach walking ensued
"I enjoy camping, pack rafting, and lonnnngggg walks on the beach!"
The beach was good for the fact that we could see a long ways, because by walking inland we had the potential for bothering these guys:

That pic is not poached from the interwebs; Tim took it (with a pretty good telephoto lens).  We saw a momma with two cubs, and another bear as well.  When we saw the momma I was a little concerned about being upwind of the bear, but the Alaskan veterans said that's best; one way or the other they'll find out that you're there, and it's best to have them smell you at a distance than surprise them up close (and believeyou me, after wearing the same clothes for about 12 days, the smell zone for us was quite large).  And contrary to my belief, the theory holds that the momma will only come for you if the cubs are threatened, and as long as you are a ways away, you aren't a threat per se.  That said, I was still nervous; when I saw these bears they seemed ridiculously big; a fair percent larger than the arctic grizzes we saw a year ago.  

there were some other signs of fauna:
here doggy doggy! 
and some beautiful flora

Once we left the Akwe we had one more stretch that was devoid of fresh water that was long enough that we had to camp dry, so Gunnar offloaded some white gas weight
And then we got onto an inland bay where wew were able to walk the dogs up against the tidal current

Rest on huge logs periodically

And paddle some
Under the watchful gaze of a flock of Alaska's badass pigeons

Until we made the ferry over to a small fishing village
The village was almost completely empty, even though it was the height of fishing season; apparently that part of Alaska has had almost no salmon runs this year, even in the biggies like the Copper River.  

We rolled boats and started plodding again through the woods towards Yakutat
But soon enough a couple of nice natives with a pickup stopped to give us a ride
Perhaps an impure way to end the trip, but we were stoked:
And thus we were in Yakutat and were done.  

Once back in Anchorage my adventures weren't quite done; I was able to connect with my old friend Trip Kinney who was kind enough to lead me down the exciting and cold Six Mile "creek" (here in Utah we call that a huge river):
pic poached from the web

and Little Susitna river
Not poached; some 4th of July river visitors got a shot of me running a rapid
And a Trip-advised great mt bike ride  into some big terrain  above Seward:

And a stellar ride/run combo up Anchorage's go-to big local hike Wolverine Peak
the view back to Anchorage.
Thanks so much to Tim Kelley for having the foresight to get the permit, the patience to deal with the various bi-national bureaucracies to get us actually on the water, and to Tim, Gunnar, and Brad for being great pards on a super fun adventure. 

ps - and if you want to see some real pics by a real photographer with a real camera, here's a link to Tim's pics  

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