East Fork Susitna

8 07 2014

Our Fourth of July trip started out car camping the night before beginning our pack raft trip on the Denali Highway. From my tent, I hear Dan ask Dylan if he smelled anything. Dylan replied “No.” Next morning, I caught a whiff of a horrible smell & noticed flies outside my tent. Dan happened to be walking by and I asked him if anything was dead outside. He replied “No, why do you ask?” A few minutes later Dan discovered a very dead porcupine out in the open between our tents! I have no clue how we missed it…..I would love to say it’s because we set our tents up at midnight the night before, but everyone knows there’s still plenty of daylight at midnight on the Fourth of July.

I finally got to finish a trip I started a few Fourth of July’s ago-packrafting the East Fork Susitna. Last time, a wall of weather led us to shorten our trip and change it midway through the first pass to Clearwater Creek (the weather to the East was significantly better). This time, we had 75f+ weather and nothing but sunshine! Dan, Dylan, and I hiked 35 miles & pack rafted 32 miles over 3 days. Although this trip can be done with a ten mile shorter hike, we ended up only driving one car, making hiking up Valdez Creek Mine road necessary. We couldn’t justify driving 2 trucks (you need four wheel drive and clearance for creek crossings on Valdez Creek Mine road) 5 hours to the put-in for 3 people…..

 

Dylan relaxing at Grogg Lake.

dylan grogg lake

Dylan & Dan hike over the first pass. There was a ton more snow than we expected from our past trip through this area to Clearwater Creek. Loads of post holing….brought back not so fond recent memories of our Puddingstone/Chickaloon trip. Also, due to recent heavy rains all the creek crossings were pretty high, with a stronger current. We stopped not long after this a short dinner break and had a herd of caribou bulls approach us. Once they came around the corner & saw us (they were 50ish feet away) they fled-I only got one crappy picture but it was super cool to witness.

first pass

Dan crossing a snowfield in the first pass. It seemed like half the snow fields were just hard enough to support us, the other half we post holed through. It wasn’t consistent with aspect, as we expected it to be.

dan snow

The amazing Mid. Best pack rafting tent ever!

mid

Dan & Dylan checking out the route from the end of the first pass. There was no shortage of snow or boulders on this trip!

dan & dylan over the pass

View from the top. Crossing yet another snow field.

over the pass

Dylan & Dan taking a break with Mt. Deborah peaking over our next pass. Boulder creek is in between.

dan dylan deborah

Dan Dylan hike

Up the last pass. Very similar looking to Hatcher’s Pass, just with caribou 🙂 I dubbed this Caribou Pass, there were tons of them up here-all mamas & babies. We saw tons of caribou, marmot, ground squirrels, and ptarmigan. Some wolf scat & a bear print, but no actual sighting of the predators.

caribou pass

A few ‘Bou.

a few bou

The East Fork Susitna is all Class I, with a Class III section in the first half. We lucked out with high water and had very little butt dragging on gravel bars.

Beautiful views as far as the eye could see! We had hot, amazing weather until the last four hours…..the wind picked up significantly, pushing us around in our little pack rafts. Fighting the headwind slowed us down to a crawl. Also, it made it impossible to see the butt dragging gravel bars slightly under water, and the river looked much more like a choppy ocean than a smooth Class 1 river. The last 15 minutes we got absolutely poured on, but on the plus side, the wind subsided :).

dan paddle

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Sable Pass-Calico Creek-Sanctuary River

3 07 2014

We got a very late start on the trip. I forgot what a hassle dealing with getting a backcountry permit in Denali & viewing videos. It took forever. We had to wait for everyone else (3 other groups) to figure out where they wanted to go first, before we could all watch the video together. Ahhh, love dealing with all the bureaucracy of the park service. We then raced to buy bus tickets and were able to jump on the 2 o’clock camper bus. A small victory. Until the bus broke down at Savage River. Delayed us for another 1 hour +. At Savage, I got attacked by sea gulls while waiting for the new bus. Of all the things that could go wrong on a packrafting trip in Denali,  I didn’t anticipate sea gulls as being a threat. I’m not a fan of birds to begin with (unless they are on my plate), and I was attacked twice! By four different birds! I think they knew I have a vendetta against birds……At Savage the two birds started dive bombing me (I was eating my sandwich), they stole it out of my hands while I was taking a bite! Even after they got my sandwich they kept coming back and trying to attack me. So far, the trip isn’t off to a good start…..

Kasey & Ryan at the beginning of the trip. Kasey is holding up five fingers, indicating we started the trip at 5 o’clock. Technically it was more like 4:45…..

5 o clock

The hassle of getting a backcountry permit was well worth it. I never get tired of the amazing views in Denali.

reflection

scenery

As we made our way up the Teklanika River, Ryan & I got attacked by sea gulls again! They dive bombed me with talons out! Ryan thought it was funny, I, not so much. The first sea gulls must have told these guys about my great sandwich……

Nice rack! Caribou skull & rack at Calico creek. The hiking was top notch. I love high tundra hiking! We saw 10-12 sheep lying down on the tundra at Calico creek. The hiking was fairly easy with breathtaking views!

Nice Rack

My tent. I love the Mid! And Alaska summers-this is at 11:30 pm!

tent

Another shot. Sun is nowhere close to being down.

tent sunset

Kasey studying the map at the pass, dropping into Sanctuary.

kasey map

We got to glissade/sled much of the way down the pass! Our butts got numb from sledding, so after awhile, Kasey & Ryan decided to use their packs as a sleds.kasey sledding

My Yak. Love, love the new big butt & whitewater spray skirt! This is the river that flows out of Refuge Valley & into the Sanctuary River. We lucked out with fantastic weather!

my yak

Kasey taking off into the Sanctuary. River levels were pretty high, but not flooding like the rivers farther east in the Park. It made for a fast float out-about 3 hours from put-in to take-out.

Kasey paddling

Kasey & Ryan. Gorgeous trip! Although, I think I only have patience to deal with the park service once a year.  🙂

kasey ryan paddle

 








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