Elmo & Rachael do the Royal Basin

14 08 2015

 Andres was able to join Rachael and me for a quick overnighter to the Royal Basin. We did the 7 mile hike in, set up camp, then hiked a mile or so to the upper tarn to do some recon for future trips. The Olympics did not disappoint with more amazing views & stunning scenery.

This is what happens when you try and take a nice picture of your friends…..

A & R Royal Basin

 Rachael hiking towards the upper tarn.

Rachael Royal Basin

Rae Royal Basin

 

Upper Tarn.

upper tarn

Andres hiking above upper tarn

mtns

Andres testing his rock climbing skills on chunky choss.

rock climbing

Andres above upper tarn

Deer were pretty abundant in the area. Mom with twins.

deer & twins

 

 

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The High Divide with Rachael

13 08 2015

The High Divide is a gorgeous 18 mile loop in the Olympic National Park that starts (and ends) in a lush rainforest full of gigantic trees that seem large enough to build a tiny house in, then rises to high alpine tundra with spectacular views of the Seven Lakes Basin & Mt. Olympus. Although the loop can easily be hiked in a day, spending a few days backpacking there exploring the lakes & soaking in the amazing views is definitely the way to do it. I haven’t spent anytime backpacking in the Lower 48, so when Rachael invited me on this trip I jumped at the chance to see her & check out some new territory. With temperatures in the mid 80’s it was slightly warm for this Alaskan girl, but I managed 🙂

 Sol Duc Falls.

sol duc falls

 Our first camp was Deer Lake. Sunset, ginormous trees, & of course, the Mid.

sunset mid deer lake

Another beautiful, sunny morning in the Olympics.

trees deer lake

Rae high divide1

We decided to take a long lunch break, siesta, & swim at the Seven Lakes Basin. The Basin is the premiere camping spot on the High Divide Loop, but fills up quickly. We planned this trip months ago & weren’t able to secure a site there. The lakes are pretty cold (as you would suspect any high alpine lake to be), but a perfect way to cool off from the heat 🙂

Rachael descending into the Seven Lakes Basin.

Rae above 7 lakes basin

View of Round Lake.

7 lakes basin view

Rachael soaking in another amazing view of the Basin.

R lunch lake

Wildlife was abundant! I felt like I was in the Disneyland of animals & gorgeous views! We saw black bears, mountain goats, & tons of deer.

deer hd

R HD

Rachael high divide

We took the very short side trip & climbed Mt. Bogachiel. Well worth the 360 degree spectacular views!

Descending back down to the trail we found these guys…..

mountain goats

mountain goat

Rachael looking back to the Seven Lakes Basin.

Rachael 7 lakes basin

Rachael fulfilling her promise to pump water for me at Sol Duc Park 🙂

pumping water Sol Duc Park

Rachael & me.

R & me HD

We finished the loop & headed over to Olympic Hot Springs for one last perfect night out, ending our amazing trip with a soak in the hot springs.

Morning sun shining through the trees at Olympic Hot Springs!

trees olympic hot springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





East Fork Chulitna-Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

18 06 2015

I’m not sure why, but every time we start these trips, we try and avoid getting our feet wet at all costs, knowing full well it’s just a matter of time (and usually sooner than later) that our feet will be soaked. In the first 1/4 mile we ran into a large puddle/pond in the four wheel trail and bushwhacked around it. This was the first (and really only) bushwhack of the first day….Less than 20 minutes later our feet were soaked for the duration of the trip.

After going through bushwhack hell on the last trip using the Hardage Creek Route, we decided to take the northern route this time-we’ve seen great reports of little bushwhacking and decided to give it a try.

Beautiful views of Denali and the Alaska Range. Another amazing, sunny, warm weekend in Alaska.denali view beginning

After we left the easiness of the four-wheeler trails, we found some great high alpine game trails.

Boone hiking up towards the pass.

boone hiking

Jeff & Sarah climbing towards the pass.

sarah & jeff hiking

After reaching the pass, we looked at the map. Previous packrafters had taken the ridge left (headed slightly farther upriver), descended towards the creek, then made another pass before getting to the East Fork Chulitna near Crooked Creek. The East Fork Chulitna seemed so close! We decided to roll the dice & try our own route, knowing quite well the odds were greatly against us. Crazy thing is we succeeded 🙂 By doing this, we probably cut 3 miles off the hiking portion of the trip and only sacrificed about 1/2 mile of floating. We decided to stay high, traversing the ridge right.

Boone & Kasey.

 kasey and boone hiking

We started descending the nose & found a good place to take a break and fuel up before what we thought potentially could be a long bushwhack to the river. Here’s the view looking up river to Crooked Creek area. Once we descended to the valley floor, we wound up hiking in the general direction of up river, ending about 1/2 mile below the confluence of Crooked Creek.

checking maps

View down river & faintly the Alaska Range.

 group view of valley

We managed to find a route down, all tundra hiking. From the top we scouted several treeless areas & headed towards the first one. We easily linked up open areas with animal trails through the trees. It was definitely not a bushwhack. We even found a large downed tree to cross the creek on.

Sarah heading down the nose.

   sarah hiking down

Camp! I love Alaskan summers! I took this at 10:30 pm.

camp

Our put-in to the East Fork Chulitna.

yak

The first few miles of the paddle went smoothly. Fun, Class 2. Splashy. I’ve done this paddle before and loved it. The two canyons were challenging and the rest was pure easy fun. I led the paddle into the first canyon-a Class 3/3+ canyon. After making the first few rapids, I made a costly mistake-I got to close to a boulder, got high sided, from which I couldn’t recover and went for the swim of my life. I’m not sure if it was complacency  or just the littlest/giant mistake. Going into that rapid, I thought I had it. There wasn’t even a question in my mind. Now, instantly, I knew I was in pretty big trouble. There are few small eddies in the canyon, mostly rock walls, and I had 3 big drops to go & probably 125 yards till the river calmed back down to a fast Class 2.

I managed to hang on to my raft and my paddle, trying desperately to right my raft & when eddies appeared swimming desperately for them. I was almost able to catch one or two before the current grabbed me & threw me into another rapid. I was being thrown into boulders & over drops, getting pushed underwater, then being able to come up for air in time for the next one. My crew was desperately trying to catch me & help, doing everything possible. At one point, Kasey got to me, but I was unable to get close enough to her to grab her boat before we got separated in a rapid. Finally, my boat got caught on a large boulder (upside down) in an impossible place in the river. Boone caught up with me at some point & I was able to grab onto him for a second before we came upon the next rapid and had to let go. I was absolutely exhausted and knew I had to keep fighting. I kept swimming with my paddle, the river tossing me around like Raggedy Ann, with my head headed straight into a boulder. I narrowly missed bashing in my skull (how I don’t know, I was suprised-Boone saw it and was trying to figure out how he was going to get me unconscious or dead out of the river.) Regretfully, I had left my helmet at home. Definitely, won’t be doing that on future trips. Finally, I dumped out of the canyon into Class 2. The river isn’t terribly deep here-knee to mid thigh-just super fast. Boone managed to get to me, with Jeff right behind him. I grabbed onto the rope on the rear of his boat and he managed (I don’t know how) to get us to shore-NOT in an eddy (He said it was like dragging 3 boats). He jumped out of his boat, grabbed me with one hand & his boat with the other hand. I was so exhausted I couldn’t walk. I laid on shore breathing hard & exhausted-happy to be alive.

My hands were frozen-screaming barfie style, but the rest of me was relatively warm & dry. I felt like I had been through Fight Club-exhausted, my legs were so beat up-deeply bruised muscles, with visible ones on the surface (some bigger than my hand), as well as some good gashes. But I was ok. I did get a hole in my brand new Stowaway Tough drysuit by Alpacka-although, I truly believe this would have happened in my regular Kokatat drysuit as well. My long underwear was also ripped and I had a gash in my knee where the drysuit was ripped. I stayed pretty dry despite the hole. In the end, my pack broke the Packtach rope in half from the water pressure & floated downstream. Boone was able to jump in his boat & grab it. The pack coming off knocked the boat off the boulder into an eddy. Kasey & Sarah had managed to eddy out and grab it. Also, it happened to be one of the fewer parts of the canyon they could hike out of-so they packed up everything & hiked out to us.  I was so happy to see them.

Since I was to exhausted to boat the second canyon, (and the big class 3/4) rap, we had to hike around it (maybe 1 or 1 1/2 miles). I mean bushwhack. It was the hardest hike ever due to my legs being completely sore & beat up. My muscles barely wanted to put one foot in front of the other, much less with a pack & climbing over hills.  Thankfully, my crew grabbed my boat, paddle & pfd to take some weight off my back. Sometime after the big rapid, we managed to hike down to the river & paddle the rest of the trip. The rest of the float is a fun, splashy Class 2 all the way back to the highway. Although, I tried to enjoy the rest of the paddle, and definitely had some good moments, it just wasn’t the same for me. We got back to the car a few hours later than we expected due to the swim, and ended up getting “stuck” in Talkeetna, due to the Sockeye fire in Willow. It was 80F and a good place to chill out, relax, & reflect over a few beers on the banks of the Talkeetna River with the sun setting over Denali.
sunset denali talkeetna





Curry to Clear Creek, Third Time’s a Charm

4 06 2015

Denali train

Kasey and I changed our weekend plans, deciding Friday night to packraft Curry to Clear Creek. Saturday afternoon we were packed & on the Hurricane train out of Talkeetna. It was 80 degrees, blue skies, and our first packraft of the season.The train ended up being very, very late so we didn’t start our 15 mile hike until 3 pm.

denali

We couldn’t complain about the scenery 🙂 Pretty amazing views of Denali and the Alaska Range the whole way. At 80 degrees, it was sweltering outside (especially for early June!). There was still plenty of pockets of snow on the atv trail and I was able to make a little turban on top of my head with my bandana, with snow inside of it. I looked ridiculous, but felt great 🙂

kasey alaska range view

The powerline at the end of the atv trail. We realized/learned a few things on this trip. Doing this early season significantly reduces the schwack. There is a trail of sorts that is mostly under the powerline (it gets overgrown, and sometimes it’s easy to lose, but WORTH looking for). There are parts under the powerline that have been clear cut, with ankle size stumps and branches left. Again, early season makes this so much easier to see all the hazards.

powerline

Kasey at the ridge. We had very few mosquitos up until this point. The mosquitos had been mostly hanging out in the drainages. We were hoping for more of the same on the ridge or a slight breeze to keep them away. We didn’t get that lucky. They were pretty heinous on the ridge. Just hatching and blood thirsty 😦

on the ridge

Another stunning view of Denali and the Alaska Range.

sunset denali

I didn’t imagine it possible. Kasey and I found a way down from the ridge with no bushwhacking through alders. Just ferns & plants. Easiest hike I’ve ever done on this trip. I never thought I’d say that. The ferns, near the river, last time we did this trip were 6-7 feet tall. It was interesting going through them in bear country…..

kasey ferns

Getting boats packed up at the put in to Clear Creek! Water levels were slightly higher, making it super fun, sporty, & splashy! It’s always a fun float, but this time with the water level slightly high, it was even better……

Kasey @ put in

Take out on the Talkeetna River.

take out talkeetna river





Snowbird to Bomber

11 09 2014

I love Hatcher’s Pass-especially in the fall. The colors were perfect last weekend when Becca, Evan, and I set out to backpack Snowbird Glacier to Bomber Glacier and out Reed Lakes. Although I’ve been to both the Bomber and Snowbird a few times, I’ve never done the link between the two. I was excited that Becca & Evan were on the same page.

It was lightly raining when we left the truck, which eventually turned into a more steady rain with low clouds. We arrived at the Snowbird Hut to find some of my co-workers and their friends staying there as well. As night came, the clouds started to lift, and the tops of the surrounding mountains emerged.

The tarn below the Snowbird Hut with Alpenglow on the peaks in back.

view of lake

A few minutes later, 180 degrees from the last image, we were treated to an amazing (but quick) sunset over Snowbird Glacier.

sunset glacier

Evan & Becca at the start of our descent from the Snowbird Hut. We were all smiles until we realized it froze the night before & the talus field was a icy nightmare 🙂

Becca & Evan

Evan at the bottom of the talus field below the Snowbird Hut on the way to Bomber. Hatcher’s Pass has no shortage of talus fields and this trip was no exception. In fact, we took a detour and hiked up and down an extra one because we like them so much 🙂

boulder field

Evan taking a look at the valley we were descending into.

Evan

We enjoyed amazing amounts of fresh blueberries! While the low bush blueberries were past their prime, the high bush blueberries were perfect! Even Shiloh (their pup) thought so.

The fall colors were perfect.

becca evan shiloh

Although the sun was shining, it was definitely crisp outside. I was hoping to wear shorts one more time…..but happy it’s almost ski season!

fall c olors

river

Becca, walking up the glacier. It’s pretty wild to stumble across so many parts of the plane strewn across the much of the glacier. Some parts of the plane, dozens of feet apart, are still connected to each other by wires.Becca Glacier

wing mountain

bomber 2

bomber 3

bomber4

After we made the descent down the monster talus field  to Upper Reed Lake, Becca announced she was so glad to be done with boulder fields. I then realized she had never hiked to Reed Lakes…….I tried to, as delicately as possible, tell her we still had one more talus field.  There was a very sad look on her face. I think she found some solace in the fact that it is the easiest & smallest one of the trip. We had an amazing, beautiful weekend in the Talkeetnas!





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





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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