Dodging Boulders-The Charley River Trip

29 06 2017

Something happened which was truly amazing for Interior Alaska in the summer. By pure luck we managed almost 7.5 bug mosquito free days! Although, the last day and half of horrendous mosquitos made up for the previous victory…..

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The Charley starts at an elevation of approximately 4000 ft, dropping to 800 ft where it meets up with the Yukon. From the Three Fingers airstrip (on a tributary to the upper reaches of the Charley River) to the take out at Coal Creek it’s approximately a 125 mile float.

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Lisa dodging boulders on the tributary to the Charley.

We flew in the 3rd of June. Temps at the beginning where mid sixties during the day, dipping down to upper thirties at night. By the end, temperatures were crazy hot-soaring into the upper eighties during the day. Too hot to be in a tent at night, but to many mosquitos hatching not to be.

We had almost perfect weather everyday-but it quickly changes! Weather moves at lightning speed in the Interior. We had a few drops of rain one night, by morning our tent was bone dry. It did rain on the upper river, causing the river to go up a few inches one or two nights. But the rest of the trip the river dropped due to the heat & no rain-6 inches we were told it dropped at Gavin’s.

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Aufeis on the tributary. Lots of aufeis. We were fortunate we didn’t have to portage around any of it. Water levels looked average overall to us on both the tributary and the Charley. With lower flow on the tributary it took us almost two days to get to the Charley. When we arrived at the Charley we easily made up the time on the tributary.

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Lisa making a splash. The tributary was super fun Class 2 boulder dodging.

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Mary on one of the more technical rapids on the tributary.

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Lisa on the same rapid.

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Camping on the Charley. Endless campsites above the canyon, as well as, the lower river.

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Wildflowers were just starting to bloom! Loads of them everywhere. Lupine.

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Hiking to the B-24 bomber. We found easy hiking up 5510 Mountain from downriver of Gavin’s. Less swampy & luckily no bugs! More information on the crash: https://www.nps.gov/yuch/learn/historyculture/leon-crane-survival-story.htm

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Trees starting to reclaim the crash site.

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I had my camera safely packed away for the Class 3 canyon (and a bit beyond). I regret not bringing a waterproof camera too! The canyon was fun & full of boulders, with the first rapid and second being the more challenging. The rest of the river is Class 2/2+. Fun boulder dodging and splashiness! Right after the canyon, we had a caribou swim right in front of our boats, get on the other shore, take one whiff and hightail it back behind our boats to the other shore. Pretty awesome. Overall, we saw 4 caribou, loads of dall sheep, and crazy amounts of birds-swallows, eagles, peregrines, etc.

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I love eating good on river trips! Cashew chicken coconut curry I dehydrated at home for the trip.

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Pretty amazing sunsets that led into sunrises. EVERY NIGHT. This is 1:15 AM.

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The lower river. Pure easiness. We were surprised at how much ground we were covering since it felt like we were barely moving. 

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Wolf tracks on EVERY beach. Wasn’t lucky enough to see one though. Lots of bear track too.

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Made it to the Yukon!

We pulled out at Slaven’s Roadhouse on Coal Creek for our pickup. We weren’t sure what to expect-but it’s definitely a historical place not to miss! The National Park Service has done a great job restoring it. We lucked out and had the place to ourselves-no camping the last night-box spring mattresses & a roof over our head! Which was great cause the mosquitos were horrendous 🙂 We hiked out to the Coal Creek dredge that is in the process of being restored.

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One last amazing sunset! Yukon River, 2 AM.

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Lots of ice chunks bigger than cars line the sides of the river.

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A rainbow with the pot of gold-Slaven’s Roadhouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





The Brooks Range Trip: Part 1-Geadake Lake to Arrigetch Creek on the Alatna River

19 08 2011

The only words to describe the Brooks Range and Alatna River are amazing and stunningly beautiful. The Alatna is one of six designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Gates of the Arctic National Park, and for good reason. The Endicott mountains range from rolling hills to sharp, jagged spears and everything in between. Many are reminiscent of the southern Rockies-very unlike any other mountains in Alaska.

Dan, Boone, Kasey and I got dropped off by floatplane in bright, late afternoon sunshine (after flying through rain the whole way) on Geadake Lake, the headwaters of the Alatna, where the Alatna River starts as a trickle flowing from the southern end of the lake.

Immediately, we found a caribou rack & skull-the first of a few we came across!

Fresh snow dusted the peaks 1,000 feet up. Being the second week of August, temperatures ranged from below freezing to upper 50’s or low 60’s, and the weather jetted in and out so quickly it was hard to keep track of. During our 8 day trip we lucked out and only had 2 solid days of rain, one or two days or rain/sun, and the rest was mostly sunny.

From the lake, we hiked through tussocks for 3.5-4 miles before the river was big enough to launch our Alpacka rafts.

Along the way we were treated to caribou dancing across the tundra.

We found snow on the river bank……

Early in the afternoon, on our first river day, my boat started losing air. We found the main valve to be seperating from the raft. We had to stop every 5-10 minutes to re-inflate the boat. We set up camp early that day so we could fix my raft with Aquaseal, before we were to hit the rapids above Ram Creek. Luckily, it held. Also, the river looked like it was at an average flow, and the rapids ended up being an easy Class 2 (not the 2+/3 that the river guide suggests, maybe at a different water level they are.) The rest of the river is Class 1.

Fresh wolf tracks! We found loads and loads of wolf & bear tracks on every sandbar. These tracks are from a wolf that came through our camp overnight.

Boone leading the pack.

Kasey heading down river.

The crew.

Dan.

Rain down river. The weather moved with lightning speed up and down valley.

A short time later, blue skies.

Boone cooking dinner on a backwater channel of the Alatna, near Arrigetch Creek.

This night it dipped below freezing, and we woke up to frosty sleeping bags and some ice on the channel. From here we stashed our boats, and headed into the Arrigetch Peaks for the second part of our trip.

 To be continued………..








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