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.



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!


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


Denali National Park

27 06 2013

The first time I went to Denali I was 4 years old in 1979. I had watched Sesame Street a day or two prior, on the show there was a skit where the bus driver lets a rhino and a bear on the bus. Being 4 yrs old and not really understanding the difference between reality and tv, I was very concerned when the bus we were riding in Denali National Park stopped to see a bear. I was convinced the bus driver was going to let the bear on. My mom tried to relieve my fears, but I wasn’t truly convinced until the bus was back in motion.

Julie and I were lucky enough to get invited along on Cathy & Alissa’s pro pass to photograph in the park. The weather was awesome-we are having the BEST summer ever! And surprisingly, the animals were out and about, despite the warm temps.

Sleepy bear.

sleepy bear

Dall Sheep rams near Polychrome.


Alaska Cotton at Wonder Lake.

alaska cotton wonder lake



Ewes near Toklat.

sheep polychrome

Cross Fox with Denali. She was a pretty driven hunter trying to bring home a squirrel for her kits. She relentlessly dug and dug for the squirrel (which had escaped her).


Luckily, she found another. Dinner!

fox squirrel

Curious caribou.

curious caribou

This bear kept posing for us.

cute bear

Wildflowers & Denali.

wildflowers denali

I’m so fortunate to have great friends that invite me on amazing adventures!!!

Packrafting Savage to Sanctuary Rivers, Denali National Park

27 07 2012

I was not excited about the 80% rain I saw in the forecast as I was grabbing my backpack and headed out the door. After a super cold and dreary summer, one more trip in the rain didn’t sound as appealing. Luckily, we scored and had more sun than rain, and the weather held for the most part.

All told, Dylan and I had 15 miles of backpacking up the Savage River valley on over to the Sanctuary River and a 16 mile float out. We did it in about 8.5 hours hiking and 2.5 hours of packrafting. We managed to find nice “social” trails in the first part of our hike, then great moose/game trails all the way up the valley-it made for a really easy hike. The river was running high and fast (yay! no buttdragging!), we were surprised to finish floating it so quickly.

The Savage River valley was littered with moose antlers, and the Sanctuary valley was equally littered with caribou antlers. This moose antler had been chewed on by a bear. Later, we did come across a year-ish old moose kill sight-that bear did an excellent job levelling the tundra and excavating the site. Still was enough of a deterent for us to hike around it…

Dwarf fireweed (and a whole lot of other wildflowers) were out in abundance.

Eventually the trails lead to nice gravel bars to hike up valley on. Dylan crossing over to one.

A very blond, and quite large grizzly that we came across. He sat and watched us for a while, then meandered off. 

Near the head of Savage valley. The pass is to the very right in this image, just right of the triangle peak. We opted to hike up and over the mountain cut off on the ride side of the pic, instead of the pass that was full of questionable snow and shale. We found it to be a pretty good approach. Staying high and right on this mountain made it a pretty easy hike down to the river.

The Sanctuary River.

My raft at the put-in on the Sanctuary River. The sun broke out just as we got there. Skies cleared (mostly) downstream, while a crazy rain and wind storm was on our tails chasing us (but never catching us) down valley to the park road.

Yeah, this really happened two minutes into our float. It was pretty freakin’ sweet!

Then twenty minutes later we came upon this very, very fresh kill. Probably dinner the night before for the wolves that have a den in an area closed of nearby.

Scenery along the way.

Dylan. The river was Class I, with maybe a little easy Class II thrown in. Fun and a little splashy, but nothing to technical. And crazy, beautiful, amazing scenery along the way.

A pretty sweet trip!


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