Summer is slipping away without much blogging...plenty of adventures, but the lack of electricity in my life until a couple weeks ago, made sharing stories tough. Now that I am mostly in the urban metropolis of Anchorage, the blogging shall return!
We left Denali at 5 pm and stopped for pizza a few miles down the road. It was raining. The bartender offered Joe a beer, it was difficult for him to decline. We all thought maybe we could just float for a couple hours near by? …nope, bags were packed and adventure awaited.
An hour from our cabin we dropped Joe’s car off at a bridge down the George Parks Highway and drove back up the road to an ATV trail. The rain had stopped, the blueberries were ripe, and morale was high. Margi, Joe, and I headed up the trail to tree line. An hour or so and minimal bushwhacking got us to the foot of the Talkeetna Mountains.
I had looked at these peaks countless times from the road and it was a real treat to see them up close.
With summer slipping away, we only had about three hours of walking before sunset had us looking for a camp site. In a cozy valley, with a few lights still visible passing on the highway below, we set up camp.
Two game changers for light weight trips: 1) I just invested in a new sleeping bag, the Patagonia Hybrid Bag; this thing rocks! It weighs about a pound and gets rid of the redundancy of carrying a puffy jacket and a sleeping bag. 2) Hilleberg tents are pretty light if you don’t carry the tent! We slept in the fly of my Kaitum 3 GT. We could have probably comfortably slept at least 6 people. The ‘hanger’ as we called it, was comfortable, felt just as secure as a tent, and weight about the same as my 2-person single wall.
The next day we woke up leisurely, had breakfast and pointed ourselves up hill. Sure we would be walking in the rain, we left camp in Gore-Tex. The rain immediately stopped. We hit a pass and headed up a peak at about 5800ft just as Denali and the Alaska Range came out behind us. Epic views, beautiful clouds, and an endless wild mountain range. We walked the ridge a bit with ear to ear grins. Off the other side felt separated from the highway corridor and got us squarely into the mountains. Caribou and ground squirrels abound.
We scree skied, ate berries, and hiked down to an unnamed tributary in a gorgeous valley with no name. After some water and a peanut butter sandwich we shwacked through a little bit of brush and started towards our second pass of the day. The weather held, the tundra rolled, the mountains sang.
After about two thousand feet, on top of the three thousand feet we had already done that day, we were back up high. The ridges of the Talkeetna mountains are just amazing. Great walking, open endless terrain, and mountains upon mountains. Anywhere else in the country and this would be a National Park (true of many places in AK)…
Finally we got to our destination after a long day: the river. It was 5:30pm and we had 20 miles and two class 3 canyons to go.
I think the river would have been a jazzy up beat adventure fresh, but after 15 miles and 5k of climbing to get there, we were tired. It was hard.
The water was splashy and fun, the canyon was real deal. Margi and I portaged one short section in the second canyon…low water had us worried about obstacle hazards late at night.
The final few miles were winding cold clear water in the fall colors of cottonwood and aspen. The forest took us back out of the mountains and to the road.
We headed straight for pizza, this time we accepted the bartenders offer of a beer.