Well, as it turned out, this summer in Alaska was not the nicest on record. But nonetheless, Sherrie and I had high hopes for some wilderness fun in the Talkeetnas . . . our goal was to do Roman Dial’s “Independent Sheep
” trip, so we had her friend Raphael help us with a car shuttle by dropping us off at the top of Hatcher Pass to start our walk . . .
Sherrie’s trip reports are probably better than mine will be . . .
Up Craigie Creek and over Dogsled Pass and over a few more passes to the upper Kashwitna River . . . all in the rain!!!
After a night in our “dry” tent, we were off again the next day, in improved weather, but still sorta dreary . . .
This particular location as we were travelling to and over Stegasaurus Pass was particularly brutal boulder navigation . . . uggh. It’s sorta hard to stay in a good mood when slipperly boulders are threatening your well being at every turn, but Sherrie and I did our best 🙂
We made it over and were ready for our “easy” drop to the Kashwitna. Too bad it wasn’t destined to be that way . . . the upper elevations with nice travel and beautiful lakes were nice, but sooned transitioned to willows . . . and then to alders . . . uggh.
In retrospect, we should have stayed high and dropped down the fall line to the river . . . but we got sucked into the drainage too low (my fault) and found ourselves navegating super steep wet alders with cliffs, saved by things like sketchy sheep trails (that forced us to take our packs off and pass them forward to get through) . . . and eventually popped into the lowlands and on to the river. We set up camp right on the game trail cuz it was the only open area in the area . . . always feels weird (and wrong!) to camp on a game trail, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do . . .
The next day we got on the Kashwitna River . . . the upper section was super fun and festive – class III “big” water . . . we’re both moderate packrafters, so this was about the upper eschelon of what Sherrie and I like to paddle . . . it was super fun though, and cool to look back and see the gradient of the river . . .
It slowed down after those first few miles, and we had some decisions to make . . . the climb to get over to Sheep Creek was going to be 1800′ uphill through wet alders to another dreary wet rainy pass that was hard to navegate, over to a class IV river that may be at flood stage . . . things were starting to feel like our original idea may not have been the best plan . . .
The only thing I really knew about the Kashwitna was that Roman’s blog said that everyone he knew that had tried this trip had bailed down the Kashwitna . . . so we figured it must go, right?!? So, down we went . . .
Just before the confluence with the N Fork, the gradient started to increase, and we made the commitment to scope things before we ran them, and to take a conservative approach to the lower section. Then, we saw humans on the side of the river, so pulled over to say hi (we’re super social). They turned out to be the local landowner and his friends, who told us we were stupid and that nobody had ever run the lower Kashwitna and survived. Although we thought there was a good chance it would be fine, his cautions, coupled with an offer to take us out on 4wheelers had us packing our bags and heading for the car with a bunch of drunk strangers . . .
In retrospect, this exit was likely more hazardous than the river would have been, but we made it out okay, and got safely back to the car in a few hours. The only bummer was that, as we were heading out to the highway, Sherrie’s car overheated and we found ourselves spending the rest of the night waiting for a towtruck and getting towed back to Anchorage!
Overall, it was an interesting trip, to be sure. The highlight was definitely getting to spend time in the wilderness with Sherrie, which is definitely one of my all-time favorite passtimes. She’s so much fun, so tough, and we have a good trip partnership . . . we’ve been through some challenging times but seem to make the best of them! Thanks Sherrie 🙂