Mon 8th Aug. Float day 1
We woke to a dry day and started preparing the rafts. This took some time as we worked out how all the stuff would be divided between the rafts. It was a good thing that we had left some stuff behind as we seemed to be piled high as we set off down river and learnt the basics of raft control from T and M. We paddled hard to avoid the trees that have fallen into the water as they are undercut by the river, they are referred to as 'sweepers' or 'widow makers'. We didn't travel far before we stopped to set up camp as we had started quite late.
FD2 Tues 9th Aug
We struck camp and went for a hike up the hills behind us. We started through Sitka spruce with deep moss and some alder undergrowth then as we moved up the slope we lost most of the Sitka and the bushy alder became predominant with blue berry, cranberries, crowberries underneath. Then the alder disappeared and we were left with the moss and stunted fruit bushes making a very soft base to walk on, and to roll down on our return. There were marmots living in miriads of holes in and around exposed areas of soft slate like rock above the trees and bushes. We stopped 3/4 of the way up for lunch and had great views up the river valley to Hunt Fork lake and beyond. Sirimon and I set off far enough ahead of the others to ensure tha we were the first to the top, well let's say that I just made it in second, may be some way behind him! It was good to get up high (880m) and be able to see over the other side of the valley to snowy peaks in the middle distance. We pulled out the laminated maps (a great idea of Tim's) and studied the peaks and valleys on either side of the river and realized for the first time how short a distance we had come! Sharp eyes (Mike's I think?) spotted a solitary caribou about a mile away on the slope of the ridge we had climbed. However we have seen little evidence, other than the odd poo and fairly old prints in the sand banks, of the bear and moose that are supposed to be around! Children must make good deterrents if they are noisy enough!
We hurried down the way we had come, the boys taking advantage of a nice scree at the top! And lots of double rolling down the soft tundra slopes before we reached the more scrubby alder and sitka and eventually back down to
FD3 Weds 10th Aug
FD4 Thurs 11th Aug
As we left camp we found that the rafters we spotted from Sirimon's Summit
We landed on a
FD5 Friday 12th Aug
A long hard days paddling. Michelle, Hannah, Megan and me in one boat. Michelle and I put in a lot of work to keep the team going and the other boat mostly in sight. We covered 25+miles with 4 stops only arriving at our camp at about 19:30.
FD6 Sat 13th Aug
It started raining as I turned in at 23:30 and rained heavily during the night and was still raining when we got up at 07:30. We needed an early start so that we could cover the last 23 miles to our pick up point where the John River joins the ........ Tents had to be packed wet and,for the first time on the trip, I was the first one packed and ready to go! We set off at 09:30. Mike, Megan, Alex and me in one boat, Tim,Michelle, Hannah and Sirimon in the other.
We paddled hard and saw Beaver, geese Sandhills cranes displaying, however missed the river otters seen by the other boat but arrived at the river junction feeling satisfied to have completed another 23+ mile day! Once both boats arrived I revealed my secret stash of cookies to celebrate the end of the 150 miles of paddling. We called on the sat phone for the jet boat to collect us only to discover that they wanted us to cross the larger and faster flowing Ekutek(?) river for our pick up so we piled back into the boats for one more hard paddle to the gravel bar on the opposite bank. Here we unloaded the rafts for the last time, pulled the plugs on the valves and started letting the air out before hearing the sound of a boat approaching for what seemed like ages. I joined the first boatload to head back the four or five miles to Bettles with Michelle, Alex, Hannah and Megan. About a mile from the airstrip we were dropped off at the riverside and loaded into a large, old, wheezy pickup truck with no suspension!
Finally back at the lodge, we eagerly looked at the menu, organized showers, and once the rearguard had arrived there was much unpacking, discussion on when our flight back to Prospect Creek might be, what alternatives might ensure I was back in Anchorage to catch my flight on Monday morning..... and a whole lot of husky puppy loving with a ride on an ATV for the three girls When the 3 oldest puppies were taken for their exercise round the village.
We fed well, some even managed to help out others who couldn't manage to finish their choc brownie sundaes... no names required, you have probably guessed!!! Then to bed in the bunkhouse ready for a flight out the next morning, weather permitting...
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