I was so relieved to wake up to no rain and no immediate bush-whacking. Pack-rafting is super amusing to me and I was excited to get into the river. The upper Kashwitna was super mellow flowing between 4-6 mph without paddling for about the first 4 miles.
Super Mellow Boating
Then a 1 mile section of very engaging water due to a feisty gradient started. The water wasn't huge and super pushy, I was able to spot a lot of holes and rocks before I was right on top of them. But it was swift and amusement park ride like for sure!!
A Little Rapid Section
Originally we were going to take out 10 miles down the Kashwitna river and head up and over another pass to Sheep creek and float that to the car. However when we needed to make this crucial decision the mountains were coated with that thick whipped layer of clouds, the exact stuff we had spent the previous 2 days hiking in. Neither of us could rationalize how it was a good idea, and then we talked about how Sheep creek was going to be way harder than what we had just paddled and maybe we should wait to do it with more people. The pluses for bailing started to add up real quick and we made a decision to float the Kashwitna to the road.
The river got painfully slow for what felt like hours, there were ox bows like I've never seen before. I found that I like paddling closer to shore because I could really tell that I was moving. Floating with no paddling averaged 1.8-3 mph but paddling brought it up to 4-5 mph, according to the GPS.
We spotted some people on the riverbank and pulled over to say hi. Turns out we ran into probably one of the few people that have access to the river and four wheeler trails. He told us no fewer than 50 times about how his Grandpa had bought the land and he was basically the ruler in the area. He also told us that we were stupid for floating the Kashwitna and that if we didn't take out within the next mile we would come to a section that no one had ever been down and anyone who was stupid enough to try it would die. Even though this guy was completely drunk, rude and obnoxious, he still had credibility in being the owner of the lands grandson and there was a gate that only he could open. He told us it was his moral duty to give us a ride out of there. Kellie and I had a quick chat and decided that this weird twist of fate was too peculiar to ignore.
The Four Wheeler Gang
That four wheeler ride was hands down the most dangerous part of my trip. I felt straight out of a public warning commercial, and a traumatic brain injury waiting to happen. But I made it back to my car, drove about 5 miles overheated and ended the trip being towed back to Anchorage, I'm thankful I have AAA.
I'd do this trip again, but not in the same weather conditions. A fall trip when the foliage is reduced could also be good. Or just getting a drop off at the lake above sheep creek and doing it as a day trip is also appealing...
In retrospect I wish I had researched taking the Kashwitna river out to the road before the trip, all we knew about it at the time was that Roman had made side comment about no one actually finishing his route and that they bailed down the Kashwitna. But we knew nothing concrete except what the contour lines and this guy on the river bank told us. Turns out we probably missed a super fun float, but I made decisions based on the information and situation at that time, and with what I knew, I have no regrets. Live and learn, there are always more opportunities.