Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Little Exploration in Girdwood

I still had a couple more days off after my McCarthy trip and had planned on doing laundry and being generally lazy, but the weather was good, and even better Kellie was in town and wanted to go play.

We ended up going up the Crow Pass trail a ways, and then crossing the creek and heading up a ridge on that side with the intent of taking the skyline ridge back to the top of the pass and then hit the trail and come back down...It looked very doable from where we were, although we couldn't see the whole route.

Gotta Go Down to Go Up


The red tundra, yellow grass, and blue sky made an artful scene. Kellie and I got to do some awesome side hilling, then gained the ridge and headed up.

Brilliant Fall Colors


Going Up


In the end the part we couldn't see was the part that was the most sketchy and shut us down, but it was still a super fun hike, and a cool glimpse down valleys and up mountains I hadn't seen before.

Nice Ridgeline

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Note to Self: Go up ridgeline directly across from the creek.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Nizina River and Walk Back to McCarthy

My thermarest wasn't the same after the fire on Nicoli creek the morning before, and I woke up eagerly from an uncomfortable nights sleep. I was ready to float again, the bushwhacking the day before had worn my hiking enthusiasm down.

Opportune Gravel Bar on the Nizina River


The Nizina is a smooth flowing river that has many channels. On average we were floating 8-11 mph, without paddling. It was really, really nice packrafting. Gentle with pretty views, 13 miles floated by in under 2 hours. We saw the old Nizina bridge standing decrepit and unusable except as a landmark, and pulled out. There was the option to continue the float to Chitna, but all the variables weren't lining up....

Caitlin Floating Down the Nizina


Old Nizina River Bridge


It was about a 9 mile walk back to the car from the takeout on the Nizina, but it felt so much easier than the bushwhack the day before that the miles really melted away.

Caitlin and I

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Overall an amazing trip, made rewarding by all the unknowns, tricky travel, superb mountain views, and great partner. I have lots of ideas for next year and hope to do many more trips to this part of alaska.

D.22:EG.700 TD.43.5

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nicoli Creek to the Nizina River

It was literally freezing out when we woke up, Caitlin's shoes were so frozen she couldn't even get them on. As we were packing up I decided that we needed to have a fire. It was awesome, we defrosted some key items and stayed warm while we ate breakfast. Then it was back to bushwhacking.

Awesome Tree Burl


The next 4 hours were pretty brutal. It took us 2 hours to go one mile. The conditions alongside the creek deteriorated into an unrelenting alder pit. We climbed under, over, and through so many trees, crisscrossed the stream multiple time because it always looked better everywhere else than where we were. Finally we hit the ridge and started to gain some elevation, unfortunately trees in this particular valley grow up to about 4,200ft. When both our patience levels were maxed out we finally escaped tree line, and the views made it entirely worth it.

Caitlin on the Ridge


The way we thought we were going to descend to the river looked better on the map than in reality, and so we decided to try a less bushy, shorter, and potentially steeper route, but we both thought it was worth the risk, we in reality we didn't know if the other way would let us out either. Steep cliffs line the Nizina for a quite a ways, and one local told us it was impassable...but he hadn't tried.

Our Shadows


So with a little trepidation we started to descend. There was an awesome bear trail that took us about 2,500+ feet down, then the natural features ie cliffs steered us the rest of the way. We popped out of the trees right on the river, luckily there was a small gravel bar around the corner and we stayed the night...

Just a Little More Bushwhacking

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Awesome day out, full of challenges and anticipation of the unknown, but we made it through and we were both ecstatic to not still be bushwhacking in the fading light.


Friday, September 17, 2010

National Pass to Nicoli Creek

It was a spectacularly beautiful morning, and I was glad that we had decided to camp in the pass. It was too brilliant to rush the morning, so we sat in the sun and savored the gorgeous views.

Mt. Blackburn and Donaho Peak


From the pass we followed a rock glacier about 2,000+ feet down to McCarthy creek. The sun was glorious and we took our time blowing up our boats and eating lunch.

Caitlin at the Bottom of the Rock Glacier


Neither of us really knew much about McCarthy creek other than people have packrafted it. It's a pretty low volume river, and the water levels were low because of the cool nights and dry days. It started off fast and splashy, and never really let up. We portaged a canyon section that looked fun but without helmets or throw bags could have been epic. A super worthy float that I could see doing as a sweet day trip from would have been better to not have overnight packs.

Caitlin on McCarthy Creek


We left McCarthy creek where Nicolai creek came in and walked the stream bed up until it started to canyon out. From there it was in and out of the trees, relatively slow travel, but nothing extremely unpleasant. When the sun was close to setting we left the trees for a bare patch of river bar and set up camp.

Gotta Love the Trees

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It was clear and cold, the stars were amazing with no light pollution.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

McCarthy to National Pass

Caitlin and I parked at the end of the road and proceeded to have a yard sale sized gear explosion. Now that we had an objective we could finally pack. We lucked out and caught the shuttle from McCarthy to Kennicott the last day it was running, saving ourselves a boring 5 mile road walk.

Caitlin Flattening Her Boat


Initially our idea was to head up to the Bonanza mine and gain the ridge then take that to National Pass, but when we popped above treeline we realized that we should just head up National pass directly instead. Its so cool to wander in the mountains and see old remnants of mines, it was a whole different world up here a 100 years ago.

Walking Through Kennicott


The weather was amazing. Crystal blue skies with occasional traces of whispy clouds. It was HOT outside, especially walking uphill, panties and sports bras seemed like plenty of clothing. Although those pics are pretty cute, I'm a bit to modest, and Caitlyn's were even funnier than mine : )

Mt. Blackburn and the Root and Kennicott Glaciers


When we got to the pass we debated heading down to McCarthy creek, but it was already in the shade, plus our view from the pass was amazing. So we enjoyed the last couple hours of light swatting black flies and eating dinner.

Caitlin at Our Campsite

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Caitlin saw a bear on her way to get water, it was a ways away, but as we watched he came closer and closer. We felt validated for bringing 2 cans of bear spray instead of 1. It took the bear about a 1/2 hour to traverse the mountain until he was directly above our tent. Both of us had been debating how much noise we should make or wait till it got closer to really let it know we were there. Luckily for us he headed back up the mountain instead of down to the pass where we were...definitely took a little while to fall asleep!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drive to McCarthy

Caitlyn and I had planned on doing a trip toward the end of September for at least 2 months, and I think that's why when the day came we still had lots of ideas but no real plan. The beauty of the situation though was that both of us were completely unfazed with just having ideas, maps, and lots of gear and getting out of town.

The Wrangells


The Wrangells rise above the flat land that surrounds Glenallen, and I think that makes them look even more massive because of that. This mountain range is obscured by the clouds far more often than not.


As we pulled onto the Chitna road the sun was getting close to set and we decided to get out and stretch and pull out the maps to figure out where to go. Caitlyn really wanted to spend some time in her boat, but neither of us had any solid beta about the rivers. I called my friend Raina and she told me about McCarthy Creek and a possible route over to the Nizina river. It looked pretty obvious on the map and so the intention was defined, and on we drove down the 60 mile dirt road that leads to McCarthy.

Caitlyn and the Maps

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Craige Creek Trail Loop

Ryan and I have been together for 8 years, but only recently started dating again, its a long story. This was our first date and we went for a very nice walk up on the Willow side of Hatcher Pass.

Ryan and I


I was thinking of trying a longer loop over to the Mint or Archangel valley's but due to the late start of the day it just wasn't feasible. So instead when we got to Dogsled pass we headed up the ridge lookers left and started to loop back to the car high above the valley.

Ryan Scrambling the Pointy Ridge


It was a super fun ridgeline to walk down, when we saw the wall of rain moving toward us we dropped from the ridge back to Craige creek trail and jogged out in a complete downpour. It was awesome.


Craige Creek Road

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wolverine Peak

After six days of work, I woke up pretty motivated to gets some exercise....but not to much because I was tired and it was 4pm....working nights has destroyed any biorhythm I used to have. It felt good to jog up the trail to Wolverine Peak.

Looking Down


Psyched to Be Outside

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Although I my initial intention was to take my time going up Wolverine, it just felt so good to be moving, then I was racing myself...then I talked to my sister and I was late for dinner and had even more motivation to move, fastest time of the summer.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The Backside of Flat Top

All I really wanted was a nice short hike on a nice maintained trail but when I pulled into the Glen Alps parking lot it was PACKED!! Not a single free space, I'm not a hugely patient person, and even less inclined to wait when there are many other options. So I got back in my car and went up Canyon Creek Road.



There were low lying clouds the whole way up and my optimism waned as I neared the top still in a thick cloud...but about when I had lost all hope, I saw the sun.

Randow Person's Silohette


In the Sun and Above the Clouds

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

O'Malley Peak

Although the city was blanketed by low clouds, I was optimistic that the sun was shining above town....I was almost right!

Caitlyn Above the Clouds


We went up the ridge because we thought it would be more interesting walking and better views....we were right about the walking, but those clouds were persistently low.

Caitlyn and Me


Heading Up the Ridge


We waited around at the top for the sun to come out, but it never did. Still a nice walk in the mountains with a super fun girl.

Going Back Down

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