All I have to say is: wow. We were more-or-less consistently shocked by how beautiful and pleasant this trip was. We had perfect weather, amazing fall colors, and super friendly river levels. This, coupled with the amazing area and my super-fun and travelling buddy, made for an unforgettable trip!
There were too many pictures, so enjoy the slide show!!! Story will continue below :-)
So, Sunday we left Kennicott at about 1pm and headed up the Root Glacier trail to the glacier access. We ran into a guy we'd met the night before who kindly steered us in the right direction, immediately crossing the Root to the "white ribbon" on the other side of the moraine. It does feel like you should walk up the Root a bit, but crossing put us on a superhighway that continued pretty much all the way up glaicer until we had to head toward Hidden Creek. Along the way, we saw super cool moulins and investigated their depths with rock throwing . . . creepy! We also got to stare at Mt. Blackburn and the big mountains, as well as Donoho - unreal beauty. We walked up the Kennicott past Hidden Creek and then took a hard left to cross to the "fos" at the glacier edge. It looked like we could get shut down any minute, but the glacier let us through pretty easily . . . no crampons needed, never wished we had them. It was a fun navegation too . . . surprises around every corner!!! Once on the "fos," a beautiful trail appeared and took us right over the ridge we needed to go over, very pleasantly through the alders, along the sidehill on the other side, and down to Hidden Creek. Oh so very nice :-) We camped pretty soon thereafter and watched the beautiful moon come up . . . what a day!
Monday we awoke to more sunshine and started up Hidden Creek. We found an airstrip and a cabin pretty shortly after starting and had fun investigating. Walking along the creek, we were following footsteps and wondered what humans we might run into . . . turned out to be Chris Walker, hunting guide, and his client with a freshly shot goat. We gathered some beta (turns out their base is on the Lakina, so Chris had travelled that route before), and were off again. The walk up Hidden Creek was incredible. Beautiful, pleasant travel, amazing colors, blue sky, and great conversation. We arrived at Hidden Pass and chilled out to take in the beauty of the other side . . . a nice lake, cool colors on the hills. Having left the Kennicott Glacier, we sorta figured the big mountain views had ended and we'd be in nice foothills instead . . . but were we ever wrong!!!! Holy smokes, we went around the corner and were faced with just about the best mountain vista ever. The best part was how unexpected it was, confirming how nice it is to have some route beta, but not too much! Castle Peak came out, as did the unnamed "bump" to its north and the mind-blowingly steep face off the ridgeline along the Lakina . . . all reflected in a series of perfectly calm lakes with vibrant fall colors abounding. We walked pretty slow and stopped a lot to celebrate where we were and drink it all in :-) And again, just when we were ready for one, a lovely trail appeared and escorted us to the scree slopes leading to the toe of the Lakina River. We wandered a bit to find the best way down, and ultimately came back to where the trail met the scree and descended directly. Arriving at the Lakina, we found enough water to float, and so put in, nervous that a cold night could dramatically reduce the river levels and send us on foot [gasp!]. The water was class II is, super aerated and not very pushy. The hardest part was spotting the rocks that we tended to high-center on, veiled by the silty waters until it was too late. Oh well, it was still super fun packrafting. At one point, a plane flew by and tipped its wing . . . Chris and his client headed back to their camp downriver. We floated almost an hour, and then chose to make camp and have a huge bonfire . . . lovely way to spend an evening!!!
Tuesday dawned sunny yet again and downriver we went. When we got to the hunting camp, we decided to check it out and see what luxury wilderness living is like. They had the super-sonic setup . . . planes, wall tents, horses, generator, kitchen with running water . . . and the beautiful backdrop of the Lakina to take it all in! Most had taken off that morning on horseback, but Chris and his client were there, meaning a cold beer for Sherrie and I!!! What a wilderness treat :-) From there, we continued butt-boating the braided section of the Lakina (wouldn't have minded a bit more water!) and then the river converged into a single channel and the fun began!!! The majority of the paddle was super fun class II-III festive paddling. At the levels we had, the water wasn't too pushy, but it was the kind of water that kept you paying attention, and kept us emptying our boats with frequency! We got a system of swinging leads at boat-dumps, mixing up the descent with the fun of reading the rapid first and the fun of watching your friend paddle through. Again, we were amazed at how cool it was . . . super unexpected :-) Near the end, the gradient lessened and the water levels rose (class I), but we had three cross-river logjams to keep things exciting. We arrived at the car (that Chris and Chris had kindly shuttled for us on their way out of McCarthy - thanks guys!!!) around 5ish and were on the road in a jiffy. The only bummer was that we had to rush outta there, both needing to work the next morning (and Sherrie having to work a 12-hr shift at 7am!).
Overall, I am still shocked at how much fun we had and how varied and beautiful this trip is. I almost don't want to tell the truth because I feel like it will become a super highway. But, then again, it is all the way in McCarthy and isn't a paved road, so something tells me it will be just fine :-) I should say that, although we had very manageable rapids on the Lakina with our water levels, I could see that river getting a lot more festive at midsummer higher flows. Even as it was, it's not a river I'd want to paddle my first time in a packraft . . .
Sherrie in pre-run chillout mode taking a fitness test on her heart rate monitor
So, we survived the run . . . Sherrie kicked ass and I was pretty happy with how I did . . . I ran the whole way (except for the last steep section before Kennicott when I thought my heart might actually explode). Thanks to some good inspirational techno (my power song came on at the very end!), I was able to finish strong and have to say that overall, I had a lot of fun . . . ! Jen Gessert also ran strong and simultaneously became the "AHT Girl" for her new water sponsor! And, to top it off, this run was part of her prep for the Equinox 50k she finished this weekend - kickass!!!
"AHT Girl" Jen GessertTo celebrate the run, we went to Kevlar's for an amazing pizza party and then off for some music and dancing, a little sleep, and then on to the next adventure!!!
Raina and Sherrie
So, we consoled ourselves by going back into town to find good coffee and breakfast. To top it off, we also found CJ, one of our buddies from Girdwood who happens to double as a wildland firefighter in the summer . . . we were super psyched :-)
The afternoon was spent walking up Geohenda Creek . . . one of the muddiest/siltiest creeks I've ever seen! Thankfully the scenery was great, and the travel pretty good (although river bars do get a a little old . . .)
Umm, that looks like a lovely couloir!!! Let's go ski it someday :-)
. . . and then the camera died. In some ways, it's incredibly tragic not to have the remainder of the trip documented . . . in others, it's amazing that the mind-blowing sights and experiences will exist only in the vibrance of our memories.
Okay, it's been forever since I've updated, but such is life between work and play, and lacking the inspiration to blog! But, I figured I'd "catch up" on the summer cuz I've been in reflection mode!
After a super fun June of riding bikes and running on ridges, I decided to put the skis back on in July. I felt a little crazy for leaving Alaska in the middle of one of the nicest summers on record, but couldn't help but be intrigued by an invite to join Jordan Manley (who I'd met last fall in Antarctia) and his 6 buddies from BC to see how many Cascade volcanoes we could ski in a week! Definitely a trip of unknowns (especially not having met most of the participants!), but I've always wanted to ski more in the Cascades and thought it was also a great chance to go visit family, so off I went!
The result: a great time full of everything you'd imagine from 8 people in 2 cars skiing 4 big volcanoes in 6 days . . . laughs, great corn skiing, exhaustion, good food, bad food, tense moments, beautiful sunrises, new friends, post-volcano swimming, new places, familiar places, doubt and triumph. Jamie was right when he said that, once we'd romanticized all the pain away, it will have been a great week!
And, to top it off, two in the group are into making videos . . . so enjoy the show!
Oh, the beauty of chairlifts! "Recovery" on Mt. Hood
Pushing the limits of running shoes on Mt. Adams
Mt. Rainier putting the hurt on . . . twice!
I am still trying to organize my photos, so enjoy the movies in the meantime!