Gates of the Arctic, Days 2 and 3

After a rainy night we woke up to a wonderfully sunny day, and continued our float down the John River. At this point the John had a number of interesting rapids, including some fun rock gardens and some more exciting bits including a wall shot and a short Class III bit.

We portaged the class III bit, though I got to get play in the rocks a bit in a unladen packraft, which was quite fun. Alas, the exciting sections where a little too exciting to take the camera out, so no photos.

After the short Class III section there was a longer section of class II, which was very fun – lots of standing waves and a fair number of rocks to dodge. Wet and exciting!

The class II section ends at Till Creek, which was where we decided to camp for the night. Till Creek is a smallish stream with a milky hue that appeared to be glacial fed. The bugs where moderately ferocious.

~15 miles traveled.

The next morning was quite marvelous – nice and sunny. We packed up camp and portaged around the next section which included a “wall shot”, or a hard turn into a rock face. None of us had done anything like that before, and decided to skip it. The walking was quite nice with wonderful views and was surprisingly tussock free.

Once past the cliff faces we then put back in and floated the John until our takeout point at Publituk Creek. This section of the John was fun but not too fun – the occasional standing wave but nothing too scary.

Publituk Creek is a clear, rain fed creek that winds up in the high country though a series of gorges. This area is one of the traditional caribou hunting grounds for the locals, so I expected to see some sign of past visitors. I was quite surprised when we ran into a newly minted cabin. Its hard to tell from the photo, but the walls are only about 2 to 3 ft tall – it seemed like a lot of work for a cabin that would barely have enough headroom for my 3 years olds. I spent a long time wondering what they planned to do with it.

Once past the cabin of the gnomes, we dropped into the creek bed and begin bouncing back and forth across the creek. For the next several miles we followed the creek, crossing back and forth to avoid shear canyon faces and thick brush.

The crossings ranged from a ankle deep to nearly waist deep. Tom was the master of the tevas – he spent the entire day hiking of almost constant water crossings in sandals carrying the heavy pack of doom.

The back and forth avoiding the cliffs river hopping continued for the rest of the day.

At a snack break Marsh discovered that her M&Ms;, granola bars, and cheese sticks had become one. It looked quite delicious, but Tom and I passed.

The creek bed was a veritable sumerhighway for animals. We saw tracks from bears, wolves, lynx, caribou, moose, and assorted smaller tracks we could not identify.

Our campsite for night 3 was spectacular and offered great views of the creek for evening and morning animal watching. Alas, nothing was to be seen, but such is life.

~9 miles.

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