Fun on Carlo Creek

I should preface this post by saying this is written by a guest, my wife Nancy. Thus, there are probably no spelling errors, all the words are used correctly, and it makes more sense than usual. But don’t worry – the spelling and grammar mistakes will return in the next post!

Nancy here… I decided to write up a great trip from this summer, in part to show that Jay really does stay home with the kids sometimes while I have adventures. Alas, some of those “adventures” are business trips for work, but this one was spectacular enough to help make up for that.
We (Tom, Marsh, and I – note that I have joint custody of our friends) blatantly borrowed our itinerary from Ed Plumb’s blog Who could resist a trip named the Coffee and Pizza Traverse? The trip was a hike up the Carlo Creek drainage, starting at Milepost 224 on the Parks Highway, crossing over a high pass, dropping down to the Nenana River, and packrafting back to the starting trip. It sounded too good to pass up – and for the most part, it was.
We were grateful that parking at Panorama Pizza turned out to be ok with the owner, although he was most definitely not serving coffee mid-morning when we showed up. However, our exploration of river access proved to be more challenging. The folks at the private lodge across the road clearly remembered chasing the most recent pack-rafters off their property, and were most emphatically having no more of that, no matter how quiet and low-impact the trespassers might be. So we scouted an alternate takeout a couple of miles south.
The hike itself was everything promised, and more. An ATV trail provided easy access to the meadows above treeline. There were, miraculously, no bugs, perhaps due to the hot July sun. We followed the creek as it gradually grew smaller and smaller, and made a couple of crossings that were probably unnecessary, but overall found easy walking. That first night, we camped right at the top of the drainage, comfortable in soft grass, but surrounded by imposing peaks and ridges.

The next morning we hiked up the pass. It was steep, with a large lingering snowfield, but still generally easy going. A caribou was even kind enough to pose for us. It was when we reached the top that we faced the biggest challenge of the trip. Ed had described the descent as “steep and rocky” with “serious scrambling.” He wasn’t kidding. The boulder fields were almost vertical, and all seemingly poised on the point of creating massive rock avalanches. Unencumbered, the scrambling might have been fun. With a fairly massive pack, it was less than fun for me, and downright scary for Marsh, who doesn’t like heights. It was also extremely slow. Still, we eventually made it down to easier ground, and enjoyed more ambling over grassy hill slopes on our way to the Nenana.

The very last part of the descent was also very steep, but not at all scary, since it was densely forested. We sang loudly (and badly) to the bears as we did a sort of controlled fall through the underbrush.

The bugs were fierce at the river, but we got underway quickly, and happily floated for about an hour and a half in the calm and relatively swift waters to the Parks Highway. At this point, it was getting late, and our stomachs were calling for pizza. The wind was coming up, too, and the water ahead was reputed to be choppy to start with. We decided to take out and hitch the last few miles back. I was the designated female for this role (Tom resents this, but a 6-foot-5 male just doesn’t get rides) and quickly retrieved the car.

The pizza? Delicious, but the slowest service known to mankind. Still, we were very grateful for the free parking, and for an incredible trip.

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