Posts Tagged ‘anaktuvuk’

Gates of the Arctic, Day 4 and 5

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Day 4

On day 4 of our trip we switched from hiking along Publituk Creek to hiking the ridge above it. The canyons where getting tighter and we feared we would soon be “cliffed out” leaving us unable to proceed. So, we switched to walking along the side hills above the creek. This gave us better views but harder walking with brush and tussocks.

Smoke from the wildfires in interior Alaska started blowing in about midday, and the views disappeared.

After 4 miles or so the creek flattened out and left the cliffs behind, so we dropped back down. When we meet back up with the creek we found part of a old dog sled sticking up from a washed out section of the river bank. It was very difficult imagining what travel would have been like in this area in the winter – the creek we had been walking looked like it would be prone to overflow and I expect it would be difficult traveling. It would be been a very unfortunate place to have a sled fall apart on you.

We continued hiking up the drainage and made great process on the wonderful game trails paralleling the creek. We passed a number of old and not so old hunting camps, probably for late season caribou hunting. We were now well above tree line, with only the occasional poplar tree grove and low brush. Just before we made camp for the night we spotted a very blond brown bear with two cubs. The cubs were very bouncy, jumping around and playing. They stayed a comfortable distance away, much to our happiness. The end of the day was rainy, foggy and generally wet.

Day 5

Day 5 started of quite well, and only got better. We awoke to a clear sky and while the sun was blocked by a set of peaks it looked like we had some good weather ahead of us. The hiking was quite easy as we where now well above tree line and the bush was getting progressively shorter as we moved up the drainage. After a couple of miles we left the Publituk drainage and started up a ridge on our way over to the Tinayguk. The ridges in this area are completely free of brush, with only a thin layer of moss, which makes for fantastic hiking.

We had quite a bit of elevation to gain in the morning so there was lots of uphill hiking.

After lunch we where finally at a point where we could look into the Tinayguk. We aimed to hit the Tinayguk river near a section that is covered by overflow ice. We where told that the area covered by the ice was quite large, but where not expecting it to be that large – there appeared to be a quarter mile of ice still remaining, and the gravelly area without vegetation appeared to be several miles long. In the winter this area must be a real mush fest of overflow. In was very fast walking once we made it to the riverbed.

The area around the overflow ice was completely vegetation free. It was also completely mosquito free, as was our entire time on the Tinayguk.

The river appears to completely disappear under the overflow ice and when it reappears it is too braided with many shallow channels, so we walked the river bed until they formed into something that might be floatable.

Once the channels joined up we inflated the rafts and got floating!

The Tinayguk is a really fun river – its fairly mellow with a number of smaller rock gardens that are not all that difficult. Its just exciting enough to prevent boredom but not so much as to be stressful. Folks floating the Tinayguk in anything but a packraft might was to reconsider – there are lots and lots of shallow riffles with lots of basketball to baseball size rocks, so avoiding running aground and getting stuck requires a fair bit of work. I am not sure how well a folding canoe or kayak would take all the scraping.

After a hour or so of floating we made camp in a wonderful poplar grove.

We spent the evening exploring and doing camp chores. Tom decided that it was time to fix his seat which never seemed to hold air for very long, which on inspection had a valve installed incorrectly from the factory. Marsh and Tom attempted to fix it with aquaseal and tyvek tape, but alas this was not effective. After looking at the rest of the valves on Tom’s boat, at least one other valve was only partially glued on.

Our camp fronted a large pool, which had a school of burbot. Marsh spent a fair bit of time reminiscing about how burbot tastes just like lobster. One of my regrets about this trip was the decision not to take a fishing pole – in addition to the aforementioned burbot, I saw lots and lots of grayling and later on in the trip pike. The fishing looked to be spectacular.

Gates of the Arctic, Day 1

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

And we are off!

After a couple of days of mad packing (for some that was a night of mad packing), Tom, Marsh, and I are finally off on our week long trip in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. We planned on flying to Anaktuvuk, floating down the John River, then crossing over to the Tinyaguk river, and then hiking out to Wild Lake to be picked up by float plane.

Our adventure began in my driveway, where we where driven to the airport by my co-worker Kevin. At the airport we checked in with Frontier were we learned the bad news about how heavy our packs were. Tom was very happy to learn he won the special prize of the heaviest pack.

Shortly we where in the air, flying north to Anaktuvuk.

In about a hour we landed in a windy and overcast Anaktuvuk. Anaktuvuk is a beautiful place and is surrounded by mountains on all sides.

After a bit of searching around town for white gas for our camping stove and checking with the local ranger about river conditions, we headed out of town. We walked out of town on a road humorously labeled the “Hickel Highway” after Wally Hickel’s pre-pipeline bulldozer road. Anaktuvuk is a very refreshing small town – everyone we meet was very friendly and welcoming. Rural Alaska towns are normally fairly reserved places, especially when the visitors are clearly just passing though – the backpacks are a dead give away. On they way out of town we were actually cheered on by a young couple in a ARGO with a cry of “Go Hikers” as we walked by.

After a shortish walk the highly braided channels of the John river came together and became floatable.

It looked a bit shallow, but definitely packraftable, so we inflated and put in.

Shortly after we put in the first of several brief rain storms hit us. This section of the John river is very beautiful, in a wonderful alpine setting well above tree line.

After several hour of floating we called it a day, and made camp just past Kollutuk Creek. Marsh cooked a fine repast which was enjoyed by all.

~10 miles travelled. Most of the float was very mellow class I, with a brief rock garden right before where we camped.