Posts Tagged ‘john river’

Gates of the Arctic, Days 2 and 3

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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.

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.