Thursday, August 20, 2009

Doin' the Hulahula...A Packrafting Trip Through ANWR

Ed's planning, great weather and some of Alaska's finest country made our 140 mile arctic traverse one that I won't forget soon. The traverse began in the upper Sheenjek River drainage on the south side of the Brooks Range and took us up and over the continental divide and down into the headwaters of the Hulahula drainage. We walked along the Hulahula until we thought that we could put our boats in the water...which proved to be a bit premature. Once we reached the confluence of the Itkilik and the Hulahula we had an eventful float into the arctic coastal plain. From there we hiked across some open tundra to position ourselves for a paddle across a small stretch of the Arctic Ocean and over to Barter Island for one last hike into the Native Village of Kaktovik. Enjoy the pictures...I know I enjoyed the adventure and the company!

many of these photos are taken by Ed Plumb

I am feeling really good about the week ahead of me...nothing but hiking, paddling and enjoying the north for 8 days. Big medicine.

The hiking was really nice for the most part but we had a few challenging river crossings once we started to gain elevation.

This one of the nameless glaciers in the upper Sheenjek Valley.

This is my attempt at Arctic Art...I call it "Sheep Turds on Purple Rocks"

Descending off the back of the continental divide.

Ann gets a good stretch in in the morning before we break camp and head down to see the Hulahula for the first time.
Robin looks mighty happy while she enjoys the blue skies and nice hiking.

We saw this big old bruin while we were enjoying a break. Once he came across our scent he spun around a headed in the other direction.
A couple of caribou antlers in a great valley.
Once we reached confluence of the Hulahula and the Itkilik it was time to inflate the boats again start the paddle towards the coast. We had attempted to float ealier but the water was really fast and we ended up pulling out.

Ed's having a good time.

I'm enjoying some quite water on the river.

Ann powers through a big hole.

Chris and Robin dry off some cloths after a day on the river.

A Dall Sheep lamb and ewe.

Chris rides a wave.

We took a few hours and went on a day hike to see if we could get some better views of Mt. Mikelson. We did not get quite high enough to see the big mountain but the hiking was great and it was nice to break up the paddling.
Ed enters the supposed canyon.

Ann and I scout out a rapid toward the end of the canyon.

A good looking red sun.

Some cotton grass on the tundra.

I think this was the first time that any of us had ever paddled in the Arctic Ocean.

The Brooks Range loomed behind us as we walked along the Barter Island coast.

We walked into the Village of Kaktovic ready to find the diner and enjoy a greasy breakfast made to order.

The two white blobs in the middle of this picture are Polar Bears. They had been napping and cleaning up the bones from a recent Buluga whale harvest.

Here is a beautiful shot looking south at the North American continent. The last night of the trip was spent on Barter Island. Although it always feels good to accomplish the goal that was set back in the planning process, it is always hard to leave the carefree nature of a pack trip behind.

Road Trippin' with Magan

Magan and I had a couple of great three day weekends in July. It started with some hiking on Donelly Dome, rafting on the Gulkana River, fishing on the Klutina River and camping all along the way. A few weekends later we were able to sneak out of the country for some good times in Dawson City, Yukon at the annual music festival.

On the way down to the Gulkana we stopped at Donelly Dome and hiked up to the top of the booblike feature. It was a really nice evening and paved the way for an excellent trip.

We blew up the packrafts and enjoyed a nice paddle down the Gulkana River.

We ultimately paddled across the Klutina River to a super secret spot in search of King Salmon. It was another beautiful evening but the Kings did not cooperate. We did avoid being skunked by landing a grayling on the last cast of the night.

Two weekends later we landed in Dawson City. Dawson is one of my favorite places in the circumpolar region...and it did not disappoint on this visit.

This is one of the many sweet venues offered at the festival.

Magan and I went for a hike along Moosehide Slide and up to the top of the dome. We ultimately had to hitch a ride back to town after we took a wrong turn somewhere.
The fireweed along the Top of the World Highway was in full bloom and the berry picking was not too shabby either. All in all those were two of the best weekends of this quick summer for me.