Tat-3 Silver Creek to Alkie Creek
I wake up early, dont bother to look at the clock, and enjoy the early morning scene, mists rising from the river, mountains all around, the rushing river at my elbow. I do the coffeee and look for my camera, nowhere to be found. Argh, I left it by Bills tent last night as we were lowering conciousness, but it isnt therenow and I dont want to wake them up. I look at the clock and the truth dawns, it is 4:30 am, and the sun is up! I crawl back into the tent, and sleep till Bill pushes my camera in to me. Much relieved, but pissed I missed many photo opps, I rise and gather with the others to nourish the body breaking the fast with piles of pancakes off the griddle with real mape.
We load up the boats, securing the cargo net over the bags, ready for a driftin day on the rio. All side streams have glacial flour, and we can look far to the north and see glaciers clinging to peaks. We drift through a canyon, with walls of contorted graywacke sandstone intruded by bands of white rhyolite dikes. A small side canyon yeilds a patch of ice up a gulley. Donna and Mike retrieve chunks of ice for the coolers, as the rest of us wade around and get stuck in the mud. The sun is shining, clothes are coming off, everyone is mellow. We stop for lunch and I give a tour of the geology, phyllites, sandstone now schist, and the rhyolite are arranged on a log. Some seem interested, but the lunch is out and our attentions are diverted. Stan pulls out elk jerkey (2 kinds, salty and sweet) and elk salami to add to the pile. Deli sandwiches and lettuce and other veges, cheeze. We chow down, gather wood for our first two day layover, and head down stream. The current meanders now, in big bends and is slower. We are in a huge north-south valley, and the gradient slows. Eagles wheel overhead, arctic terns hover and dive, and the fantastic scenery floats by. It is a long day with slow current, Mike pulls over and locates us on the map. I take a look and we have a brief discussion about location, I think we are far upstream. I check out the topography away from the river and point out the location from that. We devise a test, if we are near camp, the gradient should steepen just down stream, if not we have several more miles of slow floating. This proves to be the case. Mike checks with Stan and the gps agrees with me, and we have a longer float. We finally reach the fast water and beach at Sediments creek, set up camp and kick back for the next 2 days.
Terry and Sam Lowering Conciousness
We wolf down a great lasagne cooked in 2 dos. The evening routine is set now, godka in a scenic spot, lowering conciousness with the group growing larger, more personalities meshing. Levi talks about his life, as does Stan. The started river runnning about the same time I did, early '70s with homemade frames and cheap surplus rafts. We reflect on the high tech equipment we now have and tell tall tales of trips past. The snafu oral history gets a workout, and all are impressed.
Day 4-layover hike to goat ridge and beyond. My coffee routine is more reasonably timed this morning, I have it ready by 7 am, and eggs are cookin with potatoes. After a fulfilling breakfast, we pack water and snacks and head off up the trail to goat ridge. We cruise in the open along the sediments creek fan, then spy a rough trail that leads into the woods. It is a beautiful scene here with leaves everywhere, and the ubiquitous mulberry preventing any straying from the path. after a flat streatch, we head straight up the steep gravelly slope of the lateral moraine, plowed up by the glaciers gone past. We gain elevation, yodeling to warn the bears, and break out onto an open slope we could see from below. We gain a rounded open summit and gather there taking in a sweeping view up and down river. We can see the Alsek range clearly now, with the river running through it in a open canyon. The u shape of the valley carved by the glaciers makes for a broad valley bottom and steep sides, then a shelf 1/2 way up the slope where and earlier glacier carved a valley much shallower than present. The river becomes braided downstream, with many anastomosing channels, branching and rejoining. This is a sure sign the river has too much sediment, gravel, sand etc. So the major tributaries here are carrying a huge amount of sediment intot he main river, and it gets blocked up, trying to transport all of the stuff. We rejoice and marvel at the view, but the slopes above beckon. This is one of theonly places where a hiking trail accesses the high peaks and plateaus above. The hardy few willing to investigate this are off and running up through the brush, following a mulberry-choked bear trail along a knife edge ridge of the moraine, and onto more solid ground above, littered with talus slopes and craggy outcrops of banded limestone. These have been intruded by granite and contorted into fantastic folded shapes. The flowers change with elevation too, starting with big petals low and evolving to tiny gentian like flowers above. We crank up through more hollows and finally up a steep gully with patches of snow, and emerge onto the high plateau. Patterned ground indicates permafrost at depth, and we settle down to a yet more spectacular view. Dark clouds are gathering to the north, but we still have sunny weather, and bask on the grass and take in the great vistas, 360 degree mountains, with peaks and glaciers, perfect u-shaped valleys, hanging glaciers, all rising above the green lawn of the high plateau. The rest (the tahoe girls and Bill) leave for the descent, and with one eye on the darkening clouds, sam and I follow Al to the nearest height of the plateau. When sam and I arrive, Al is nowhere to be seen, we scan the horizon, finally he pops up about 2 miles away, running, up to a high point, then down again. Sam is worried he will get lost, so we wave frantically, as he descends the wrong ridge to get back to us. Finally he sees us and alters his route and we start the descent. The rain is coming fast, and Al and I get off the high ridges as fast as possible. Sam lags behind, but slow and steady down he comes. The rain catches us above goat ridge and the rest of the hike is wet, with a strong icy wind blowing up stream across goat ridge. I love it, this is my kind of weather, but I have only cotton pants, and my patagonia jacked to keep me warm, and cotton is the death cloth. I survive, but the pants, a gift from kate from the health and harmony fest, are in rags by the time I reach camp. The tent looks odd, and I look inside and it is a shambles. A major windstorm had hit camp, and the tent rolled over, then rain started. Fortunatly, Mike saw the disaster in the making, and came to the rescue, securing the tent and sheltering all of the insides. The sun is out for another lowering of conciousness and godka session,now with randy at his tent sitting by the shore. I set up the sun shower tripod and take a luke-cold shower and prepare for the evening meal.
We chow down on another great meal, the rain comes again and pitters on the roof of the tent as we slumber.
Day 5 Rainy run to Alkie Creek
We awake to the pitter patter of little raindrops on the roof, and do the dressing dance inside the tent. I put on my shortie wet suit under everything, and layer on top pile, polypro, rain slickers, etc. and head off totally armed for breakfast. We are unusually quiet contemplating this turn in the weather, for it seems to be socked in quite hard. the mountains are now obscured, with occasional glimpses of peaks and snow gulleys glinting through. It has its strange masked beauty, tantalizing in obscurity, another world. We knew this might happen, so we are prepared.
What the well-dressed Tat resident wears
Everyone is decked out in their Alaskan finest fashions, looking like neon mummys, moving with slippery sounds. The tarp covers the whole crew, but we bump and dodge each other getting around to the various parts of breakfast. Finally the boats are loaded, and we shove off onto the flood. The water is high for this time of year, thanks to the warm weather we missed before the trip. We are whipped downstream at 9 mph constantly, watching for snags at the side of the river and marvel at the lack of rapids. This is an aggrading river, full of sediment, and the river and glaciers have cut through all of the hard bedrock obstacles, giving us a smooth rapid-free ride. We cruise past side stream, swollen with glacial meltoff, and try to estimate the flow, probably pushing 40,000 cfs at this point.
It rains and then slacks off and then rains some more. I am comfortable in my outfit, but have topped my boots more than once and my feet are very cold, sloshing in my $60 xtratuf cadillac boots. sam is wearing wet suit and bootees, and is not complaining of cold, he never complains. We have a short run to Alkie creek and find a small open camp on fan next to the creek. White noise rushes to meet us as we set up camp, and break out the lunch, a major slab of smoked salmon, which gets devoured with gusto, along with bagels and cream cheeze.
Lunch fare at Alkie Creek
The rain lets up and the sun breaks through. We take the opportunity to lay out wet things and Mike, Donna and I head up the creek. The fan is open, no trees, so we wander along the creek and talk of our lives and our impressions of the trip. I have my eye on some cliffs upstream and stroll to meet some beautifully laminated limestone layers, tilted up at about 40 degrees. Closer inspection reveals some faults and a beautiful over turned fold with a detachment thrust surface growing out of the core.
Folds in Limestone: Alkie Creek
Mike and donna head back, but I see Sam in the distance making his way up the fan. I do a precarious log crossing of a braided channel and cruise up to the top of the island, jowait for sam, and we remove boots and wade across the creek icy cold, and bash through the woods for a while before we are stopped by a cliff dropping straight down to the creek. We watch as the water milky white from glacial flour, rushes by at 38 degrees farenheit, and figure this is the limit. We return liesurly and do the evening routine, party here and there, lower conciousness, sit around the fire, watch the sun set on the clouds, swirling above and around the mountains. A great view downstream to the Noisy range, part of the Alsek-St Elias range is transfixing and we spend a long time enjoying the view. Another great meal, and to bed, hoping for a sunny day tomorrow.
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