The forecast for Virginia during Christmas week called for clear sunny skies with highs in the 50 and 60s so I emailed my brothers and made plans to haul my boats down when I visited for Christmas. John drove down from Philly with three boats and wet suits, I showed up with 2 packrafts and one dry-suit and Charlie, ever the procrastinator, showed up with nothing.
We spent Christmas day and the day after with family eating, running around the farm with the kids and going for hikes at Sugar Hollow. Come Wednesday night my oldest brother John, my youngest brother Charlie and two of John's sons - Matthew (20 and fresh out of boot-camp) and JC a 14-year old kid who discovered kayaking this summer and has perfected his roll and is tackling Class IV rivers - sat around discussing our options and checking flows and forecast. Charlie was a bit apprehensive. He had some long johns and a rain jacket but didn't want to sit in the river knowing that it would be cold should he take a swim. However Charlie is someone you can always cajole into doing something stupid be it tackle 250 lb calves, ski in June, or boat in December; so it took little prodding to get him to agree to join us.
We made plans to get up early and drive to Lynchburg to run Balcony Falls on the James River. River levels were low - around 3 feet - but it was the only river with rapids running within a few hours drive and the forecast was calling for temps in the 50s. ( Read more... )
On Sunday Yvonne and I floated Portage Creek from the Lake to the Seward Highway. The run is about 6 miles and quite mellow. I took my Alpacka Dory and Yvonne took her Yak. Right after the put in there are some mellow rapids - easy enough in a regular packraft by the oars in my dory kept hitting the rocky bottom so I had to change to a kayak paddle to accommodate my poor rowing skills. ( Read more... )
On Sunday Yvonne and I packrafted a short section of Eagle River. We started at the Nature Center and hiked about 6 miles to Icicle Creek. We then floated down to Echo Bend. It was Yvonne's first time out in the rafts and the river was high and quite swift -- with lots and lots of sweepers. She was aprehensive at first but after a while got the hang of it and we floated the 3 mile stretch without any mishaps. However, after we finished Yvonne told me that my river skills do not inspire confidence in others. I won't repeat my response. Below are some photos of Yvonne. ( Read more... )
On Saturday, August 18th, Scott Hauser, Mark Selland and I packrafted 20-Mile. Recently this has become the trip to do in Anchorage and much has been written and said about it. We encountered 3 other pack-rafters other than ourselves and know of at least two others that were doing the trip as a weekend trip.
I won't say much about it - other than it's a classic trip! The trail up and over Berry Pass is an amazing achievement; one can almost imagine displaced gold miners slaving away making the road. I had heard that there was quite a bushwhack once you dropped down off of Berry Pass - but in the Chugach sense of 'bushwhack' it's hardly worth mentioning. There's a good trail the whole way so if you're looking for a brush extravaganza don't bother.
The river is mostly open except for one sweeper that is entirely across the channel. However it is easily portaged via a gravel bar. There are silvers running right now - and with them come speed boats and angry rednecks who refuse to slow down and will yell at you as they pass. ( Read more... )
Todd & I packrafted Glacier Creek down in Girdwood last night. We floated from the hand tram to pretty much the front porch of Chair 5 (got out, crossed the street and ordered pizza!). River levels are pretty high right now and the section through the canyon was quite fast and fun! I took a swim shortly after putting in, but the river is mostly knee to waist deep so I was able to get to shore fairly easily.
The put in requires a down-climb through alders and devil's club - but someone has left a rope tied to a tree to aid in the down-climb (which i imagine would be sketchy if it was raining) so it's not too bad. (Hike down river from the hand tram and you'll see it.) Incidentally I was told (later) that if you cross via the hand-tram it is easier to get to down. The canyon is free of sweepers and after the canyon there are a few but they are pretty easy to paddle around. ( Read more... )
For an end of summer trip Scott and Becky Hauser invited us out on their parents sailboat - the 42' Contagious. On friday Scott, Becky, Becky's sister Rachel, Yvonne and I drove to Whittier on Friday night and spent the night on the boat in typical Whittier weather - hard driving cold rain. We fully expected a miserable wet weekend. However - we awoke the next morning to a beautiful fall morning with crisp clear skies.
By 10am we pulled out of the Whittier harbor and were sailing east along passage canal. Whittier is tucked in at the far western end of Passage Canal. For the most part the winds do not pick up very often - which means you have to motor quite a ways before you can break out the sails. ( Read more... )
For the long 4th of July 2003 weekend Todd Kelsey invited me on a raft trip down the Tana River. A rafting trip with Todd Kelsey is the polar opposite of my usual mountaineering experience. For starters, since I cannot row I usually sit on the raft and just look around. Second lack of food is never an issue - breakfast is a full meal, lunch is a full stop with sandwiches and beer and dinner is a 2 - 3 course feast along with a scrumptious dessert. Drinks vary from canned beer to gin and tonics (with ice!).
We took 4 days to float the Tana River. We flew out of Chitina and landed about 5 miles upstream from the canyon where we made camp below huge sand dunes. The next day we explored the sand dunes in the morning and that afternoon floated through the canyon which was about 5 miles up HUGE Class IV whitewater. I've never seen anything like that and our 3 raft captains rowed through the giant swells and around deep swirling pools with ease. ( Read more... )