The updates below were sent as SMS emails from my satellite phone to my parents, who manually copied them to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. (This could have been automated but I never figured out how to do it.)
The posts are dated according to when I sent them, not when they were posted. Some of the posts have been edited: I fixed spelling errors, spelled out abbreviations, and made more grammatically correct to improve readability.
Grocery list: 41lbs sesame sticks, 27lbs jerky, 48lbs Pringles, 66lbs energy bars, 23lbs Nutella. Lot of food for 4700mi.
Left to do: Finish maildrops, print Databook and Tide Charts, make small modifications to some gear, and eat yummy foods. Pack Wed, leave Thurs.
Leaving VHF radio at home – redundant with sat phone & extra 10 oz without batteries. Often out of VHF contact anyway.
Inbox is completely empty. Funny the things that are & are not important when you’re about to cut loose. Delete, delete, delete, delete…
Just landed in Kotzebue. -25 below, ouch. Intimidating landscape – snow and ice covered tundra, flat and windswept, no lights beyond village.
Motel tonight. Plan 34-mi push tomorrow to cabin. High to be 15 below; low, -25. Tough start: last wk, 75 deg in Massachusetts. Confident I can do this.
In Buckland, mi 90. Sun & Mon highs were -15 and -10; warmer Tues but windy. Flat, bleak landscape – kept head down anyway. To Koyuk in AM.
In Koyuk mi 180. Great conditions last 3 days – fast trail & snow, temps 0-20, tailwind or calm, sunny. Raccoon facial tan. To Unalakleet.
Unalakleet mi 280. Stiff winds 10-40 mph since Koyuk. Seasonal temps: 0-20. Leave coast tomorrow morning, inland to Kaltag. Forecast looks good.
Thanks all for birthday wishes. Got a large pizza at “Peace on Earth” and saved half for dinner tomorrow night; maybe I’ll find some trail magic cake.
In Ruby, Mi 500. Been on Yukon for 100 mi; leave it tomorrow. Been cold: -10 Wed AM. Spring on way: 40 now. Must move quick – melt-out is ugly.
Mi 680 Takotna. Some BLEAK miles from Ruby – catastrophically burned taiga. Had gastrointestinal bug too: threw up food, water; had runs. Awesome section!
Mi 707 McGrath. Taking Fri off, yippee: need to regain strength, weight, after flu; have cache in Nikolai, 50 mi away, to pick up Mon AM too.
Giving up on getting sat phone to update Twitter. Daily updates here on in by emailing mom with phone; she’ll copy & paste ’em into Twitter.
Slow to leave town: wonderful hosts. Spring snowstorm now but great campsite.
Mi 757 Nikolai. Drying out in school tonight – everything wet, damp after storm. Pick up packages in AM. Then off to AK Range!
Another wet spring storm: 3″ fresh. Clearing now. Trail is patchy: no snow on Farwell Burn.
At Bear Creek Cabin. Staying put: raging snowstorm. Can’t always get worse, right? Almost enough new snow to ski Farewell Burn.
Tonight, camped IN THE ALASKA RANGE, WAHOO! Storm broke, very nice evening. Excited for morning.
At Rohn Roadhouse cabin. Mountain scenery is stunning, maybe best ever seen. Food cache is here, National Geographic team is not.
Forrest, Michael arrived. Left Iditarod Trail, up Tatina River. It’s open but has many bridges still. Thin snow & ice: fast. Scenery amazing.
Full on Alaska Range mountaineering experience: whiteout, 50mph winds, crevasses. Epic day. Trip just got real.
Dillinger-Pingston pass a no-go: zero visibility, 40mph winds, avalanche worries. Going around north side now, about day longer, harder too.
Weather cleared. Got first view of Mount McKinley. Hard work to stay high, above brush & trees. Elevation greater than 3000 feet is superb, bushwhacking unavoidable.
Most humbling day yet. Beat up by thick brush, rotten snow & brutal route. Amos Lakes food cache like out of a dream. Should be crust skiing tomorrow morning.
Big low: bushwhack on skis in taiga with rotten snow. Big highs: sunset on Mount Foraker & great tundra hiking.
Can’t stay high enough to avoid brush & rotten snow. Don’t want to be low: even snowshoe hares are postholing. Better tomorrow?
All of Alaska could hear my wahoo-ing from the 4000-foot bench north of Straightaway Glacier. Earned those. Best skiing of my life.
Best day yet & new lifetime best ski day. Contoured at 3000-4000 feet just below towering Mount McKinley. Perfect weather, great snow. Wonder Lake cache tomorrow.
Picked up Forrest and Michael , and food, at Wonder Lake. Camped at toe of Muldrow Glacier. Another perfect weather day.
Big day: toe of Muldrow Glacier to 5350-foot Anderson Pass, then down West Fork Glacier. Almost 30mi. Now on south side of range, Denali Fault to Cantwell.
Easy day over Easy Pass but 3 passes tomorrow. Early camp much needed: body & mind thrashed. Burger&pizza fantasies for Cantwell on Wednesday.
Over two of today’s three passes. Sun & heat forcing long mid-day break to wait out rotten snow & avalanche danger.
Pre-dawn start to jump on best snow conditions. Much post-holing still expected on way to Cantwell. Hoping for town lunch.
Cantwell, mi 1120. Thankful for elastic waist band: had huge breakfast & dinner. At Parks Highway, first paved road of trip & first road that goes somewhere.
Loaded with 7 days of food but pack feels light: swapped out winter kit for 3-season. Bye Whisperlite stove, 0-degree sleeping bag, big parka. Still have skis.
Non-wilderness day welcomed: 20mi on Parks Highway, steady cell coverage, real bed. Into wild in morning via Yanert River. Rivers & creeks melting fast.
Exciting skiing on Yanert River and Dean Creek: lots of overflow & ice jams, few intact bridges, swift main channel. Hoping light snow stops soon.
Sunny morning but light snow now. Made small fire to dry feet, warm spirit. At Wood River. Should be fast travel to base of next pass.
Snow accumulating now, 2″ already. Bad news given two high passes ahead. Lots of overflow on Wood River, boots soaked.
12″ fresh snow & counting. Staying put: buried water hazards behind, avalanche dangers ahead. Need weather to clear either way. I am in safe zone.
Snowed all day. Haven’t moved: too many hazards ahead & behind. Wish I had a book. Hope weather breaks.
Patience rewarded: storm clearing & sun melting things fast. Will push out once temps drop again. Will attempt first pass tonight or in the morning.
Over first pass. Many natural slides on north-facing slopes, none on south-facing. My line stayed off avalanche slopes but couldn’t avoid being under some.
Over pass 6150′. HARD climb: dug trench in new snow. Descent dodgy: steep with hangfire. Saw wolverine, 100m away.
At least now snow makes gravel bars & sponga ski-able again. Hayes Range should not be overlooked – impressive back here. Unfriendly sky.
Patchy & thin snow on moraine not all bad, still SLOW, not as bad as dreaded. 2″new snow last 24 hours. Hoping for dinner in Delta Junction tomorrow.
Glorious skiing in AM above Trident Glacier & below Mt Moffit. 4000 feet lower now at Delta River ford, then Richardson Highway. Delta Junction dinner a definite. Burger dreaming.
Mi 1282 Delta Jct. Locals increasingly are scratching their heads when I tell them I skied from Kotzebue. Delta Junction has a real grocery store!
Walked 40 mi on Richardson Highway to connect wilder segments. Scenic & mindless but unkind to feet & hips. Expecting very rotten snowpack for the next 4 days.
Tracks from Arctic Man Classic event helping offset rotten snow but 2pm-8pm is still a no-travel window. Alaska Range goes on & on – so impressive. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.
Exiting Alaska Range via Chistochina River winter trail, a horrible mud track. Exit a day earlier than planned: there was no overnight freeze and my planned route was not viable. Next up: Wrangell Mountains, on south horizon.
Road-walking from Alaska Range to Wrangell’s for the last 2 days & the next 2 days. Good chance to refresh before 9-day push to Chitina. Leaving skis behind!
Great views of Mt Sanford & Mt Wrangell from Nebesna Road. Perfect weather too but wouldn’t mind a breeze: mosquitoes are out & annoying.
Woke up to snow then rain on & off. Barometric pressure rising fast but still socked in. Not excited about Nebesna River float in the morning.
Summer-ish in Wrangell’s: 5000-foot Cooper Pass mostly melted out, some alpine flowers blooming, & rivers are packraftable. Mind & body re-energized, back into it.
Feet still thawing after crossing glacier-fed Chisana River: 1.5 miles of aufeis, three low-thigh fords, and much overflow. Warm day, lots of melt.
Aufeis & dry tundra meant fast travel over Solo Pass to White River. Warm enough for shorts, legs very pale. Roman & Michael flew in, with me for next 5 days.
First rainstorm of spring devolves into blizzard (Roman’s description) over Chitistone Pass. Happy now after pitching camp and having hot meals.
Exited high country via world-class must-do-again The Goat Trail & Chitistone River paddle. Found summer at 2000 feet: warm temps, bugs, and leaves. McCarthy tomorrow.
Late departure from McCarthy due to beverage-enhanced softball game with locals. Early camp due to sandstorm on Chitina River.
Sunday: Fast & pleasant 55-mi float on Chitina River. Today: Humbled by Copper River winds. Took out just 2 miles from put-in. Bunkered down until calmer.
Copper River winds howled all day. A steady sandstorm-causing 20-30mph. Supposedly calmer at night but we’re still pinned down at 1AM.
Calm & light enough at 4AM to get through narrow Wood Canyon. Great morning light on snow-covered mountains rising 6000 feet from Copper River.
Still early-spring in Chugach Range. 2-3′ snow along banks, vegetation just budding, Miles Lake still partially frozen. Elevation just 200 feet. Pacific Ocean tomorrow!
Mi 1816 Cordova. Rafted past 300-foot-high face of Childs Glacier with morning light. Floated within 20 feet of a wolverine further downriver.
Foolish not to have a GPS & recent land satellite images for Copper River Delta crossing: featureless landscape and the USGS maps are outdated. Thankful for perfect weather.
Long sandy beaches, fast walking, welcome after 5-day Copper River float. Enjoying new wilderness playground: the ocean.
Novel challenges: tides, currents, waves &surf, soft sand & old maps. A lot for me to learn out here, but fresh is fun.
First 20 miles of day like side-hilling on jelly beans, popcorn, or couscous. Found big shipwreck. Great camp in spruce grove. Rain tonight I think.
New ecosystem: lush temperate rainforest. New eyesore: clearcuts. First bear sighting, three in 2 hrs. Cow moose & calf too.
Camped on the west side Icy Bay, the first of 2 super risky crossings. Raining & no visibility now. Waiting for a window, hoping it’s a go in the morning.
Safely across Icy Bay! Choppy waves & scattered ice floes, but conditions good enough. Couldn’t help feel like super-adventurer with National Geographic photographer taking aerials from plane overhead.
Many brown bear tracks along beach makes for nervous camp. Nice sunset on Mt St Elias. Mosquitoes are bad tonight. Going around Malaspina Glacier tomorrow.
Wet day: rain or drizzle since early-morning & many wades, swims & raft ferries of Malaspina’s many frigid outlets. Hoping to cross Yakutat Bay tomorrow.
Safely across Yakutat Bay! No more long paddles until milder Inside Passage. Big swells for little boat but good enough, again. Yakutat tomorrow.
Mi 2128 Yakutat. Heading out shortly. More long beaches punctuated by big river outlets await. Enjoyed all the Facebook & blog comments, thanks.
Easy beachwalking after conflicted departure from Yakutat. Ahh, town’s creature comforts.
Mt Fairweather looms large to SE. Rare west wind has caused sandstorm for the last 2 days. Exciting section tomorrow past Grand Plateau Glacier.
Saw 1st brown bear, finally. Looked well fed. Disappointed with overcast: maps show top-notch mountain scenery just to east.
Bear trail around Cape Fairweather among best ever seen. All traffic squeezed between glacier & boulder beach. Blazes planed for ’11 I hear.
Stuck on north side Lituya Bay until wind settles: steady 20mph with 30 gusts. Just .4mi across to the south side but I can’t get off the shore in a packraft with these winds and waves.
Crossed Lituya on second look. Risky: 6ft swells, opposing currents, plus wind. Glad to be across: surf is huge as new low moves in.
Soaked: day-long pelting rain on beach or wet brush on bear trails. Short day: not comfort able with hiking past La Perouse Glacier, which has a beachside face, given the huge surf.
Rain cleared, surf calmed overnight. Dry & happy again, & thankful storms have been short-lived. New blackfly hatch at Icy Point.
Route from Gulf to Inside Passage unavoidably rugged: steep headlands, rocky beaches, brush & glaciers. Exhausted. Similar story tomorrow.
Hard but very awesome day. Two heinous bushwhacks. 3 miles along edge of huge Brady Glacier. Used tailwind & tide to get up Icy Straits to Dundas Bay. Whale breaching in cove near campsite.
Across Dundas & Glacier Bays. Tides around here are remarkably strong: don’t fight ’em if your arms are the size of mine. Gustavus for dinner.
Mi 2353 Gustavus. My southernmost resupply! Heading north again soon. Celebrating halfway in next stop, Haines. Bring it, Ben & Jerry’s.
Around southernmost point Couverdon & going north fast: will be in Brooks Range in just 6 weeks! Inside Passage feels industrial: planes, cruise-ships, canneries.
Lynn Canal not great packraft route. The hiking is slow & contrived. The rafting is frustratingly slow because it’s the wrong type of boat for flatwater. Only 2 more days to Skagway.
What I said yesterday. Too hot. Scenery improving.
Mi 2480 Haines. Arrived 1 hour too late to catch tide to Skagway. Spending night here. Need a stronger south wind too: long 15mi paddle.
Mi 2498 Skagway. Used 3:30AM low tide and calm seas to get up Taiya Inlet. Must have taken wrong turn: Skagway is nothing like the AK I know, more like Disneyworld.
Bizarre day: Disney-ish Skagway, paid for hiking permit, formal campsite shared with 20 people. Last day in Alaska too (until August).
Greeted by Canada with: lodgepole pines, glacier-polished granite, drizzle, huge finger lakes. Fascinating Klondike’98 history; they were bold folks.
Would you want to sit in a cramped packraft for 8 days on the Yukon? Not sure I do either. For $300 I can rent a canoe. What do you think?
Feet angry after 35 miles on a railway bed & a road. Unfortunately the wilder routes from the coast to the Yukon River require glacier travel &/or flatwater paddling. Whitehorse tomorrow.
Mi 2617 Whitehorse, a true city: international cuisine, movie theater, car dealers, even a Wal-Mart. Taking day off, first since mid-April.
Getting soft? Took Fri off in Whitehorse, now on Yukon River in 16-foot-long sea kayak. Ham & cheese sandwich, coffee for lunch, post-nap. Have book if bored.
Very enjoyable evening on 30mi-long Lake Lebarge, part of Yukon River. Terraced aspen & fir & grass slopes with granite bluffs & domes. Sunset at 11. Lakeside camp
Surprise run-in with my chiropractor Dr Jeremy Rogers. Crewing for 24hr record. Awesome lynx sighting, 20ft. A moose too.
Equation: (constant paddling + fast current) x 13hrs in boat = 80mi for the day. Rain showers now. Mosquitoes invading tarp.
More reading & writing than paddling today. Arms useless after paddling across Lake Laberge and doing 80mi yesterday. Enjoying history: steamer wrecks, abandoned villages, wood camps.
Picked up entire blueberry pie in Carmacks. Because I can, for now. Chased by rain squalls all day, hit once. Horrible black flies in camp, 100s.
Copper River-like headwind until 8PM when heavy rain moved in. Saw it coming, made preemptive camp. Bad noseeums in camp.
Joined by 18-year-old doing entire Yukon: BrentonsYukonJourney.com. Youthful ignorance is scary but refreshing. Long 70mi day, arms falling off.
Mi 3091 Dawson. Enjoyable finish into town. Very happy to return boat & re-shoulder backpack. Trip will be very wild from here to the finish in Kotzebue.
Brutal town exit past bars with live music & pretty girls, then steep 2500’climb with 50lb pack including 2wks of food. Need to keep the momentum.
50lb pack forced frequent breaks & short day: want to avoid injury. Violent t-storms continue. Mosquitoes bad since left town.
Route to Tombstone Mountains has been brutal: wet brush, bad bugs, thigh-high tussocks, swampy muskeg. Very little easy-going.
Granite Tombstones small but impressive: cirques, 1500ft walls, alpine lakes. But lots of effort to see: heinous brush & sponga.
Short evening float on splashy Class 2 Blackstone River a welcome relief after 25 miles on gravel & low-traffic Dempster Highway. Poor roadwalking alternative: 25 miles through brush & tussocks.
Un-engaging roadwalk bad for head: I dwell on the big challenges still ahead and question my readiness & my willingness to dig that deep.
Splashy Blackstone River cuts through steep-sided parallel limestone mountain ridges. Many talus slopes drop all the way down to shore. Taiga & willow prevail if not talus.
Aggressive mosquitoes a new constant. Headnet & DEET always nearby. Been fortunate on bugs thus far: never unsustainably intolerable.
Portaged to Hart River via a spanning ridgeline 2000 feet above the rivers. It featured hard tundra & scree, gentle breeze & blue sky, no bugs, incredible 360 degree views of area.
Currently tucked under my raft waiting for a thunder- and rainstorm to pass. Not an ideal bunker location but brush & scraggly taiga are the only natural cover. Many Class 2+ drops through bedrock on the Hart River.
Portaged Class 3 rapids below the confluence of the Hart and Peel Rivers: no unnecessary risks especially this far out. Ugly next 2 days gaining Richardson Mountain crest.
Ridgeline camp, between Peel & Doll Creek. Old burn overgrown with birch brush & alder on ascent: ugly. Worst bugs ever seen! Impossible to exaggerate how b ad they are.
First 10 miles have been joyous: rolling ridgeline, hard tundra, blueberries. Starting final fight before reaching the Richardson Mtn crest: 1500 vertical feet down into & then back out of thick Doll Creek.
Good alpine travel next 100mi to Dempster Highway. Bad bugs up here too without wind. Legs are wiped: ups & downs, heavy pack, just 20 oz food/day for last week.
Crest route in clouds: no visibility so it’s a no-go. Taking good pass & valley route instead on east side of crest. Cool & wet. Weather & caribou trails improving.
Just run off crest by fierce thunder storm. Waiting it out under tarp. Would nap but coffee-d up two hours ago.
Richardson Mountains remarkable for lack of distinction: few prominent features, just many smooth peaks of similar size and colors.
Clouded in down to 2000 feet: no visibility, cool & drizzly. Hoping for clear morning so I can take a ridge 12 miles to the highway. If not, there’s a low route. Town on Fri!
Reached highway. Now just waiting for morning traffic for hitch into Fort McPherson. Not too long until omelet & hash browns!
Mi 3483 Fort McPherson. New tribe chief sworn in Friday evening; huge town feast. Back to mountains today with 13 days of food, no raft. Start 650-mile stretch without road crossing.
Blustery return to mountains: rain, wind, clouded in. Warm hospitality at highway workcamp so took day off instead. Fresh start in morning. Tough forecast.
Good start: French toast, sausage, and coffee for breakfast; windy but no precipitation; close caribou & wolverine sightings; rested legs. One complaint: tussocks!
Long push for first day out, 30 miles in 15 hours. But better to be ahead of pace, for rainy day. Many more caribou sightings in evening. In the Porcupine herd’s migration corridor now.
Awoke a grizzly one minute after breaking camp. It ran away fast. Rest of day: tussocks, mucho up & down ,caribou trails, river cobbles, buggy camp.
Wet, wet, wet! Rainy, oversaturated tundra, dripping brush, hundreds of feet-numbing creek crossings. No high route to avoid brush & bogs. Signs of clearing.
Heavenly travel down to Upper Bell River: sun & blue sky, fast transition from tundra to forest so minimal brush, well drained soil so novel hard ground, blueberries everywhere
Loved continued hard well-drained ground up Bell River & tributary creek. Challenging times when tussocks, bogs & sponga have been the norm. More ahead.
Left Richardson Mountains for vast tundra to west. WAY out there. Empowering to travel across with so little but sense of humility dominates.
After extensive tussocks & more worst-ever bugs Thursday near Blow Pass, thrilled today by strong wind & many fast tundra/gravel bands.
Doing as Karsten did: letting caribou show me the way. Over thousands of yrs they figured it out. Great sunset. Windy camp: no natural protection.
First of Fall: hit by heavy rain & 50mph winds, midnight through noon. May frost tonight. Share mindset with migrating caribou: walk, eat, sleep, bugs, weather & terrain.
Ready to leave tussocks & bogs behind: Brooks Range in sight, reach tomorrow evening. Nervous about an upcoming major hazard: the First River, May have to swim.
Tussocks & bogs for 10 miles between Muskeg Creek to Firth River braids a final kick in the…before I leave the Yukon Arctic for Alaska. Firth River looks very braided as hoped.
Firth River crossing laughable: about 20 channels, 600m wide bank-to-bank, deepest up to knees, slow-moving. Very happy I shipped raft ahead: obviously didn’t need it.
Instantaneous changes west of Firth River: no tussocks & bogs, fewer bugs, and fast travel along creeks. Loving it! Tomorrow morning return to US!
Enjoy the current weight of my pack: 14 pounds. Have just 1 day of food, which is enough to reach the food cache I had flown in and dropped for me. Hope I’m the first to it. Hope there’s lots of chocolate.
Found cache, all good. Fueled for next 325 miles, to Haul Road, 13days, with some extra. Rain all day so taking evening off to nap, write, & count chocolate bars.
Rainy day #2. Expect #3 tomorrow: barometric pressure still dropping. Temp 45-55, could be worse. Upper Kongakut has expected Brooks Range grandeur.
Torrential rain overnight. Rivers flooding: avoided ford of Kongakut River and hoping Sheenjak River is lower in morning. Where’s my raft?
Across Sheenjak River. Many braids, deepest mid-thigh, all frigid. River down at least 4 feet from peak yesterday.
Two too-close griz encounters. 1st: ran out of brush, 15ft away, then ran other way. 2nd: similar but lost bowel control on exit.
Floodwaters recede, leave slick gray goop. Need a few more sunny days to dry out ground. Fall colors starting.
Today marks 15th consecutive day without crossing a road or seeing another human. Streaks end in 9 days max. Most remote leg of trip.
Long before USGS maps & Google Earth, caribou knew every non-technical pass in the Brooks Range. Best scenery yet at Pass 5900′ between Hulahula & Canning drainages.
Too many unavoidable miles on Canning River cobbles to end day: sore feet. Strong west wind replaces blue sky with storm clouds.
Warm & sunny evening. Clear & cool should accelerate Fall colors. Nighttime darkness not too far away: still 24 hours of light up here.
Post-flood streak of warm & sunny weather over? Barometric pressure has fallen off a cliff. Brewing up for late evening push over crucial pass while conditions are still good.
Over pass at midnight, no headlamp. Slow last 3 miles: Utah-like slide-fault canyon, rock-filled, 10 feet wide at narrowest point. Wicked awesome.
Stuck under tarp all day by cold rain. Unwise moving: would only go a few miles before soaked & cold, and needing camp. Be patient, go to half-rations, dig deep.
Clouds lifting, can see blue sky, sun emerging! Time to go! Coldfoot here I come – get the grill warmed up!
Good weather window short-lived: noon-9PM then clouds & drizzle, rain now. Pushed over 4800-foot Continental Divide pass with zero visibility but with great caribou track.
Day-long rain & drizzle, fog, flooding. Tough timing on wet weather: just 2 days to highway after being in BIG wilderness for last 3 weeks; just want a hot meal and bed.
Over crux 6500-foot Continental Divide pass, guarded by steep & loose scree & moraine, small glacier. Great views from world of rock & ice. Two passes left.
Tomorrow finish 650-mile 24-day leg without seeing anybody or crossing a road. This one stands out among many, very powerful experience. Excited for burger & bed.
Out of chocolate, coffee & fuel, almost food (3oz of jerky and 3oz of potatoes left). Socks like Swiss cheese. Uncharacteristic facial hair. Just one pass to go!
Reached Dalton Highway! Riding with workcrew to Coldfoot now, rushing to make the BUFFET. Wahoo!
Mi 4135 Coldfoot. Self-proclaimed northernmost truckstop in the world. Looks and feels like it. Back into wilderness tonight.
Re-outfitted with Fall gear: fresh raingear & shelter, additional top &bottom layers, warmer socks. Expecting colder & wetter conditions through the finish.
Joined by National Geographic crew: photographer Mike Brown & Roman Dial for next 2 weeks, writer Dan Koeppel for next 5 days. Re-energized by them & the finish being just 3 weeks away.
Dragging butt. Was too ready to leave Coldfoot but maybe not ready enough for big wilderness again. Unavoidable post-high low.
Summer long gone: all leaves turning now, frost likely tonight, no bugs, & weak sun. First clear night in 2 weeks.
Bob Marshall a great wordsmith: Gates of the Arctic Valley of Precipices, Frigid Crags. Village stop tomorrow, Anaktuvuk Pass.
Mi 4209 Anaktuvuk Pass. Overnight stop an opportunity to do laundry, shave, call parents. Package pickup in AM, then 12-day push to Ambler.
First packrafting in 6 weeks on splashy Class3 John River. 25 miles in 6 hours. 30 more miles until take-out.
Major ecological shift during 50mi John River float: Arctic brush-free tundra to boreal forest (spruce, alder, cottonwood, prickly rose)
Roman Dial’s farts stink but his book Packrafting! is great. Sweet campsite: spruce, fire, & soft tundra bed.
Shockingly good travel up Wolverine Creek via game trails, bars, & woodland. Roman spoke wolf with locals near camp. Fall sunshine.
Exciting bear encounter in upper Nahtuk River. Big grizzly ran at us to within 50ft then left reluctantly. Roman has photos.
Eleven hours of Brooks Range best: game trails, river bars, canyons, & packrafting. Three hours of worst: brushy hummocks & tussocks. Colorful foliage all day.
Short day due to weather-related hang-up with NG photographer. Stuck in Alatna valley until his flight can arrive. Low on food.
Moving again with photographer & food. Granite spires & walls tower above Arrigetch Peaks campsite. Tomorrow climb over 6685-foot Ariel Peak.
Wupped by 4500′ over Ariel Peak. Heavy packs, steep talus slopes & Class 3 airy scramble to overhanging horn summit. Best views on Brooks Range leg
Wupped again by three high passes, all covered in loose & slick talus & separated by root-less sliding tundra. Full moon & clear sky grace camp.
Low & slow water for Noatak River float. First frost last night, dancing northern lights & howling wolves tonight.
Noatak’s creeping 1MPH low-water current earning Slowatak nickname. As fast & less boring to hike tundra banks. Miss company of NG crew.
Last Arctic camp: tomorrow drop over Continental Divide into forested Ambler/Kobuk watershed& follow to coast & Kotzebue. Streak of good weather ending?
Stellar exit from mountain Arctic: firm tundra to pass, Top 5 view of upper Ambler River valley from atop 1000-foot-deep gorge, & riverside white spruce forests.
At Ambler River put-in, 12 miles further downstream than planned because of superb hiking. Low water but good current & lovely turquoise tint.
Saddened by end of last day in mountains: was a good one. Savoring the “lasts” as end nears, just 10 days left.
Lower Ambler & Upper Noatak in contest for slowest river award. Love the sunshine but rain would help currents. Village stop in Ambler today.
Mi 4636 Ambler. A forced day-off: PO not open until Monday. Wish village had a movie theater, bowling alley, or at least a library.
Sunny day on placid Kobuk, tonight cowboy camp. Achy arms due to constant paddling. Extremely variable emotions due to finish 140mi away.
Not much paddling = not much moving on Kobuk Linear Lake. Need a packkayak, not -raft. Hands, arms & back prepped well for 8mi-wide Hotham Inlet crossing.
Thankful for better PM current & another calm & clear night. Now: Riverside cookfire with half-moon on horizon. Will miss this. Tomorrow: Kiana.
Big storm arrives tonight, complicates finish. Plan A: in clouds. Plan B: a no-go with 25mph wind. Plan C: tussock-swamp says local. Plan D it is!
Noorvik village mayor to rescue: prints me Google Earth images of intricate Plan D through Kobuk Delta via Riley Channel. Only in a village.
Strong headwind & dead current halt raft; can use it for ferrying only. So walked along bars & moose/caribou trails, & bushwhacked too. Enjoying Nature’s final tests.
20MPH tailwind blows me out of Kobuk Delta, but too strong for Hotham Inlet crossing. Waiting for calm. Warm & dry now in a public shelter.
Weather worse: stronger wind, heavier rain. Thankful for shelter, good place to have patience. Writing a lot today.
Conditions best in 2 days but hardly ideal. Rain clouds breaking up but still windy. Making a go: need to force it a bit this time.
Across, wahoo! 1-2 ft waves with some whitecaps for extra fun. About 25 miles to Kotz; ETA: tomorrow morning.
Reunion of trip favorites today to humble me a last time: flatwater paddling, 5-gallon tussocks & sponga, bugs, & bushwhacking.
Fittingly anticlimactic FINISH in Kotzebue: no welcome party, Katahdin-like summit, or sense of conquer. Kotzebue was always just a motivating excuse for the journey.
A different life within 18 hours: in Anchorage, showered & shaved, wearing jeans & cotton shirt, gear washed & drying, on cell & internet, real bed.