Saturday, June 26, 2010

Packrafting the Junjik

Within the first half mile of hiking we ran into a small group of Musk Ox on the edge of the Sagnivarkok River. Sure sign... it was going to be a good trip.

We had just had friends drop us off at mile 350 of the Haul Rd (9 hours N of Fairbanks, less than 5 hours S of Prudhoe Bay). We had several days to walk up the Ribdon River Valley (named after a geologist - Don, who had a broken rib), then a few days hiking up the pass, crossing the continental divide, and then hiking down in the Junjik Valley until we found a good place to start paddling, then packrafting the Junjik down to the East fork of the Chandalar, into Arctic Village.. and fly home. Only Ed, who knows Northern Alaska more than anyone I know, could have dreamed up this route. We had planned 8 days, but ended up finishing in 7. Grand total - 80 miles on foot, 75 mi in the boats.

It was spectacular country. Long days, heavy packs, but in the land of the midnight sun there was also time to relax. It was spacious... spacious views, spacious thoughts, spacious time... just vast in so many ways. it was fascinating to go through the transitions -from the confluence of the Ribdon and Sag rivers, to the headwaters, and then repeat on the South side of the range. Day 5.5 we saw our first trees.

and for me, it was especially great to spend time with old friends.