Friday, January 15, 2010

The Summit at Hatcher's Pass

The mountains had been wind blown so bad that there was hardly enough snow to get a good ride in. While still at the bottom we had contemplated whether there was sufficient snow in any area to get a decent ride. Amidst all the rocks and ground exposed we were able to scout out a chute that seemed free from rocks and dangerous terrain.

The weather in the valley had been bitterly cold and caused us to think more than twice about just staying indoors to wait for better temperatures. However, it would be my last weekend before heading into knee surgery, so we gathered up our determination and headed out to face the cold head on. The drive up Hatcher's Pass is short, and upon reaching the top of the road we had left the crazy temperaturs behind us and were now looking at weather nothing like that which was in the valley below. It was beautiful, no wind, sunny, and warm enough that on our hike up, my coat was open, and did not need gloves or a hat.

I have included a picture that shows the view from where I strapped on my board. This was just a little ways off the summit, and from there down the snow was outstanding, as long as we kept to the small saddle or valley that had not been depleted from its snow supply. My board, unfortunately did have one intimate encounter with a hidden rock just beneath the surface of the snow, but the rest of the ride was stellar. It was the only trip of the season and might be the last depending on how the knee heals as well on how much snow we get.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Deshka River '09

Alaska is about as wild and pristine as it gets. The vast outdoors, teaming with wild animals nearly everywhere one could possibly look. There are literally many adventures available to me I would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Coupled with the wilds of Alaska are things that I would not expect to see anywhere and can even be a bit of a surprise. One of these small surprises was my experiences on a four day float/fishing trip on a fairly remote Alaskan river, the Deshka. As the above picture shows, this trip down the river was filled with large, decaying salmon along the rivers edge. I've known that after a salmon spawns it is the end of its life, but this was the first time really experiencing the end of that life so up close. Of course it makes sense, but I had never seen so much evidence of the salmons circle of life. It was just one new experience that was unexpected along this phenomenal river trip.

This first float trip was my first of hopefully many more to come. Only my brother in law, Richard (Luffinator) and myself were able to make it on this trip. The intention was to take advantage of the record numbers of silver salmon that had been recorded traveling up stream. In our first fishing attempt all that we were rewarded was the small trout you see below, which I was extremely ecstatic about.

That tiny trout however, was to be quite telling of our fishing yet to come. Our second (first full) day on the river we began looking for the ginormous swarms of silvers that we were expecting, only to catch a few small trout early in the day, and then be completely drenched in rain the rest of the afternoon. The rain filled our inflatable kayak's soaking us from the waist down, and we saw no sign of any catchable salmon, only paddled and paddled towards the end of the day. There are no pictures of this tremendously wet day, because it never let up even one iota for me to pull my camera out and document the down poor. Both Richard and I were extremely grateful for wool clothing, as well, I cannot emphasize enough how grateful we were for our uncle's suggestion that we take a can of charcoal lighter fluid with us to start fires with. If it had not been for that one suggestion we would have been much more miserable that night for sure.

The next day was a complete opposite of the previous one. The sun was absolutely gorgeous and the weather totally perfect. It was literally as if the whole river, wildlife and all, was out to play and bask in the warm sun. We saw numerous birds from the mighty Bald Eagle to ducks and geese. We even had quite the experience with a whole family of swans that we thought was going to lead to the mother dive bombing us from the air as she circled us from above and the babies swam next to our kayak's. The river also ran us right into a grizzly bear, that was scared off fairly easily by Richard yelling at me to get the camera, so no picture of him, but it was a bit of a exciting sight. There were piles of river otters, that would spook easily, but when we could were fun to watch play around.

We did finally get into some silvers on the last day, almost as we were ready to give up trying to find them. The river was fairly high from the rain and we probably floated right over most of the Silvers. We did have some fun catching a couple nice salmon, as well caught quite a lot of nice rainbow's as we figured out how to fish sitting up on our kayak's as we floated down the river. The fishing was not as we had hoped, but for our maiden river voyage it had a lot to take in and enjoy along the way.

(Click to view large images)

First campsite

Second night campsite (morning)

One of the nice trout caught

Our last nights camp

Hauling in my monster

Sleeping next to the bear repellent

One of Richards Silver's

The Luffinator

The Luffinator is the title I am now giving to my talented and always entertaining brother in law, Richard.

I have been meaning to update my blog for quite some time now obviously and I have a lot to post about, but wanted to quickly get in here a memory from this summer that I do not want to forget, however I'm sure that Richard would like for everyone to forget.

It was at the close of our four-wheeling trip you see below, all of us were cleaning up the machines and emptying out the truck and trailer. Kevin (anotha brotha) had showed Richard how to take the governor off when backing the four-wheelers up, thus allowing them to go much faster. Richard thought this was pretty neat and would try it out while backing up one of the wheelers in the driveway. I stood and watched the entire thing and as he got up a lot of speed, turned the handlebars, and what seemed to me in slow motion flipped that dadgum machine over on to his head. Just too much speed, the tires gripping the asphalt and the momentum sending him on his butt with the machine nearly landed on top of him.

It was one of those moments that at first is kind of scary, I had to check to make sure Richard was okay, but as soon as he confirmed to us that he was fine, Kevin and I could not stop laughing. Really, the only thing that was hurt was his pride. It was one of the funniest things I saw all summer and is another classic Richard event that I plan on remembering and harassing him about for a long time.

The photo above is of course not Richard, but is a funny one I found online that paints a great picture of how beautiful this event was.