A reunion on Kodiak (English version)

United States-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September / October 2005  |  by valesca schaefer

Alaska: the extreme hike

Would I have gone on that hike if I had known what was lying ahead?
Honestly, I don't know! With the self-confidence I have now - yes, but if I had been asked a year ago - probably not.


day 1:

We started early with Jim driving us as far into the tidal flats of Spiridon Bay as possible. It still took us half a day of hiking until we finally reached the river mouth. It was sunny and warm so I felt rather hot in my neoprene wading pants. But when we started walking along the river the water cooled down my legs.
Walking in the water was very new to me and I felt rather insecure. Climbing around a rock I would always repeat my mantra: "I'm not going to fall, I'm not going to fall..."

The first evening we camped above a small beach where we had a nice fire going. Very romantic

Who was there first?

Who was there first?


day 2:

At lunchtime we climb a small hill right above the river. Surprisingly we get the first view of the snowy mountains with the glaciers. It's a breathtaking sight and I feel very small when realizing how far we have to go.

In the evening Ian tries to get us some salmon for dinner. With the second cast he hauls in a big Silver. Unfortunately it is already rather pink and therefore not so yummy but I enjoy it nevertheless.

In these narrrows a harbour seal was swimming

In these narrrows a harbour seal was swimming


day 3:

I'm getting used to crossing the river but still I don't feel very comfortable and I am afraid of falling into the water.
Around noon it starts to rain. In the late afternoon we get to the river that is coming down from Munsey lake. We set up the tent, mark our territory to keep away the bears and start hiking up to the lake.
Even though it is raining it's awesome! A loon is calling from the far distance and two tundra swans are flying by.

Spiridon river

Spiridon river


day 4:

It is raining the whole day.
The Spiridon now is a braided river and reminds me very often of my studies. We find a campsite right before a narrow and deep canyon. Despite the rain Ian lights a fire but there is no chance of drying our clothes. The water in the river is gray and milky because of all the sediment it carries and therefore it is impossible to catch a fish. But we have enough freeze-dried with us.

naptime

naptime


day 5:

The hardest day ever!
We start hiking into the canyon and in the beginning it is rather easy going. But we soon get to a point where we can't go further along the water. We have to somehow get up the hill and walk around for 3-4 miles. But there is a small stream coming down from the south which we decide to climb. Whereas I feel rather comfortable in the rocks Ian decides to get away from the waterfall and climb through the vegetation.
I get along well until I get cought by a tree on top of a cliff. The step I used to get up here broke away and I can't make it through the branches with my backpack! I get angry and start panicing. Fighting with the tree, yelling at it then suddenly I can hear Ian calling Somehow we manage to comunicate and he comes down to help me. When he finally reaches the cliffs I have meanwhile managed to break the one big branch that was keeping me from climbing further and I am sitting rather comfortable on a clifftop. I can even take off my backpack. While I am just trying to figure out a way to get back to the waterfall Ian wants me to leave my backpack there and wants us to get out of there alive no matter how. But at this point I start thinking logically again. It is no use leaving any stuff behind that we might need, that would be suicidal.
While the dispute I had climbed some of the different parts without my backpack and that gives me enough confidence to do it with it too! Now I take the lead and start climbing up the little waterfall until we can finally get safely out of there. Ian now has to find his stuff again and we agree to meet on top of the hill.
It is very steep and the brush is very thick. A final cliff to be climbed and I get to a plateau full of prickers and fern. But the view is awesome and I can't supress a cry of joy!
More or less at the same time I hear Ian yell so he found his pack and somehow he arrives at the edge just a few yards away from where I stand.
Miraculously we instantly find a nice flat grassy patch for our campsite.

lots of rainbows ...

lots of rainbows ...

... and even more crossings

... and even more crossings


day 6:

A wonderful sunrise colours the glaciers and makes a wonderful start into another day of fighting with vegetation...
But first we dry all our stuff.
Hands still sore from the previous day we make our way through prickers and thicket. All so often we savor the view of the 'golden valley', still far away and apparently out of reach. In the early evening we really get to the first extensions

sunrise

sunrise


day 7:

It is raining without intermission. But we mostly hike easy paths along the river bed. Just in the late afternoon we have to walk through the shrub again. We camp on a tiny clearance shielded from the wind and during the night hear the storm raging above us.

more rainbows

more rainbows


day 8:

The rain has stopped but during the night the water level rose about an inch. The river is much more violent today and while crossing the river in the morning I nearly fall!
We have to hike around a small canyon again, that means hiking through swamps and brushes. But mother nature wants to soothe us and we feed on cranberries, blueberries and crowberries.
From where we stay over night we can already see the last bushes. Behind there are only grass, moss and lichens waiting for us.

approaching the glaciers

approaching the glaciers


day 9:

I have a big hole in the heel of my neoprene pants. So I'll always have a wet foot but at least I stay warm!
Hiking further up the Spiridon we have to pass two ice fields. That means that we have to cross slopes of boulders and scree.
I love granit...
To me it seems as if we wouldn't make it to the lake today. But then it lies blue and cold in front of us: the windy lake! Twilight is coming when we set up the tent for the night.

where are we?

where are we?

glacial tubes

glacial tubes


day 10:

Another day that I would not have chosen if asked beforehand...
To get to the pass we have to hike around the lake. But in the far distance we can see a cliff dropping steep into the water. It seems impossible to get around. So we have to get atop. Luckily most of the screes and boulders we have to cross are out of granit. The few schistous cliffs are bad enough though.
The weather couldn't be much better, it only starts to rain and storm when we are above the pass

The valley at the other side is completely different from what we've seen so far. The slopes are steeper but covered with lush green grass and moss.
In the early afternoon we already get to the brush again. This time I still wear my gloves and realize that I should have worn them days ago...

looking back

looking back


day 11:

Nearly there...
The gametrails are wonderfully passable so we rarely have to crouch under trees. We make a good speed and as soon as we get to the broad river bed we hike along gravel bars, crossing the river from now and then.
All along the beaches are dead salmon carcasses rotting, the stench is rather disgusting.
We have to leave the river in the afternoon and head towards Old Harbour. There should be a 4-wheeler trail somewhere. We finally find it after stomping around in a beaver-made swamp for more then half an hour...
Just before we get too close to civilization we set up the tent for the last night int he wilderness.

there are mountains at the eastcoast too

there are mountains at the eastcoast too


day 12:

After only 40 minutes of relaxed hiking we reach the first building of Old Harbour. It still takes us quite a long time until we get to housing areas and spot a wind bag that tells us where to find the airport. There are no signs for directions anywhere. The 'airport' is a landing strip and two locked hangars. No telephone, no waiting area or anything.
We have to find a telephone to book our flights for the afternoon. All shops are closed and there is no public telephone booths. But in the lobby of a lodge we find a telephone but noone to ask for permission. Well, it's a toll-free number anyway...
We have to call back in the early afternoon to confirm the flight. But while we are taking a sunbath behind one of the hangars a plane from another airline is landing. As they have two seats free we can go back to Kodiak instantly

© valesca schaefer, 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
I was lucky to get a cheap flight to Alaska where I want to meet up with my boyfriend Ian. He is working at a remote lodge on Kodiak. After the season ends we want to go on a wilderness hike.
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 11, 2005
Duration: 6 weeks
End of journey: Oct 20, 2005
Travelled countries: United States
The Author
 
valesca schaefer is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.
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