These were among the best pictures of the 2008 ANWR trip.  We flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village, about 200 miles, some of us in a Cessna Grand Caravan, others flying directly into the Kongakut River via a Helio Courier.  The Courier came back to pick the rest of us up, and we flew over the Brooks Range (not by much!) about 90 miles east, into the Refuge, landing on a gravel bar on the Kongakut.  The plane left, and we had our first tussock experience as we hike about 1 1/2 miles west to our campsite.

Tussocks are part of the Alaskan hiking experience, along with game trails, fording streams, and occasional four footed creatures.  Tussocks are dangerous to step on, as they have a large top on a narrow stalk.  In between is some form of water/muck.

The second day, we hiked north over the divide from the Kongakut itself to one of its tributaries into Drain Creek.  We set up camp on a high bluff.  The following day, we went upstream to a rockfall by two small lakes, called “Maze Lakes,” due to the rockfall.  We worked our way through the rockfall, up over a hill and down a long unnamed stream to a junction with another, with rain threatening.  We stayed there the fourth night.

The next day it was back up stream, and then a long, steep climb to the top of a pass, where it was hoped we would stay at that altitude until it was time to descend to Drain Creek.  Alas, we had to descent first and then ascend, in snow, up to about 5000 feet, where we camped.  It is interesting to see how the water flows in day time and shuts down in the night and morning as snow and ice melt decreases. 

Finally, we descended into Drain Creek, which I consider the “true ANWR”.  It has lovely green hill benches, black mountains on the north side called Bathtub Ridge.  We had a long day, ending up at the Mineral Lick, where we watched about 40 Dall sheep moving on a vertical rock face as easily as we walked (probably easier, since we dealt with tussocks.)  Since it was light 24 hours a day, we watched them as long as we wanted to.  So long as we didn’t get too close to the mineral lick, they weren’t too concerned about us.

The next day, we hiked to a knob on Drain Creek.  I camped on top of the knob, and the next morning, at about 5 a.m., saw a grizzly that had just moved through camp below.  It was thrilling!

We then hiked back up a tributary to the place where we had spent our second night and from there over the divide back to the Kongakut, where we were picked up the next day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: