OVERVIEW OF SUMMER 2016 TREK – 29 June to 24 July
We’re truly excited about the prospect of spending the 4th of July in one of the best places on earth, Alaska! We devised a trek that will take in two of Alaska’s most iconic and challenging
This summer we combine two distinct regions into one amazing trek within the heartland of Alaska. First, we head North to the Denali Range, home to the Western Hemisphere’s tallest peak, Mnt Denali, for a 3-day orientation hike into the Petersville Hills, walk-in bush country along the southern edge of the Denali National Park. This hike will give us a serious but measured introduction to backpacking in Alaska’s backcountry. We return to ‘civilization’ to celebrate the 4th of Juy in the village Talkeetna, a quirky collection of pilots, free-spirits, and serious mountaineers.
Then we head eastwards to the rugged back-country of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (the largest in the United States) for a backpacking and fishing adventure like no other, which includes an 8-10 day trek into some of the remote backcountry of North America. If you’re looking for a true wilderness experience, this is it. The mountain wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias stretches across an area equivalent to six Yellowstone Parks, almost all of it devoid of human habitation. We fly in. No trails. Backpack point-to-point. This is seriously big land, home to Mount Saint Elias, the second highest mountain in the United States, and another ten peaks above 14, 000 ft. Lush glacial valleys and rocky plateaus provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing; elk, dall sheep, moose, and brown bear are common.
Backpacking here is truly a special experience, one enriched by traveling in a small-group.. There are no trails or designated routes; the terrain is rugged and the weather can be harsh, even in July. I can still summon the emotions felt the first time I hiked in the Wrangell-St. Elias, the adrenaline rush as we stood by our gear as the single-engine de Havilland Beaver that had brought us in lifted into the sky and disappeared down the valley. Surrounded by a landscape so vast and untouched by the hand of man, one gets the anxious feeling, step by step, that you are truly walking away from the comforts and communications of the known world.
There is an almost physical sensation one gets when you take the plunge into such an awesome land with the knowledge that for the next 10 days we shall rely solely on our bodies, the contents of our packs, and each other. Our pick-up location is over thirty miles away, and there are three high mountain passes and four rivers between us and it. In 2009 the first grizzly was spotted, at several hundred yards, after only a few hours of trekking up the ridge-line. Each summer I depart with a sense of gratitude for the chance to explore and spend time in such a place.
THE ITINERARY (as it currently stands):
DAY 1: Depart Reagan-National Airport After landing in Anchorage and picking up our gear, we will take some time to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center at Lake Tuliana and get a crash course on the cultures of native Alaskans before heading into the interior. We spend the evening in camp at Eklutna Lake.
DAYs 2-5: We have several options, but shall get the gears greased by an initial two-night hike trek in the beautiful Chugach Wilderness or the Talkeetna Mountains. This is good for acclimatizing to Alaska off-trail hiking and getting the kinks ironed out in your pack system.
DAYS 5 / 6: We return to ‘civilization’ (Alaskan, that is) to celebrate Independence Day in the all-American village of Talkeetna – recently voted one of “the coolest towns in the United States”, due in part, no doubt, by the fact that it’s mayor since 1997 has been Stubbs the Cat. We have the added luxury of staying in a cabin for two nights – which allows us to clean up a bit before ‘going to town’.
DAYS 7-10: Departing Talkeetna, we drive south-east up Willow Creek for a mid-week trek in the Hatcher Pass Wilderness. This will be a more intense 3-night off-trail experience into a beautiful and secluded alpine landscape.
DAY 11: We drive eastward and south along the Richardson Hwy — the Alaskan Pipeline can be glimpsed at points — and the infamous McCarthy Road to the tiny community of McCarthy, AK (pop.42).
DAY 12: We take the day to see the local sites, including the Kennicott Mine and nearby glacier (we can actually walk out onto this one), and prepare our gear for the.
While in McCarthy we hope to meet up with our friend Greg Fensterman, owner of the local outfitting service Trek Alaska – the man who literally wrote the book on backpacking in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Greg has spent nearly two decades living in McCarthy and trekking through the backcountry. Greg is always good for some last-minute route advice and great stories.
DAYs 13-21: We rendezvous with our bush pilots at Wrangell Mountain Air for insertion into the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness. For the next 8 days, we will push through
moderately strenuous point-to-point backpacking in some of the most dramatic country in Alaska – indeed the world! We are heading into pristine backpacking country, along lush valleys, up across high barren passes, and along rocky ridge lines. A wide variety of terrain awaits us. Stepping off from the landing strip at Jake’s Bar, we head toward the slopes of MacColl Ridge, where we are likely to be exploring land that has never been trod upon by human foot. We share the land here with wolves, wolverines, foxes, and grizzlies.
DAY 22/23: After returning to McCarthy we have time to relax, take a dunk in the river (soothing icy water that is diverted into a natural rock basin form one of the most scenic community pools in the country), head to the Golden Saloon to get a real burger, listen to some music, and rub elbows with the locals. Trivia Night and Open-Mic Night are special treats (James and I came in third last year in trivia, quite a feat considering that one category was ‘Iditarod’ and another ‘Local’).
We offer an optional 3-day fishing adventure on the Gulkana River, a designated national wild a scenic river. It is also teeming with fish: salmon, dolly-varden, trout, and grayling. We meet our local guides from Alaska River Wrangellers at Copper Center. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn or perfect the art of fly fishing in a pristine wilderness environment.
DAYs 24/25: Drive back to Anchorage – of course stopping at the Eureka Lodge on the way for a hearty meal (chicken-fried steak with coffee a perennial favorite). Return flight to Washington, DC.
Slight alterations to routes are possible due to weather conditions in Alaska.
Price: $2800 Price includes an amazing 25 day trek in Alaska backcountry, all flights (including bush flights into the Wrangel St. Elias National Park), ground transportation, normal meals, guide and fishing services, and group equipment.