First of all, thank you all who endured my endless questions regarding the DM802 hunt. Here is the report followed by some lessons learned:
First of all, what I am about to do goes against every fiber of who I am. It is taking every ounce of intestinal fortitude to continue... indeed, my fingers are trembling at the prospect of.... quoting Kenny Rogers: "You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run". Whew... got that out of my brain, so I can continue with the report. This song kind of represents our trip.
I got home from work on Friday and spent the evening getting last minute things together and ready. Then on Saturday, on the very wise suggestion of a friend, I loaded the boat with 100 gallons of water, and 3 people (1,500 pounds), to see if my boat could handle the load of gear and moose... we went out to Longmere Lake and was able to get on step and run about 22 mph! We made circles for about 1/2 hour to also calculate the fuel burn. It looked good. Got home and drained the water and loaded the camp and hunting gear.
Sunday morning; 0600... we're off! We got about 1 mile from the house, in the dark and all of the sudden, I heard a noise. I stopped to check things out and realized that a plastic sled (used to drag moose through swamp if necessary) had come loose. We go that secured and back on the road.
Next stop, Wasilla... we refuel, and grab some lunch. I noticed some unusual wear on one of the trailer tires, so we spent some time, on Sunday, looking for some replacement tires... no luck (strike 1). We decide to move on. We get to Fairbanks and again shop around, again no luck. We got a quick dinner, and decided to keep going.. we had a spare.
A few hours later, on the Dalton Highway, about 70 miles from the Yukon River, we run into some fog that could easily have been considered "Phase 3" (slope term), meaning that we could see about 6" beyond our hood! We continued to inch along because we were not in a safe place to stop and eventually got to where we could see about 10'... Things continued to improve until we found the snow/slush and slimy roads with mud similar in consistancy to peanut butter... what a mess (strike 2).
We made it to the bridge and looked over the launch in the dark. Decided to back-track to a gravel pit about 1 mile away... this was more of a mud pit than gravel! We were able to find some high ground to pitch our small tent and got a really good night sleep.
Monday morning... we finish loading the boat with our camping/hunting gear and about 100 gallons of gas. Got the boat launched, got a close parking spot (the lot was full of maybe 50 trucks!), fired the old Yami up, started the GPS and depth finder and we're off. Full throttle and we were able to get a whopping 1500 RPM (should be 5300 or so)... we were making about a 4' wake behind us... I raised and lowered the trim and was gaining about 100 rpm every second or so, after a few circles, we made it on step... not sure if the mud in the water was holding us down or what... but we are going... 22 mph down river! We get about 1.5 hours down river and decide that would be a great place to unload some gas for the trip home. This will help to lighten the boat a bit. I also decide to dump out our 5 gallon can of fresh water because I had a filter and could refill (big mistake! Clear fresh water was very hard to find).
We continue down river stashing gas about every hour or so... finally, the boat is running good and happy. We reach our destination about 1/2 hour before dark only to find that the only flat spot was very soft mud and not conducive to camping... we explore a bit more and find a bit firmer spot up a slough. While not the ideal spot, it was relatively clear of brush and flat enough to fit the Cabelas Guide Dome "Condo" tent. Got the bear fence up and settled in for the night.
Some time during the night, it sounded like a 747 landing on the river and then all of the sudden, the big condo tent was dancing with all kinds of gyrations! But domes are great for wind, right? At 3:00 am a big "micro burst" gust hit the tent with enough force to bust one of the tent poles and poke it right through the rain fly! Fortunately, I had a spare pole and the highest quality of duct tape! We got things patched just in time for the monsoon! The repairs held but barely...
The next day we were able to hunt morning and evening in some excellent looking country, however the willows were as thick as a bamboo forest and over our heads... we had a tough time walking through them and couldn't see over them. So, we decided to hunt the perimiter of the islands. Plenty of sign but no response to the calls.
So, another reasonable night sleep, but we both woke up with pounding sinus headaches (stike 3)... we had a break in the weather with the forcast calling for a bigger storm than the first night's, so we decided to load up and head for the truck. We had a good trip, but fought the wind the whole way! Darkness settled right as we found our last gas stash. Thankfully I had a good GPS track that I could follow in the dark. We got back to the truck, loaded the boat and camped back in the gravel pit (things dried out since our last stay). Woke up and hit the road by 7:00 am... made it home before dark... 13 hours from the Yukon River.
So, while we left a bit prematurely, we had a blessed trip, saw some incredible country and endured a great adventure.
Now for the lessons:
Things that I would do the same: I would read every post on this forum and others regarding this hunt and the area. I would over pack the emergency gear and be prepared for the unexpected. I would load the boat with the gear, fuel and people to see how it handles the load before leaving town. I would be very redundant with emergency communications; I.e. SAT phone, SPOT, etc. Have/use an established GPS track for the river. Be ready to throw in the towel when the odds are against you.
Things that I would do differently: While it all worked out, I don't think I will ever take an open skiff on a 200 mile trip again. I would not recommend tent camping, instead sleep in the boat. Don't pour out the fresh water thinking you can find more later. Stash more fuel to lighten the load back up river (hopefully with a moose); We stashed fuel to Tanana but not after; I would recommend leaving fuel every 1-2 hours and enough at each drop for 1-2 hours. I don't think I would hunt this particular area (DM802) again, there is a reason that ADF&G cannot give all of the trophy permits away.
I am sure that there is much more to be learned and would gladly answer any questions the best that I can. Good luck on your next adventure and be safe.