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Thread: 100+ mile tour of the Talkeetna Mountain via backpack and packraft (pic heavy)

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    Default 100+ mile tour of the Talkeetna Mountain via backpack and packraft (pic heavy)

    We started our hike in Cantwell and hiked up Jack River to Caribou Lakes where we spent our first night. All of the land around Jack River and Caribou Lakes is AHTNA land and a permit is required to legally trespass (which we had). Here are a couple pics from Day 1:






    Next morning we packrafted across the lake as we spotted 6 Hilleberg tunnel tents setup there and figured we meet who it was. Turns out it was a NOLS group. So maybe the next NOLS gear sale will have some Hilleberg tents for sale for a good price if anyone is in the market??

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    Anyways, after we met the folks from NOLS we paddled back out into the lake and did some fishing via packraft and caught a couple lake trout which we had for breakfast.



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    Then we began the 7 mile hike from caribou lakes to Tsusena Pass. The walking was great so we made great time on the game trails and saw some beautiful country.





    Once through the pass it continued to be great walking to where we setup camp that night about 5 miles down from the top of the pass and about 1.5 miles upstream from where we could began packrafting the next day.


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    It rained all that night and into the next morning so we threw on our packrafting tops and bottoms (which also were our raingear) and hiked the remaining distance to where we had enough water on Tsusena creek to begin packrafting.



    To say the water was on the lean side would be a giant understatment. In fact it was float dragging rock bouncing boney for about 8 of the 14 mile float from our put in to Tsusena Butte take out. The float starts out mellow Class I-II picks up to a solid Class II boulder field with a couple short Class III drops here and there. Which was plenty to keep us on our toes. Didn't get any pics of the float or the rest of the day as we were pretty cold and wet and more concerned getting to the take out at Tsusena Butte and getting warmed back up. Though we did manage to pull a couple lake trout out of Tsusena Lake for dinner that night.


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    The next day started out with a VERY brushy climb through the alders to get from 2500 or so feet at Tsusena Lake to 4000 feet to get back up to the good walking. Here is a pic looking back down at the Tsusena Butte and Lake



    Once on top we covered a fair bit of country that day including a good sized lake that I am claiming does not hold any fish, but probably does its just that my fishing skills are lacking.


    Yes Becca called me a Narwhal when I put my trekking pole in my pack like this.


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    Continued hiking from the "fishless lake" a couple more miles to where we make camp looking over Deadman Lake and Creek as well as the Upper Susitna Valley before it necks down into Devils Canyon.




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    Went to sleep that next as it was starting to rain. Which carried on into the morning with less than 50 yrds of visibility. This made me aquainted with the term "hiking by instruments" (GPS) once again to make sure we were heading in the right direction. The fog lifted somewhat by 11 AM so we could see a couple hundred yards. Then we dropped out of the clouds completely, just long enough to cross Deadman Creek and go right back up into the mountains on the other side once again "hiking by instruments. Deadman Creek is a fairly large/deep slow moving creek that would have required airing up the packrafts to paddle across had we not seen when we fog lifted enough a place where the creek spread out 300 yrds across and was knee deep the whole way across.




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    It rained hard pretty much that whole day but we still were able to cover about 15 miles and ended up camping in a huge open basin at 4300' that held a BUNCH of caribou.




    We went to bed that night hoping the rain would let up for tomorrow as we were only 5 miles away from where we planned to put in on the Brushkana to begin our float back to Cantwell.
    Luckily we were blessed to just the sound of the howling wind the morning so we ate breakfast and began our descent down to the Brushkana put in.



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    Even before we got to where we were planning on beginning our packraft down the river it was obvious that there was much more water than normal in the Brushkana which allowed us to begin our floating portion much earlier than we had hoped, which meant less hiking and more packrafting!




    As we neared the Denali Hwy on the Brushkana it became obvious that what we were used to seeing as far as rapids on this river were now a bit larger and more splashy which required a few extra stops to dump out the rafts inspite of having spray skirts. We had food cached near the campground and picked that up in addition to some other creature comforts for camp that night like foldable camp stools and wine! After the campground Becca attempted to highmark (snowmachine hillclimbing term) on a large rock and promptly flipped her boat in the middle of the Class III rapids about 3/4 of a mile downstream of the bridge. We were able to get her raft to shore with all the gear still strapped on and calmed down enough to continue downstream far enough to get to the good camping/fishing gravel bars that the Brushkana has to offer just a couple miles prior to it dumping into the Nenana.

    The next day began the epically LONG and BORING float on the Nenana from the mouth of the Brushkana back to Cantwell. Couple slow 2 mph current with a stiff upstream breeze equals sore shoulders and arms from having to paddle nearly down the entire river back to Cantwell.



    All in all it was a wonderful trip with the wife backpacking and packrafting and getting to see bits of Alaska I never would get to see that time of year otherwise. Saw a lot of gorgeous country and lots of wildlife. I would highly reccomend this route to anyone with a packraft or just wants to hike the whole thing and see some truly stunning country, of course you could say that just about any 100+ mile stretch in Alaska.

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    Member e45colt's Avatar
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    Awesome! Thanks for posting what looks like a great adventure, even if a little cold and wet.
    Glad all turned out well after the raft flipped.

    Ed
    Afflicted by condition human

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Wow...

    Wonderful trip - and thanks for the post; story and pics.
    Imagining all the winter dreaming and planning you guys did - then seeing it play out - how the logistics, weather and water levels; trout, hiking by instruments, and highmarking on river boulders - played out a true in this adventure in reality, is so cool. You guys made a real special trip; full of memories! Thank you for posting this and congratulations!

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    Thank you, well told, interesting adventure, very nice photographs.....

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Awesome report and pictures! Thanks for sharing man. Really enjoyed hearing about your trip.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member WaterWolf's Avatar
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    Man thats one of the best post I have read in a long while. Shoot its almost like I went along.............except I stayed dry.

    Thats a great experience to be able to share with your wife. Nice job.


    On the side, how ya like those rafts and how the heck ya got your gear strapped to it?
    I'm Pro-Pike.

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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaska_Lanche View Post


    Best pic of the bunch! Very cool with the meandering creek, fog, etc.

    How'd the char taste? BTW, you look like you work for SLB in some of those pics!!

    Dad was saying you were making good time from Caribou Lake to the Lodge, and by the pics and trail, I now know why! This is now logged in the 'to do list' for myself! Very nice...

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Wow, what an incredible adventure. Flor and I really enjoyed reading about your trip. Outstanding photo documentation, you two motivate us all. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a couple full curl rams strapped to those packrafts....

    Again awesome, thanks for sharing.

    Steve and Flor

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    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing the story and very good photos.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Awesome story and thanks for helping to live a little bit of AK while sitting in the sand box! If all goes as planned the wife and I will have finished out 1 year countdown to freedom by this time next year and will be able to join you guys on an adventure. I have most all of the gear packed away neatly awaiting my return. Sadly most if it is new, like my unrigged explorer still in the box fresh from the Alpacca factory!

    Is that the SL3 with a granite gear haven? Slick setup and makes me wish I had ordered one when they were on the cheap. I do have the Haven and SL2 so maybe I will have to do some more shopping...

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    Thanks for all the kind words guys!!! It was a great trip and we are already scamming for another 100+ one next year in the AK range somewhere likely. Hopefully get a couple shorter 50+ mile ones in this summer before its all said and done. Can never do enough hiking in the mountains to get in shape for hunting season.

    Waterwolf, we really like the rafts. This is our 3rd summer packrafting with the Alpacka rafts and they sure open up the options on what and where you can explore. We have our packs straps to the bow with a quick detach system offered by Alpacka raft. Also we bought our rafts one size larger than suggested by Alpacka raft for our heights so we each have a dry back full of either clothes or sleeping bags at our feet so we can have something for our feet to brace ourselves against since we can't reach the end of the boats with our feet.

    Stid,

    We'll have to get together with you and Flor here soon to get some packrafting in. Be a ball to do an overnighter or something with ya guys before she takes off.

    LuJon,

    The tent is a GoLite Shangri-La 5. With a Mount Laurel designs duomid bug net. The GoLite Shelter is 30 oz (only 6 oz more than my SL2 for twice the square footage), the bug netting is 32 sq ft and has a floor and is fully enclosed and at only 14.5 oz its a light little bugger. Needed the side zip this bug net has to offer instead of the front entrance like on the GG night haven for this configuration to really work well. Add only 8 oz for 12 MSR grounhog stakes and use two trekking poles locked together for a center pole and you are looking at a 90 sq ft shelter you can stand up in and 32 sq ft of which is completely enclosed from the bugs for only 3.2 pounds is pretty tough to beat. That and its pyramid design works great for shedding some pretty stout wind we encountered as nearly the whole trip was able tree and brushline so we were pretty exposed. Especially compared the the SL2 with the nighthaven at 49 ounces (only 3 oz lighter) only gives you a 45 sq ft shelter and you can only sit up in right in the center poles. I know I know trekking pole shelters can possibly stand up and any wind

    Here are a couple more pics of the tent:
    Setup with 2 treeking poles


    Lots of space at the foot of the bug netting to store packs and other gear


    Lots of space for a couple pics to sit back and relax out of the elements even before crawling into bed.

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    Great details and pictures! You are truly living the dream, and I'm completely envious! Thanks greatly for sharing your trip.

    WhiteFish

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