Monday, July 20, 2009

More Pictures from 2004 Race - Eureka to Talkeetna

The morning of Day 2. 4:00 am start after "sleeping" on the ground for 2 hours.

4am sunrise - upper Oshenta River drainage

This was a hard morning as I tried to choke down some dry food with ice cold water while hiking. I lagged a bit behind my partners but felt better after an hour or so. I didn't want them to slow down for me and they didn't. That's why a partner on the Classic is so valuable, to keep you on the pace. This picture is in the upper headwaters of the Oshenta River. We came across intrepid adventurers Erin and Hig and talked with them for a couple minutes before going our separate ways.
Upper Oshenta River drainage

Climbing to the 6000 foot pass that divides the Susitna River drainage and the Talkeetna River drainage.
Gaining elevation on moraine

On the Talkeetna drainage side of the pass. We followed a nice sheep trail up to the top of the ridge visible in this picture and then slid down scree. The ice was bullet-proof hard so we carefully skirted it on scree and unstable moraine.
Scree, moraine and ice near the Talkeetna/Oshetna divide

After a couple miles of large, unstable moraine rock, this down-sloping tundra was a great respite. About 55 miles into the race. Not long after this picture was taken, Roman and Roman Jr. passed us on their mountain bikes, making excellent time over relatively flat ground.
Smooth terrain heading to the Talkeetna River

About 58 miles and 24 hours into the race.
Hiking near the Talkeetna River headwaters

Here's that super-sweet but short highway of a trail that gradually descends for a few miles to the Talkeetna River. This trail is so smooth you can almost sleep while you're walking it. It's the middle of the day and warm, exhaustion is starting to set in, the tundra looks soft and comfortable. A nap was really tempting but we pressed on at a fast hike knowing we could start floating in just a couple miles.
Sweet trail descending to the Talkeetna River which is visible in the back

After 62 hard miles on the ground, we were happy to get off our feet and into the boat. However, the water was fast, rocky and difficult. One of our team dumped his boat within 100 yards of launching in the water. In an amazing feat of gymnastics, he was able to get back in his packraft, grab his floating pack and navigate Class II-III glacial water all at the same time. A couple miles downstream, we passed Roman and Roman Jr. on the bank of the river. This picture is us getting ready for the first float of the race.
Preparing to packraft the upper Talkeetna River

We floated the next 12 hours on the Talkeetna River until it got dark and hypothermia set in. At about midnight and mile 80 on Day 2, we built a fire with driftwood on a gravel bar and tried to warm up. We were floating again super early and by noon on Day 3 we were portaging the Talkeetna Canyon which is somewhere past the 100 mile mark. We portaged the Talkeetna Canyon on the left by using a bear trail. This trail was scary and strenuous with FRESH piles of bear scat as it gained and lost elevation in and out of gullies. At one point, as we thrashed up and out of a steep ravine through thick undergrowth, trying to find the faint trail again, we climbed past a den that smelled strongly of bear or some other carnivore.

This picture is on the bank of Iron Creek about 140+ miles and 58 hours into the race. Just a few hours left to float on the mostly flat Talkeetna River. Just as we started to inflate our packrafts, Jeff, Jason and Bjorn floated by us on Iron Creek. We hadn't seen them the entire race and they floated by just a few minutes ahead of us. Right after they passed by, we saw a fresh half-eaten salmon a few feet away. We inflated our packrafts as fast as we could and just as we were launching through the weeds of the bank of the swift stream, we saw the good sized grizzly across the creek about 100 feet away. We yelled and waved our arms, it hesitated and we almost fell over each launching our rafts and floating away, leaving the bear to finish it's lunch.
Inflating packrafts and nervously watching for bears

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