Onward through the Talkeetna Wilderness……
We packed our backpacks with delicious oatmeal, ramen, pasta, granola bars, peanut butter, and other necessary items as we prepped to set off on our 10-day Talkeetna backpacking expedition. The 14 of us took off with hopes of wild animal sightings and memories we would never forget. Our first days were along well established ATV trails with beautiful Alaskan blue skies all around us as we trekked on. At this point, we were still relatively low in elevation and everyone was anxious to get to the amazing heights of the rugged peaks that surrounded us.
Our first nights campsite was a previously used site with a campfire ring already assembled for us. Our cook crew, who consisted of John, Arie, Matt and Marin got to work whipping up a delicious mixed-rice dinner as the rest of us set up tents and enjoyed each others company. As we waited for the feast, Henry showed us some of the beautiful photographs he had taken during the days hike. After chowing down and taking in the scenery that engulfed us, we went to bed for a full nights rest.
The next few days were filled with great weather, great hiking and great trail songs. Arie took it to the next level by singing “Escape” which would become a staple in our trail song repituore. Reese added a little bit of her flair to our “trail set list” by busting out her 90’s rock deep cuts, singing songs from the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Just when we thought this trip couldn’t get anymore beautiful, our fearless Leader of the Day, John, pointed out three moose going about their business and eating some vegetation near our campsite. By this time, we were navigating off trail by map & compass which really held Mile’s attention and enhanced his experience ten fold. We all truly got the Alaskan wilderness feel of “the last frontier” while hiking off of the traditional footpath or game trails that previously existed.
We started to hike up our main valley when we stopped at a spire filled mountain called Mount Monarch. We took this great opportunity to take some personal pictures to remember that “Goliath” of a mountain. At our lunch break, Ben and others started showing off their feats of strength. One in particular was Ben ripping out ten perfectly executed push ups with a fully loaded backpack on his back!
By this time we had finished zig-zagging our way up the trail & over our first pass and we felt as if we were on top of the world! After a few pictures and celebrations, we started making our way down the pass towards our campsite by a lake. As we enjoyed the cruise down a safely slanted scree field which kept Patrick’s adrenaline pumping. As we finished that mountain obstacle we got our first glimpse of our gorgeous lakeside campsite. The next thing we saw was though it was straight out of a movie….with just a blink of an eye, a body flashed beside us and it was none other then Chilly heading full sprint into the crystal blue waters of the alpine lake. He emerged from the “chilly” waters, feeling clean & refreshed.
On our last few days of backpacking, Marin became a master of the art of trading snack foods. He had the most power with his perfectly portioned Twix and Snickers bars. Matt was particularly excited for the next section of our journey which was a two day rafting trip with our Nova river guides. For the next 48 hours, smiles never left Matt or Sydney’s faces. Sydney was taking one rapid at a time, eventually becoming one with the glacier fed Chickaloon river and barreling through each and every wave. These Class III & IV rapids are some of the most continuous white-water rapids that run through the rugged Talkeetna Mountains.
We thanked our river guides and departed for our first front country campsite in two weeks. We de-prepped our adventure and are currently preparing for the next chapter on our expedition….. Glacier trekking and Ice climbing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park!