DAY 1: Dalton Post to Silver Creek
After gathering in Whitehorse, we drove to Haines Junction to caffeinate and carbo-load at the Village Bakery. From there it was an out-and-back drive to the U.S. border to have our passports checked. You used to be able to phone this in but now its an extra 150 km (90 mile) of driving to appear in-person, for no discernible reason (ah, but then security has its own logic). From the border, we doubled back to the put-in at Dalton Post (Shawashee), a historic trading post (although old Dalton may have been more of a bandit than a trader) now on lands legally owned by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. From here it would be 246 river km (150 river miles) to the take-out at Dry Bay, Alaska. There was the usual scramble as both new and experienced rafters figured out how to get their stuff (including extra clothing necessitated by the weather) into one big yellow dry bag. The issuance of tall rubber boots and extra fluffy sleeping bags were sure signs that this was not going to be a “desert” river trip.
All of the significant whitewater on this trip is concentrated in a six-mile long canyon just below Shawashee (Dalton Post), so we got most of our rapid experience on the first day. This section offers continuous Class III whitewater, with Class IV at high water (International Scale, Class I-VI). Below Silver Creek, the river is typically Class II with large eddies and folds at normal volumes. There are a few rapids but generally the river features strong currents and eddy lines as it grows to an impressive size. We sat in the back of the raft today because it’s easier to take photos from there and being drenched with melted glacier water wasn’t immediately appealing.
After these moist moments, the Tatshenshini settled down and we proceeded with a leisurely float to our first camp at Silver Creek. The guide’s skill here is not only in negotiating rapids but also in reading a river with numerous braided channels and gravel bars and other obstructions that are constantly changing. The highlight of the day was a grizzly bear that swam across the river just after we passed her standing on the bank.
It had been a pleasantly cool day on the water and, while clouds had come and gone, the only wetness had come from the rapids. Even the biting flying insects cooperated by only being annoying rather than overwhelming. After libations, an excellent dinner (one of many), and some congenial conversation, we called it a day.
DAY 2: Silver Creek to Sediments Creek
It had rained a bit overnight but we awoke to overcast, but otherwise dry, skies. After breakfast (and a moment of panic when it looked like we’d forgotten the bacon – we hadn’t), it was back in the rafts for an easy float to our first layover camp at Sediments Creek. Not long after leaving Silver Creek, we passed the Bridge River and crossed from the Yukon Territory into British Columbia. Because of the ever changing nature of the river, we had to line-in the rafts to make a landing a Sediments Creek – one of several firsts for us on this trip.
The day had started out overcast but, by the time we made camp, clouds had yielded to clear skies and it looked like the morrow would be clear and sunny. This was a good thing since we were laying-over here to do our big hike of the trip – a visit to the alpine zone above the river with (maybe) some sightings of mountain goats. So, drinks, dinner, conversation, and sleep, with dreams of sunshine…