DAY 9: Walker Glacier to Gateway Knob
Rain dogged us as we ate breakfast, broke camp, loaded the rafts, and started off toward Alsek Lake. And then the wind picked-up. I have to say that sitting on a cold raft in damp clothes while being flayed by the wind and rain is not my happy place but it did produce a sincere promise to upgrade my rain gear (sorry, but GoreTex just doesn’t cut it under these conditions). We floated down the Alsek, while cold water found its way into places on my body that I’d rather it didn’t, to a lunch stop just short of Alsek Lake. Here the Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers flow into the lake, calving off massive chunks of ice and creating a wonderland of icebergs. After lunch, we walked across the peninsula to see the icebergs in the lake. Seeing the bergs was a major hoped for part of this trip and, although the weather wasn’t cooperating, what we could see of them was pretty special. Unfortunately, the weather kept us from seeing Mount Fairweather (4,671 m / 15, 325 ft), which rises above the landscape to the southeast. In the desert, The LovedOne has a penchant for finding rattlesnakes. Here, in The North, she found quicksand – fortunately Jock was able to haul her to safety in time – and without loss of her boots! Cleaned-up and back in the rafts, we worked our way through the icebergs along the west side of Alsek Lake to a campsite at the southern end of Gateway Knob. Icebergs create unique hazards as they can flip or crack in half causing huge waves and rough water (which a huge one did later directly across from our campsite). It was still raining on and off, so we set-up camp (including the campfire) under tarps and settled-in for drinks and dinner.
DAY 10: Gateway Knob
The rain came and went all day so we were pretty much confined to the tarps, with the occasional foray out to see the sights (overcast and fog permitting). Some of the crew took advantage of a break in the drizzle to be rowed around some of the larger icebergs near camp but the highlight of the day was Kimberly’s polar plunge into Alsek Lake. She had decided that’s what she wanted to do and, with appropriate safety measures, that’s exactly what she did. We all had to put on an extra warm layer just to watch. After that, it was more tarp time and the trip’s final dinner – Greek-style lamb with salad and sides, plus, of course, dessert.
DAY 11: Dry Bay & Return to Whitehorse
We left Gateway Knob earlier than usual because the pilots weren’t sure the weather was going to be good enough later for a landing at the gravel air strip at Dry Bay. One part of the “adventure” aspect of this trip was in not knowing whether things would go exactly as planned. Poor weather conditions on the coast could have meant that we wouldn’t be able to get a flight out the day we reached the take-out; we might have had to wait through cold and wet conditions for suitable flying weather. Oh, goody. So there was some tension in the air as we floated the last bit of the Alsek to our take-out. Back in the day, rafts could float a channel almost to the air strip but that channel is now filled-in, so a local guy (Pat) trailered all our gear (it took several trips) the 2 km or so from the beach to the air strip. There we waited for a couple of hours for the welcome sound of the planes (one for us, another for the gear). After some passes between the low ceiling and the trees (VFR – really?), they zoomed in and landed. Canadian pilots rock! YEAH! Then it was load ’em up and back to Whitehorse for hot showers and a group dinner at the Coast High Country Inn. All in all, a truly amazing trip, weather and all!