Saturday, July 10, 2010

ALASKA: Chena River Cabin Adventures Part 1

Chena River Canoeing

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At right: Group at the cabin

After our late night, we are up early to make Sarah’s birthday cake and get packed for our adventure on the Chena River. Leave around noon, drop all the gear off at the cabin, which is located at the 32 mile mark. Leave the Saturn at the cabin and take the two trucks on up the road to the 39 mile bridge.

It takes nearly an hour to inflate the three SOAR canoes (Somewhere On A River) – Dave and Shelli own one, and their friends Dan and Diana bring the other two along with their regular wood canoe. Dan is a physics professor at the University, and he and Diana are also friends in the church. Wonderful people.

The weather has to be the warmest day Rick and I have had since last summer! Clear skies and hot temps! Dave and Annika are in one boat, Shelli and Sarah in another, Rick and I in one, and Dan and Diana in their canoe. My vest has a handy little pocket in the front, so I keep my camera wrapped in a zip lock bag and am able to get it out whenever I want!

The Chena moves about 5 miles an hour at best in this area, so we paddle a little to keep things moving. I left my watch at the cabin, so I can only guess that we finally got on the river around 3. Of course, you don’t have to worry as much about getting done by dark, since dark happens after midnight, if ever. We pass spruce forests and birch trees, areas of permafrost where the spruce are stunted. Willows along the bank. We didn’t see as much wildlife as we thought, maybe because we were in the back most of the way. Did see 3 moose driving up the road and a family of mergansers. A bald eagle midway up in a tree. Shelli and Sarah saw a porcupine. Evidence of beaver activity. We crossed under the road several times at various bridges and at other times seemed to be out “in the wild”. The river channel has changed frequently due to log jams.

The feature I found most interesting was where the entire bank was curling down into the river, taking several spruce trees with it. They leaned way out over the river, and in a few cases so far as to touch the river and create an arch. In another area the left bank was about 20’ above us, and Swansons said many fossils and bones are sometimes found in the cut.

We stopped twice, once for a food break, and another to check out a particular ugly section of downed trees. The last section of logs was the hardest of the trip, and we had to paddle hard to enter the slough that led us back to the cabin. (The slough was the old river channel before it changed directions again!)

Rick and I managed ok, but we probably didn’t have the weight in our boat right because we over corrected on turns a lot – and ended up in more than one or two 360 spins.

We got to the cabin right around 8 pm. Long enough on the river – we were ready to be done. That’s the most sun this body has seen in a long time! Rick, Dave, and Dan left to go pick up the two trucks, while the “girls” got dinner ready and a fire going.

Hot dogs, some excellent beans that Diana brought, and salad comprised Sarah’s birthday dinner. Afterwards we brought out the cake and then opened presents. Sarah seemed pleased with all her birthday gifts, especially her new camera!

We are all tired and sun dehydrated. The cabin is nice, but primitive in terms of sleeping – platform bunks, but bring your own pad. So another night with the air mattresses for Rick and I! For some reason my mattress squeaked horribly all night – maybe in combo with the wood plank. Rick found a pad that had been left in the cabin that he put under his air mattress, so I don’t think he made as much noise as mine. All in bed by midnight.

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