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Rafting and Packing in the Alaska Range

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Narrow strips of sand bordering the wide gray Nagashlamina River were good places to walk, but occasionally a channel would cut off our route, forcing us into the water.

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At the end of a long day, mostly spent tracing bear trails through head-high bushes (we only saw one bear, at a safe distance), we suddenly realized that we needed water. One does not carry much water in Alaska, because there is usually plenty nearby. But now there wasn’t. Our new goal became the Skwentna River. A long slog over sharp moraine rocks got us to the silty waterway, and glorious slurps of cold brown liquid.

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It was a half-hour walk before the rapids relented enough for us to comfortably launch our pack rafts. Per usual, that was pure magic.

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After only a few miles, we begrudgingly got out of the water to start the crossing to the River Styx. Information for this part of the route was nonexistent. We had our theories.

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Avoiding a nearly impenetrable slope of alder, a gorge route seemed like the best option. Clearly there was a risk of getting cliffed out, but the other way was a guaranteed alder crawl. The walking in the canyon was familiar, like an Arizona creek.

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The canyon boxed out eventually, forcing us up and out. Then a side canyon forced us back down, and in again. It was 10 pm when a perfect campsite rescued us from our march.

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