Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lost and Found: Three.

We woke to more gorgeous weather: Light overcast, light winds, warm temps. Pretty much heavenly--but then anything other than heavy wind or heavy rain felt that way to me.

Almost immediately after leaving camp we began popping our heads over the dune line to determine when we could head inland to catch the earliest edge of an angling Dry Bay.

A mile or better past where we thought we'd be heading in, we crossed the dunes and pedaled increasingly soft sand toward the Alsek. Views beyond the water hinted at what was to come.

The crossing of the Alsek was uneventful but for the curious harbor seals coming as close as they dared to inspect us.

We landed on a beautiful stretch of beach on the south side, where Roman promptly called for a coffee break.

Two hours later we were refreshed and recharged, and back out onto yet another gorgeous stretch of firm-riding beach. Potentially my favorite shot of the trip right here: Massive wall of mountains to our left, crashing, pounding surf to our right, fragile little us in the middle. Moments of intense, gratuitous humility like this one remain a prime motivator for me.

We hopscotched back and forth from firm beach to soft dunes, across river mouths and along sloughs, doing what needed to be done to get past the remnants of the Alsek.

Tanking up on a 'hot' day.


Late in the afternoon we hit beautiful firm beach again, riding effortlessly for an hour or two under the immensity of the looming Fairweather Range.

Cameras blazed from every direction but Dylan's--he owns one but figured the rest of us probably had it covered, so he left it at home. I envied that a bit.

Ultimately all good things must morph into something else, and the massive boulders on the beach indicated that change was afoot. Eric made a token effort at finding a path through, but returned shortly and we all set about preparing to hike up into the rainforest.

I've mentioned that I felt fully green in this place and in the presence of these men, yeah? This is precisely where the gulf widened. Eric had insisted that we all needed a pack big enough to stuff *everything* into, thereby lightening the bikes for more easy pushing, shoving, carrying, and even ghostriding. Only he never verbalized the last part, merely insisted that we needed big packs. My inexperience in this environment meant that I simply didn't "get it". I was about to learn.

While the others stripped bags and boats from their bikes and shoved them into their ~55 liter packs, I removed the pedals from my bike and stashed them somewhere in the tight confines of my piddly 22L satchel. There wasn't much more that I could do. Once into the woods, the difference in traveling speed and relative level of exertion was immense. A heavy pack is still a heavy pack, but it's far, far more manageable than a laden bike. They were floating while I floundered.

Where possible we followed well-defined bear trails, picking our way between rocks and placing our feet in the mossy indents left by theirs.

The diffuse light and up-close scenery of the forest was a welcome change.

Just enough devil's club to keep you attentive.

A very, very brief rideable stretch. With no pedals on the bikes we mostly pushed, carried, and shoved.

Despite the intense effort required to make progress, the air got cooler and cooler until I started to shiver through my sweaty clothes. Something was happening...

Topping a small knob allowed us to set the bikes down and peer through the trees. Aha.

With nowhere left to walk we set about inflating the boats on whatever approximation of flat ground we could.

Upon putting in we wove through a maze of (what we hoped were) grounded out icebergs, searching for a path into the main lagoon beyond.

We'd put in at around 9:30, and though no one was rushing we all felt a sense of urgency to find a campsite. It was getting colder and darker and the excitement of the afternoon had us all hungry and thirsty. Eventually we settled for a postage-stamp sized beach with not quite enough room for bikes, boats, and tents.

11pm takeout.

The chill in the air was a miniscule part of what kept me buzzing (and hardly sleeping) all night long. Calvings of the glacier across the lagoon often thundered on for minutes, followed by long uncomfortable silences as we held our breath and waited for tsunamis that never came.

I'd not willingly trade one moment of sleep for the intense feeling of life that vibrated all through me that night.