Now that summer and fall has wound down some, I’ve got a little time to catch up on image processing and maybe blogging as well! We’ll see how far we get with that.
One of the trips I was really looking forward to this summer was a hike along the coast, the southern reaches of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’d hiked part of this area previously, some of it a couple of times, but I’d never hiked the eastern section, below the Malaspina Forelands. So it was a great experience to finally get down to this area and walk the coastline, completing what is really a cool walk.
We did the hike as an exploratory trek this year, and took a bit longer for the the hike than I normally might, as we wanted to explore a few things along the way, look for the best campsites, and so on.
Packrafts are a necessity along this route; some of the rivers that have to be crossed would be foolish to cross without a packraft, unless at super low water. So we carried a couple of Alpacka Packrafts, and all the gear to go along with that. It’s a bit of “extra” weight to haul, for sure, but it’s so worth it to open up so much of Alaska’s awesome backcountry that would otherwise be impassable.
We also took a side venture with the packrafts north, off the beachline, to Malaspina Lake, and then paddled part of the lake one glorious afternoon, then paddled back down one of the outlets from the lake to the beach, and made our way over to camp. A great day trip, and easily a good overnight as well, if desired; some really cool little islands in the lake would make fantastic campsites.
Bears a’ plenty, we ran into 3 grizzlies in 5 days. No problems or issues at all, but there are definitely a number of big ole brown bears (grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species) along the coast. Alaska Dispatch recently had a mic article about these Malaspina Brown bears.
What we didn’t run into is people. Nobody. We spent 5-6 days along the coast, then another 5 days in Icy Bay sea kayaking and hiking and photographing, and not a soul outside ourselves. How cool is that! This area is so little visited, in the summer of 2014, the Malaspina District, an area 150 miles in length, had fewer than 75 people visit the entire season. If you don’t count people hunting and fishing, the season had a grand total of 2 people along the Lost Coast. Chuck, from Florida and I were the only folks here all summer! Way cool.
Most of the hike is beach walking, sand and some small rocks, nothing problematic. The western end of the trek, we didn’t hike this time around, has a much rockier section along Sitkagi Bluffs (Or Sitkagi Boulders, as it should be more appropriately named). There’s no real issue with tides for the hike, other than river crossings, which are best dealt with via packrafts. The tide can come up pretty high on the beach, and I would be super careful about tent sites on the beach; in general, avoid it, especially once you are west of Sudden Stream.
We finished our trek with a very cool mile or 2 through the magnificent Sitka Spruce Forest, along a centuries old bear trail; how do I know it’s that old? Because the bear prints, imprints of individual footsteps (bears often will walk along in a trail stepping precisely in the footsteps of previous bears), are worn 6 inches deep into the moss and earth. How cool is it to hike along a trail like that, and step in those same footsteps!
Amazing views of the St. Elias Mountain Range, of course, definitely a highlight of the trip. And the Pacific Ocean is always a treat to walk beside. We saw river otters, bald eagles, various species of shore birds, ducks and other waterfowl, as well as sea birds like Oyster Catchers, gulls, etc, etc. Tons o’ stuff!
Les, our pilot, showed up on the beach right on time and flew us and our gear over to Icy Bay, where we sea kayaked and hiked for another 5 days before wrapping things up and heading back to Yakutat for a shower and a burger. Fun times.
I’ve got some GoPro video from the sea kayaking and packrafting sections, I’ll try to splice together over the winter and post it online as I can.
Great trip! If you’re interested, drop me a line about the summer of 2015; I’ll definitely be leading this trip again. Great for Beginners -> Advanced, a little something for everybody, if you will.