is a blast. Like all the trips we run, the itinerary is somewhat fluid. Weather, hiker experience and many other factors determine the actual trip. For simplicity sake, I’ll assume the trip dates are July 1 – 13. Realize everything here is simply an example. It’s possible to complete this trip in less time, or easily spend more time en route too. I feel a 13 day trip is about perfect for this route – this gives you 10 complete days in the backcountry.
Trip participants should arrive in Fairbanks no later than the evening before our schedule trip departure date. For our example, the Trip would require all participants arrive in Anchorage sometime on June 30. I highly recommend you try to arrive even a day earlier is at all possible, to allow for flight delays resulting from weather. Expeditions Alaska does not provide, but can recommend, accommodation in Fairbanks.
I will meet you in Fairbanks). We’ll travel to Coldfoot and from there fly in to the Marsh Fork of the Canning River. This flight brings us over the Brooks Range, and the Continental Divide to the landing strip on the Upper Marsh Fork River. We’ll get dropped off by the pilot, and haul our gear over from the landing strip to the River. Depending on what time we get in, we may camp by the river and spend a day hiking in the mountains nearby.
We’ll load the rafts and head down the River. Here the water level is often low, and we may have to haul the rafts sometimes. Usually we don’t have to go far, as we should find deep enough water reasonably quickly. It’s a good idea to pack some sandals for this section of the trip, and some kind of wading pant (see your gear list). If it’s warm, just wear shorts. The water’s cold, but not unbearable.
How far we go will depend mostly on water levels, and they can fluctuate week to week up here. Either way we’ll camp by the river – usually I try to camp on the riverbed, as the rocky gravel bars provide some escape from the mosquitoes that live up in the tundra. Bring a good sleeping pad.
We’ll probably start out with a hike up onto some ridges and peaks, and get a feel for where we are. Down in the riverbed the traveling is easier, but it shelters you from an understanding of the place you’re traveling through. The views from some of the high peaks nearby are simply amazing and sure to have you snapping some pictures. Then we’ll hike back to camp, have some lunch, pack up, and raft down river a few miles.
We keep rafting down the river, and should reach the confluence of the Canning and Marsh Fork River today. This is a great spot to camp, with an incredible broad open valley that runs due north, some really interesting mountain and rock formations, and a good chance of seeing wildlife – wolves, moose, bears, caribou, and birds like arctic terns and golden eagles in the area. We might do a short walk up the Canning river valley this afternoon after setting up camp.
We make some miles down the river. Once we join the Canning River, we’ll pick up good water, and should travel much faster. We’ll raft down river, past the island. We run the canyon, a small narrow cleft between an escarpment the river has cut through. It’s really an interesting place. Also, keep an eye out for Dall sheep that live and travel through the area.
As we start to reach the northern edge of the Brooks Range, we enter the foothills and the open tundra of the coastal plain. The terrain changes sharply, and we’ll try to take advantage of the open land here and do some walking after the day on the river. We should also paddle by a rough-legged hawk’s nest (or 2), getting a great opportunity to see these birds.
The landscape flattens out, and we start to enter the coastal plain. Wolves and foxes are seen around here, so hopefully we’ll get to see them.
We will spend this day rafting out to the ocean. We can camp right by the sea, within site of the polar icecap just off-shore. We’ll walk the tundra and look for caribou, arctic and red foxes, and birds like snowy owls, tundra swans, and a myriad of waterfowl and shorebirds.
We can paddle or hike back up to a birdcamp, and photograph an amazing assortment of birds that live in the ponds and lakes here- loons, ducks, mergansers, swans and more.
We get picked up, flown to Coldfoot, and stay the night there. We then travel back to Fairbanks.