Tuesday, day 2 at Ultima Thule. Lots of pictures HERE. Today started at breakfast with a discussion of what everyone wanted to do. A rafting trip was proposed I knew that we wanted to do that. There was also an offer of a point A to point B wilderness hike. One of the other couples had a very injured foot. So she was going to raft, and the guy go for the hike. Wifey suggested that we do the same thing. Even though I would like to raft, I would like to walk in the wilderness even more. So we split up for the day. Wowzers. When friends and I talk about going hiking certain things are implied. There is going to be leaves, bark, trees, and quite possibly a path to follow. I would not call what we did a hike but it as definitely the greatest walk I have ever taken. A plane dropped us off at point A which was along a ridge line about 7 miles away at an elevation of about 4200 feet. Point B was our camp. We were only getting in a plane once today. From the starting point we hiked almost straight uphill, above the tree line, through meadows to around 6000 feet. Where that part of the walk ended looked like the edge of the world. The other side of the peak dropped straight down and the only thing you could see were snow capped mountains miles in the
Edge of the world
distance. Very dramatic. From there began the most grueling walk I have ever taken. It was 5000 feet downhill over 8.5 miles. Most of it was along the spine of the mountain. Some areas were no more than 6 feet wide, walking on loose rocks, staring down into the abyss on both sides. One section was a 3000 feet drop in 1 mile. That is a downhill angle of much more than 45 degrees. Lots of places were spent sliding sideways downhill, jogging and skipping just to stay upright, and even the occasional butt skooch. At one point my GPS machine said we were going downhill at an average rate of 77 feet per minute. Once the mountain ridge/spine ended it was a much flatter walk through the woods back to the lodge. More what a hike is in my world. It was 8 hours of walking, only stopping for lunch. I rolled my ankle twice. It looked like I was smuggling a baseball under my skin. We saw a ton of sheep, a ram, and golden eagles. If I had known what this walk was I might not have signed up. I could not be happier that I had this experience. So in hindsight it was a great decision. I’ll be paying for it for days, but I will remember this walk forever. Lots of pictures HERE.
Taking it all in
Day 2 on the boat. We went for a short walk on an island to go stream fishing. We have no fishing experience, but that was ok. They set us up, showed us what to do, how to look like a fishingperson, and turned us loose. The spot was gorgeous. So serene it felt like we were in the most remote part of the world. Neither of us caught any fish. I did catch a lot of plants and some amazing photos of Eagles. They were hanging around overhead. One even ate a fish that someone in the group caught. We did not get to see that happen but saw the remnants of the dead fish body after the eagle was done it’s lunch. An eagle was on a small island in the stream watching fish. Then it went up on a very low nearby tree branch. I sat and watched and shot photos for about 20 minutes. I was hoping to catch it diving for a fish. That didn’t happen, but I did get some great shots sitting still and also in flight. Back on the boat for lunch where we had fresh king salmon caught yesterday by the professor and his wife. Non-Sweet Family People.
The afternoon activity was a “meadow walk”. Wifey decided to skip that and turn me loose. It’s a good thing she did. It turned into a disaster in some people’s eyes. For me it was the highlight of the trip so far and nothing but fun. The closest thing I will ever get to an actual Alaskan adventure. I was secretly hoping they would have to air drop us some supplies and tents. It was supposed to be a nice leisurely walk around a beautiful meadow. This meadow was at the edge of the forest tree line. We got dropped off on shore by a skiff. The tides changed quickly and we were all of a sudden trudging through water looking for ways to avoid deeper water. We backtracked, rerouted, and kept trying to stay dry from the ankles up. Larry, our guide, was trying to keep his guests safe and dry. It got to a point that was unavoidable. We had to wade through waste high water. I loved it, some of the other people not so much. There were 7 of us including Larry the guide. I thought we might live on this island now. I was quietly forming alliances in the background, figuring out who we would sacrifice first to the Bear God. After we took the plunge, got soaking wet all over, we were able to get back on the skiff to bring us home. What was supposed to be an hour or so of leisurely meadow walking turned into several hours of bushwhacking, wading through water, and crossing head high grass fields. I did get to eat all the salmon berries I could handle most of the walk. A treat within a treat. Some pictures HERE if you are interested.