Written by Jerrica
A couple of days before Kevin left for Denali we decided to have one full day of epic adventures. We headed towards Hope with the goal of rafting Sixmile Creek in the morning, and finishing the day by biking Resurrection Pass. We were ready for a long day of adventures. At least we thought we were.
Sixmile Creek is possibly the most accessible technical whitewater in all of Alaska. Sixmile is broken up into 3 different canyon sections, each canyon becoming more difficult than the one before. The first 2 canyons are class IV rapids. The last canyon runs at class V in all levels. We read some reports on this section and were advised that if we found ourselves having difficulties in the first or second canyon, it would be wise to take out before the next canyon began. Scouting the river was pretty difficult; we were unable to actually see what we were getting ourselves into. So we decided to camp at the put-in the night before and follow a commercial tour the next morning, making sure to follow their lines as best we could.
The next morning we woke up at the put-in to warm weather and not a cloud in the sky. Despite perfect conditions I had already began to freak myself out and I was fairly nervous going into this trip. I feel like I am a decent river guide most of the time, but I also feel like I get lucky a lot. Everything I read about Sixmile made me feel trepidatious about a self-guided trip. As I was pumping up our raft I was chatting with some of the commercial guides. "Have you guys been flipping any boats in the third canyon?", I ask. "The third canyon?", one of the guides answered, "Boats flip in the first and second canyon all the time." Any shred of confidence I had managed to gain at that point was now gone.
We started out on the river, me nervous on the oars and Kevin a giddy passenger. The river started out calm for a couple of miles, then quickly pinched into a narrow, twisted canyon. All I can say is we got worked. The rapids came quickly around each corner of the canyon walls, which made reading the river difficult. Our rig felt big and wide in that narrow canyon and we got bounced around the rocks and walls like we were a pinball. Kevin was having an awesome time and was really encouraging of my rowing. Poor Kevin had to deal with me, the stress case, rowing and cursing under my breath in each rapid. I had psyched myself out too much at the beginning and never really recovered myself. I sort of set myself up for a bad time.
Towards the end of the first canyon I looked down and saw a section of our raft had deflated. Crap... Walter the Raft had a hole in him somewhere. The raft is divided into a few different chambers, so if you pop a hole in the raft the whole thing won't deflate, just the chamber with the hole. Trying to find a spot to pull over and fix the raft proved to be pretty stressful and difficult; the river was narrow with no beaches or eddies. We ended up fixing the raft on the side of the river where we found about a 4 foot rocky shoreline. Turns out we didn't pop a hole in the raft, we tore a 6" gash into its side. Kevin did a quick patch job that helped us get to the next place to take out of the river.
So there you have it. 1 out of 3 canyons conquered. Sixmile really took us for a wild ride. Now onto the next adventure...
After Sixmile we set up a shuttle and headed further up the road to bike Resurrection Pass, a 39-mile single track trail connecting Hope to Cooper Landing. The trail goes up about 19 miles, then back down 19 miles, starting out at 500', rising to 2,600', then back down again. We parked the van at the trailhead, geared up, and before we took off I asked Kevin if he was bringing a rain jacket. We both agreed that we'd be okay without them since there wasn't a high chance of rain that afternoon. If it sprinkled on us, no big deal.
Let me tell you something about the weather forecasts in Alaska. They are garbage.
On the way up the pass we hit a couple of light rain showers but it never made the trail muddy and we stayed fairly dry. We took care to cross a couple of creeks carefully without getting our shoes wet. About 13 miles up we suddenly found ourselves in a gnarly hail storm with thunder and lightening fairly close. We stopped under some trees to wait out the storm and protect ourselves from the hail. After about 25 minutes we threw in the towel and decided there was no point in waiting for things to get better... we were turning around.
The ride back down the pass was brutal. The riding wasn't technical at all, but it was long, cold, and the trail was now covered in about 2" of water. So much for keeping our shoes dry. We were both soaked to the bone and couldn't wait to get back to the van. When we finally made it to the parking lot I actually cried tears of joy. We were freezing and covered in mud, but happy to be done.
Our day of adventure didn't exactly turn out the way we thought it would. We came, we saw, and we got our butts handed to us.