Seeking trip ideas for this summer

I’m finally getting up to Alaska this summer, approx dates June 16 through Aug 8, and I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when I get there.

The one firm commitment is the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic in late-July. That still leaves me 5 weeks before the event and 1 week afterwards to play. Can I get some suggestions from you all?

Here are some general criteria:

  • Trip length of 1-5 weeks
  • Mixed hiking and rafting, with a 80/20 to 60/40 ratio – I love hiking, and for me packrafting is just a tool to covering miles and opening up otherwise inaccessible areas and route options. I’m comfortable on PR1 and PR2 rivers, maybe PR3 if I get in some time in my boat before I go.
  • I would consider glacial travel if I had an experienced partner – I don’t have the skills on my own since the “glaciers” here in Colorado are really just permanent snowfields (at least for another 10 years or so).
  • High mileage and long days – 20-50 MPD and 15-18 hour days.
  • As few bugs as possible, though I realize the limitations of that criteria given that I’m arriving just in time for the spring hatch
  • Positive bear encounters, i.e. when they see me they run away
  • Lots of off-trail travel, though certainly not opposed to integrating recreation trails if they help me get somewhere.
  • Potential resupply points about every 7-10 days, i.e. any town with a post office to which I can send a General Delivery package.

A few of the ideas that I’ve been toying around with:

  • Stitch together former AMWC routes, i.e. start at Homer, hike to Hope; get to Eureka Roadhouse, hike to Talkeetna; get to McKinley Village, hike to the Gerstle; get to Chicken, hike to Central, etc. To get between ending/starting points, I could either hike there or hitch there, or a combo of both. For example, I could cross Turnagain Arm, take the dicey route from Girdwood to the Knik Arm, and then hitch on the highway to Eureka.

  • Get up to the Arctic Refuge immediately when I arrive, since the hatch there is probably a little later and I could enjoy some mosquito-free travel until the entire state is taken over by bugs (or so I hear that’s what happens). I was specifically considering hitching up the highway, heading east into the Refuge, then south over the Divide, resupply at Arctic Village, and float out the Yukon back to the highway.

  • Juneau to Anchorage along the coast. Not sure if I’m skilled enough to do this – even looking at pictures of the Hubbard Glacier makes me shudder.

Please also note that I’m looking for trip partners, especially when I first get there. See this post, for details.

Thanks in advance for the advice.

Andy and I are in email contact, but I’d like to float a couple ideas out there for all to consider.

First, consider the idea of Alaskan versions of the AT, PCT, and CDT. These would not be hiking/backpacking trails, but multisport routes, all requiring packrafts for full fun. I have four in mind:

(1) “Once around Anchorage” – start at the Airport, get on the coastal trail, walking into the Chugach, leaving your packraft behind (crossing the Twenty Mile might be tough), walking to Whittier, where a sea kayak is waiting. Kayak to Valdez, send the Kayak back on Ferry and Train it to Talkeetna, where you’ll see it again.

Ski up Valdez Glacier, across Tazlina Icefield, down Nelchina, walk to Eureka RoadHouse. Get on your mtn bike. Ride to Yellow Jacket Strip on Takeetna River where Big Raft is flown in. Raft with bikes on big raft down to Talkeetna. Put bikes on train, ship to ANC. Get sea kayak, paddle to Anchorage…

This could also be done as a packrafting trip in five pieces if you had the flat water patience of Hig&Erin and the whitewater skills of Thai Verzone: ANC to Whittier; Whittier to Valdez; Valdez to Eureka RH; Eureka RH to Talkeetna; Talkeetna to ANC.

(2) “Copper and Gold” mtn bike with packraft trip Nabesna to Cordova: Start in Nabesna with some good “nature fun biking” to Chisana then McCarthy, pedal RR grade to Chitina, and onward to Tiekle River, inflate and float to Bremner Dunes (A Wild Ride), then back in packraft to near Anderson Glacier, ride ATV trail to Million Dollar Bridge and hwy to Cordova

(3) “ART” – Mentasta to Lake Clark. A classic route along the Denali Fault’s glaciers, down the Yanert River, across Denali National Park on North Side of Denali, through the Kitchatna Spires, past the Revelations, down the Stony River, through Lake Clark Park and over to Pt Alsworth

(4) The Brooks Range – Kaktovik to Kotzebue. Start near Cnanada on Barter Island, paddle across lagoons, walk up Hulahula, Okpilak, over to Peter/Schrader Lake, up Carnivore Creek, down Franklin River, over Canning River, Porcupine Lake, and any number of ways to Haul Road; up Trembley Creek, down N Fork Kuyukuk, up Ernie Ck, down Anaktuvuk, overAnaktuvuk Pass, down John, to Wolverine, over to Nahtuk, down Nahtuk/Alatna, through Arrigetch, over to Noatak, down Noatak to Kotz.