Day 3, June 16, 2014, 18 miles hiking along the Ribdon River
No packraft crossings today.
18 miles backpacking.
A 7 day, 170 mile wilderness hiking trip along the Ribdon River valley and packraft down the Ivishak and Sagavanirktok rivers, Alaska’s Brooks Range, June 14-20.
Hiking on day 3 was mainly along the broad, braided river bed of the Ribdon River. Day three of any trip seems to be the point at which one settles into a system, i.e., “a scheme or method”, and the items either forgotten, or not needed, become clear. Things like the fit and load of your pack, the comfort of the shoes, and the calorie load and quantity of food are either proficient, or lacking. We faired well in that general category, with a few slight modifications to be made for future trips. The further up we went the braided river began to narrow, and the volume of water diminished. Spring was a little late this year, so there was plenty of remaining snow on the mountain slopes to provide water flow in the river, something that can vary considerably from year to year. The increase in elevation was a very slow and moderate amount, although the travel was a consistent uphill grade.
My backpack worked well, although the shoulder straps are a little light in padding for a 50 pound load, but the only negative effect was a little deltoid strain at the end of a long day. The hiking poles were a great help, although I’m not fond of the twist and lock style that my Leki poles employ. The lever lock style is faster and easier to secure. However, I had no problem with the poles malfunctioning.
I used a kinesis lens pouch that I normally attach to a kinesis belt, but I strapped it through the side webbing on the backpack and it gave me quick access to another lens.
On most hiking days, I wore an Ibex woolies short sleeve shirt, often covered with a Marmot Ion windbreaker with breathable under arms, which worked out perfectly. While I love the Ibex shirts, they do fit snugly which makes a lot of surface area for mosquitos to find biting spots.
The weather was a mix of sun and clouds, with clouds often thickening in the afternoon and clearing a bit in the evening. I realize there is no end to the pictures of river crossings, but I’m including them to give some context of the landscape.
Throughout our excursion, we saw antlers from caribou and moose and horns from dall sheep. They mark the landscape with evidence of life even though wildlife can seem elusive in the Arctic. Although we saw a lot of recent sign of caribou, we did not see any animals.
Cooking an early evening dinner proved helpful in many ways. It was a welcomed break after 15 miles of packing, it was a helpful calorie source, and it gave us the added comfort of keeping cooking odors away from our campsite in bear country.
Part of the fun of a trip without trails is doing your own route finding, and learning to read topography and correlate it to maps. We both had the same GPS, which was a Garmin eTrex Legend HCX, which I’m not fond of in general, and will be shopping for another one soon. It’s operation is pretty clunky, and after using an iPhone, I’m ruined for a good display and easy functionality of the very many applications. I did have my iPhone, but did not have a reasonable means of keeping the battery charged to handle the drain that the internal GPS pulls.
In keeping on the theme from the book I’ve been reading by John Maeda: The Laws of Simplicity—which I find very applicable to a trip like this–the third law of simplicity is “time” because “savings in time feel like simplicity”. Once “reduction” and “organization” are employed, less time is spent messing around with your stuff, and in the course of a day of travel, you really begin to feel that there is little waiting to be done. I’m not talking about the purposeful pause to enjoy the landscape, I’m talking about the deadpan waits that are common to everyday life. Like lines at the grocery store, stoplights, navigating lengthy telephone menus, waiting for slow downloads and so on. And the liberty of being in perpetual motion, makes one feel an overall efficient relationship with time, even though the pace itself may not be fast.
We camped at the above location after another 18 mile day of backpacking. This put us at a total of 42 miles so far, and so far–a fantastic journey. Tomorrow if everything goes well, we should reach the headwaters of the Ivishak River where we will pull out the rafts, blow them up and begin the paddle down the river.