Alaska: Tatshenshini & Alsek River Adventure

Dave and I just returned from a truly memorable trip to Alaska rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers over 8 days.  Dave has been into rafting since his late teens, and I am very grateful that he’s followed this passion so far to be skillful enough to take the two of us on adventures like this one.  I could share so much about it, but first here is our highlight reel.  I suggest expanding to full screen 🙂

Our favorite part of the trip was Summer Solstice.  After a hearty breakfast of Alaksan smoked salmon with Bellwether Farms Fromage Blanc on toast points and eggs (we ate very well on the trip – a bonus of rafting!), we paddle boarded to a large walkable glacier called aptly, Walker Glacier.  The glacier sparkled as if white glitter had been sprinkled generously over the land, and after walking for some time, we came across a sapphire-colored glacier lake that beckoned us for a midday swim.  This was one of many times including paddle boarding down the river that our drysuits with many layers underneath kept play in cold waters cozy.

We explored the glacier, drank crisp water directly from the source, and paddled back to camp as sunset began over the mountainous horizon.  The day for us was not ending but beginning the apex of our trip altogether with a golden sunset paddle through a valley surrounded with glacier-carved mountains.  An adolescent male grizzly made his way downriver with us for about two hundred yards at one point, and the whole experience was an explosion of nature’s wonder.

The trip’s adversity came as the Alsek River passes through Alsek Lake.  The entrance to the Lake normally has three passage options, none of which were clearly open to us because of low water levels through one passage and a clustering of icebergs through the other two.  Over the next 12 hours, we’d come to find out that icebergs covered nearly the entire river passageway and full south corner of the lake.  Those hours were spent in a dance between taking in the stunning beauty all around us, moments of real concern, and more of nature’s magic that included a short 5 hour sleep with crashing glaciers every 20 minutes or so in the background.  Hot tomato soup and grilled cheese cooked on the boat under moonlight lifted spirits on an otherwise challenging day.  We found a good laugh in these outtakes from our day on the lake!

Here are five simple lessons I learned from this trip:

  1. Life will take you where you never imagined when you let it.
  2. Spend time in nature.  It is a great healer, teacher, and inspiration.
  3. While an eye on the horizon can help steer, all of the real work is done right here, right now.
  4. There is always a way through.  Sometimes rest is needed to see things from a new perspective.
  5. Take time away from your cell phone.  The presence two people can offer one another when they’re tech-free is irreplaceable.  (If you choose to give yourself this gift, have a re-entry plan.  I noticed that our return to cell-phone land was quite jarring after 8 days of presence.)

And, some photo highlights:

Black Bear Welcome  Love in Alaska   IMG_2402 Tatshenshini River Sunset The Confluence Tatshenshini River Alaksa Walker Glacier Alaksa Wildflowers Dave & Bald Eagles
Icebergs in Alsek Lake

Bear on Summer Solstice

The Nose Hike

 

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