Fourth of July is an important holiday for the Dirtpatch. This 4th represented two years since our Honduras adventure, which ended with an emergency flight home and a cancer diagnosis. Last year, Stacy and I made our way down the Middle Fork of the Salmon river on the 4th of July. A few years before, Stacy and I had gotten lost in the Olympic National Park on the 4th of July. And a few years before that we were engaged in some major firework wars at the Ocoee River on the same holiday. It is becoming a tradition to have some sort of adventure/ celebration on the 4th every year. This year was no exception, except that I was on my own for this one. I am sure that the rest of the DP was celebrating somewhere as well.
For this year's celebration, I got to fly into Goat Lake with Scott and Allen Warren. Goat Lake is an incredibly beautiful and pristine mountain lake near Denali National Park. A couple of photographers from SELF magazine were also flown in to take some pics. They are doing a story on cancer survivors and I am one of the survivors in the article. We spent a day shooting pictures, hiking, and fishing, and then paddled out via the clear waters of Honolulu Creek.
Scott making Thai food at Goat LakeGoat Lake was one of the most beautiful places I have been, and the weather couldn't have been better. It was a great feeling to be flown into this place, knowing that the only way to get out of there was by kayak, plane, or a really long hike. A few Carribou decided to join us for dinner that night on the other side of the lake. We also spent some time catching Dolly Bartons (Not sure if that is spelled right, sounds like Dolly Parton with a 'B'), which became dinner on night two.
Beginning a kayaking trip with photographers was a unique experience. They were really nice guys, straight out of LA, and we really enjoyed camping with them for the night. They had been photographing several other cancer survivor athletes, and it was great to hear about them.
SELF rapid on the creek that feeds out of the lake and meets with Honolulu Creek
After the photos were taken, Ray came back and picked up the photographers. Allen and Scott and I decided to take a little hike. We pointed to the top of one of the peaks around us and decided to go there. It turned out to be a pretty long, intense hike, and the views were spectacular. With the weather being as clear as it was, we were able to see Denali (Mt. McKinnley) from the top really clearly, although 'the Great One' didn't show up very well on camera.
The boys taking a short break and checking out the view
The view from the top: my feet and Denali, which doesn't show up that well on camera
5 hours later, we were back at Goat Lake. Allen fished for our dinner, catching a few Dollies which we through in with some couscous- oishi (delicious)! The next morning we managed to make it down the small creek and eventually into Honolulu Creek.
packin' it up
Me and Goat Mountain in the Background
Honolulu Creek was a really nice class IV creek with amazing views. It was 12 miles back out to the road from the lake. It flowed into the Chulitna river, which became our next river trip.
Scott on Honolulu Creek
Me on Honolulu Creek
The Chulitna rafting trip was the greatest fishing trip I have ever been on. The river was beautiful and the company was fantastic. Unlike the Charlie, the weather was bright and sunny most of the time.
Allen's raft near the put-in
We didn't catch many fish the first day, but found a perfect camp spot to celebrate the 4th. We were up bright and early the next morning and floated down to the sweet fishing spot. The place is called Spink Creek, and it is a clear creek that flows into the silty Chulitna. It was big and slow moving and an ideal place for Kings. To get here, you have to know where the creek is, and make a big ferry move to avoid the logs and enter the mouth of the creek.
Newman caught one before we decided to stop for dinner. As soon as dinner was over, the skies let loose with a huge hail storm. We all took cover in our tents and eventually all fell asleep.
The next morning at 5 am, Scott and I snuck out of the tents, and took the raft out to fish. It was the best fishing I've ever been a part of. :) We pulled in four Kings, two each before we stopped to wake up the rest of the group.
Catching my first King! Fish on!!!
As soon as everyone woke up and saw the fish, they piled into the raft and took off in pursuit of their Kings.
The Chulitna Group: Newman, Tera, Allen, Me Scott, Dale, Char, and Ben
Not only was the weather perfect that day, so was the fishing, and so was the view. We were able to get a clear view of Denali all the way to the take-out.
Denali, also known as Mt. McKinnley, means Great One.
Real Alaskans don't call it Mt. McKinnley, since president McKinnley never even came up to Alaska.
Fourth of July has become a celebration of life and adventure for the DirtPatch. Life is short, but it is wide, and it is made to be packed with experiences. Flying through the air over the beautiful mountains, living it up next to a pristine mountain lake, watching the carribou, hiking to the top of the mountains, kayaking with the boys, floating and fishing the Chulitna, and seeing the powerful snow covered Denali, I felt ever so grateful for the life that I have, and the gifts that I have been given, and independence from the threat of cancer. I felt really free and really blessed.
Newman caught the big fish that morning.
Mine's the big one on the ground! :)