Monday, August 15, 2005

A Night I'll Never Forget

The last few steps were murder on my poor legs and back, we had been plugging along all day. We stopped for water a few hours ago and I knew the next time I stopped walking, I'd be done for the day. We were in the alpine mountains, out in the Wrangle wilderness. We were above the tree line and had just dropped down into willow scrubs that lined the creek. We found a nice gravel bar to spend the night. The tundra carpet on the mountains is a squishy mat of lichens and moss, almost impossible to walk on. We spent a lot of time on the edges of 2 creeks that flowed from the melting ice above us. I let out a groan as I dropped my pack, which weighed almost 60 pounds. We were sitting in the most beautiful spot you could imagine. We set up the tent on a large gravel bar where 2 streams came together. We were back quite a ways from the water. We collected some willow and started a fire to dry out some gear that got wet from the stream crossings we made in the morning. Nate started our little camp stove and cooked up some supper. We found some low bush cranberries and nibbled on them while we waited for our rice and beans to cook. It was 7pm and we were ready for some rest. After supper it started to rain a little and we had some coffee brewed up that we drank out of our little tin cups. I added a dribble of Yukon Jack whiskey to mine. It got dark around 11pm and we were already sleeping. What we didn't know was that it was raining a lot harder up in the mountains. The streams began to swell in the night and there was so much water coming down it was bringing half the mountain down with it. Eric wake up and noticed the sides of the tent were pushed in. He woke us up and we were a little puzzled. We could hear boulders coming down the creek crashing into the willows and the roar of the water sounded more like a major river. Tons of silt was coming down the stream and was settling in around us as we slept. The tent was buried in a foot or more and the zipper was stuck. I stood up to put on my shoes and the ground under me gave out and crumbled into the stream. It seems the stream was a lot wider now! Nate ripped the door open and the water flowed through the tent. They held the corners while I escaped. The water was cold and the silt and gravel took the skin off our legs like liquid sand paper. We saved the tent but lost some of our gear. It was dark and the noise of the water and the landslides was unbelievable. We drug our stuff up a 9ft ledge and escaped the water. We went to sleep wet and cold. Hypothermia was big concern, but there was nothing we could do. We fell a sleep not knowing what would become of us. In the morning we got out of the tent and to our surprise we saw the little valley we camped in was gone. The 7ft tall tree the tent was next to had only the one ft sticking out of the gravel! If we had slept a little longer, no one would have ever found us. We spent the next day drying out and drinking coffee. We lost a bit of gear that night but we managed to save most of the food and our topo maps. After we got the fires going good and all our stuff hanging on a makeshift close line, Nate looks at me and smiles....."Well, it ain't really a vacation unless you almost die at least once." I agreed, as we had another cup coffee


At 8/15/2005 6:50 AM, Blogger Ann said...

That's a fun read. Did that really happen?

At 8/15/2005 12:03 PM, Anonymous Matt Davis said...

I didn't think farmers had time for that kind of stuff... :o)

At 8/15/2005 6:24 PM, Blogger reformed farmer said...

Yup, that really happened. That was my first trip to Alaska. We spent 2 weeks roaming the wilderness. In a few years I would return with my new wife. We got a pair of one way tickets to Alaska for wedding presents! We spent a year up there trapping and living the good life. We came back to farm.

I no longer have time for those kind of adventures. When I was younger, my parents were a little healthier and I could find and afford hired help. Nate and I went on some wild adventures over the years, and "almost dieing" was pretty common. We knew that our last one would be our last, gotta grow up sometime, so we made sure it would be one to remember.

When I moved to Alaska, I never intended to come back. As you see, I did. Part of me longs to return, and I suppose I'll end up back there before I die....who knows.

At 8/16/2005 11:21 AM, Blogger Randall Gerard said...


There must be something in the air up there - one of my best friends grew up in Pelican Ak. His dad owned a fishing boat, and I love to get him talking about his many adventures! He often wishes out loud that he'd never left. It's enough to make me cautious about ever visiting, cuz I have deep roots in the midwest, and don't really want to yank 'em out and re-plant them.

Yeah, there's something about almost dieing that makes fresh air sweeter, beer colder and girls prettier. It's just really, really good to be alive after a scare like that.

We've had a fair amount of rain this year. I'll ask the Lord to spread some in your direction.

At 8/17/2005 6:31 AM, Blogger abigail said...

So who're you getting to publish these tales of High Adventure Before Wedded Bliss, hm?

Good to see you guys this past weekend. I know Depew doesn't offer the thrills of Joel Salatin's homestead, but we've got The Falls! I think your next adventure should bring you thisaway.

At 8/17/2005 3:18 PM, Anonymous scott said...


The North will get ya. I can't explain it. You even hear little voices begging you to come home!


Some day we will venture out the big city and see you all. I will bring a handgun and act very paraniod, but I will come. Hmmm, OK... it will be the same old Me!

At 8/17/2005 5:47 PM, Blogger Chad said...

Mmmmm. Yukon Jack -yummy! :)

Great story. I've always dreamed of Alaska... but I'll probably never go. Who knows, if I come into some money some day, maybe we can take a trip up there and have a near-death experience or two. Sounds like fun.

At 8/18/2005 9:18 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

Sounds good to me! I'll bring the Yukon :)


Post a Comment

<< Home