Sunday, May 27, 2007

Plotting a Course

Flash helps me plot a course for the hot springs adventure race

So I have been spending hours hovering over some topographic maps the past few days. I am in the midst of trying to plot a course for this adventure race/event that is taking place next weekend. The organizer is trying to keep it low key in order to avoid any sort of liability issues with having a bunch of folks out racing across the wilderness in an attempt to get from point A to point B. I did have to sign paperwork that essentially states that if I die its my fault and nobody made me do it.

The point A in this case is Chena Hot Springs--and point B is Circle Hot Springs--which lie approximately 60 air miles apart. The shortest and most direct (but not necessarily the easiest) land/water route is about 80 miles or so. The adventure aspect of this whole thing are the mountains and rivers to cross en route among the other challenging physical and biological features that interior Alaska throws in your face: thick brush, horrendously annoying mosquitoes, cold water crossings, class 2 and 3 rapids on Birch Creek, rocky scree slopes to traverse, swamps, tussocks (which are big vegetation mounds that suck you in as you walk), PM thunderstorms, and of course--BEARS!! Fortunately this time of year there is endless daylight so I will be able to travel through the night...or at least until my body keels over in desperate need of a little nappy-pooh.
I am using my Garmin GPS software to plot various routes from Chena Hot Springs

We plan on taking the shortest walking route over the mountains to the Birch Creek drainage and then floating the creek in Alpacka rafts. Here is a sample picture I stole from the companies website. These pack rafts are perfect for backcountry travel because they weight a meager 4lbs!! and can fit into your backpack.

So I will be doing this trip with my friends Ned and Andy--who are well seasoned summer/winter wilderness travelers. I am fortunate that these guys want to travel with a rookie like myself. This trip will certainly push my endurance envelope much farther than anything I have done in the past. I have a feeling this will make the 100 mile Susitna ski race feel like an afternoon stroll. At least I wont have to worry about frostbite this time of the year.

How lucky is this--I actually got to fly over a portion of the route last week while returning from a work field trip. The mouth of Harrison Cr appears to be the best point to end the 40+ miles of floating on Birch Cr and resume the last 15 miles of bushwhacking to Circle Hot Springs. There is still some ice on the banks of Harrison Cr which = effortless walking.

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