Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dialysis doesn't deter Dea

Dea is eager to packraft down the Sanctuary River in Denali National Park

This blog post is dedicated to my friend Dea. Dea defies the image of someone who lacks properly working kidneys. Two years ago her kidneys failed and she has been forced to plug herself into a dialysis machine ever since - 3 times a week for about 4 hrs a day. I don't know much about dialysis but I do know that it drives the majority of patients to live stagnant and very careful lives. There are many days Dea is wiped out or sick BUT always seems to shine with a positive attitude even if she feels completely crappy. She has an inner energy and drive to enjoy each day regardless of her situation...

Dea has facilitated a handful of my backcountry adventures recently by either shuttling cars or picking me up from a distant trailhead. She is always enthusiastic and excited to hear about the most recent adventure even though she has to live it vicariously through my stories and photos. I have been sort of subconsciously searching for a trip she can squeeze in between dialysis sessions and I just recently found one. Last weekend I did a traverse from Cantwell to the Sanctuary River in Denali Park but heard that the route from Sable Pass was a bit shorter. I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to take Dea and her husband Ben on packrafting trip through the rugged Alaska Range. So here are some shots from Dea's 14 hour adventure in the shadow of North Americas highest peak.

I have to say that this is one of the best trips I have taken in the backcountry recently. This is not because the scenery and weather were superb - but because I got the pleasure to see the biggest smile plastered on Dea's face as she bobbed up and down in the whitewater of the Sanctuary River...

We started our 28 mile traverse at Sable Pass on the Denali National Park road. From there we headed down to the Teklanika River, up the Calico Creek drainage, and then over a pass before making a steep descent to the Sanctuary River. From there we packrafted about 16 miles back to the park road and pulled out right at our campsite in the Sanctuary River campground.

As usual with any backcountry trek in Alaska we had frequent water crossings. Fortunately this stretch of the Teklanika River was made up of multiple, shallow braided channels and was quite easy to ford.

Criss-crossing bear imprints were abundant along the Teklanika River

Dea makes her way up Calico Creek. This route to the Sanctuary River lacked any thick brush and the walking was very appealing.

Dea's posse of boys above Calico Cr - Ben, me, Dan and Ted

We were forced to climb over several small outcrops along Calico Cr

These unusual conical formations were in a lingering snow field.

We crossed fields of beautiful wildflowers on the approach to the pass

The final push up the pass was quite steep and required us to climb on all fours

Dan at the top of the pass with a view of the Sanctuary River valley below. Windy Pass can also be seen in the distance to the right - this is the route we took last weekend on our hike from Cantwell to the Sanctuary River.

The slope was wickedly steep on the way down from the pass.

Dea kicks up dust as she takes giant leaps and plummets down the scree slope

Looking back at the pass we descended - it looked like a formidable wall from this side.

Dea and Ben sideslope across a precarious slope of loose rock during our decent

Dan curls up like a baby in the warm sun on a soft carpet of tundra

Gazing down towards the Sanctuary River valley...

We dropped our packrafts in the river far below

The flotilla of packrafters are ready to hit the Sanctuary River

Ben trying to get a handle of the packraft before we reach some more challenging sections on the lower reach of the river.


Anonymous said...


What a great looking trip and what a wonderful friend you are. Dea is an inspiration! I didn't know about her "challenges" but I do know that every time I see her she has a big 'ole smile on her face.


Jules said...

great post ed. i got all teary eyed reading it. these great adventures, these inspiring friendships ... i don't think you find them any where else. i'm already homesick. miss you guys - julie.

Anonymous said...

Great for Dea! :) Great pics too.
Read about you in the Newsminer today - you get great news coverage. They're using Chena Lakes arent't they - the levels seem as high as '67 - I was there and it was an adventure. 5' of water in our house in Island Homes - :) only 5" in the Alpine house at 106 Cushman St. God bless!

Vår Utsida said...

That is such beautful landscape you live in.

Anonymous said...

You, my friend, are awesome.
Huge hug from Australia!

Anonymous said...

I'm a friend of Dea's dad and have known about her medical issues for some time. What I didn't know is how pretty her smile, how big her heart, and how awesome her friends are. Oh, the scenery is spectacular too. (-;