Alaska

Packraft Fest 

I’m currently sitting on the porch of the guide house eating dinner, and it’s usually quiet for 7 PM. Normally the house is bustling with other guides; there’s 7 of us sharing this space. But tonight is the kick off party for the McCarthy Packrafting Festival, and most of the crew is already in town. I’m getting a ride down in about 20 minutes to join the festivities. Our company, Kennicott Wilderness Guides (KWG), is hosting. 

I ran the river yesterday, joining the reconnaissance mission to scout the race course and cut down any strainers, aka trees that were blocking blocking the river. Even though part of my job is guiding packrafting trips, I had the least river experience by far among the group. The other six paddlers each had their own full kit, and hundreds of river miles logged.

A pixelated pic of me going through a boulder garden. Photo credit Monte Montepare

This mission gave me a true sense of what packrafting is all about: packing your raft along with all your gear into a backpack and hiking up and over a mountain pass dropping down to the river on the other side, ending 10 hours after we started. Our typical guided trips are flatwater trips that usually entail a short walk of 15 minutes to the calm glacial lakes. I had paddled this river twice before from lower down, but this trip was twice as long and included larger rapids, trickier maneuvers and bushwhacking a portage around a scary looking canyon. I came off the river proud of not having taken any swims (although I nearly did a few times) and stoked about possible future packrafting adventures. 

Views on the way up the pass
Aerial view of the rock glacier that we descended to get onto the river. Photo credit Wrangell Mountain Air

Today KWG held a ladies’ clinic for women interested in learning packrafting basics, such as paddle strokes and self bailing. Afterwards they hiked halfway up the race course and paddled down. Tomorrow I’ll be doing that same route as the sweep for those racing the lower portion of the river. 

Last year’s ladies’ clinic. Photo credit Kennicott Wilderness Guides
Alpaca is offering a custom built raft for a raffle prize after the race, and then there will be live music and beer! It’s going to be a good day. 
Check out Alpaca’s website for learning more about packrafting! 

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