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Wrangell - St. Elias 1995

Recovery and a short hike

Wednesday, August 23   The warmest night yet, the temperatures were probably in the forties. Also, the wind was not really bad, although there was a bit of rain during the night. We did not get up until 8:00 am, although Roger with his booming voice was up as usual at 7:00 am. The compulsion of some people, no matter what, to get started early is certainly not Barbara's and my preferred option. We are both feeling much better, although Barbara is worried about the continuation of The Goat Trail down the canyon on the other side to the river.

It's a sunny morning and, except for the wind, absolutely beautiful. The location is much more appreciated this morning, looking up numerous valleys and numerous glaciers from a grassy saddle. We're lazy getting started, but finally I set up the tarp to block the wind, and we have breakfast. Before breaking camp around 11:00 am, I walk over to take another look at The Goat Trail. I'm not even sure where we fell, until Roger comes over and points it out to me. A small reddish outcrop that looks steep. Finally, we break camp and hike down to the creek. Barbara decides to wait at the creek and do some laundry and read, basking in the sun. Regina stays with her, while Anne and I head up canyon day hiking, and Dolph catches up later. Our goal is the falls that we've seen from camp. We meet Roger and Susie coming down, and Roger is exuberant over the geodes that lie everywhere, crystalline rocks that look normal on the outside but which are crystal rock inside. He's bashing them to open them up. He's also named the creek we're on, otherwise unnamed, Geode Canyon.

The falls is located between two deep reddish black, yellow, and brown walls of rock, with grassy, sloping benches above. It cascades 150 feet or so with a roar that is seemingly almost too much for the size of the creek. I hike on up a short ways to look right down on the falls. See some mountain sheep silhouetted on the skyline to the north. Last night and this morning, the sheep were located down valley opposite our camp. Although it's been generally sunny, a dark cloud comes over, and hail starts peppering the landscape. So I head back down. Barbara has washed some clothes and taken a bath by the time I get back. We then head on down what is now a very distinct and, in some places, a pretty well defined trail. It's also generally across a slope that is covered with vegetation and is much more secure. Except for the one point where it goes through some bare earth. I carry Barbara's pack across, and she has no problem. So that was pretty much it for the difficult portion of The Goat Trail, and we're both glad it's over.

We cross over a rocky ridge and look down on a very green bench below above the river. There, the others are planning to camp, with only Roger's tent up. But as we head down, it starts hailing and then rain, and we watch the others quickly getting up their tents. By the time we reach the campsite, a full scale rain is falling. We had already put on our pack rain covers, so we quickly set down our packs and dive for tents, Barbara into Dolph's and me into Roger and Susie's. We expected it to blow over quickly, but it rained for 45 minutes or more. Amazingly, for most of the time, the sun was also shining, and the tents were very toasty. Finally, it stopped, and Barbara and I got out and set up our tent. While we're in the tents, Barbara gets a great sequence of photos of Ray. He was off exploring without having set up his tent when the rain started. When he got back to camp, he simply put the tarp over himself and his pack. Ever so often, a hand would snake itself out from under the tarp, checking the rain, each of which Barbara got on film. Finally, when the rain more or less stopped, Ray gradually emerged from under the tarp and quickly set up his tent.

The only problem with the campsite is water. No flowing streams nearby, so we get our drinking water out of a large swamplike pool of brown water. It's clear, however, and we treat it and boil it. There's a really crummy little stream a half mile away, but only Roger and Ray go for baths.

We cook eggplant ratatouille tonight; and, according to the praises from Dolph and Ann, who get leftovers, it's quite good. During dinner, the wind changed direction 180 degrees so that the tarp was set exactly the wrong way, and we had to reverse it. After dinner, everyone walks around a bit. There are high rock outcrops up valley and down valley; and, at times, someone is standing on both. The up valley one looks out toward Chitistone Falls, the scenic centerpiece of Chitistone Canyon. It's a high, double waterfall, whose roar can be heard all the way to the camp. Somewhat muddy but impressive, particularly as it's set in a very rugged canyon with nothing but rock. Just after we got out of the tents, just after the rain, I went over and saw some nice views of it as the sun gradually lightened the area around it.

Most of us go up for a last look at the waterfall before going to bed. We get involved in watching sheep on the steep canyon slope on the other side, slowly making their way across a seemingly impassable ridge. Dolph names them, particularly the first one that seems to always go out and lead across. He's named "Ray." And the last two, who always seem to lag behind, are "Barbara" and "Will." After going to bed, Roger yells from his tent that Ray, the sheep, has headed on across an extremely steep slope that we wondered how they would make it across. Later, he reports they all made it across. We're to sleep early tonight, around 9:30 pm.

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William H. Skelton, 1995