It's amazing the effect that other people have on me.
Even three decades after my first alpine climb with Carl Tobin, I still kick steps in loose snow the way I saw him lead on the ridge descent of "10,910". Paul Adkins showed me to ride the way water flows, Steve Sillett taught me the California big tree way, while Ryan Jordan inspired me to wash my socks on wilderness trips. More recently, I find my packrafting techniques borrow from others: Scott Solle's runaway boat tether; Nathan Shoutis' butt-boat boof; Thai Verzone's eddy-hopping and wave surfing; even Forrest McCarthy's 3/4 spins!
But of all the influence of my current stable of partners, it's Brad Meiklejohn who's pulling me to the dark side with fly-in trips.
Now I wish I could tell you that I'm a purist, someone who eschews flying because it's not "fair", not as "good" as walking/boating/biking/skiing in, and honestly I do feel that way, that it's most satisfying to "earn your turns". I mean, if you're going to fly, why not just take a snowmachine/ATV/jetboat in?
But that old-timey wilderness-guy feeling may simply be self-apology for being too poor most of my adult life to fly into the wild places I so like to visit. Or maybe because I feel motion sick too easily. Or maybe because looking out the window of a low flying plane at the heart-melting landscapes of Alaska is a bit like going to the Great Alaska Bush Co. -- look but don't touch.
But Brad has influenced me in these various ways. He does it without really trying. Like day before yesterday we went to Bird and I was planning to just "flip it" like usual, but we ended up walking the full hour to the regular kayaker put-in and I actually enjoyed all the upper drops and cruisey, boogey water mini-canyons. Or like last July when we -- dare I admit it -- flew in to the Happy River.
So Brad and I and a handful of others he has under his spell are flying in for a weekend run of the Talkeetna Canyon.
I'd like to do it in 24 hours -- mostly 'cause we could if we had the light -- but instead we'll have beautiful blue water with lots of rocks and tongues, holes and fall colors and likely a couple camps.
The Talkeetna before freeze-up is the best time for a packrafter. The water's clear and low and offers more interesting features and less ugly gray volume. I went in there back in late September of 2003 and ran Entrance Exam, Toliet Bowl and the Washboard, as well as everything upstream and a couple drops downstream in an old Alpacka. This was back in the day of pull-on spray decks and I was actually there with a bunch of APU students in open boats and rain gear with ice on the boats every morning (see above). We'd walked there in Classic style, from Eureka, and floated from the Canyon mouth to Talkeetna.
But a lot has happened in six years. Back then I'd been the lone (crazy) packrafter on Ship, Six-Mile, and Little Su at 600 cfs. Now lots and lots of people run those former test-pieces and don't mess their dry-suits doing it.
So this trip this weekend with some of the most experienced whitewater packrafters in the state should be something else.