Today, when we wake up, it sounds like we are in a washing machine. A large river is gushing and tumbling rocks on our left, and a smaller river is gurgling by on the right, while rain pounds down on our tent. Reluctant to hike in the deluge (mostly Danny who doesn't have rain pants), it is 11:00 before we make any real move to get out of the tent. Debating whether to go or stay, we see under the gap between the rain fly and the ground that a new river has started flowing. We decide to pack up before we get flooded out. The river we are camped next to, clear the day before, has turned into a flooded, muddy mess after the night's heavy rain. The first part of our hike brings us across gravel bars and through willow-based brush. We are quickly soaked (even rain gear gets wet). We try to stay as much as we can by the river, but it's so flooded that in places there are no good gravel bars, and it's easier to whack through the brush than to cross. We make fairly good time, and soon we see a beautiful, gradual saddle rising to the left. After the other passes we've gone over, this one is a piece of cake.
At the top, we look down into another flooded river valley, and are rewarded with a view of the Toklat. Hooray! The end is in sight. Scrambling across some muddy scree and down towards the river, we take a quick break to eat lunch. During lunch, we shove tortillas and cheese in our mouths as fast as we can so they don't get wet and we don't get cold standing around. This river is a lot harder to follow than the previous one. There are few gravel bars, and we must squish across super muddy banks (we're talking almost knee deep here), and walk through heavily knitted brush. I can't believe so many plants are growing in one area. At one point, Danny gets stuck and is completely unable to go forward because of all the branches. At another point, while trying to jump over a small stream, my foot gets stuck in the mud on one side and Danny has to come pull me out. To alert bears of our presence, together we recite the entire Lorax. Thank you, High Trails!
Near the Toklat, we reach spruce forest, which has limited visibility but is quite spectacular and unlike anything we've ever seen. It seems almost like a rainforest. There are tall spruce trees, some almost a foot in diameter, a thick, spongy carpet of mosses and lichens, and a low-lying layer of horsetails that look like mini spruce trees! Wet, muddy and tired, we finally reach the gravel bar at the edge of the Toklat and rejoice with snacks. We're close now to the road, so we hike in and set up a tent behind a small, brushy hill so we can't be seen. It's still raining. We eat dinner, then burrow into our sleeping bags to get warm. What a day.