Monday, June 23, 2014

Mosquitos and Tussocks, June 13th 2014

After spending some time around camp reading and taking advantage of the nice weather by Glacier River, we each took very quick, frigid baths in the river then continued on our way.  Hiking by this large river was great!  We had to cross it a few times, which, again, reminded us that we were in the Arctic, but hiking on gravel and mud was easy and picturesque.  The scene was classic Alaska: a strong, braided river with snowy mountains above.
After the ease and beauty of following the river, we picked a smaller one, Washington Creek, to follow east into the hills.  Unfortunately, this one would not be so simple.  Getting there required navigating a mile or so of marshy tussocks sometimes accompanied by thick brush.  We breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching the creek, but the constant crossings chilled our feet to numbness, and the thick brush on the steep banks slowed our pace considerably and tore at our mosquito nets.  Eventually we just headed straight up the hill and pitched the tent, exhausted.  We ate dinner in the tent, no rain fly on, because the mosquitoes basically prohibited eating outside.  I made the mistake yesterday of trying to eat peanut butter while mosquitoes swirled around me; I gave up after fishing eight of them out of the jar and lid.  Through the tent's mesh we were treated to a glorious 1 am northern sunset/sunrise, and the alpenglow on the big, snowy mountains to the south took my breath away.  The knowledge that at every moment we are earning our right to be in this rugged wilderness makes everything around us, the sunsets and mountains and the grizzlies, that much more significant.  As the toil of maneuvering hills and tussocks sets in my muscles, all else that is here remains huge in my mind.  The unclimbed mountains, the colors of the tundra, all of it.    My mind, however, is not that big, so my camera will hopefully be able to pick up where it fails.

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