Vladimir Lysenko. THE THIRD CORDILLERAS EXPEDITION (ALASKA, USA)
(July-August of 1993)
(McKinley, Kantishna Rivers)
In July-August of 1993 I and Vladimir Kuznetsov have rafted in Alaska down from the highest peak of North America Mt.McKinley (6,194 m) on the McKinley and Kantishna Rivers.
The realization of this expedition was under a question up to the last day, first, because of the financial problems, and secondly, because of the irregularity of airflights in Russia (my aircraft, for example, has taken off from Novosibirsk to Magadan in one day later the planned time). But everything turned out all right. And at 11.30 on July 22, 1993 (Thursday) by flight of Aeroflot 801 we have taken off from Magadan to Anchorage. Having flied for four hours, we have arrived to Anchorage at 19.30 ...on 21(!) July (Wednesday), that is, as in the fantastic novel, we have made travelling in time (the change of time and daily zones had an effect). As we were short of financial means, at once at arrival to Anchorage, having met the several our compatriots (I do not know, present or former), we became to learn the coordinates of the cheapest hotel. By it there has turned out to be the Anchorage Youth Hostel at the address H-700. Here the cost of bed per day is 15 dollars (in your disposal the double plank bed plus the kitchen, shower, toilet, different information). For bed-clothes it is necessary to pay 1 dollar yet.
In the morning of following day (at 8 o'clock) by the van of the firm "Moon Bay Express" we have gone away to National park Denali (McKinley), surrounded Mt.McKinley. We have landed at VAC - centre for the visitors, where the permits for visiting the national park are given out. It has appeared, that it is rather difficult to get into park Denali because of huge influx of those who wish to visit it. The park is divided into 44 zones, and in each zone there can stay simultaneously the certain amount of people only. The excess of this amount is not admitted. In the most popular zones there is the queue for 3-4 days ahead. We needed to raft through the zones 14, 15, 43 and 44. I have decided, beginning the rafting from the zone 14, to carry out the first spending the night in the zone 15, and all other spendings the night in limits of the National park - in the zone 44, the most large and the most seldom-visited (the queue to it was not). But there was no confidence, whether shall we be admitted into park in general. You see, for its visitors there are the large restrictions in behaviour - it is necessary to have at self the plastic barrel for dust, to keep the products in 100 m from the place of spending the night, and to prepare food at distance of 100 m from named two places (these three points represent tops of an equilateral triangle, if to look from above on ground). But the largest problems could arise with grizzly bears, the main sight of the park. From the people it was required to talk loudly or to go with a bell, notified the bear about their approach. In case, if the bear will suddenly direct to the people, it was recommended to speak louder and to extend arms horizontally (showing the bear, that any weapon is not present, and anything does not threaten his life). If he will continue still to run to the people, it was necessary to fling on ground, closing the neck by the rucksack, and to pretend to be dead (on idea of the managers of park, the bear after it should leave the people alone).
I have addressed to one of the rangers of this centre with the request to permit us to have rafted in the park on the McKinley and Kantishna Rivers. He has answered, that it is possible, but previously I and Vladimir are obliged to pass examination with computer, which set on the display different situations, for which we should give the correct answers. The questions in English were set extremely (for me) quickly, but how to take examination for Vladimir Kuznetsov, not speaking English, it was impossible to self to imagine. I during hour prepared to answer the questions (to computer there was the queue), but here it has suddenly appeared, that the taking of the examination with computer is desirable, but not obligatory. How I was delighted to this! We have gone to another ranger (the first has left somewhere), and he, without slightest problems, has given out to us the permit for rafting on the McKinley and Kantishna Rivers up to the Tanana River. Besides it appeared, that the reception of the permit is free-of-charge. It, naturally, has pleased us. It was also found out, that the travel in a school bus-shuttle up to the place of start in the region of Muldrow Glacier of Mt.McKinley massif (namely from this glacier the McKinley River rises) costs three dollars per person only. The truth is, the severity has turned out to be in the term of departure to the route, as one day ahead all seats in buses, leaving up to Eielson-Centre and Wonder Lake, have turned out to be taken, and we for one day had to postpone the departure and during 1.5 days to stay in campground Morino, that is near Denali-Park-hotel (there the cost of a seat on ground for 1 person is three dollars per a day). We have spent this time rather in a cultural manner (have looked different films about Denali-Park, in particular, about birds of prey). However for the second day our mood has darkened by the incessant during the day rain and the notice (the first and last), made to us by one of rangers. He has noticed, that in campground we have left the rucksack with food products near our rest-place, instead of putting it in the special big metal locker for food products. In the note, left to us, it was told, that if he (ranger) will see once again this rucksack with food products near our rest-place, we shall be immediately expelled from the park. Naturally, we made all as it was required.
And on July 24 at seven a.m. by the bus, going to Eielson-Centre and Wonder Lake, we have gone away to the place of the beginning of the rafting. On the way from the bus window we saw the vigorous and cheerful grizzly bears, the not less merry foxes, mooses and other wild animals. Having made the on-foot approach to the McKinley River, we have appeared on it in the zone 14 and have begun to collect the catamaran. And at once it was raining, that has obviously slowed down the assembly of our ship. But without fail we needed this day to stay the night in the fifteenth zone (for this we had permission), but simply not in the fourteenth. Our rafting began only in the evening, and nevertheless it was possible before spending the night to reach the fifteenth zone. We were compelled to sleep in moss, under clouds of mosquitos, but we could not find the best place for spending the night.
From here it remained about 10 km down to the most dangerous site of the McKinley River - the twenty-kilometre Eagle Gorge. On the map this gorge is well appreciable, as before it the numerous channels of the McKinley River (which flows out from the glacier in such state) incorporate, and after it the river again breaks into channels. The gorge has appeared rather interesting for rafting, but we have passed it with a few stops only, without the previous reconnaissance. Anybody can't photograph us here (and on the whole McKinley River), therefore the recurrent time I remained without "fighting" photos. Two times the catamaran could turn over, but we succeeded to level position. The gorge is beautiful.
After this gorge the river again flowed through the numerous channels and only before the falling into the Kantishna River was collected into one channel.
It is necessary to notice, that for the whole rafting on the McKinley and Kantishna at the time of spending the night mosquitoes tormented us (around the ice massif McKinley there places the original, characteristic just for Alaska, mixture of tundra and taiga). The truth is, on the river the mosquitoes were a little.
During the rafting through National park Denali, strictly carrying out instructions, we did not kindle a fire and carried with self all waste absolutely (paper, cans, etc.) (in no case did not bury). It was completely unusual for us, but the requirement to do so was fair, because only so it is possible to save the nature. And the nature in Denali Park remained untouched, there are no any human traces. The results were available. On the banks of the river we constantly met fresh traces of a bear, saw the moose-mother with moose-child, a lot of beavers, ducks and other living creatures. And nevertheless the fear to make unintentionally something wrong in the park possessed of us, therefore we were sincerely delighted, having noticed on the bank the first (for all time of the rafting) table-poster - "Border of National park". The strain has abated. Now we could burn fires and litter, but the habit, acquired in Denali-Park, had an effect already - we have accurately dug the whole accumulated rubbish.
In a few dozens of kilometres after border of National park there were appeared the first attributes of presence of the people, and, at last, on the right bank of the river we have seen the wooden house and the large boat, moored beside.
We have decided to make a stop and to be on a visit. The family Douthat (Daryl and Carol) was the house-and-boat owner. In the autumn, winter and spring they live in Anchorage (Daryl is the professor of chemistry and physics at Anchorage University), but spend the summer here, alone with the wild nature. The meeting was very warm. We (I and the professor) found the common theme for conversation, connected with our work. We both are the scientific researchers and, as it has appeared, the both worked for "defences". It was found out, that not only my Russian Academy of Sciences (actually the former USSR Academy of Sciences) now disperses, but also among the American scientists, working for "defences", there are large dismissals.
Daryl has showed on the map the place of the located below with the stream of the Kantishna house of Tanya Bickeland and her friend Rich. To the end of the day we have made the distance down to the large new house of Tanya and Rich. The reception to us was given hearty. Here we have spent the night. And for the next day we have reached the dwelling of Mike Turner, the third "owner" of the Kantishna. And here we were accepted superbly.
By this moment the Kantishna River has absolutely calmed down and slowly crept on plain. The whole sporting part of the route has remained behind. And when Turner has offered to us to have rafted on the last site of the Kantishna in his motor-boat and then to rise in it on the Tanana River upstream up to town Nenana, we have accepted his invitation (in general Mike makes the similar trip one time for 2 months only). In this case our main problem - the hit from the mouth of the Kantishna to Nenana - was solved, as motor-boats past the mouth of the Kantishna float seldom, and the variant with the rafting on the slow Tanana to Manly-Hot-Springs required the additional financial expenses for our returning therefrom to Nenana overland, while Mike took us free-of-charge.
To a word, it was surprising perfectly for me the impression, which our visit made on the simple Americans Rich and Mike. As distinct from the self-confident foreign visitors, visited Russia, Rich and Mike were shy of us very much and at the same time tried to show all, that they have, as though we have arrived for excursion. Their reaction to the occurrence of the foreigners was similar to behaviour of Russian peasants at the remote village, when the Americans visited them.
For the next day we together with Mike made the distance up to Nenana. There, on the road Fairbanks-Anchorage, up to the evening we tried to catch the passing car (we wanted to come back to campground in Denali Park, from whence it was easy to leave to Anchorage hostel), but unsuccessfully. We have spent the night in Nenana's campground. Though the seat in it cost 5 dollars per person (more expensive, than in Denali), but it is with hot shower, that was for us very much to the point. Here we have got to know the company of the American elderly people from Oregon, travelling in three cars with trailers.
They, having learned that we are from Russia, have offered to take us up to National park Denali. We, naturally, did not begin to refuse this offer. And in Denali we have felt self as at home almost - everything around is familiar. We have again stayed in campground Morino. Have again looked films (already other) about the wild life in National park Denali. Have met already familiar to us two Germen, two Jo (Joachims) - Deleker and Sipple. Have got to know Ron Andersen - the American botany teacher, working in summer in Denali Park by the driver of bus-shuttle.
Then in the same van of the firm "Moon Bay Express" we have come back to Anchorage, where again were quartered at the international hostel. For the following day we have examined town. We have liked it. And then by flight of Aeroflot 802 we have come back to Magadan. In Anchorage and Magadan I have got to know the American travellers Thom Barry and Amy McVey. And then from Magadan I have flown to Irkutsk and further by train have reached Novosibirsk.
So, the North-American expedition was finished. Now I begin the preparation for the expedition in Italy, where I plan to have rafted from the highest peak of Western Europe Mt.Mont Blanc. Then - Australia and Indonesia. But as yet I am impressed deeply by the beauties of Alaska, unique and beautiful.