Just before 9am the rumble of a prop enters the valley in the west. I get up, get outside the tent. Ready to welcome Eric to camp, they pass high overhead and then proceed to disappear to the northeast, heading out towards Fire Creek.
Hmm, that wasn't what I was expecting. Roughly 15-20 minutes later the plane sounds from the same direction it disappeared. It heads east dropping altitude and banks back towards me now traveling west. But it's out in the middle of the valley. Hmm, I gather my items I wasn't using and start walking towards the creek. As cross the creek and bound through the brush I hear the engine fire up. With in what seems like a few seconds plane take off.
What was going on? This wasn't the plan. Matt couldn't wait 3 minutes for me to get to them and send back 5 useless pounds? It's fair to say I was a bit annoyed.
I reached Eric and he told me Matt didn't have time. He was in rush mode preparing for his hunting clients. He flew Eric out to the glacier but due to winds out there he couldn't set down. Eric seemed at peace with it. A bit bummed but okay. I was still annoyed.
Much of Eric's gear was piled on his pack. Apparently, he went from Anchorage to home in Valdez, threw too much of everything in his truck and started driving. Got in late like I did and then Matt showed up first thing in the morning, so he loaded things in the plane by the armful. We were now standing in the middle of the Ikiakpaurak Valley as he assessed what he had brought and crammed it into his pack. It was obvious Eric had too much food.
In typical Eric fashion he laughed at the challenge. Not only to pack the additional weight but to consume the additional calories every day.
Eric was consuming I think around 8,500 calories a day while I was shooting to keep it around 1,000 calories per day. (By the time I made it back to Valdez I had dropped around 14lbs.)
We made jokes as we talked on our way back to camp.
I packed up and then we headed up the pass and through The Dead Marshes.
Two hot long hours later we were descending into Ikiakpuk Valley. It was weird, call it heat exhaustion, standard exhaustion, or old man exhaustion. But we spotted a moose and her calf. Eric seemed to have his perception dialed in. But I swore that moose was as tall as a woolly mammoth. All we can agree on is that it was a decent sized moose with her calf, and she was in the direction we needed to travel.
By the time we crested the knoll she was on her and her calf were further in the valley, moved into the thick alders. As we reached where she was the ground was plentiful with cloudberries. We found a nice flat rock to rest on and hydrated and had some snacks. Eric posed for some photos with Keto Bricks. He was stoked when they sent us like 30-40 bricks for him to use on the trip, not only did he enjoy the variety, but he could say he was sponsored by them on this expedition.
We were excited to float, covering distance without needing to carry the weight. It became the running joke how great the packrafting was every time we hit a shallow spot and had to drag the packraft to deeper water. This went on for about 7 miles of floating.
We did spot a bull moose who was interested in Eric's noises projected in its direction. Well, eventually Eric made one noise that it didn't like, and it hightailed it up the slope.
Finally, by the time we were at the west end of the Third Range we decided to camp in the middle of the river. We had progressed at about a mile an hour packrafting Eagle Creek. Most of the float the day was warm and the water refreshing, now it was starting to chill. But! At least we weren't crossing tussocks with heavy packs!