By Janelle Eklund
The day started out overcast but the plane that took us from McCarthy to Skolai Pass was undeterred with the encouragement of parting clouds. My journal reads:
The clouds are breaking up to the south and the sun is begging to break through - it's just a matter of time. To the north into the mountains and glaciers is a different story. Rain clouds form a sheer curtain partially obscuring row after row of mountain slopes. A brisk cool wind drifts down from this turmoil whispering of relentless storms. Promise is to the south, pushing storms further north. Who will win?
The plane took off. We flew between mountain cliffs where glaciers hung between high valleys and waterfalls ran like veins - life blood - off this jagged range. We were dwarfed in this little super cub where the earth seemed to rise higher than we could climb. Giant pinnacles held us at their mercy. Up Chitistone valley groups of sheep grazed on green slopes. We passed peak after peak and each valley between held a glacier in the palm of its hand. The voices of the mountains speak in many tones and change their dress from minute to minute as they create weather that moves and swirls. Misty clouds will shroud a peak hurling its fury in sheets of rain and snow. Blowing itself into oblivion, sun rays dance on new whiteness and glisten on wet earth. Where the Chitistone meets Skolai the terrain drops down into a wide sweeping valley. The plane circled and we landed on a short air strip. A glacier clung to a high mountain peak just above the strip. Next to it stood four rough hewn cliffs that were having a weather party all their own. Dancing clouds were flung about and then the mountains would blow them out.
All the mountains seemed to be having a weather contest. Who could make the biggest fury, put it out, and start another. On the other side of the valley Castle Peak stands alone but also plays the weather game. It wins the prize for the most beautiful shroud it created and wrapped itself in.
All our gear was carried the short distance to Skolai Creek where we used an inflatable kayak to get to the other side. We set up camp with a million dollar view. That night seven grain casserole was our dinner. The recipe just said add water, but not how much. It kept growing as it cooked - consequently we had lots of left-over's!
Caribou or sheep tracks near the water gave a clue to their quenching of thirst. Ptarmigan entertained us, flitting about in the brush. A crystal clear fresh water creek drained its purity into the glacial fed Skolai Creek. We retired early, read, wrote, and surveyed the map for the next day's adventure.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.