30 Days in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska – the Approach

As you may have seen in my previous post, Dan and I spent 30 days in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

Lake Clark NP covers 2.6 million acres and only sees about 18,000 visitors a year. As a comparison, Yellowstone National Park covers 2.2 million acres and sees about 4.1 million visitors a year. There are no roads accessing the park so we flew on a float plane to Lake Telaquana. We saw 2 other people the entire time we were there – the full-time park volunteers that live in a lakeside cabin – and we canoed along the entire shoreline of the lake (~30 miles).

The idea for this trip was devised two years ago while watching the super-moon. Yes, it was that inspirational. Dan and I were in the Outer Banks for a family vacation and were thinking of our next big trip. We had both wanted to go to Alaska for a while. Dan had never been there and I had been there once with Outward Bound, which was one of the best experiences of my life. So it was on our radar.

We later rented Dick Proenneke’s Alone in the Wilderness from the library. It shows him being awesome in a lot of ways, including building his cabin using hand tools in the Twin Lakes area of what is now Lake Clark NP. From this article:

In the fall of 1967, Dick cut logs for his own cabin on the lake. Working alone and with only hand tools, he built his now famous cabin. With the exception of a handful of nails, tar paper and some plastic sheeting, all the materials came from his surroundings.

To say he was ahead of his time is a massive understatement—especially when you consider all of today’s survivalist-type cable TV programs. Dick captured much of his famous cabin build on film.

So now we have to figure out how to “live” in the Alaskan wilderness for a month. We originally thought of renting a cabin but found out that most of the cheap public use cabins have a 7 day rental limit. Dammit. So then the tipi was considered, and eventually purchased. It would allow us to go pretty much anywhere in a National Park or National Forest. And it ended up costing the same as if we rented a cheap cabin. But now we get to keep it. Win-win. Though it does not keep bear out the same way a cabin does ;)

Then we had to plan, purchase, and organize our food and gear (the topics of future posts).

One of our bigger constraints going into this trip was the weight of our gear. Due to weight restrictions on small planes, we were shooting for our gear to weigh under 300 lbs. This includes ~120 lbs of dry food (all of which needed to fit in a steel drum bear canister weighing 30 lbs), a heavy-duty inflatable canoe fit to carry ~600 lbs, clothing and toiletries, the tipi with stove and a backpacking tent, sleeping gear, and cooking equipment. Also, we needed to lug all this stuff 3,500 miles up to Alaska. And almost destroy our car in the process:

We drove up to Alaska in 6 days via the Alaskan Highway (the Alcan). We took the Stewart-Cassiar highway coming back down and I’d say I preferred the latter as it was even more remote and rugged. Here are a few pictures of the drive up:

Icefields Parkway.jpg
Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Cute + cuddly animals:

Black bear.jpg
Black bear chomping vegetation.
Buffalo.jpg
A wild buffalo napping. Or 2 seconds away from ramming speed.

We saw the world’s largest beaver:

Canadian Beaver
Thank you Canada.
Yukon
Re-living the many hours I spent playing Gold Rush as a child. This is how I dreamed it would be.
Sign post.jpg
Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake. There are more than 77,000 signs in the sign forest.

ALASKA!!!

welcome to AK.jpg
We made it! Now only 39 hours left until Anchorage since Alaska is enormous…

We slept in our car on National Forest land or on the side of the road. It was as good as you’d expect. But since I enjoy not spending our money on hotels (because less money spent on this stuff = more time off), the physical discomforts and the uncertainties of where we’d be sleeping each night were well worth it.

So now we’re in Alaska without any speeding tickets, flat tires, or second thoughts – hooray! Time for the real adventure. Dan found our pilot through The Lake Clark National Park Service website, which lists pilots and guides authorized to do business in the park.

I was unusually nervous before this flight. I already don’t like flying in planes – mostly it’s the idea of being in a sealed tube hurtling through the air accompanied by strangers with unknown mood stability. I knew logically it was much safer than the thousands of miles we had just driven. But between the rain and cloudiness that would surely obscure our view and send us slamming into the side of a mountain, and the fact that we were being dropped off in the middle of nowhere with no means of communication except for an emergency beacon (ie, a $20,000 only-pull-it-if-you’re-dying button), I was very anxious with some light dry heaving.

But guess what? The take off was smooth and we were floating 150 ft over the ground and there was hardly any turbulence and it was awesome.

Flying.jpg
Flying into Lake Telaquana.

The landing was smooth too. Before we knew it, all of our crap was piled up outside and we were saying good-bye to our pilot.

Saying see-yah
A pile of stuff.
cya.jpg
Watching the plane leaving while thinking “what have we done?”

See you in 30 days plus or minus five days?

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Keng says:

    Lake Clark NP is one of the parks that I wish one day stars will line up for us to visit. Way to go for both of you to take that leap. It’ll be a memorable experience, I’m sure. Looking forward to seeing pictures and reading your story. Good luck with the trip and be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was an incredible place to visit! And driving up there was quite the experience too. We mostly saw RV’s – are Alaska and Canada on your radar for RVing?

      Like

      1. Keng says:

        Yes, we plan to be in Canadian Rockies next summer if things work out. Alaska is always on the top on the list so hopefully the summer after the next.

        Like

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