19-Aug-2004 -- After failing to find our first planned trail head and receiving advice from a local house owner, we parked the car along side the Highway to Chena Hot Springs about 30 miles east of the city of Fairbanks in a grassy pull-out (NR. 1 in red print on the map). From there we donned backpacks and headed off in the general direction of our confluence point.
The landscape resembled that of a knee-deep sponge and we abandoned our attempts to keep our feet dry after 10 minutes. We soon found a sort of hunting trail made by 4-wheelers that proceeded up the valley toward our point and were able to follow it for the first quarter of the trip.
At NR. 2 the valley broadened out into a wide tundra forest. We were very lucky to find a newly-cut, 20 meter wide fire strip that offered an occasional dry place to walk and a relatively easily passable path up the valley.
At Anaconda Creek (NR. 3) the fire strip ended and we decided to try to check out a small cabin that was on our map in order to see if it would be possible to spend the night there. After an ¾ hour of bushwhacking through a thick birch and alder forest full of rosehip bushes and dry undergrowth, we found the cabin (NR. 4) nestled next to a bend in the river. It was private and boarded up for the summer, obviously a cabin used by snow machiners in the winter.
Back at the end of the fire strip (NR. 3), we continued onward up the valley following this time mostly animal trails that zigzagged through the thick forest of dwarfed tundra trees. We saw many moose and deer tracks and the occasional pile of bear scat but surprisingly enough, no large game.
At NR. 5 we headed off to the left side of the valley and finding nothing even resembling a trail, bushwhacked through the forest and muskegs until reaching the point where the GPS read: 65/147. (NR. 6)
Two interesting sites along that section were a large ground squirrel colony made of pinecones and an old moose kill site where the bones of two large animals lay still drying.
The confluence was directly in the middle of a birch and evergreen forest on the edge of a mostly dried up river bed. The Little Chena river was, according to the map, quite near, but we had little energy left that day to find it and as there was no place to camp at the confluence and most importantly, no clear water, we headed back the way we came directly after taking the necessary pictures.
We had marked several way points in the GPS on the way in and simply followed them backwards on the way out. Aside from one surprising water crossing that we had managed to miss on the way in, the trek back to the middle of the valley (NR. 5) was a bit easier due to our having learned how to better negotiate the moose trails.
At Anaconda Creek (NR. 3) we camped for the night. I (Lisa) slept a little uneasily, cradling the can of bear spray and trying to differentiate between the splashes of the waves on the rocks of the near-by creek and the sound of large brown furry animals wading through the water for a drink.
At dawn the next morning we continued to back track our course through the sponge-like terrain and were able to reach the car by 11 a.m. What a wonderful feeling to be back on solid ground with dry feet!
We later learned from people who know the area, that we were very lucky that the summer had been such a dry one. The area surrounding our confluence point is normally so boggy in places that a person can easily sink in up to the hips or waist when attempting to cross on foot. We also found it rather ironic that we had trekked for two days through miles of moose prints and bear droppings, seeing not one animal and then when back in the car after five minutes of the drive back toward Fairbanks, we passed a huge bull moose as he was feeding along side the highway.