Realizing A Dream On The Lost Coast – Part Four

For the third day in a row, I was awakened from a dreamless slumber to the sound of rain tapping out a consistent rhythm on the cuben fiber above my head.

Editors Note: We continue with Part Four of Realizing A Dream On The Lost Coast. -Kid

Click here to read Part One

Click here to read Part Two

Click here to read Part Three

Crux No. 4: The High Tide

For the third day in a row, I was awakened from a dreamless slumber to the sound of rain tapping out a consistent rhythm on the cuben fiber above my head. The weather gods were letting us have it, as they have for virtually every adventurer who attempted this lonely coast. I lay in my damp sleeping bag watching droplets of water form on a crease above my head before the pull of gravity was too much, and the bubble of moisture free fell onto the camera bag lying next to me. I was unmotivated to leave our present confines. I knew what was out there and by the sounds of things, there was no indication that the conditions had improved. If anything, they sounded worse. 

After the last couple days of relentless soft riding, my knees were both swollen and tight. My hands were sore from numerous encounters with the devious spines of Devil’s Club—a nasty shrub that is common in the moist climates of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The previous day had ended with another last ditch attempt to find Skurka’s elusive road. After what turned into a three-hour bushwhack odyssey involving massive stands of the “club” and treacherously slick, moss covered logs, we retreated to the beach demoralized and battered by defeat. 

This picture says it all...

Rolling over, I found Doom and Bailey to be in similar moods and physical states. We each laid there listening to the torrent outside—wanting ever so desperately for a reprieve from the deluge. Seeking to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, we slowly made and consumed our usual breakfast of oatmeal and dried fruit. Next to us, we could hear Mike and Roman moving around in their floorless mid. They were packing up. I guess it was time to move.

The crew taking a breather from the soft sand...

As anyone who has spent time in the backcountry knows, packing up in the rain is no easy feat. Why leave a warm sleeping bag and immediately get cold and wet? Why up the suffering? In our case, we had to. Our time to finish the route was quickly diminishing. In less than a week, we had a plane to catch in Yakutat with a red-eye connection back to Colorado. We couldn’t afford to stay warm and dry in our current location. We had to move.

Making our way to the staging ground for crossing the White River...

With dry suits and rain jackets on, we broke down camp, crossed the White River via our packrafts, and continued riding the energy sucking sand. Riding in a pace line, we willed ourselves forward with the lead rider breaking the gale and creating a track in the sand. Those behind tucked in and enjoyed the newly created track of compacted sand. My morning became a blur of watching the rear tire of the rider in front of me. Progress was made.

Travelling in a pace line became the most efficient way to move...

Shortly after lunch, we arrived at the Big River. It was high tide. The river was choked with recently fallen trees flowing in chaos into the angry surf. Watching root ball after root ball tumble towards the ocean, we knew that there was no way to cross the river in its present state. Once in the ocean, the trees were tossed like Lincoln Logs by an 8-foot surf. Branches snapped. Trunks were thrown onto the beach. Mother Nature’s power was impressive and humbling. With little choice, we retreated behind a stand of trees and began to set up camp. We would have to wait for the tide to go out and see if the conditions changed to allow us to safely ford the river.

Not quite the Big River, but one of the many creek crossings we encountered en route...

As luck would have it, as soon as we pulled our soaked shelters from their stuff sacks, the weather broke and out came the sun. Mother Nature had granted us a much desired and needed reprieve. Under clearing skies, we unpacked our soaked equipment and let the sun do its work. Camera lenses, dry suits, sleeping bags, rain jackets, and socks were laid out across the graveyard of downed trees which surrounded our camp. As the sun soaked up the moisture from our gear, its rays lifted our spirits and rejuvenated our energy for completing this adventure. Though we had encountered some setbacks and delays, we still had time to finish the route.

A perfect drying rack for our dry suits...

Even a rainbow made an appearance during our weather window...

At 9 p.m. we ventured a peek at the conditions of the river. With low tide just 45 minutes away, we came upon a totally different scene than what we had witnessed six hours earlier. The river was no longer backed up from the high seas with trees rolling trees blocking a safe passage across the torrent. The conditions were such that we could cross without mishap. Breaking down camp, we made the crossing in the shadow of a setting sun. It was stunning.

Void of trees we crossed the Big River under the rays of a setting sun...

As if our luck had shifted with the turning of the tide, the sand on the other side of the Big River was solid and supportable for our big tires. We were able to roll with ease and take advantage of the low tide to get around a portion of the coast that would have been unnavigable at high tide. Sandwiched between an ever falling cliff of sand on our right and a churning sea on our left, we motored forward not wanting to be pinched out with the changing of the tides. An hour into our ride, we caught another break and discovered some doubletrack leading from the beach. With the lost road still on our minds, we followed the track which soon became a solid gravel road. We had regained our road. Along this portion of the coast, its existence had not been reclaimed by the old growth forest through which it traversed. With fading light, we motored to the edge of Icy Bay–the next crux of the trip.

JB was psyched with the improved weather and riding conditions...

We rode quickly not wanting to be pinched against the high banks of sand and the rising tide...

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TO BE CONTINUED...

Click here to read Part One

Click here to read Part Two

Click here to read Part Three

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