After waking up and taking advantage of the availability of a shower again, we packed our clean clothes and supplies into our dry bags. We were dropped off at Tanaina Lake, the same place we were picked up the previous day. We knew our bags were very heavy, weighed down with 15 cans of veggies, various bags of dry foods, and fresh fruit and veggies, in addition to clothes, fishing gear, and tools, so we decided we would walk the bags through the portages first, then carry the canoe through. This meant three times the walking, but in the end we were happy with our choice. The weather was also in our favor, with just a light breeze, which kept the lakes calm.
As we made our way through the last couple of lakes and ponds before our cabin, we kept an eye on the water looking for fish. We saw many northern pike, including a couple that looked close to three feet long. We would never catch one of those… but even a smaller one would provide a great meal. Northern pike are an invasive species in this part of Alaska, wreaking havoc on the trout and salmon populations, so if you catch one you do not want, you are supposed to kill it before throwing it back in deep water.
Excited at the fishing prospects we saw in the Echo Ponds and Candlestick Lake, we decided to save ourselves some portaging by locking up the canoe between Candlestick and Buckley Lakes. We would walk our packs along the Butterfly Lake trail to our cabin, eat a late lunch, unpack, get the fishing gear ready then walk back out to fish. Great plan, but wow… that trail felt a lot longer with the awkward, heavy, packs.
Sadly, a storm rolled in that didn’t seem to want to let up. Around 6:00PM it was still raining, so we decided we would just put our plans on hold until the morning. Later in the evening, after an impromptu nap, Dave suggested we get ready to go to bed, and was heading outside to use the “facilities.” Somehow, this turned into putting on his muck boots, and grabbing a fishing rod… Sadly, the end result was only a lost lure and a few new mosquito bites.
Tuesday, June 24th
After what has become our normal morning routine, breakfast, coffee, and reading, we headed out with our fishing gear to retrieve the canoe and hopefully catch a fish or two.
We didn’t see much until we got into Echo Pond #2. Pretty quickly Dave had a bite by about a 14″ pike that got away with one of the “little trout” lures. After retying another lure and casting again, Dave was going to clear some plants that got caught of the lure, but spied two pike near the boat, so instead, he just pulled his line near the boat. BAM! A BIG pike took it. Alex missed him with the net at first pass, but managed to get him on the second, while being very thankful that the line or rod did not snap. Not only did the pike snatch up the lure, but it also had another fish in its mouth! The other fish was about 2 feet long! Alex struggled to get the fish in the boat, but finally succeeded, though in the process is let go of the smaller fish.
Giddy with excitement, we headed to shore with a slimey, 3 foot pike. What were we going to do with such a big fish??? Once on shore, Dave gutted the fish, while Alex made lots noise to deter any wildlife that might want to take our dinner.
Once back at camp, we prepped out fish for cooking, and had a very filling and delicious meal. We relaxed for the rest of the day, and went to sleep that night laughing over and reliving the day’s fishing adventure.
Wednesday, June 25th
We woke up to a very dreary and rainy day. During a lull in the rain, we decided we would head out to continue working on the very messy portage between Skeetna Lake and the Little Su. After well over three hours of clearing what seemed like endless fallen spruce trees, we finally arrived at the river! Soaked, cold, hungry, and tired, we hung some flagging to make the take out more obvious to boaters on the river, before heading back to the cabin with dreams of food, dry clothes, and a warm fire. We did get to see our lake loons and a bald eagle before getting back to the cabin.
Thursday, June 26th
The day brought nothing but steady, heavy rain. So we stayed inside and enjoyed a day filled with coffee, reading, tea, reading, and warm fires throughout.
Friday, June 27th
Though it was still raining, we wanted to paddle around and check on all the PUC’s today. We waited for the rain to lighten before heading out. The work went quickly and easily… portaging was getting easier and faster! Since we were done so quickly, we decided to check out the last unexplored area of the canoe trail, James Lake to Javit Lake to Lynx Creek to Lynx Lake. This also made Dave happy because it cut out a large portion of paddling on Lynx Lake that he often did not like.
James Lake to Javit Lake was pretty easy, thought the trail definitely needs some clearing. After paddling across Javit Lake, the trail to Lynx Creek was very pretty, but turned very messy and slick, which caused Alex to slip and slide to the point of her boot getting stuck in between two roots. Once to Lynx Creek, things looked promising, even though we had to paddle upstream. However, the creek became very shallow at times, so we were often in and out of the boat to get it though shallow areas and beaver dams. We headed back to the cabin having had a simple day that turned into a fun adventure!
Alex ready to beat any beavers that cause us trouble.
Lots of baby ducks!
Saturday, June 28th
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, coffee, and logic puzzles, before paddling to meet Vic at the Lynx Lake Boat Launch. He was bringing us supplies we needed to fix the portage between Lynx Lake and Echo Ponds. The portage currently had many loose boards floating on water, and a few missing or submerged boards. Along the way, we saw something making big splashes in the water. It turned out to be a beaver swimming and playing along the shore of Lynx Lake! We stopped and watched for a while before continuing on.
After gathering our supplies from Vic, and filling our canoe with ten 8′ pressure treated boardwalk planks, and three 4×4’s, we slowly made our way back down the lake.
We worked for several hours, in the beautiful weather (we hadn’t seen the sun in days because of all the rain!), until we ran out of fasteners. In the end the portage was much better than it was before, but more work would be needed once we had more fasteners. We enjoyed the day of work and also getting to see a few groups of people utilize the area. Most stopped to chat for a bit and one offered to take our picture.
No more missing boards!
Since we had so much material to take back to the cabin for other projects, we were glad to see that all the heavy rain had made a nearby usually impassible floating portage open again, cutting our portages for the day down to two. With so much material, we would have to take several trips carrying materials across each portage before we could carry the boat across. As we made our way across the Echo Ponds, the sky was turning stormy, so we decided that we would stash our materials in the woods between Buckley Lake and Butterfly Lake, and make the final portage with materials tomorrow morning. Exhausted from the days work, we slept well that night.
Sunday, June 29th
We woke up and retrieved the materials we stashed yesterday before we had breakfast. It was tiring work, since the portage between Buckley and Butterfly is long, muddy, and messy, but it felt good to have the work taken care of. After breakfast we packed up to head to Tanaina Lake to be picked up and brought back to the ranger station for a day or so. We checked and cleaned up campsites along the way and still made great time.. under 3 hours! As we were nearing the edge of Tanaina Lake, we had the awesome experience of having a loon swim fairly close to us, and when it dove under water, it swam underneath our boat, it was so cool to see! After getting back to the station, we had showers, did laundry, and headed to Wasilla to resupply for the week.