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Alaska Blog- Ice and Wind – XII

Haine Harbor

Haine Harbor

Hi Everyone,

I thought I should say a few more words about what it means that the ice is still in at Miles Lake.
Basically, the Copper is open from our put in at Chitna to Miles lake, about five or six days of travel down river, and frozen over from Miles lake into the Delta beyond flag point. It will melt, break up, and go away, but the question is when?

We have these options:

1.  The ice clears and we continue as planned.

2.  The ice doesn’t clear by the time we get to Chitna–we chance it and hope the ice will be out by the time we get to Miles Lake. If we are wrong, either we wait or we have a ski plane pick us up at Miles Lake (probably two flights at $200/person–just guessing)

3. We adjust and enjoy the drive back to Anchorage, hiking every day, stopping at the Kennecott Mine Nat Park near McCarthy for maybe three days, the Matenuska Glacier for two days, and arriving in Anchorage after maybe five or six days on the road. This could be a very enjoyable tour. We could even swing North and come down through Denali Park. One summer I was an REI Van Tour guide, so I have a model in mind that involves carcamping, hiking, kitchen tables, and happy hour.

I’m optimistic about the ice, but we have had a record winter and that snow fall is still insulating lake and river ice  over much of South Central AK. When it goes it will go fast…all at once even…but I cannot predict the date.

Here is what I understand our schedule to be:

6/3   David arrive Hanies

6/4   Group arrives: stay in Haines, camp along the road, or both

6/5   Camp along the road or camp at Chitna

6/6   Put in on Copper or camp Chitna

6/11 Camp at Flag Point

6/12 Orca Inn

6/13 Anchorage

We have seven days of food, beginning the first night at Chitna and ending with lunch at Flag Point. That’s one extra. Depending on when we launch and how fast we travel, we might have a lay over or weather day along the way.

In Haines we should buy two suppers and two breakfasts. Of course we can stay in Haines that night if we want to, eat at one of several good resaurants. After several days on the ferry, you might not want to start driving right away. Haines is a beautiful town. We should at least spend a few hours there.

Not sure where we will camp between Haines and Chitna (700) mi.) It might be an established place with all the amenities, and it might be a private little spot with only a good view. If we stay in Haines we will still camp one night before arriving Chitna.

Our drivers, the two Sarah’s, will not leave Anchorage until we call and confirm our plans. That gives us some flexibility in our choices.

I anticipate camping along the river outside Chitna the first evening of our Copper expedition and getting an early start the following morning. We should expect the wind to start blowing about noon every day. It can pick up sand and silt, get into your hair, and in general be a nuisance–but it keeps the bugs down. We should be up at 6 am and on the water by 8 am or so to avoid a head wind. We’ll float until the wind blows blows and then camp.

See you in Haines,


Alaska Trip-Equipment List VII- Copper River

Copper river, AK, Cr-wikipedia

Copper river, AK, Cr-wikipedia

Copper River – Equipment List


1. Buy clothing that you can either wear dry or sleep dry. That means synthetic, not cotton. When the sun comes out (and it will), we’ll just hang out our wet socks and any other wet gear to dry. But if we have prolonged rain, then we’ll sleep or wear our clothes dry. Imagine this, a long day on the river in the rain. We pull into camp, and everyone stays in their rain gear while putting up tents and getting the kitchen going. That work will generate some heat which will be trapped by your rain gear and before you know it you’ll forget about how wet you were awhile back.

2. The insulating layers under your rain gear are possibly more important than the rain gear itself. Those layers will trap heat, and if they are synthetic, limit saturation to the space around the fibers, not the fibers themselves. This kind of fabric dries almost instantly when you shed your rain gear and surprisingly fast when you sleep in it.

3. Your rain gear can be either, coated nylon, expensive Gortex or H2no, or rubber. Cheap will work fine given the short duration of our trip. It will have to stand up in the wind and repel water. Consider combining a rubber jacket and hood (Helly Hanson) with inexpensive nylon coated rain pants. The rubber jacket fits nice with urban living: suitable in the garden, walking the dog, running out to the store. You need pants for sitting in the raft because your upper garment will shed water onto your lap and legs. I really dislike wearing rain pants, but when you need them there is nothing else that works.


  1. Rubber boots

Wet feet are a fact of river life. We enter the raft each day by wading out to it and exit the raft by stepping out into the water. The gravel bars we camp on may be home to small streams or marshes. The weather may be wet. Your rubber boots will be your favorite piece of gear—simple, water proof, easy to get on and off. You will wear them on the ferry, hiking around camp, strolling the Juneau waterfront, longing, and in the raft itself.

  1. Camp shoes

When the sun comes out, it will be nice to have light weight shoes like running shoes or tennis shoes. Nylon will dry faster, and you might want to get out of those boots in the evening—although I predict rubber boots will rule the day (and night).

  1. Socks:

Three pair will do it. One to wear during the day. One to change into during the evening, and one pair in reserve. Each day,
before we launch, we’ll put yesterdays wet socks back on and save our dry socks. The temptation will be to leave those wonderful dry morning socks on and wade out into the raft. We’ll all do that the last day! Bring medium weight socks, not big heavy ones. The medium weight dries faster than the heavier.

Lower Body Layers (2 layers of insulation)

  1. Synthetic or cotton briefs. This is the only cotton allowed. They get the same treatment as your socks.
  2. Long underwear. 1 pair of light/med weight
  3. Pants. One pair of synthetic pants or insulated pants. I like pants made of Schoeller fabric. But it’s expensive and unnecessary. Synthetic running pants or anything like that will work fine. Insulated pants are usually some form of pile, similar to sweat pants but not cotton. Two pair of long underwear equal one pair of insulated pants. Be sure all this fits under your rain gear.

Upper Body layers (4.5 – 5 layers of synthetic insulation)

Admittedly, 5 layers is a lot for a summer trip. You can fudge a bit here depending on the quality of what you have. I might drop the vest.

  1. Sport bra
  2. Light weight top
  3. Heavier weight top
  4. Pile jacket with a hood
  5. Down or pile vest
  6. Down or synthetic jacket parka
  7. light weight ski hat
  8. Sun/rain hat
  9. Light weight Gloves


Wind/rain layer

  1. Pants
  2. Jacket with hood
  3. Synthetic sleeping bag, 20 -30 degree
  4. Sleeping pad
  5. Day pack for hiking

Sleeping System

  1. Air mattress, or
  2. Closed cell foam pad, and /or
  3. Chair, optional


Personal Repair Kit

I’ll bring a significant first aid kit. Feel free to partner up and share these things.

  1. Needle and thread (dental floss)
  2. Scissors or small knife
  3. Mole skin, mole foam, and second skin (blister treatment)
  4. Cloth tape and duct tape
  5. Band aids and gauze 2x2s
  6. Baby wipes
  7. Special parts for your particular equipment.
  8. Topical antibiotic ointment
  9. Ibuprofen
  10. Tampons
  11. Sun glasses
  12. Mug and bowl
  13. Spoon
  14. 2 lighters
  15. Lip cream and Sun cream (spf 30+)
  16. Tooth Paste
  17. Water bottle
  18. Bandana
  19. Note book and pen
  20. Camera, film
  21. Whistle (for distress because it is distinct from the human voice)
  22. Iodine for purifying water
  23. Watch w/alarm
  24. Money and ID


I’ll take care of the kitchen, tents, stoves, life jackets, raft, sat phone, dry bags (one each) FA kit, and group gear in general.


Alaska Blog III-Using Frequent Flier Miles

Frequent-Flyer, cr-Buenos-Aires

Frequent-Flyer, cr-Buenos-Aires

Third entry -Alaska Blog

It took me about three hours to spend 150,000 frequent flier miles. I had 96,000 American Airlines miles and 60,000 credit card miles. I promised two of our traveling companions, Roberta and Paulette,  that I would get their plane tickets to Bellingham, WA where we would embark on the ferry and the plane tickets back from Anchorage.

I had to book these flights early because we were a group traveling, and because, all of a sudden, I was grasped by the fear of missing the boat. The boat (aka ferry) departs on June 1, so we all agreed to gather in Seattle on May 31. A friend has offered to drive us to Bellingham the morning of June 1 for a 4 PM boarding.

First I went on line to book the American Airline tickets for Roberta and me from St. Louis. We could have taken a red-eye with two plane changes for 12,500 miles each. Or we could have flown first class arriving in Seattle near midnight for 25,000 miles each, again with two plane changes. What I selected was economy class with one plane change, arriving in Seattle at noon on May 31 for 25,miles each.

Flying back from Anchorage to St. Louis we would have to make two plane changes, no matter what, 25,000 miles each. So I chose first class, departing at 11 PM from Anchorage to Los Angeles, arriving at LAX at 7 AM, ensuring we would get some sleep. Then on to Dallas-Ft. Worth and St. Louis, getting home on June 18 at 3 in the afternoon.

But I only had 96,000 miles! Never fear. American Airlines has a remedy, miles for sale. So I spent $200 for 6,000 miles and put the reservation on hold.

Now I called the MasterCard travel agent make reservations for Paulette from JFK in New York to Seattle and from Anchorage to JFK. The first thing the travel agent said was that this wasn’t a good buy. I’d get better use of my miles on some other trip. No, I said. This is the trip I want. She argued with me, but I held firm. And in the end she got me a direct flight to Seattle arriving around noon and a return Anchorage-Salt Lake City-JFK for 50,000 miles.

I took the hold off the AA reservations and clicked “purchase.”

I am very happy with how I spent my frequent flier miles. But I might have gotten a better deal if I were footloose, not fitting my miles into a set itinerary.

This is some of the more tedious portion of planning a terrific trip on a budget. But it is part of the anticipation too. I was really nervous about making these reservations and when I got those confirmation emails, my camping outlook was happier. We are going to Alaska, and we are coming back home.

Next blog: the river trip itinerary!