Sheenjek River Trip

Summer of 2003

Part 1 - Getting There


This journal describes a canoe trip down the Sheenjek river in north east Alaska, August of 2003. We were flown in from Fort Yukon to near the headwaters, paddled for 17 days back to Fort Yukon.






7/29/03 - Tuesday

Sheenjek03_images/Sheenjek03_005_BoatAssembly.jpg Marie assembling our canoe for the first time.

Last day of packing before we go. I spend a fair amount of my time setting up my new CLIE. I particularly pay attention to the backup utilities to be sure that I can recover from loss of data.

After we get our bags packed M calls the airline (Alaska) to confirm that the baggage weight limit it in fact 70 lbs as I was told two weeks ago. They just changed their policy - the limit is now 50 lbs. Half of our bags are overweight. We spend the next hour shifting small packets between bags. This disturbs my sense of order - everything in its proper bag is no longer the case.

In the end we have 6 bags that weigh 49 lbs, one containing most of the canoe at about 40, and a ski bag full of paddles.

7/30/03 - Wednesday

Baggage at Seattle airport.

Bags in Fairbanks airport.

3am alarm - "Oh mother"

Steve drives us to the airport. I feel tired and nauseous and my neck is hurting.


Meet Billie at the airport. $300 extra baggage charges for us three but no trouble checking the bags

Marie is nervous and chatty as we taxi for take off and I'm just on the edge of falling asleep. When I wake I find that breakfast service has come and gone with out me being aware. But M has saved me the cereal. It's so good (as in "I needed that") that I go get a second bowl.

When I land in Fairbanks I get a voice message from Sean, who flew up the evening before, saying that he made an executive decision and rented a car. This facilitated his errands and may actually cost less than taxing around the city.

He's waiting at the airport and has already collected all our bags in a large pile.

Wright Air

Our bags are weighed at Wright Air. We have about 650 lbs of gear, including boats and food.

Everything got weight

Flight from Fairbanks.

The fight out of Fairbanks is bumpy. There are low clouds and the plane is soon passing in and out of them, bouncing and twisting. It feels as if the plane is suspended from a long rubber band and is being knocked around by something. We enter a cloud bank and can't see anything. I imagine running into a mountain. I look around and all the local passengers seem calm. The pilot looks calm. he must do this all the time. I decide to trust that he knows what he is doing.

We enter into the high clouds and there is nothing to see but a uniform gray until we drop out of the bottom above Birch creek and slowly circle down to the runway. The landing here, as in Fort Yukon, is very smooth. The flight from Birch creek is done just a couple hundred feet up and Marie is able to follow our progress on the map.

Fort Yukon

Gear pile from the airplane.

Toting gear from one patch of gravel to a more preferred patch of gravel.

Kirk's Cessna 185 and our tents set up in his corner of the airport.


Light rain when we land in FY. Kirk has a cluster of shipping containers and we pile our gear. Soon he shows up and makes a couple containers available to us, gives us some water and some stove fuel.

Walking through Fort Yukon

Three of us walk into town but there is little to see. Most locals nod or wave but we don't talk to anyone.

We run both stoves and set up the bug tent mainly to prove that we have everything we need in working order.  I discover that I forgot both fresh onion and garlic, which is unfortunate but not a disaster.

By 8:30 we are all mildly chilled in the wind and head for bed. It's been a long day and I'm ready for some sleep.


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Page last modified:  Feb 23 20:44 2010  by  Tom Unger