Here I am sitting perhaps six miles from our starting point in the Alaskan tundra at just after 10:00PM with the sun still high in the sky and the temperature around 55 °F with some modest wind. It too a little longer for our trip to start but it now has and I am hopeful it will live up to all that we hope for.
After some 23 hours of transit time including a rather extended, especially for Gordon, stay at the Anchorage airport we reached Nome at midnight local time. I particularly enjoyed the last flight because I could actually se some of what w flew over. It helped that my row-mate was an easy person to talk to and had some things she could share about Kotzebue and the region at large. She did not also totally obviously, at least, go "you are nuts" a I described what we had planned. Even though she is not a backpacker herself. But even with this going for me I was ready for bed when we reached Nome. The park service had said someone might come fetch us, but we doubted that would still be the case. After all we were about three hour late. We were wrong. Tracy, I think that is correct, showed up and said Darcy would have but was playing softball instead. She seemed genuinely interested in what we had planed as we gave her a sketch of our plan on the quick drive to the bunkhouse. Some bunkhouse, far snazzier than what I had imagined , really room full of bunk-beds. This has several rooms with bunk-beds or two single beds. Quite nice actually. We bid our driver goodnight and even though we had both got a bit of a second wind we both managed to go to sleep pretty easily and stay out for several hours as the light faded and then returned without ever, as I understand it, really fading to black.
We grabbed breakfast at Fat Freddies just when they opened at seven am. We could have lingered over our meal far longer, because we ended up lingering at Nome Outfitters waiting for them to open at nine so we could get our HEET fuel and bear spray. Then to Cape Smythe Air where we learned, to our chagrin, that Wales was fogged in. They did not known when, or even if, we would fly. We were not the only ones in a bind. Several other people, Wales residents I believe, were in the sam boa. We waited. We returned to town and briefly wandered around by the visitor center, the park office, and the historical museum. We waited at Cape Smythe listening to the people there insist we needed guns, big guns, and that it was really really dangerous. I think they think we are nuts. In time the fog cleared and we piled into the prop plane for the half hour flight to Wales. Pretty scenery as we flew. Great weather. We arrived just before 2:00PM and got ourselves set to start our trek.
Our trek would first follow the road that leads towards Wales , around mountains bending south and east, and south again towards Tin City. We wondered if we were actually doing the right thing. We did not have a high sense of confidence in ourselves. Maybe we felt we should have been further; maybe we were not sure how the land on the spot matched up to the map; maybe we just kept forgetting that the map was a 1:250,000 scale map. But we marched on. I think, as we headed into the holstein hills we were nervous. We were also surprised at the number of sizable snowy patches on the flanks of the modest hills that surrounded us. Very reminiscent of holstein cattle. The road vanished into a few o these patches and we crossed hoping for the best.
It was quiet with the major sounds coming from us. After the other people left there was really no sound of human civilization. Wales must be a quiet village. When we would stop to ponder our location we would hear various birds most of which I won't even attempt to ID though I believe I heard raven and just perhaps an Arctic Loon, at least it sounded almost loon like. But then again it could have been something just coo-ing the right way like the baby quail that scurried by my left foot.
In time, as we headed south towards Tin City we heard some serious manmade sounds. A cargo plane came in for a landing and later we watched it take off from the old generator shack near some antennas or some such that overlook Tin City just north of the landing strip. We lingered at the broken down shell of a equipment shack for a couple hours basking in the sun and having our dinner. It was good to relax there. We both are less than thrilled with our packs and until they get much lighter are going to really notice them. Eric would love the spot for naps. We did. But e chose not to stay there after having dinner there though clearly many probably have as the beer cans attest.
We continued down the road heading south until it veered off to the west and our first real bit of serious Alaska hiking began. We began to trod tundra. Our goal was the creek we had seen from the shack. It proved a good bit farther off than it had seemed from the shack. We crossed the minor stream and went somewhat farther east looking for a dry-ish spot to set up. By then it was 21:45 and we were ready to stop. We did.
As I type this I hear all sorts of big and small critters. Near by, or so it seems, is something at ground level with something of a screechy call. I suppose it is a bird, but I find myself wondering. It is neat how they pop out now that we can take the time too listen. Maybe we will see what we are hearing better tomorrow. For ow, a very modest first day that will hopefully lead into bigger and better things for the next several days to come.