Tsuktulik- A Photo Essay

Tsuktulik

tsuktulik

There are many things I will miss about the Goodnews River. The mountains surrounding the river are high on that “to be missed” list, and the one mountain I will miss more than any other is Tsuktulik.

It’s a tough hike.

You have to run up the river an hour from the lodge, to a place the lodge staffers call Toby’s Window. As you start walking toward the mountain you blow your whistle. You don’t want to surprise any bears. There is always lots of bear sign at the stream crossing, the one that gets your shoes all wet.

After crossing the stream you have to pass through the dwarf willow forest. You fall down, several times. You get up and keep going.

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If the stream weren’t there your shoes would get all wet anyway. Tundra is sponge-like. You hit many wet spots and sink in past your ankles. The grass you pass through is all wet, too. You look for game trails going your way. There is no path to the mountain.

The bugs are in your face, biting you. You apply spray. It puts them off, but only slightly. They will be with you most of the way, both up and back.

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Before you reach the mountain’s base you’re soaked from the waist down. You have fallen five or six times. But if you chose the right day you’ve eaten a pint of blueberries, and maybe some salmonberries, too. You’ve passed a field of Eriophorum, Alaska cotton.

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The base of the mountain is covered with alders. They are thick. You blow the whistle, again and again.

The going gets tough. It’s steep, maybe 45 degrees. There is no path through the alders. They impede your progress, grabbing at you and your pack. You can’t see where you are. Your world is branches and leaves, mosquitos, difficult ascension. You fall some more. You curse, but get up and keep going.

You break out of the alders. What a view! What a long way to go! But there are no more trees, just a long, steep climb. After a short rest and a snack you keep going.

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Where is the top? Your legs burn. The blood pounds in your head- boom-BOOM, boom-BOOM, boom-BOOM, boom-BOOM. You’re wet, but now it’s coming from you instead of the environment. You stop frequently, trying to catch your breath.

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The views keep getting better. You hurt, but you want the summit. You keep going, passing the old man on the mountain.

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You’re at the knife-edge now. Step carefully. It’s a long way down.

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Summit at last. Get the camera! Where are the snacks? Rest and enjoy the view. It’s indescribable. Photos don’t do it justice. That tiny speck down there at the river is our boat. We still have to walk back to it.

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This is the best picnic you’ve had in a long time, maybe ever. You’re on top of the world! You own this place! There are no other humans for miles, no trace of man’s works. What a place!

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For more information about the Goodnews River Lodge, please visit this link…

John Kumiski
http://www.spottedtail.com

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.