Up a Creek without a Paddle

A few years ago some friends and I hiked into Grewingk Glacier Lake for the first time. It was a great day. Hunter dropped us off at Glacier Spit and took off for a day of fishing with his best friend while my friends and I hiked the lovely flat trail into the lake and sat down for a picnic at the edge of the glacier lake.

As we noshed, two men came along and started inflating tiny rafts that they'd pulled out of a backpack.  I thought what they were up to was pure genius. I was in awe of the glacier and I wanted to see more of it. I wanted to get up close.

What a great idea to hike in with a little, light raft and go explore the glacier from up close. I started asking them questions and it turns out they were planning to raft down the creek out to the ocean. THAT sounded like fun. They said it was an easy trip with a bit of rapid water but nothing difficult.

That was it, I was going to raft that creek! This was before the bucket list movie, so rafting the creek went on my mental checklist of cool things to do.

Fast forward to this summer. I mentioned wanting to raft the creek to a friend who, after hearing my plan, wanted to come along. I mentioned it to another friend who also wanted to come along. Then I mentioned it to another friend who also wanted to come long. Before long, I had a dozen friends who wanted to join on this adventure but no pack rafts. Pack raft rentals in Homer are hard to come by so I grumpily scrapped my plan.

Two weeks ago, a friend stopped by the house with two borrowed pack rafts. I'm not sure if he planned to get roped into rafting Grewingk Greek with me, but he did. I was pretty excited about it. Nervous but excited.

A Google search didn't give me much information about rafting the creek. We had some local knowledge from a friend - there are some rapids, make sure to portage just before you reach the hand tram that crosses the creek half way down and you get into some shallow water at the end - so be prepared.

We went prepared. We had rafts, paddles, wet suits and wet suit boots, helmets, gloves, emergency locators, pfd's and gear in case we got stuck and had to spend the night. If anything, we felt, we were certainly buoyant.

We got dropped off at the start of the Saddle Trail in Halibut Cove. We hiked over the hill and down into the lake. We inflated our rafts at the lake's edge, climbed aboard and started paddling.

There was a super chilly head wind on the lake but once we got into the bay that led to the creek, that head wind disappeared.

Before we both got tugged into the creek's current,  Daniel and I got out of our rafts to take a read of the water ahead. Looked like aiming for the center of the stream was the right course. We got back in and started paddling hard to reach the middle.

That first set of big water was awesome!! Chilly and fast-running but awesome.  What a rush! It wasn't white water but there were some two foot plus waves to ride.

We got through the first set of waves and into some calmer water and took a read of the next bit of water...looked the same as the last so off we went.

Things got hairy on the next set when we got pulled into the side of the creek and bounced off the edge of the bank. Paddling hard to keep my balance and steer myself around the next little bend, I got through it.

My buddy in the less steady of the two rafts, tipped. I turned around to see his gear bag and his paddle fly down the creek. I was so worried about him, I didn't think to watch where his stuff went. He did the right thing though, he pointed his feet downstream and rode the water until it calmed enough for him to swim to shore. I paddled like crazy to get over to the bank and check to see if he was okay.

Thankfully, he was but now we were up a literal creek without a literal paddle. We were at our portage point so after catching our breath, we picked up what remained of our stuff and started walking around that bit of water underneath the tram.

So, here's what I would have liked to know: There's a little trail that runs parallel to the creek on the far side. That trail hooks up with the Humpy Creek trail. Don't take that one. We hiked it a bit, realized we were going the wrong way and turned ourselves around. We had to take the hand tram.

My friend seriously had Superman biceps. Mine were like jelly after paddling like the scared person I was. I was a useless hand tram puller. That hand tram is hard going at the best of times, with tired arms, it sucked.

We decided to take one trip on the hand tram so we tied our rafts to the outside, loaded our gear onboard and slowly pulled ourselves across. It was hard pulling. We looked down to see whorling eddies and rough-looking rocks that would have been no fun to navigate in a raft. I'm glad we got out and went around.

After pulling ourselves across the creek, we hiked the trail until we found an easy place to get onto the creek shore. At this point, the creek separates into a bunch of tributaries. With our eyes out for deep water and my buddy's gear bag, we hiked down stream. At that point, I would have been happy to hike out but rafting was more fun and faster. So we jumped into our rafts and floated along until the water got too shallow out near the bay.

We walked some and we floated some until we got out into Kachemak Bay and found Hunter in the boat ready to pick us up. Gear bag was gone, my friend's paddle was gone and we were STARVING but we did it!!

In hindsight, it wasn't the cakewalk that the two rafters from two years ago made it out to be. I think to do it, at least know how to read a river (a lesson Hunter taught me when we were first dating) and find some local knowledge from people who've recently been over the tram.

My friend's gear bag was found in Mallard Bay by a pair of kayakers three days later. It was a bit soggy but everything was still in it. His paddle and backpack are gone. Next time, we tie our gear to the raft. Lesson learned.

So that's my kick ass end to a pretty cool Alaskan summer.

Still didn't get to the State Fair.