Aug 2015 Katmai National Park / Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes


The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is one of the most stark, barren, desolate, surreal, and stunningly-beautiful landscapes on earth.  For us to get to this place, it required a big plane, a smaller plane, a tiny float plane and a 23-mile rough ride in a jacked-up school bus.    Weve been farther away on our trips (Patagonia in 2014) but never this remote.  We didnt see another living being for three straight days.  The soundtrack follows the ups and downs of our state-of-being during this remarkable adventure.

We left Orlando in very high spirits (the spiced rum poured from the goat-foot flask in Dons kitchen not withstanding) and pressed on through the long flights all the way to Brooks Camp with little sleep.  The second day continued on that high but near the end, the (not-so-young) Young Americans ran out of gas as we were frustrated by the deteriorating weather, getting somewhat lost due to poor intel, physical fatigue but mostly mental exhaustion.  The original plan was to make it all the way to the Baked Mountain Huts, but we made the call to toss the plan and make emergency camp at the only place we could find with a trickle of water and an almost-flat, exposed spot that was just big enough to accommodate us (later found out it was at mile 7).   We barely got our tents up in time before we were pummeled with driving rain and high winds that lasted all night and didnt stop until 7am.  Saving Grace a great (but barely-charted) song from Tom Pettys last solo album, reflected our overall mood on the 3rd day that had its share of challenges too. We didnt realize it at the time, but in hindsight the weather gods had once again cast good fortunes upon our Arctic Brotherhood trips (11 straight years of great luck in weather).

Day 4 was our big payoff day when everything seemed to finally to go our way.  We departed the huts in a heavy fog but as we later crested the pass and looked down into the valley, the fog was rapidly clearing before our eyes.  Our emotional swing was reflected in the chorus of Travis Tritts hit song, Its a Great Day To Be Alive.  We hiked down into the valley to touch Novarupta, the source of the 1912 volcano (largest of the 20th century).  The true beauty of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was finally revealed.  Day 5 was a long march back to the starting point but we had gotten what we had wanted from the day before so nothing was going to stop us.  We hammered it all the way back to Three Forks Overlook Visitor Center. The skies were finally blue which made the previous subdued scenery look absolutely beautiful.  The temperature was perfect so we were as comfortable as one could be on a 11.5 hike.  Oh yeah, it was downhill too.   Finishing the backcountry part of our adventures is always such a celebration for us. So it made sense to use Toby Keiths 2012 hit song Beers Ago as our closer.  Viewers should hang until the very end for a special surprise.

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