Little Susitna River
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We headed out for Memorial Day weekend late Friday afternoon to Palmer to complete the packing for our trip down the Little Susitna River for the first RC family wilderness river float trip in Alaska and perhaps anywhere. We met up with the Grandel, Bennett and Davidson families and were a noticeable presence on the river with a total of 37 in 5 rafts and one canoe; 27 kids ages 9 months to 19 years, 8 adults, and 2 in utero.
Day one was a late Sunday afternoon start. After transporting everyone, setting up the rafts, eating breakfast and shuttling the cars to the takeout we set off around 3:00 PM for a 6 hour float. Shelby headed out in her almost new 16’ red Kenai Drifter for her first float, and I in our 18’ yellow catamaran. Each loaded high with gear and higher with kids. At one point I counted 11 children from bow to stern of the catamaran, each with their own claimed space.
Sunday was a learning day for the new rowers, and a great practice day for the rescuers. With multiple bank crashes, overturned canoes, stuck rafts and scraped up kids we all remained in great spirits! The blisters and sore muscles faded away as we completed a hearty meal of hot dogs and hamburgers topped off with deep fried onion rings and French fries topped off with a healthy supply of smores and roasted PEEPS. Yes, little yellow chics left over from Easter, roasted brutally on a stick and shoved between graham crackers and chocolate. Not what “Just Born” intended, but great just the same!
Needing to make time from the late start and training day we pressed hard on Monday with a 10 hour row. The weather was a true gift with temperatures in the high 70’s with a clear sky and hot sun. The kids fished and sang and told jokes as we floated. It was great to have the big crowd as there was never a dull moment. We regained some distance and pulled in late in the evening to set up camp. Primarily a river adventure, camp life in the evening was short and we turned in after dinner.
The final day of rowing we had a wonderful mix of hot to cool weather. With multiple water fights we kept cool off and the time went by way too fast. With a storm front moving in we thought for sure we’d get dumped upon. The front arrived with a crisp new air to the relief of the rowers, a refreshing break from the scorching Alaskan sun. Well, “scorching” for someone acclimatized to Alaska. Most of you reading this would have been ridiculously dressed in winter gear head to toe! I found the frost was only a couple inches below the ground cover, with signs of recently melted snow patches beyond the rivers bank.
The kids spotted beavers, muskrat, moose, and eagles. The salmon are beginning to arrive and a few early fishermen were working to land the season’s first catch. Coming off the river around 9:00 PM we packed up and prepared to shuttle people and cars. After traveling 44.5 miles the kids were eager for more and the rowers were ready for a rest. On our way back into Anchorage the storm came in with rain that has extended through Thursday evening. We are very thankful for the weather and excellent company and look forward to our next adventure.