By Moe Witschard, Arctic Wild Guide, Professional Photographer and world class Packrafter
DOWN THE JAGO IN MY WINNEBAGO
aka : Packrafting Adventures in the eastern Brooks Range
This August, four of us spent 16 days traveling in the eastern Brooks with packrafts. What’s a packraft you ask? It’s a small one person raft that weighs 5.5 lbs that is paddled with a light kayak paddle. We put these things in our backpacks and carry them up and over passes to float the rivers below, then roll them up and hike them over the next pass and thereby create big landscape trips that link river basins.
For this summer’s big project, we flew in to Last Lake on the Sheenjek River, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and hiked north about 45 miles up and over a high pass which dropped us into the Jago River drainage. Luckily, we had great weather on the pass day because the north side of the pass had a pretty decent glacier that would have been tricky to find a route off of had the visibility been poor.
The night after we dropped into the Jago, it began to rain….and it rained and rained for the next 7 days. The Jago River, known for being too low to float most of time, got HUGE. Some of the rapids in the upper river reminded me of parts of the Grand Canyon at low water. This forced us to hike downstream quite a bit further than we had expected before we could put our little boats in the water. In the end, we hiked 100 miles before we could launch our packrafts for a 45 mile float through the braided section of the Jago to the Beaufort Sea. Not close to as much river running as our group had hoped for; but what the heck, that’s all part of the game when you’re exploring.
I hope you enjoy my show from this trip. The first 30 seconds are a bit silly and frivolous, but the way they reflect my nature is somewhat uncanny. The small handgun that you see in the show was carried as a noise maker for curious polar bears that might have been encountered along the coast. They are hunted and they know what bang means. We didn’t see any, though we did see 7 grizzlies during the trip, one much closer than I would have liked. Had my camera been handy, I’m fairly confident that one of its ears would have filled the frame. It would have been sideways though, because I’d been knocked to the ground with my pack on, but that’s a whole different story.
Comments? Love to hear them. Send them to me via my contact page at www.moephotography.com . Enjoy the show.