Cross Creek is the heart of Alaska.
The sky, at almost full dark, has a pink hue to it. The roar of Cross Creek and the crackle of the camp fire are the only sounds I can hear.
The camp is quiet. It is just past 11pm and we rode in a short while ago from the day’s hunt. Dinner is simmering on the stove and the trainees have taken the horses up to graze about a mile away.
The clients are in their tent, as is their habit, changing clothes, resting a bit and doing what ever it is they do each night when we return until I call out that dinner is ready, when they then return for dinner and socializing.
Right this minute though, Cross Creek is mine.
It always fills me with contentment to be here. No matter the day’s events, no matter what direction we head for the day, there is always the indisputable knowledge that this place is the heart of Alaska.
Many of you, that have read Alaska Chick’s Blog for awhile now, know how I feel about Cross Creek. I will tell you more.
Here I am. I am home. As I sit here, by this fire, I am thinking back on the last 5 days.
Our 2012 Fall Hunting Season’s first hunt has reached its half-way mark. For the first time, since the very first time I ever visited Cross Creek, I am anxious to be home. I miss my little girl and my growing-up-way-too-fast-and-not-so-little-anymore Son.
There is another reason.
Protective, maybe even possessive, I want only to share Cross Creek with those that see it. Who have the capacity to feel it, to open themselves and allow it to flow over and through them.
Yes, at times, Big Game Hunters can be almost obsessively single minded. So much so that they miss the incredible and fantastic. If it cannot be killed, it is uninteresting. Most often, relaxing into us and their hunt, they can and do see. Some more than others, but it cannot be denied, Cross Creek is special.
The Heart of Alaska
As you ride up Cross Creek behind Thunder and I, the valley walls are close, each ravine cutting deeper into the mountains than the one before it and the mountains become more imposing and majestic. You ride closer to the head waters of the Cross Creek Glacier and the ice caps and smaller glaciers at the peaks of the mountains, that never melt in the endless hot Summer’s light, create a fairy tale (complete with dragons) environment.
The visible layers of rock and sediment in the cut of the valley, tells the tale of a once great ice covered land. The story of the ice pulling back and away, separated through the ages as it cut and laid it’s path.
The rock slides and avalanches roar as you ride through and up the powerful creek waters.
Ride another direction the next day and go up Ram’s Creek. Even tighter, the narrow valley has the Cross Creek Mountains on one side and Gillam’s Ridge looming over the other side of Ram’s Creek.
Only three and a half miles from it’s glacier to where it pours into Cross Creek, it is a completely different world.
Ram’s Creek is so short, more than half it’s length is glacial merrain and a haven for the majestic Dall Sheep that live here, the Mountain Caribou that graze and wander, the Timber Wolves and Grizzly Bears that hunt and dig it’s ground and mountainsides.
Rugged and shear, the steep mountain sides give the white sheep a birds-eye-view of everything below them.
The tightness of the valley floor and creek give testament to the rock slides and power of the water as you listen to the boulders being tumbled in the rough water. It is a slow and careful ride for the horses traveling over the rocky bottom as they navigate the rocks and boulders. The water echos and roars off the mountain sides.
Another day comes, you ride up and behind the camp towards the great Chisana Glacier.
Over the tundra, through the giant Willow fields, startling groups of ptarmigan into short noisy flights, watching intently for Grizzly Bears appearing as you round a small hill or as you gain altitude riding higher as you near the Chisana Glacier.
Approximately three quarters of the way to the Chisana Glacier is another, Wash Creek and we may decide to explore it for the day. Wash Creek is another spot that touches the core inside of what gives thought and reason to my life.
Gently, and deceptively, rolling grassy or rocky hills gives meaning to the phrase “a walk in the Park.”
We’ll tie and hobble our horses, removing their bridles for comfort and begin to walk up Wash Creek. We’ll walk up the side, on the big bench, because walking up the creek bottom is almost impossible, so narrow and twisty, running out of places to hop from one side to the other.
Barren of trees and any brush or scrub, rolling and dipping, walking over grasses and hills made of piles of rock left behind by the same mighty glacier that is in sight, we climb steadily. The “climb” is sneaky, the only proof of the invisible climb is the thinning air, and shortness of breath.
The entire area is clear of obvious obstruction to the eye and Dall Sheep, Grizzly Bears, Timber Wolves, Mountain Caribou, Alaska-Yukon Moose and the occasional Wolverine may be spotted here.
As you reach the tiny Wash Creek Glacier and cross or skirt it at the bottom next to the equally tiny blue lake, you reach the ridge to look down from well over 6,000 feet upon the Ram’s Creek Glacier and the entire length of Ram’s Creek.
Another morning comes and we decide to travel beyond Wash Creek and continue onto the Chisana Glacier. The Chisana Glacier, part of the Bagley Ice-field, the largest ice-field in the world. The focal point and life waters of Pioneer Outfitters.
Riding beyond Wash Creek and behind Euker Mountain, standing 6,840 feet high, until you sit high above the bottom edge of the Chisana Glacier. The winds blowing off of the massive ice are downright unpleasant on blustery days but always clean and pure.
From the vantage point of sitting so high in the world, we watch the tundra all around with the Dall Sheep feeding, the Caribou wandering in their batty ways, running right up to you on horseback, and of course the Grizzlies and wolves always traveling, always digging.
We can look and watch the entire bar in front of the Chisana Glacier for the Grizzlies that love it and it’s winds, and behind us, at our backs, the Dall Sheep watching over their world.
There is another and one final direction we can explore, knowing we’ll never see it all, and that is crossing Cross Creek and climbing onto the bench that separates Cross Creek from Notch Creek.
Timber and tundra, marshy and boggy with dozens of lakes make for a great spot to encounter the great Alaska-Yukon Moose as well as Mountain Grizzlies traveling from one point to the next.
The colors, the rocks, flowers, animals and waters of Cross Creek are breathtaking.
I have come to understand, after coming to Cross Creek for over 18 years, dozens of times each year, it would take at least another 50 years to see, ride, climb, hike and understand every nook, cranny, draw and drainage of Cross Creek.
Do you want to experience Cross Creek? Do you want to see and feel the Heart of Alaska?