Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Our trip started off from the floatplane airport that's adjacent to the international airport in Anchorage. The first two days were beautiful in Anchorage (as you can see in the picture above from the dock), but low clouds in the mountains prevented us from being able to fly out until late the second day.  We were anxious and a bit frustrated at not being able to go according to our schedule, but once we saw the mountain lake, it was clear that the pilots at Trail Ridge Air had everyone's safety in mind.

Once we did arrive at Iceberg Lake, high in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge wilderness, we were awestruck with the beauty and grandeur. Our experienced pilot easily and gently touched down on the smooth lake and navigated to the shore to unload us and everything that we would need for the week.
After the plane left, we explored around the lake, and the nearby glacier:

To the left is a photo of all of us over looking the glacier near our first night's camp site

Every morning, we had spectacular views right outside the tent door.  What an amazing way to start the day.  We had a nice relaxing quiet time every morning in the seclusion of the remote wilderness.
We had three rivers to cross including the one in the picture below.  It was in a bit of a ravine, and we had to climb up that cliff you can see on the other side.  This is also where Patrick lost one of his hiking boots in the river!

Since there were no trails in this wilderness, we spend a lot of time walking through very tall grass, or fighting through dense alder thickets.  On the longest day, we only hiked a few miles, but it took us all day.  We were so exhausted when we finally found a flat spot to pitch our tents.
Where we did pitch our tents, we had a beautiful view of the opposite mountains that we'd just come from the day before. We even found a shed antler from a caribou!

Speaking of caribou, on the second to last day, several curious animals came close to our last camp site to check us out.

We were supposed to spend one more day in the wilderness to get picked up by the float plane on Friday, but on our way up the last ridge, the first of us made it to the meeting point, then the last two made it there, but the person in between was not there.  Despite searching for him all day, we could not find him. It was getting cold, dark, and very windy, so we got out the satellite phone and called for help. Boy did we ever get help! The Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron sent SSgt Cody Inman, Captain Aaron Zamora and the rest of their crew to search for our friend and take us all back to civilization.  Their Pave Hawk came straight to our signal fire, they talked with us about where we last saw our friend, and quickly found him on a mountain ridge and pulled him up to the helicopter. Then they came back for the rest of us, and before long, we were dropped off at the hospital in Soldotna. I can't say enough about the skill and professionalism of these pararescue jumpers and their pilots!  Here's a link to the video of the extraction:

This was by far the most challenging and exciting trip that we've ever been on.  The solitude was absolute, the terrain was as difficult as it was beautiful, and the excitement of the exit was way beyond what we expected.  We call these annual trips the "extreme getaway with God", and this was the most extreme that I can imagine.  I did a lot of praying and bible reading during the week, and have some solid plans for getting even closer to God and enjoying Him even more completely!

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