The Float into Alaska

Day two started a lot like the first day on the river. I couldn’t get off the bank and into the current. My ores just didn’t work. They were to heavy and i needed to use one at a time. This method didn’t have much effect on the raft.

I longed for some help but knowing this wasn’t likely to happen, I was quite content to stay close to the bank and use one of the ores to push off when needed. The last thing i wanted was to be floating helplessly out in the current as i passed Eagle in a few hours time.

There was a lot of drift wood and debris in the water and i figure there had been rain somewhere. During the afternoon a small piece drifted past that caught my attention. I fished it out and mounted it to the front of the raft as a good luck charm.

I dint know if it was working but i trusted it anyway.

It was a long process pushing and pulling the raft around obstacles on the bank. I eventually lost both the ores, either getting caught or dropping them when the raft hit hard into things.

It then began to rain…. I climbed onto the seat of my bike and threw the tent fly over my head. Occasionally i peered out to check on progress or the bank.

I waited out the rain and was pleased to see a Canadian and an American flag standing side-by-side on the bank signifying the border. Eagle was only 20km away.

I was close to the bank, but not as close as id hoped for as I approached Eagle. I wanted to get off where the road began again and when i realised i would have to swim, the anxiety that came over me was a force to be reckoned with, I was terrified.

With no other options i plunged into the water at about 10pm that night, it was destined for failure as i was still a long way from the bank,for 3-4 minutes I struggled at the end of the rope, hoping for the bank. Eventually i had no option but to pull myself back to the raft.

I hadn’t even completely dressed and wasn’t thinking properly when i jumped for another attempt at the bank… I failed again and when i returned to the raft, in my shaking and clumsiness I bumped my paddle, jumper and riding boots into the water.

In the seconds while I thought of what to do they moved quickly away from the raft. I jumped back into the water without the life jacket or cable attached and managed to grab my boots. Fortunately i got back to the raft without any issues and I felt OK, probably high on adrenalin. But common sense told me i was in trouble from the cold again.

I wrapped myself up and found a distress flare that Bryan in Banff had given me. I clutched it in my pale and wrinkled hand and waited to light it closer to the town center, hoping to get some attention.

I still had about five kilometers to go and occasionally let out these pathetic cries for help as I watched the bank go by and i could see the odd house in the trees.

I was aware that it was late and night and i probably wouldn’t be heard or seen. I didn’t have the supplies to make the next and last town four days away….. I was beaten.

It was then a miracle occurred, a shallow island, not marked on the map and only just above the surface of the water appeared. The water distancing me from the bank went left of the island and I went just to the right in the shallows.

I jumped in at waist depth and pulled the raft in. I tried to make a fire on the bank with some of the spare gas i had carried but couldn’t. Everything was soaking wet and wouldn’t light so instead i ate a can of tuna.

The water that was between the island and the bank seemed to be moving slower and looked shallower than the same distance anywhere else on the river.

My thought was that I could try and push the raft back up against the current and move it onto the other side of the island nearer the Eagle bank. I tried this but couldn’t move all the weight against the current. Instead I unloaded everything, except the bike, onto the island. This was enough to allow me to struggle but pull the raft back and around the other side.

I waded out into the crossing to check the depth. I managed to get halfway across before i couldn’t touch the bottom. I then loaded everything back onto the raft and waded with the raft towards the bank and safety.

I got as far as i could get with my feet on the bottom, then I let go of the raft and swam with the cable towards the bank. I was within a few feet of the bank and the cable went tight. I reached with my toes for the bottom and my heart sank as i couldn’t feel anything beneath me. I was pulled slowly in the direction of the raft, running in the water and confused why i could be so close but so far, i was distraught.

I conceded then, looked back towards the raft and grabbed the cable to pull myself towards it….

My left foot then kicked a rock!!!

I turned my focus to the ground again and let myself sink a little. My right foot touched and my left again and i got a foot hold and pushed towards the bank. I was wading!!!!!!!! Pulling the raft with me

The next half hour that followed i walked on the bank and lead the raft down the river at the end of the cable. I was looking for some road access to the river bank as the edges were steep and high.

It was only a matter of time before i found what i was looking for.. wet, a little cold but hugely happy, i began to disassemble the raft in the shallows.

I did this quite quickly and effectively, removing the front of the raft first so i could start the bike and get it up the bank. I then carried the four drums and the warped cable up to the roadway and left them with the life jacket where someone would find them.

I dressed in whatever cloths i had remaining and rode through Eagle not wanting to disturb anyone at 2am in the morning.

The feeling of having the rubber back on the road can not be expressed! As i left town, the road was blocked with ‘Road Closed’ signs but i went through them and collapsed into my tent about 20 clicks out of town.

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