on the river
We expected our boats to arrive Sunday morning but didn't hear the plane approach until after 1 pm. We trekked back to the drop site from camp to unload the aircraft, then began portaging to the river. Jim & Rita and Michael & I had rented canoes in Bettles, but we'd brought Bob's raft from Anchorage in a trailer. It was clear that after the portage, inflating and assembling the raft, and packing the boats it would be too late to put in to the river that day.
After a brief flash of disappointment, we decided to kick back and enjoy the leisure time. It was a beautiful camp site, we had plenty of food, good booze, and a roaring fire. Plus Bob had brought a few luxury items and it felt downright indulgent to sit around the fire in a folding chair.
The John is a snow melt river; its water is clear, unlike the silty water of a glacial river. It twists and turns, curving around on itself,
splitting into channels, detouring around islands, then coming together again. Each split presented a new choice: shallow or deep? fast or slow? Aim for the V, call out the rocks and snags (underwater logs), and avoid the sweepers (fallen trees that lie across the river's surface).