Fortunately we packed a tow strap and some tools on our trip up Nugget Creek trail in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, in 1994. With Bob’s ATV hopelessly stuck, we dug the mud at the high center and shoved branches under the wheels rocking the rig back and forth to gain traction. Using both vehicles in four wheel drive compound low and a tow strap the inert Honda was finally free. After that we watched carefully for deep ruts and carefully avoided them.
Within minutes rain began pelting our faces and glasses making it hard to see. We stopped at a cleared area called “Half Way” camp to eat dinner in the rain and then continued for 1 1/2 hours to Clear Creek crossing where the water level was moderate. With a little maneuvering around boulders we forded the river without incident. Two months before we aborted our trip on this trail at the Clear Creek crossing, because the water was so high it was unsafe to cross. The final crossing at Nugget Creek was 2′ deep and our little 4-wheelers floated and bobbed their way across, wheels touching the river bottom just often enough to propel us forward in the right direction.
A short way beyond the creek is a sturdy, well-built public use cabin that was empty. The logs along the front porch were deeply scarred from bear claws, tufts of golden fur dangled from door hinges, door handle, and wood splinters along the front of the building. The cabin windows were covered by pieces of sheet metal as armor against bears. It is located on a spectacular site just a short way from the terminus of the Kuskulana Glacier with snow-clad Mt. Blackburn towering overhead. We didn’t explore this day for we still had several miles to go to reach our final destination of a private cabin on the ridge up the trail along the canyon near the headwaters of Nugget Creek.
Gail Niebrugge, Alaska artist