McGrath Travel Blog› entry 6 of 38 › view all entries
After a 5:00 a.m. wake-up in Wasilla I was on my way to the Anchorage Airport. I stashed the rental car keys for the mechanic that I would be replacing and found a cart for my toolbox, laptop case, duffle bag, bed roll, and shotgun case then checked in at the Pen Air counter. My prepaid ticket was already there. The $100 I had to pay for excess baggage would be reimbursed by my company.
Mount McKinley (Denali) loomed nicely off our right wing as we crossed the Alaska Range on the morning flight to McGrath. A light rain fell as we taxied toward McGrath's small terminal. I was somewhat disappointed to see my helicopter already on the ramp, its strobe flashing and rotors winding down.
The mechanic I replaced boarded the return flight to Anchorage while my new pilot, Gray, helped load my baggage into the 500. We flew forty miles north. Gray circled the scattered locations of four geologists, working in pairs, who were exploring the creeks and drainages of jagged hills sprinkled with spruce, willows, and patches of snow. He liked to keep tabs on just where they were should weather suddenly turn bad.
We landed at a small tent camp on Colorado Creek which had been constructed on the tailings of a dredge that had combed the creek-bed decades earlier. Three wall tents provided the kitchen, office, and washroom. Four sleeper tents and an outhouse make up the rest of the camp. Occupants of the camp now include four geologists, a cook, Gray and myself. The claim owner and family live just down the valley along a gravel airstrip.
The area downstream and other nearby valleys continue to be mined for gold since the early 1900s by the third generation of one family. Wildfire swept the valley in 2002 and though green, re-growth has been slow giving the valley an almost eerie appearance. Clouds drape the surrounding hilltops while mosquitoes swarm the air and mud covers the rocky ground.