12-Jul-2003 -- For this trip I roped in a couple of confluence rookies, my brother-in-law Ted, and my boss Pat. We took off work a couple hours earlier on Friday July 11th. We drove about an hour northeast of Palmer on Alaska Highway #1, the Glenn Highway. Our starting point for the trip was the Puritan Creek Trailhead. This trail no longer follows Puritan Creek, a couple of years ago volunteers moved the trailhead a mile or so to avoid crossing private land, and the state cleared a new parking area along the highway. We began by climbing up the trail on to a rolling shelf of land and headed mostly west. At about 10 miles you drop down into Boulder Creek valley and turn northeast to follow it upstream for about 15 miles. Ted and I had ridden our 4-wheelers back this trail about 20 miles over Memorial Day weekend so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We were worried that we wouldn’t get past a small gorge at about 19 miles due to higher water. Although the water was up from May we had no problem getting through (pic8). There were quite a number of other parties back in the Boulder Creek valley. Some had 4 wheelers and even a couple of 3 wheelers and some appeared to have hiked in. This area is popular in the fall for moose and caribou hunting and in the winter for recreational snow machining. Pat had been back in valley 30+ miles a couple of winters ago and as it turned out when we reached the CP he realized they had come fairly close to it on that ride.
Boulder Creek is like many waterways in Alaska in that it has a wide gravel riverbed with multiple braided channels (pic2, the ridge in the background is the one we would climb the next day). The channels shift back and forth over time depending on water levels and when or where the river drops sediment. This means there is rarely an actual trail but on four wheelers you can skip back and forth across the water picking your way upstream. This of course depends on there not being too much water. Multiple channels generally mean you can find a shallow spot to cross. It took us about 4 hours of riding to reach a point where we decided the machines were not going to take us any further. We backtracked a short distance and set up camp on a point a couple hundred feet above the creek and at about 3500’ elevation. While I cooked dinner on our one-burner camp stove, Ted set up camp, and Pat took a short scouting hike up the ridge where we would head the next day. As we were eating dinner we saw two caribou standing on the ridge above us. From camp my GPS said the CP was only 1.9 miles away, but with a 6024’ mountain in the way. We could go around it either to the west or to the east. Looking at the topo maps we decided that to the east looked better. I advocated for following a stream that curved around the mountain but Pat said that we could follow this ridge he’d hiked up and continue up it over the mountain.
We took off Saturday morning at about 9am from our camp. We went up the ridge and climbed above the creek bed I’d wanted to follow. It turns out it would have been easier, but longer, to follow the creek. We ended up "side-hilling" around the mountain. The problem with this is that one leg (in this case the left) is always slightly higher than the other. This is hard on the one leg and on your ankles, especially if you are out of shape like me. After about an hour of this we decided to just head straight up the mountain to reach the ridge. This was easier than going around the mountain but was like going up a steep staircase for about 1500’. This is a very slow process for me. Finally we reached the ridge. From the ridge we saw a herd of about 300 caribou far below us to the east, and the valley we had ridden up yesterday to the south (pic3). After a short break and a snack we followed the ridge up and through a gap to the other side. Pat cruised on up to the top while Ted and I headed down the north side of the mountain in search of the CP. We dropped down off the mountain an estimated 500’ and after picking our way across a small snow slide we arrived at the point. It is on a steep "scree" slope of rock, gravel, and sand. We reached the CP at about 1pm. We took pictures of the group, north (pic4), east (pic5), and west (pic6) and headed down the mountain. In my exhausted state I forgot to photo the GPS or check the elevation. The photo of the CP is from about 75’ below the CP (pic1). I left out the photo looking due south as it is essentially the same as the photo of the CP. I had convinced the others that the creek in front of us (north) wound all the way around the mountain to the south side and joined the one by our camp. I was correct about this but as we discovered the creek dropped into a gorge on the east side. We hop-scotched our way down into the gorge crossing the creek dozens of times until we decided we came to an impassable waterfall. We found a place where we could scramble back up onto the slope about 200’ above us. We went around and down the mountain rejoining the creek after it had come out of its gorge. We made it back to camp by 5pm on Saturday. We had planned for and packed enough supplies to stay another night but with the long summer days in the north we decided to break camp and head home. The ride back was uneventful and we were packed, loaded the rigs and were on the road home by 9pm.