01-Aug-2004 -- After having scoped out this confluence the year before, Bill O’Connell and myself decided to take a much needed break from our work at the Tatalina Long Range Radar Station and try to find 63°N 156°W. We rode our ATVs the nine miles to the village of Takotna. Takotna was established around 1908 when a sternwheeler was hired to go the farthest point up the Takotna River to support gold mining activities. The town boomed during the subsequent years and supplied much of the mining in the Innoko region near the Ghost Town of Ophir. However, the Town of McGrath, which lies on the banks of the Kuskokwim River, became the hub for the region while the population of Takotna diminished and is currently at last count home to about 63 people.
From the available maps it looks as though the confluence lies very near a portion of the Iditarod Sled Dog Trail. Takotna has maintained any of the original structures from the early goldrush days. The Post Office is a newer structure but also maintains the regional vernacular, note the 5-gallon blue bucket on the flue.
We passed through Takotna and up the road to the airstrip and found what I thought was the closest point from which to head off into the woods at 1.7 miles. Once in the forest we realized that this would not be a straightforward 1.7-mile jaunt. From first glance it appeared that we would have to clear one ridge to obtain our goal. Three densely forested ridges later, we were 0.41 miles from the confluence when I had the misfortune of running face first into a beaver-gnawed end of a tree. Had I been an inch shorter my eye may not have made the return trip. Bill took a look at my wound and his reaction told me everything I needed to know. Mainly that it was seriously deep and that I had been extremely fortunate it didn’t hit my eye. As we paused in the brush Bill looked at me and asked “So what do you want to do now?” I responded “Keep going to the confluence of course!”
The remaining portion of the journey was thankfully uneventful. The foliage for much of the journey consisted primarily of black spruce, alder, aspen, birch, and areas of open tundra and bog. The confluence point offered a nice view through the surrounding forest and tundra back towards the Tatalina Radar Station.
Our return trip was fairly easy, however we went off course near the end and ended up on the Iditarod trail. Had we found the Iditarod trail to begin with our journey may have been much simpler. But then I might not have had my run in with the tree branch. If I end up with a permanent scar I’ll just call it my Indiana Jones confluence mark. Sounds a lot better than my Danger-prone Daphne, I couldn’t even see the beaver-sharpened stick pointed straight at my eye, scary.