Noatak river paddle day 11: scooting right along

Mileage: 35
282 miles paddled

I sleep. I sleep so, so well. The sun sleeps too, in its way; not going down but dimming, greying, growing long enough and low enough behind the ridge that the moon is there, full and silver and hanging, reflected, above the rippling water, when I get up to pee at 3 a.m.


I drift back to sleep to dreams that are mixtures of the two novels I’m reading right now, one as audiobook while I paddle and one on my kindle at night. The audiobook is Girl on the Train, which is about a bunch of “quirky” bored middle class white ppl in London except then someone dies and who did it!! and keeps me very entertained, and I love all the different British accents in the audiobook for the different characters. The other book is Stray City by Chelsea Johnson. I know Chelsea from the queer community in Portland. Stray City is set in queer Portland of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I moved to Portland in 2001 and the book makes me nostalgic for youth, and for Portland when it was frumpy and poor, and everyone I knew lived in moldy houses and ate dumpstered bread and read theory for fun. But also not, though, because we were all so insecure and we didn’t treat each other very well, and we thought we knew everything even though we knew nothing at all. Ah, youth.

Stray city is really good. Muffy’s reading it too and we’re texting each other via my inreach, guessing who the characters are based off of. The characters make zines and do letterpress, form bands and break each others’ hearts. At one point the characters go swimming at mile marker 7 on the Washougal river. It’s great.

Anyway my dreams are a mix of these two books, which is strange. I sleep so so well though, and the morning is warm and clear and I wake up in a great mood. Time to do boats!

We pass our Swiss friends around midday where they’ve stopped to pick blueberries (Two pounds! They say when they catch us, easily rowing past in their two-person inflatable canoe. We like to put them in our oatmeal!) I paddle alongside their canoe for a bit and we chat in the sun, the aquamarine water, clearer now after dropping some of its silt, slipping past below us. We’ve been talking about whether or not we’re all going to paddle across the sound to the village of Kotzebue. Two miles of open water, possible high winds and waves. We’re all flying out of Kotzebue, but if you don’t want to paddle across the open water it might be possible to hire someone with a motorboat to ferry you across. How big of a deal the wind and waves are, I’m not sure- I plan on asking around in Noatak village, which we’ll reach in three days. I know that Buck opted to hire a boat to ferry him across the sound to Kotzebue on his Alaska traverse, because the winds were very high the day he arrived. And it’s, like, the sea, so that’s different than having a headwind on a river, in a way that I can’t really conceptualize but which thrills me and terrifies me all at once. Our Swiss friends say they are going to attempt to cross on their own, if it’s at all possible when they get there. Bunny says no way, she’s taking a ride across for sure. I decide I need more information. I’ll see what the good people of Noatak have to say.

All day we’re in what I read on the map, somewhat optimistically, as a canyon, but which turns out to be just some low hills. Still so peaceful and beautiful though, with the birds overhead and the salmon jumping and the birch trees shimmering in the breeze, soothing some deep part of me, scratching some itch I didn’t know I had. We’re racing along on a good current, and even though we hit a headwind in the last few hours, by 5:30 we’ve gone 35 miles. We’re both a bit cooked from the sun and I dunk myself in the river and then sit on a rock, cooking dinner and ignoring the cloud of mosquitoes, midges, horseflies and no-see-ums that hangs over me. I’m starting to miss Muffy a lot, which is painful. Otherwise this trip has turned out to be really, really wonderful.


We’ve raised $8,950 for Defend the Sacred AK so far! ($6,850 on the original fundraiser, and $2,100 on the new fundraiser I had to create when GoFundMe bought YouCaring and the YouCaring fundraiser became defunct on July 31.) This is so awesome!!!

Day 12 from the Noatak will go up on this blog as soon as the new fundraiser reaches $2,300- you can find the fundraiser here, or click the photo below. And thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far!

Alaska traverse for Defend the Sacred AK