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It was late morning before the clouds lifted, and Eric bellowed from behind his desk, “Well, Tyler, you wanna go?” We looked over our landing options once more, quickly, and loaded into a Cessna 206. He swerved and banked as we flew up the Kelly River, looking carefully for backup landing options. There weren’t many, but our grass bench, fortunately, looked okay. After circling the flat, Eric glided in and put it down. Govi handed him several one-hundred dollar bills for his share of the flight. With a “good luck,” and a handshake, Eric was off, a tiny humming speck against a backdrop of snowy mountains.
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Walking was a mix of pleasant grassy flats, soggy bunch-grass tussocks, and river crossings. We managed sketchy waist-deep wades at two of them, but inflated the pack rafts for the main Kelly River channel. Straining beneath too-heavy loads (50+ pounds for me, 60+ for Govi) we followed a small drainage toward a pass; linking caribou trails across steep slopes, crossing slick snow slopes, tip-toeing over snow-bridged creeks above the sound of rushing whitewater. At the pass, we took a break in warm afternoon sun. It was 7 pm.
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Camp overlooked an un-named valley with an isolated peak rising within its crescent, reminiscent of Colorado’s Crested Butte. After dinner, I spotted a grizzly in the binoculars, probably two-miles away by land. Two caribou grazed lower down the valley, and a second griz wandered along a willow-lined creek on the far side of the basin.

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