Catching Up With The Team

In the Field 2013

Now that the team is back, let’s catch up with Tony and them for a look back at this past week in the field.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Drop off:

As you recall Tony was the first one to be dropped off by the helicopter at the would-be camp site.  Moments after the drop, the storm that had hit us down at the helipad reached him.  So he donned his rain gear and sat and waited for the rest of the team and gear to arrive.  If he had to wait even a day and a night he would have been all set since he had been dropped with all his essentials for short-term mountain wilderness living. But, his patience (and rain gear) paid off.  The rest of the team and gear were delivered within the next few hours and with that the next leg of the 2013 Perot Museum in the Field trip officially began.

Basecamp set up:

There are very specific directions on how to set up a camp in the Denali Park wilderness.   As a matter of fact on the bottom of the top of the bear can lid is a reminder of how it works.


A camp is set up as a triangle with 3 points – tents, bear cans and cooking/eating area – each about 100 yards away from the other.

The spot the team was looking to set up camp is a location they have used at the basecamp before.  So it didn’t take them much planning to get the tents set up and pinpointing the location for the bear cans and the eating/cooking area.  They set up the cooking area at a location on the side of Riley Creek.


Color coding by tent: Red – Yuong, Green – Yoshi, Yellow – Paul and Orange – Tony



This of course includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  As you recall anything related to this has been stuffed into the bear cans (along with any toiletries).  Two cans per person.

Each person brings their own bowl, cup and set of eating utensils.  (Interesting point – long handled utensils come in handy so they can reach the bottom of the bags containing the freeze dried dinners. The long handles keep you from getting your knuckles dirty.)

They also each have a camp stove and canisters of propane.  Tony describes this as the repetitive redundancy precautionary approach. It may seem like overkill to have one stove per person but you never know when something might break down.  In fact during a previous trip to this valley, three out of the four stoves failed.

The goal of food/drink while out in the wilderness is to sustain.  Not to be any sort of focal point or gourmet experience.  So the nutritional value of what is included is taken into consideration along with the fact that everything needs to be ready-made or “instant”.

Ready-made:  meaning that you open it and can eat it right away – such as a cheese stick or energy bar.

Instant:  meaning it can be ready to eat in an instant by adding water (hot or cold) – such as instant coffee or food that comes in packets.

Breakfast included instant coffee, instant oatmeal and freeze-dried fruit, instant miso soup– all mixed with water

Lunch is really the same type of food one eats on a day hike. Finger foods like energy bars, cheese sticks, beef jerky, nuts, chocolate, etc.

Dinner included freeze dried meals or soup in packets.  Meals such as red beans rice, pasta primavera or beef stew.  Plus, these could be mixed with freeze dried veggies.

The water to use to make all of these fancy foods is pumped directly from the nearby creek using a backpacking water filter pump.  Although any water that was boiled didn’t have to be filtered because once it was boiled any germs/bacteria were killed.


You can see the bear cans make great stools too!


Making plans for the week:

By the time they had the base camp all set up it was about 3pm so they decided to climb to the top of the pass to get a lay of the land.  For three of them (Yoshi, Paul and Tony) it was a chance to re-acclimate themselves to an area they know very well (as a matter of fact both Paul and Yoshi said it was like going home) and for Yuong it was a chance to get introduced.

Tony has taken a team to this Riley Creek area five or six previous times and each year the team has gotten a little further up the valley.  This year they will be starting their explorations at tree line.  (Being above tree line was something they all said they are looking very forward to because expeditions below tree line involve a lot of bushwhacking and include the presence of bears.)

Tony describes the attention to this valley as a “systematic reconnaissance” driven by the abundance of Cantwell Formation exposure at the surface.  The entire valley is Cantwell Formation so there is so much rock exposed there.  It is one enormous outcrop.


Once they reached the top of the pass they looked around they planned the objectives and activities for the coming days: which ridges they would walk, which valleys they would drop into, what they would look for where and why, etc.  Some of their plans were determined in the context of support for projects they have pending for this fall. Others were determined by new things they hoped to achieve.

After several hours they headed back down to camp to have some so-called food and call it a day.

Posted from Healy, Alaska, United States.