See Jason's account of Day Five for photos.
At about 7:00 a.m. I awoke to a thin layer of slush on the deck of the Alpine Creek Lodge, indicating that it must have snowed at higher elevations where we had broken camp the day before. Rarely have I felt so grateful to be in a warm, dry place where I could luxuriate next to a wood stove with a cup of hot coffee to start the day. A dozen or so travelers had already assembled around the main table to partake of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and fruit for breakfast. I sat quietly and enjoyed my hot meal while most people spoke of the rainy weather and their roadside travels; but when asked by a retired nurse from Anchorage what I had been doing, I offered a brief synopsis that turned several heads. Soon I found myself telling the whole story of yesterday’s harrowing adventures to a rapt crowd that had ceased all other conversation. I tried not to exaggerate, and really didn’t need to, while people shook their heads and expressed their relief that we had returned safely.
Claude (co-owner of Alpine Creek Lodge) expressed mild surprise that we had seen no large bull caribou in the mountain valleys far off the highway. Eventually Jason arose and joined us for breakfast, adding a few more details to yesterday’s events. Then we packed up our gear, left a big tip for Jen and the cook for taking us in and feeding us late last night, and strapped all the caribou meat to the roof of the RAV4. Thus loaded with a vehicle full of wet gear, we headed back east to the river to try to locate the two game bags that got swept downriver when Jason's raft overturned at the landing.
We spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.)
more than an hour scanning the river from the bridge with polarized sunglasses and binoculars, then walking to the first bend downstream to search a gravel bar there. We found only light-colored boulders under fast water. Assuming the game bags were halfway to the Susitna River by now, we bid a final farewell to our rescuers at their river camp, then headed west to Cantwell and north to Fairbanks, stopping only occasionally for photos and to eat lunch at the Alaska Salmon Bake Restaurant near Denali. Before Taiga could be picked up at the dog-sitter, we had to off-load the soggy piles of gear we had crammed into the back of the vehicle. While Jason retrieved Taiga, I began opening and spreading out backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, boots and clothes that had been thoroughly soaked in the Clearwater River. Game bags full of caribou meat were stored under a tarp on the front deck for processing the next day.