Carmen Lake "Paddle Bagging"

 A kayak trip from the Twentymile Bridge up the Twentymile, Glacier and Carmen Rivers to Carmen Lake.  And back.


(8/22/04) One of my goals this summer was to do a "Paddle Bag".  Where "Peak Bagging" is choosing a mountain summit and climbing to it and back, "Paddle Bagging" is choosing an ambitious kayak destination and paddling to it and back.

I set a "paddle bagging" goal of Carmen Lake.  This is a very scenic spot off the east side of the Twentymile River valley near Portage, AK.  To get to this lake I would have to paddle up the Twentymile, Glacier and Carmen Rivers.  I did a practice run a few weeks prior where I paddled up the Twentymile to where the Glacier River enters in.

Paddling up these rivers is a challenge.  Mainly because these are swift and powerful  glacier rivers.  Getting up them is a fight!  Sometimes you are paddling like crazy in swift water with standing waves, you can hear the water rushing against the gravel banks, sweat is running off your face, arms are burning and your abdomen is about to rip open ... you look over to to the bank and see that you are advancing about an inch for every paddle stroke!  A lot of folks would not get into this game.  But I like the challenge of paddling up rivers.  I do it quite a lot for training.  And I have done regularly for over 25 years.

There were some spots on these rivers that I could not paddle.  In places where there was foaming whitewater I would pull my kayak around on gravel bars.  I didn't take many pictures on the way up (I was too busy suffering!).  But Carmen Lake was spectacular, so I got a lot of shots there.  I had been to this lake once before ... I skied in on spring crust with Tim Miller several years ago.

But it sure was easier skiing to Carmen Lake than paddling!  It took 6 1/2 hours to get to the lake (hurt me!)  I paddled around exploring the lake area for 1 1/2 hours and then it took 2 hours to get back out.  The next time I go to Carmen Lake will be on skis!  By hiking in with a pack raft.  Or in a float plane!

Photos by Tim Kelley.  Click here for a map of the Carmen Lake area.

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A nice day for paddling ... or just about anything else.  Kinikinik Mountain and the Twentymile River west fork valley are in the distance.


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Lots of signs of bear.

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After a mere 6 1/2 hours of paddling I got to this point.  Here's the view of Carmen Lake from the mid-west shore.  A family of river otters was not impressed with me here.  They were 100 feet away and hissing at me while I took these pictures!  

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I paddled to the far end of the lake on glassy waters.  But at the other end the wind picked up.  I paddled back through some white-capped fetch waves.

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Lots of salmon spawning action in the two rivers that drain into the south end of Carmen Lake.

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Left:  Carmen Cone - I climbed this peak in the late '90's with Wiley Bland.

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Right: Kninikinik Mountain ... bagged with Bill Spencer in the '90s (with help from a two-seater Hovercraft!)

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On the way out, lenticular clouds forming to the south.  A sign that the clear weather party may be about to end.

More shots from the paddle out below.

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