Six Mile Whitewater Festival is an annual rafting event that takes place on the Boston Bar of Six Mile Creek near Hope, Alaska. This year the festival was held Saturday, August 13 and included a kayak and packraft race, whitewater rodeo and bonfire party with beer, food, live music and camping on the beach.
The event is largely invite only, to which I owe my attendance to my employer Alaska Backcountry Access, and to which Jess owes hers to be dating said handsome employee. Happenstance stated, there we were in the backseat of Andy’s veggie van, riding away from Girdwood and toward the ominous class 5 whitewater of Six Mile Creek…
An hour down the highway we turned onto a quiet two-lane road, then an unmarked dirt road to reach a small wooded parking lot filled with tents, trucks and hula-hoopers. Wild northern alpine encircled us. Massive mountains crowded the sky. Half-drunk twenty and thirty somethings wandered up and down the steep path to the water and toward the sound of bluegrass. The setting was like the feel-good moment in a horror movie just before the killer arrives. Sun-warmed, carefree youth.
I’d put the attendance at 300 or so — each person visibly lifted by the energy of the event and the free everything, thanks to festival organizer Tim Johnson. Microbrews, BBQ, concert, raffle, bonfire — all on the sponsors’ dime. What a treat!
Yada, yada, yada, phenomonal times had by all.
The next morning our attention shifted from whiskey to whitewater. After a meaty breakfast we headed to the put-in to inflate our rafts and gear up. Class 5 whitewater, darling, just about to happen. Andy took Jess and me, along with his two other employees Opie and Ashley. In the other raft was Andy’s old guiding buddy Pablo and his crew. After donning our dry suits and trading a few nervous looks, we shoved off.
I’d never rafted class 5 whitewater. Mostly class 3-4 growing up with the bros. Andy is a talented guide and made it look easy. The two-hour trip featured three narrow canyons, each progressively difficult, connected by stretches of lazy water that allowed plenty of time for high fives and holy shits. It was outrageously exciting — by far the most fun I’ve had in, on or around water.
Big thanks to Andy for organizing everything and providing the transportation, gear, food, booze, etc. Pretty sure I’ll never have a boss that cool again. The rafting + festival will surely stand out as one of my favorite memories of the summer.
Did I mention we’re leaving Alaska in 10 days to return to Raleigh? Not sure how I feel about that.