Sat July 24
Slept until 1pm…seem to be on a 4 hour awake, 4 hours sleep/nap schedule. Wonder when or if, Alfred stopped talking last night, excited about video idea regarding bones and tracks…grey soft overcast sky with no direct sunlight. Pack up and roll out about 3pm, carefully securing the hut door with the 2” x 4” bar latch. Tack a note on the door for incoming Blackfeather group and my friend, Gisela.
Striking off to the north east, we know the ground is wet and spongy - to keep feet and boots dry, we don the NEO overshoes. I have carefully taped toes, heels, and insteps against further blister damage but with the loaded backpack, am all too aware of tender spots. Hope the plasters and tapes will hold and stay dry, as first aid supply is becoming depleted.
With only a light tail wind and warmish temperatures, the mosquitoes are definitely building. I curse their whining, and their insistence at lodging themselves behind my sunglasses. With no bug jacket and not wanting to use chemical repellants, I’m defenseless under their assault. These are fast flying, light landing and quick stinging little bastards unlike their larger, slower moving cousins of more southern latitudes. Happily, if I can ignore the itch for 15 minutes, it will reside (until the next bite!).
Just before exiting the Truelove Lowlands, we stop for lunch (6pm?) at a high point of the slope. The views are great, Ellesmere Island melds into frozen Jones Sound…its gray and more gray, one continuous big gray sky. But that is the big picture – when I take a micro view, a pleasant green valley with small stream and ample camping sites lay below. I contemplate the route ahead while munching on crackers and salami.
Eventually, the band of easy walking along the seashore narrows, squeezed out by inland cliffs. However, the bugs depart and the land somewhat dries out. We find three tent rings with five old musk ox heads stashed in between the rocks - skidoo tracks criss cross the beaten muskox trail. Ringed seals have hauled out on the sea ice, basking in the weak sun. I wonder about the likely hood of surprising a sleeping polar bear in the rocks.
The weather takes a turn for the worse, the wet fog has now turned into a drizzle. I don yellow plastic rain pants and gortex coat, quickly feeling clammy and gross in the high humidity. Huge blocks of sea ice pushed up on shore force us to clamber amongst the rocks. Not fun as I’m hampered with rain gear and the rocks are slippery with rain. We concentrate hard to avoid any mishap. Nesting glaucous gulls and a peregrine falcon scream at us as we slowly make our way past…I wonder that the gulls tolerate the falcon but perhaps the falcons keen eyesight provide the benefit of a distant early warning system for land predators (namely foxes).
This is really tight but interesting spot to hike. Rock scrambling with a pack is not something I want to do for hours but the short ½ km stretch is an enjoyable change of terrain from the open rolling lowlands. It is obviously a well used route: muskox turds have been beaten down, hard packed and mixed with Quiviut, lichen and a few crumbs of soil. This protected wind sheltered corner smells rank, of animal warm barnyard pig smell. A real change from the antiseptic tundra. It’s the only way thru this mess of boulders, the sea ice is too rotten, otherwise I’d take that route.
There is a small lowland between Truelove and the Capes, with the worsening weather, we opt to stop. Brown muskox dots pepper the rear of the valley, perhaps 2 km away from the beach strip where we walk. Sloshing over wet pond meadows, we spy a possible level tent area in the lee of a small rock hump. It’s good enough for the night. Camp is quickly set up and dinner started. Its +13C inside the tent, +8C under the fly and +5C in the open. I hope for better weather tomorrow.