Fri July 30:
The days seem to alternate between sun and rain….yesterday sun, this morning grey and more drizzle. We lounge about the tent until noon hoping for a break in the weather but no luck – it’s a warmish humid and wet day, the most annoying conditions for backpacking in a gortex coat! The Blackfeather group has departed, their yellow tents vanished from the landscape.
It’s easy rolling as we are fairly high up in the valley, river crossings are not an issue being shallow, rock strewn and very braided. Only four muskox are visible and they are lodged deeper in the valley than us. This ‘Skogn lowland’ is the smallest in area (15.2 km2) and not as lush compared to the Truelove and Hardy/Sparbo areas. We pass our campsite of five days ago, it seems like such ancient history, the white gull feather still marks where we rested.
Crossing by the same screeching gulls as before, we locate an well worn muskox trail. It crosses a small terrace of melon sized rocks but over the years with much use, they have been carefully kicked away resulting in a hard packed dung marked trail, ideal for pack carrying hikers! I’m happy to oblige. There is a short stretch of large boulders that have to be scrambled across and there is no short cut – I find a huge wad of Quiviut scraped off between rocks and collect it for some future project.
Continuing along the shoreline, it’s amazing how far the ice has retreated. In one place, we walked along the shore fast ice to avoid some of the worst boulders, now, that ice has gone leaving clear blue green ocean instead. It looks like break up is almost complete with fragments of floating ice in piles on shore, shoved high by wind and tide. Open water is evident far out and dark clouds of sea fog hang over these leads.
Passing around the last corner, the mosquitos that plagued us days ago, have returned, buzzing in our faces. Some micro climate with ideal conditions of wet, warm and wind sheltered combine to make this the buggiest nook in the lowlands. For the first time since we left here (other than stream crossings), the overshoes go on – it’s a swamp. Some of these meadows are ankle deep and I slosh carelessly through, relying on the overshoes to keep me dry. And they work fine – only my socks are wet from sweat…
Swinging into the cliffs, we come up to a large pond, almost lake size – in fact, it appears on our 1:250,000 map. Not in a hurry to return to the buildings, we decide to camp here for the night. Like a well oiled machine, our efficiency is remarkable, with no talk, the tent is up, gear unloaded, stove and grub ready for action. And just in time, serious rain showers start to pelt fat drops, we dive into the tent, brewing tea under shelter of the fly.
Within an hour, the worst is over. Exiting the tent, we wander aimlessly, searching for inspiration…four inukshuks beckon from the top of the uplands, about 600 feet above – I’m tempted. But that is before glancing towards the ocean – with growing interest, I watch as the sun rays break intermittently through the dark clouds, scattering light over a still large portion of frozen Jones Sound.
It’s a mesmerizing sight, I’m drawn like a moth to flame, abandoning any idea of climbing up. Suddenly, a direct sun hit bursts forth lighting the pond by the tent – we race downhill, chasing the light. Glimmering floating seductive candle ice adds luster to the scene. Alfred gives up any pretense of keeping his feet dry and runs wildly along the shore. I stop, pause and consider the angle for my still camera. Within seconds, a wind develops from nowhere and the ice candles ‘sing’, chiming their delicate song. Its pure magic! We yelp with glee and shout like madman: look at this, look at this!
Within five minutes, the wind has turned from gentle to raging and cold, the sky has closed up to a dark tempest and the musical ‘singing’ has changed into an ungodly chatter of china dishes breaking! In an instant, the ice candles are being drive, piled high along the shoreline. Looking through binoculars, I can see that the sea ice has broken wide open – it looks ominous and terribly cold. A long locked ice berg, just released, floats out, then slowly tips over.
Rain starts up again, the light show is over for the time being. Alfred kindly makes dinner and then cleans up while I write and kill mosquitos inside the tent. It will be an unsettled weather night…fog is coming down off the uplands, on a crash course with the sea fog. Not tired, I have a hard time falling asleep – I listen to the sound of drizzle mixed with gulls and arctic loons. About 2am, we have a ‘beef jerky party’, snacking and chatting. Later, I awake, stare at the nylon ceiling. A sudden gust of wind shakes and rattles the tent, I think about our exposed site and wonder about rock fall from the nearby cliff…one last trip outside, a few pale streaks in the sky hint at some sky clearing….