July 29 – day 22 – Hoare Point layover day

At 3am, the crack of dawn literally lights the eastern sky. A narrow band, red, glows like the ember of a fire. Pretty but even now, hungry mosquitos thump against the nylon fly. I watch from inside the tent, prone in my sleeping bag. The brilliance fades as the sun rises. Pulling sweater over my eyes, I roll over for a few more hours sleep.

It’s a glorious morning with no sign of last nights gale force storm. Calm is bad, the bugs delight in this advantage. We head inland for a closer look at the tundra. Aside from the steep river banks, the tundra is flat, pock marked with ponds, evidence of poor drainage. No wonder the mozzies love it! Long tailed jaegers sit on a small knoll, feeding on berries. We get quite close and they are fearless.

Finding a lone stone cairn, we scour the horizon for another marker but nothing is makes sense to our eye. Inland here, away from the river, there are no tent rings, bone shards, rock piles or other obvious evidence of human habitation.

Sandhill cranes, the first we’ve seen, strut in the distance. Elegant with their grey coats, red foreheads and long black legs, they are the source of the mysterious bird calls heard during the last few days. Weaving around these small ponds, moving towards Beverly Lake, several pairs take flight at our approach. Obviously they are less tolerant of humans than the long tailed jaegers or willow ptarmigan.

When did these threatening clouds appear? We didn’t notice, absorbed in our walk. Heavy, polished and recently shed caribou antlers seem to be a matched pair. Single antlers were common, pairs much rarer to find. Note the middle shovel in my left hand. With thousands of caribou shedding antler annually, where are do they go so quickly?

A huge drift wood pile pushed up along Beverly Lake. Some of the tree trunks were sizable. A hare was hiding amongst the wood, bounding away as we clambered over the pile. A lone caribou trots along the waters edge. A few fuel drums crunched by ice, lie rusting, wedged between wood and bank. Light rain showers sprinkle us, driving the bugs into further frenzy..

The temperature is dropping, with a slight but damp chilly easterly wind blowing from cold Beverly lake. I’m glad for the shelter of the tundra tunnel. Despite the breeze, there is a quiet calm – the musical sound of distant sandhill cranes mixes with shrill long tailed jaegers.

An damp fog creeps up the river. Temperatures continue to drop, now 5C – then I stop measuring. It’s a rare, wind calm, night. My heart beats slow, blood pulsing across my eyelids, confusing sound and sight. Breathing slows, slowssss, slower…then, I sleep.