A full day on the beach

What a storm last night! A full blown gale by 7pm, rain lashing tent walls, surf pounding, audible despite the high sand crest and 400m between camp and water’s edge. Low clouds hanging around at  8am but trend is clearing. It’s a cozy 15C inside the tent compared to 10C outside. Rain soaked vegetation seeps through my pant legs – as an after thought, I put on my rain pants.

Surrounding the lakes are peat eskers – not sand. We climb up: showers linger inland but to the ocean, its clear. The red fruit of  bunch berry dot pale green caribou lichen. Some of the tree stumps appear to be fire scarred – a long ago forest fire? We ponder. Only the faint honking of Canada geese, milling in some distant pond, ripples the morning quiet.

With light hearts, we pack up camp and retrace the route back to the beach. Sometime early this morning, a black bear and her cub walked beside the fresh water lake, their tracks still crisp. The sun warms what the wind cools! I don another layer, chilled from the ocean breeze, despite working hard with the heavy pack.

Rocky Point is a bump outward from the gentle sweep of the Wonderstrand. It’s an appealing site and I consider camping here despite the early hour. Spruce trees mixed with coastal taiga. Marram grass traces circles in the sand. A caribou trail swings inland, cutting off the point. 

We opt for the woodland route, passing many more cut tree stumps. Emerging from the woods, a long sweep of grass lined beach greets the eye. Big surf from last night’s storm continues to pound the sand into hard packed walking pleasure.

It’s shoes off despite the low tide. Fresh water streams and rivers bisect the Wonderstrand, but are a simple obstacle to cross. After a tough summer, my hiking boots are no longer water proof – some of the streams are really small rivers, too deep to cross with boots anyhow. The land warmed water is pleasant compared to the ocean chill. Ten toes spread, enjoying the freedom of an unrestricted wiggle.

It’s a stop and savour kind of trip. No predetermined mileage goals, no day end ‘musts’. After a summer of mountains, the Wonderstrand is the perfect antidote to stretch the eye. Wandering is limitless: a broad shore with huge tidal bench, folded grass ridges, open tundra a short distance inland. Too bad for the heavy packs! I stop frequently.

The weak sun of late summer signals the primordial instinct to nest.. Stumbling across a protected level bed of dry lichens, a few trees for shelter and fresh water nearby, the packs are dropped without hesitation. It’s camp for the night.

Paradise by the beach tonight…the sky clear, promising stars. The lingon berries are huge and fat, unfortunately too sour to be eaten raw (unless you’re a bear or Scandinavian) in August, only sweetening with a hard September frost. But purple crowberries plants grow prostrate over the sandy soil, their tartness acceptable to my tongue. Its no surprise that bears enjoy these plentiful fall fruits (huge mounds of purple seed filled dung splat the beach) but I’ve also seen gulls and crows pick them. Broken silver trees trunks, like drunken totem poles, fight to stay upright among the shifting sands.

A sudden rain shower: we dive for the tent but it passes as quickly as it came. The tide retreats, exposing fine grained sand.. Not many shells on this part of the beach. Away from land based threats, a raft of black or maybe eider ducks, collect in the middle of the bay, bobbling up and down in the rhythm of each swell.

Far far down the beach, the dark hump of a black bear stands out against pale sand. In the morning, we find his tracks close to the tent, grasses bent where he walked. A lone pair of wolf tracks, criss crossed by smaller fox prints weave up and down the empty beach. No caribou tracks here.

The wind has completely died at 8pm. It’s 5C with a slight damp chill in the air. Dusk is coming fast, a few stars are starting to show their shine. Amazingly and wonderfully, despite the calm, there are absolutely no bugs! We sit on a fallen log, cup in hand, waiting for the night to come, watching and listening the surf roll on to the strand, 100m away.