Waterfall walk and ATVs

July 13, 2017

Our bed had very warm blankets, so we had been quite warm (even too warm) last night. But outside, of course, it was still close to freezing. It was still cloudy like yesterday, but with fewer snow flurries. After breakfast we had a brief meeting to find out what activities were on offer. Today we divided into two groups; one group would hike to the waterfall in the morning and learn to drive ATVs in the afternoon, and the other would do the reverse. We opted for hiking first, so at 9 am our group of 12 headed out, led by guides Dave and Aven.

Arctic Avens

Arctic Avens

The tundra around the lodge area was fairly easy to walk on, consisting mainly of shale with some muddy spots. There were lots of wildflowers, including Purple Saxifrage, Arctic Poppy, Arctic Avens, Bladder Campion, and Draba. There was also musk-ox poop here and there, although we didn’t see any of the animals.

Arctic Poppies

Arctic Poppies

The waterfall route was fun; we passed several waterfalls of various heights, some of which we scrambled down the slope to view and others we viewed only from the top. Once when we scrambled down the slope we found a pair of Snow Buntings feeding three recently-fledged chicks! But because of the continuing cold temperatures, there wasn’t much water in the creek, and so the waterfalls were less showy than they could have been.

Climbing down the slope

Climbing down the slope

At the waterfall

At the waterfall

We were back at the lodge for lunch, which was soup, fresh bread, roast beef, and banana cake. But this isn’t what usually happens here—the standard procedure is all-day excursions with a picnic lunch, and that’s what we will be doing tomorrow.

Bladder Campion

Bladder Campion

After lunch we went out and learned to operate the ATVs, of which there were four different kinds. Some were much easier to use than others. Neither of us learned all four kinds, but we took a spin down the old airstrip in at least one. Once we were all done with the “training” phase we picked one to drive and off we went.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Gentlemen, start your engines!

We picked a four-person ATV which looked like a golf cart on steroids and Paul drove that, with Rosemary and one of the Karens as passengers. However the route we took was not nearly as flat as the old airstrip; in fact it included creek crossings and steep slopes, so we kept falling behind the people with smaller and faster machines. It took a while to learn to just drive the machine at full throttle whenever possible.

Crossing from floe to floe

Crossing from floe to floe

On scary ice

On scary ice

We stopped at the edge of the bay where there was still ice, and there were belugas nearby. But walking on the ice was disconcerting, especially when we had to cross from one floe to another by stepping on completely transparent ice. We also stopped at a place where some Thule-period artifacts were stashed under a rock. It was interesting to think of people who lived there in weather colder than today’s, with only stone tools to hunt whales with.

Thule artifacts

Thule artifacts

On the way back the wind came up and started to blow snow flurries into our faces, so by the time we got back to the lodge we were all slightly damp. However our parkas kept us warm. Dinner was beef tenderloin with roast carrots and salad, followed by Raspberry Eton Mess. Another great meal!

Next: Gull Canyon and Musk-oxen