September 3 rd , 2014
(Katiffik to Canoe Center)
Distance Walked: 12.5 Miles
The hut was very comfortable and I slept well last night. When I stepped outside I quickly discovered the resident arctic hare that was mentioned in the shelter journal as a frequent visitor. While he took note of my presence, he let me approach fairly closely without a hint of anxiousness. I didn’t want to disturb his breakfast so I took a few photos, let him be, and went about my morning chores. Katiffik Hut lies upon the shores of Lake Amitsorsuaq, and on the other end of the lake is The Canoe Center Hut which is apparently all that remains of a failed tourist operation. Several canoes, in various states of repair, can be found on either end of lake. Of course, since most trekkers complete the route from East to West, the chances of finding a canoe upon arrival at Katiffik in early September are pretty much slim to none. However, on my taxi ride to the trailhead we passed a backpacker walking towards Kangerlussuaq so I assumed, with great joy mind you, that there would be a canoe waiting for me on the banks of the lake near Katiffik Hut. As I approached the hut the night before I was already daydreaming about paddling through day 2. So when I spotted the boat rack you can imagine my disappointment when I saw that it was empty! I surveyed the banks for a bit in each direction, in case the waiting canoe was carelessly left on the beach rather than stowed properly but it was not to be. When I was reading through prior entries in the hut journal I saw a few notes from an Englishman who had spent some time at Katiffik. He was pondering his ability to complete the trek and after 2 nights of deliberation had decided to reverse course and head back to the airport. That must have been who I spotted as there were no other journal entries from any eastbound trekkers in recent days. Venturing through the Arctic wilderness alone can certainly be a daunting proposition, but like most things, as long as you take it one day a time you'll soon find yourself at your destination.
Lake Amitsorsuaq with Katiffik Hut off in the distance on the right
Following the south shore of the lake, I quickly encountered the boggy conditions that have already become so familiar. Walking on tundra that lies unfrozen as summer comes to a close can be tiring. I'd estimate that 1 mile traveled on this terrain is equivalent to 1.5 miles in most regions of the world. You're either sloshing through muddy bogs which grab your boots like quicksand, or sinking into to spongy hummocks that give you the same ease of forward motion as walking across a deep sand dune at the beach. This is after all a scouting trip aimed at figuring out which section, if any, of the Arctic Circle Trail is best suited for a shorter guided trip and so far I'm questioning if any of it will be suitable. Of course I soon reach portions of dry ground and pick up some speed, at least briefly.
I make my way along the rock and boulders that have rolled down from the hills above me. As I climb along the lake's edge I feel as if I'm in a giant playground. Passing through the boulder field and now strolling alongside the lake shore, I notice that the sun never comes close to passing overhead but instead simply traverses the southern sky. As far north as I am this makes sense, but I simply hadn't even thought about it before my arrival in Greenland. Fortunately the days are still long, as it can be deceiving to look for the sun and see that it has barely risen above the mountains to the south. Later, as I continue to enjoy my walk along the shore, I'm startled as a giant bird the size of an eagle takes flight from the nearby brush. I shout out "holy shit", partly because I'm startled and partly because of the enormous wingspan. It's then that I realize that "I just spoke!" I'm well into my second day on the trail and until now, without human contact, I haven't said a word. I'm getting close to the Canoe Center which is by far the largest hut on the trail. This combined with the use of some free canoes will surely entice some backpackers to take a zero day (0 mileage day). As I move forward I remain hopeful for human contact!
Hard to miss this cairn!
Notice the Ptarmigan in the center
I reach the Canoe Center Hut ahead of schedule and find it empty. As I approached I thought I had seen some people swimming in the waters near the hut but later realized it was just the waves crashing. Still no human contact and I'm starting to realize just how important that is! The sunset tonight was spectacular and with the deep red colors I'm hoping that the old sailor's adage, "red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky at morning, sailor take warning," holds true and means good weather tomorrow!