Trail Dispatch – First Day of Spring



simon.jpg“Can you believe it’s March 21st already?” I asked Nancy from the back of the dog sled. “It’s the first day of spring!” Nancy practically yelled in reply. We let out a loud ‘whoop’ in honor of the official start of the season, followed immediately by laughter as we looked around at the intense winter landscape surrounding us.

All day the wind blew at our back. A strong, steady, cold wind. The kind of wind that creeps into your zipper, down pant legs and up the back of your neck. Today, however, we were grateful for this kind of wind because for the first time in 3 days it was not blowing directly into our faces.

We traveled hard today, across the windy expanse of Summit Lake, dropping 800 feet to the Owl River. All the day the landscape told the story of glacial movement — from the steep v-shaped curve of the river valley, to the teal-blue hue of glaciers still receeding, clinging to the high mountain passes. We raced against the wind, trying to reach the snow for better traction before it was blown away in front of our very eyes. All the while, giant peaks rose out of the white haze engulfed us, reminding us of our privilege in the midst of physical challenge.

stetson.jpg Later in the day, we came across a set of polar bear tracks in the snow. They were clearly several days old, but a sign, nevertheless, that we are nearing the coast. In the winter, polar bears, the largest land carnivores in North America, prefer to travel on sea ice where they hunt seals (their main food source). In early spring, however, female bears sometimes move inland to den for birthing. We always use precaution when setting up camp in polar bear country, just in case we meet some of these unexpected visitors. We stake our dogs out downwind of the tent, camp close together, and if need be, use ‘bear-bangers’ (loud noisemakers) to scare the bear away without injuring it. We don’t anticipate seeing any bears until we reach the North Pangnirtung Fiord, just south of Qikiqtarjuaq.

 

Happy spring,

Abby

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