Gates of the Arctic National Park, Day 3

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 14, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Monday, June 27, 2011

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We packed up, got in the canoe and headed downstream. From our campsite we could see a pingo a couple miles downstream. A pingo is a geological formation only found in the arctic. It's a hill up to around 200 feet high created when a large chunk of underground ice floats to the surface. The ice pushes up a lot of soil with it, which insulates the ice and keeps it from melting.

We pulled over when we reached a point on the river close to the pingo, pulled the canoe ashore and hiked through the tundra to the pingo. Hiking in the tundra is difficult. The most common landscape in the tundra is tundra hummocks, which are small tufts of vegetation surrounded by a moat. Sometimes you can see the moat but sometimes it's hidden by the vegetation and you don't know it's there until your food disappears into it. The groundwater can't sink through the permafrost so, even though the arctic is quite arid, there is a lot of water everywhere.

When we reached the pingo we climbed to the top. Getting up off the valley floor gave us a nice view up and down the river. After taking a few pictures we headed back to the canoe and continued downstream.

On our paddle today we saw two adult wolves, one of which had two pups. We've also seen Tundra Swans, Gyrfalcons, loons, seagulls, sandpipers, terns and a few other assorted birds. We've seen lots of bear, caribou and moose footprints but we haven't seen any animals yet.

We found a gravel bar that looked like it would probably be OK. We would have liked something higher but sometimes you have to take what you can get so we stopped and set up camp. The water level has been dropping since yesterday evening but it has been raining every night so it's hard to get comfortable. Both Moe and I got up during the night to check the level of the river.
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