Hike to the Itkillik River

Sunday was my last day off here at Toolik. There was a pretty large party Friday night celebrating Julia and Colin's last night at camp. Everyone was up pretty late, so not many people were up for hiking first thing Sunday morning. However, Jason and Jeremy were up for a full day! Elissa, Garret, and Jeff went with us for the first portion of the hike and then left us at about noon to head home and we continued on. The plan was to complete a totally carbon emission free hike -- minus our own breathing! -- (I know, we are all dorks). We took a canoe across the lake to the base of Jade mountain. The group headed up jade and paused at the top for lunch. Then Jeremy, Jason, and I all headed on toward the Itkillik River. It was a bit of a tundra slog. We were hoping to follow up a tributary to its confluence with the river. We were planning on finding a good place to rock hop across and then climb up a few small mountains beyond the tributary before heading back toward our canoe.

We had a good day. None of us were in a rush, we just wanted to enjoy the good weather and each others company! We definitely had some time for silliness. We detoured to check out any caribou horns we could find. Jason actually spotted a pair of horns! The pic to the left is of him and Jeremy pretending to be a caribou...

Later in the day, we wandered into a particularly dense blueberry patch and decided to pause to pick blueberries! They are so tastey and there are sooo many right now
My other favorite berry is the cloudberry. They are very unusual, but actually pretty tastey...sort of like sweet tarts. However, they have a rather odd texture which is a little hard to get used to at first; they are kind of slimey but have seeds inside. They are all finally starting to ripen! I love picking berries while we are out in the field.

We spent some time exploring the area, seeing what we could find. We also picked up a lot of random trash including a pair of old ski goggles, a front wheel of a small plane (?), and an apparently abandoned wooden marker stake. At one point, we stumbled upon a pond with crazy green algae. It was such a seemingly unnatural color!

The river crossings were pretty tough. The water is just above freezing and we couldn't find any place narrow enough or rocky enough to cross via rock jumping. We really didn't want to just walk across since we still had quite a hike after the first river crossing, so we decided to ditch the boots and socks and cross barefoot....pain. lots of pain. Within a few seconds of putting our feet in, it felt like pins and needles were poking them all over and the rocks on the bottom of the river were like daggers! The second our feet came out of the water, we went through the painful process of our feet warming back up again. Who would have thought it would have been that bad. Unfortunately we crossed were the tributary was split into three branches so we had 3 painful barefoot crossings to totally get across the river. The final crossing was the longest, so Jeremy decided we needed to sing while crossing to take our mind off of the pain. We sang "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" at the top of our lungs. I think we were pretty much shouting the words, but we made it across. We scrambled up the steep banks barefoot and just collapsed in the sun for a short while to warm up our toes before putting the socks back on. During our return trip over the river after our summit, we decided to aquaboot it across (aka. hike across in our hiking boots and get wet). Although cold, the hiking boots significantly reduced the painfulness of the crossing experience!

We saw a bunch of caribou with rather large racks at the top of the small mountain -- or large hill -- that we climbed. Initially we thought they were sheep, but realized quickly that they were caribou. After we climbed over the peak, we ended up just a few yards away from some of them. I don't think I have been quite that close before! It was pretty awesome. I have to see if I can get pics from Jason to post. I ran out of space in my camera memory by this point in the day!

We arrived back to camp a little after 11 pm and boated back across the lake. We were tired, but quite pleased with our adventures.
Posted on August 19, 2009 and filed under sunday hike, wild flowers, wildlife.