Mon 04/07-2022 Day 683

Pos: 70.9503,-157.4967
Loc: Icy Rivermouth
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 42,5 km
Start: 9:15 End: 20:35

At three o’clock in the morning, the likely first motorboat of the season passes our camp close by. They might come from Barrow and head to Wainwright It is even with an engine a long hundred and sixty kilometers drive.
It starts raining lightly before we can load the kayaks and take down the tent. It is ike lít is, staying warm even in the kayak is hard. Our first stop of the day is at the small camp of Peard Bay, which has even an own small airstrip. Maybe a dozen cabins belong to different family clans, located uphill or down at the beach. We pull out our storm cags, and we walk around while snacking a bit. A quadbike comes down from the upper cabins. Robert and his friends flew in for an extended fourth of July weekend. He welcomes us warmly, offers a campsite and answers a lot of our curious questions. Unfortunately, we just broke camp an hour ago, or we would be happily settle in here. This place was our yesterday’s goal, but we pulled in premature as headwind and cold made things unfriendly.
I keep my stormcag on while paddling, and Peter wears his PFD for warmth. Cold hands are an issue for both of us. Peters wear neoprene mitts inside pogies, and stays reasonable warm. I try another time to get used to pogies, it is not working for me. I just need my fingers too often to operate my camera, my GPS, and to adjust my headgear here and there. I cannot be tied to a paddle. My gloves setup with neoprene fingergloves which have a slit in each finger in case I need them, plus open palm neoprene mitts must do. My feet have never be warm inside a drysuit inside my kayak. Tomorrow, I will try my ‘Chill Feet’ heater soles, see if this makes a difference.
I spot a walrus carcass, pretty skinny already, but it has still both tusks. I call Peter to also land, and he has not seen any yet. Both teeth are grown crooked, they press to each other at the ends. Maybe the poor walrus could not find enough food and starved to death. Our harvest efforts are in vain, both tusks still sit solidly inside the skull. Even if I wold carry a saw, a cut-off tusk is ugly and unnatural. Also, I do not need to harvest any tusks anymore, as nothing can top my record size I found 2018 and I cannot take them home. We leave the poor guy to his destiny and carry on.
The coast consist now of high mud cliffs with mostly a small beach upfront. Massive snowdrifts prevent any quadbike to travel along here for most of the year. Occasinally, a wide river vally which would make nice campsites interrupts the wet muddy walls. The odd ice floes offshore do not worry us at all. We just start to become slightly bored on dead calm water and play some music, as we suddenly see ourselves upfront a ice shel extending far out to the sea. Hmmm, I briefly climb out and to my delight see the shelf does not go on forever but open water lurks pretty soon again. We have to paddle out for a kilometer, and a kilometer parallel before we can close up to the beach again. The detour around the massive ice shelf and piled up berghs feels eerie, though very beautiful. Our antennas are on highest alert in regards of polar bears. Both, flare guns are handy and readily loaded. But no furry back shows up anywhere, beside some seals. But seal are the polar bear’s favorite food, so we think here might be still one guy at home. Back along the coast, we definitively feel better.
When we see a similar white wall coming up, we like to climb inside a river gap up to the mud cliffs and find to our delight more open water along the beach. Just after landing, I see a small furry animal on top of the cliffs, likely a ground squirrel. We have been fooled all days by ice bergs and animals looking in this clear cold air much larger than they finally are when approaching. When Peter looks through his binocular up to the ground squirrel on the hilltop, he states that this might be a polar bear! What? I also have a look, and find he might be right…what the heck! This cannot be when I look again with bare eyes! This guy up there IS tiny! And do polar bear sit on cliff tops like his brown and grizzly fellows love to do? And sure, when it hoppels away with his small bushy tail we both laugh about the ‘mirage’ apearing through the binoculars.
Two single caribous up on the cliffs later are rather for real. The mud cliffs finally turn into solid rock cliffs in pancake style, and give a lot of lovely formations and arches. One tiny one I cannot resist to sneak through, to the music of ‘Riverdance’ it is a special kind of experience. Peter unfortunately does not like to get close to caves or arches, and des neither rock hop nor ice floe hop and prefers to stay far out. Well, his choice of missing out on the fun.
The lovely calm and sunny afternoon after the rainy morning turns into a cold and wet foggy evening just when we pass a good campsite. We aim for the next wider rivermouth along the cliff line, and are thankful we do not run once moe into a shorefast ice shelf to round. Not in this fog! But we are lucky, despite no visibility, we reach our landing spot and can nicely camp on a sandy ledge. I am frozen on hands and feet, and am relived we do not have to keep on searching. Tomorrow is another day, we likely reach Barrow and meet up with Traci Lynn Matin as our third team member!