Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patti's Story Part 16©

Arctic Hares     

I was having a difficult time yesterday giving you the location of the run in with the Muskoxen but I finally found a better map. My diary is not as complete as I would wish. I'm not a writer. Will recorded everything. He wrote in his diary every morning, a kind of discipline that he has always exercised. He has been helping with details. Before our meeting we had crossed the Lewis River earlier in the day and met this bull some miles further up the river.

The presence of wildlife was centered around Lake Hazen. Freshwater Hazen is about 45 miles long, 7 miles wide and 900 feet deep. The Glacial Rivers flow into the lake and the water flows out the Ruggles River to Chandler Fjord on the SE side. Near the west end of the Lake we encountered beautiful white Arctic Hares. Arctic Hares can be as long as 28" tall and weight up to 17 lbs. When there's snow on the ground they are camouflaged. We did not see any of the legendary herds of Hares but did come upon a number of smaller groups. I had never seen big white rabbits in the wild. It was so wonderful!! They seemed mythological!

We are walking along these tabled, stepped moraines. In the distance I can see 3 pure white Arctic Hare statues, sitting perfectly upright looking straight ahead. They think they are camouflaged but there is no snow. The dogs haven't noticed them yet. We grab Blackie and Oscar and get them clipped in and are just trying to get Chester clipped when he catches site of them and starts running. Zap bursts after him. They get amazingly close to the Hares before the hares realize their dilemma and bolt up the moraines with the dogs in pursuit. There was no concern that the dogs could catch the Hares but we needed to get the dogs under control. Hares are very fast!!

I was holding on to the remaining boys while Will took off after Chester and Zap. Up and over a huge moraine would go the Hares and then disappear on the other side. Next Chester and Zap would run up and over and disappear. Then Will would run up and over and disappear calling their names louder and louder. Then I would see the hares reappear running up and over the next stepped moraine and disappearing.  Following them, the dogs appeared though further behind, still in the hunt and then disappear. Behind them would go Will, up and over and disappear. Then again the Hares would reappear and repeat the same, Chester and Zap again and Will following. It was completely hilarious. I wish I had a movie to show you. Eventually Zap emerged off to the right side, heading back my way. He knew he was in trouble and elected to circle route himself back. I called him and as he lumbered back to me I could see Will  still running after Chester. Young Chester. Lots of energy. Will finally caught him and returned. He didn't see the humor in it at the time. I might not have if I had been the one chasing them. It was wonderful!!

Enjoy Your day!

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks 

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Patti’s Story Part 15©

On To Lake Hazen     

The terrain became easier to handle as we descended to the big Lake.There were miles of finer rock raised moraines with flat tops that stepped up again and again. These were the result of receding of glaciers over millions of years so they were not peaked like the ones we had traversed in the Rollrock Valley.
Musk Oxen Skull

The first photo is a Muskox skull. Dropping into the approach valley we had been walking along a high river bank for about 10 miles. We walked over a rise and came face to face with a lone bull Muskox. We were standing about 25’ or less apart. There was a sharp drop to the riverbed to our left. Will quickly clipped the necklines of the dogs together. They were barking and lunging so we had to calm them down and hold them back. My immediate instinct was to back up slowly and get out of his line of sight. Will, instead, wisely said we
Patti and dogs hiking lake in background
should hold our ground and stand.

Facing down a lone bull Muskox is an interesting experience. Meeting one is a very dangerous experience. Muskox horn tips are razor sharp, effective killing tools. The lone bull is an old male who has been pushed out from his herd, challenged by a younger, stronger bull. People working in the Arctic understand that these lone bulls have killed and how important it is to avoid them.

Our adversary was very excited by our appearance and became instantly aggressive. Snorting ferociously and pawing the ground it seemed as though he would charge us at any moment. I’m not sure how long it lasted though it seemed like a long time. He would lunge forward and back up. I stood there as I was instructed. Everything happened in slow motion. Will calmly spoke in quiet tones to make sure I was okay. I understood from being a dog musher that it was important not to show fear. Animals can smell fear. The stand off ended in a flash as the old boy dove over the edge of the river bank to the valley below. We ran to the edge. In an instant he was about 30 feet below us running along the river in his original direction.

You learn a lot about yourself in these kinds of circumstances. I’m laughing to myself as I write that. For those of you who have faced down a lone bull muskox, of course you understand. Laughing out Loud. Ask your questions. The answers are out there. The information will come if you are listening or if you can read and do research because it’s certainly a lot easier now with the Internet! The most difficult thing I’ve done is to build my company. Events like the Muskox changed my mindset. Almost anything is possible.

New School/Old School

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks 

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Patti's Story Part 14 ©

Rivers, Glaciers, Mountains     

In the first photo I'm sitting at the base of Rollrock Glacier.
Patti sitting at base of Glacial wall
I have my all purpose mug out for a drink of the glacial water melting down the side where I'm sitting. Incredibly amazing to be able to say that I got to do that.  I'm 64 years old now. In this picture I am 30 years old. The glaciers in these photos have dramatically receded. I'll have to do some more research on that.
Patti and dogs crossing stream

The second photo shows another river crossing. We wore tennis shoes in rubber boots for much of this trip. It was a lightweight system and worked very well. The tennis shoes dried quickly overnight. We had been carrying our hiking boots but eventually left them at one of the camps. They were heavy and never dried out. Interesting that much of the gear we assumed would work did not. You have to be open to new ideas, listen to everyone with Arctic experience!
Patti and dogs mountain background

The third photo shows the dogs and me hiking. The forth is an incredible shot of a valley of Arctic Poppies on our route as we descended to Lake Hazen.
Red flowers in Mountainous Valley
Dogs in Arctic Cotton

The last photo is one of my favorites of Zap and Blackie. Oh my noble boys! I loved those dogs. They were amazing.

Be Well ~

Patti Steger 
Steger Mukluks 

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Patti's Story Part 13 ©

Rollrock River     

The following are photos from our packing trip en route to Lake Hazen through the mountains, along the Rollrock River and around glaciers. Not much explanation is needed.
Scrambling up the side of river
Hiking along moving river
Hiking under ice bridge

Hiking up side with dogs along river
The photos show how difficult the terrain was. The title could be 'Patti and dogs hiking and scrambling along Rollrock River.' The final two are of us hiking under a huge glacial ice bridge that was formed by the rushing waters of the river. Timing in the Arctic is critical. Conditions change quickly and dramatically.

Ciao ~

Patti Steger 
Steger Mukluks 

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Patti's Story Part 12 ©

Packing 300 Miles Begins     

We spent 9 days at Tanquary Camp during which we hiked the surrounding mountains at night. The dogs needed time for their paws to heal and toughen up again. The watery trip had been hard for them.

On July 14 we were ready to go. 34 years ago to this exact week, we started the 300 mile packing trip from Tanquary Fjord north around Lake Hazen and back. I just realized that as I was looking at my calendar, calculating how many days we were on the trail. It took us 30 days, including rest days, to complete the circle route. We hiked between 10 and 15 miles each travel day.

Blackie, Zap, Oscar, Chester, Creswell portrait
Some of the dogs stayed with Sean the Camp Manager and Mary the Cook at Tanquary. We took Blackie, Zap, Oscar, Chester and Creswell. You can see them pictured here on the tundra. Handsome boys all!  Our packs were all heavily loaded as we headed out and up the Rollrock Valley, along the Rollrock River in sight of the Rollrock Glacier. The Valley was filled with Arctic Cottongrass as you can see from the second photo of me with the dog.
Patti and dogs in Arctic cotton

The first glacier we encountered was Steeprock. Steeprock and Rollrock both poured out from the mountains, into the valley and met the Rollrock River. We had some difficulty after rounding the front of Steeprock. Instead of being able to follow the riverbed we were forced to climb the rocks to the glaciers edge and hike the moraine which was not difficult once you got up there. As glaciers recede they deposit rock and sediment debris called moraines. You can see this in the third photo even though its a bit dark. This is most difficult for the dogs. We stayed together and helped them each maneuver around boulders and over the rocks. The top was fairly even and walking improved.
Hiking on glacial skree

I make a note in my journal about our amazing dogs and all they have been through. They’ve traveled in trucks and trains, been flown all over the arctic in helicopters,Twin Otters, Hercules Aircraft, commercial jets, ridden in boats, pulled sleds for thousands of miles and now they are packing through the high Arctic. The tales (tails) they could tell. An occasional pun is good.

Camp at Glacial foot
Under these rough conditions it’s necessary to continue traveling until you find a suitable place to put up a tent. Some days it’s sooner than expected and other days it seems to take a very long time. We made our camp between the glaciers along a beautiful glacial stream. I spent the evening making notes on how to improve the design of the dogpacks. We had tested them in Minnesota before leaving but it was impossible to imagine these conditions. As a designer I don’t think there has been anything I’ve ever created that I did not feel compelled to continue improving.

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Patti’s Story Part 11 ©

Scientists and Quonset Huts
Tanquary Camp is a Facility/ Camp. Back in 1982 it had one permanent quonset hut shaped metal Butler building. We didn’t measure the Butler but as I recall it was about 30’ or 40’ X 40’. The rest of the structures were quickly erected fabric shell quonset huts. Imagine a stack of large wood boxes (again all measurements are approximated ) about 16” thick, 4’ x 8’ rectangle. These boxes were opened and the process of putting the structure together would begin. They were/are a home in a box. The braces, windows, doors, shell et al are stored in the boxes. The boxes themselves become the floor and the quonset is built atop those. The fabric shell colors were dark so the insides had lights run from a generator. It was comfortable. I assumed the choice of dark fabric colors made it better for sleeping in with the 24 hour daylight.  I only saw the quonset huts assembled. The crew explained the process of putting them up and taking them down and storing them in the Butler building to me.
Tanquary Camp

Beginning in the late 19th Century, a mix of mapping expeditions and scientific expeditions began across the Arctic. In 1947 the Eureka Weather Station was established and subsequently manned. In 1957 Hazen Camp on Lake Hazen was established. In 1958, as part of the International Geophysical Year, the U.S established Drifting Stations Alpha and Bravo. Since then  scientific groups have been coming to the Arctic and Ellesmere Island to study the Geology, Botany, Climatology, Meteorology Glaciology, Ice Formation, Permafrost and Wildlife.

You can imagine, in order for this all to occur with airplanes, there is a method for leapfrogging barrels of flight fuel. We passed fuel depots during our trip. There are few of places level, solid and long enough for a plane to land. In those spots a camp went up and the fuel barrels began accumulating. It reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of Mt Everest littered with equipment and empty oxygen bottles. Wherever humans go, there seems to be litter. During this time, Canada was making an effort to document this problem and eventually clean things up.
Fuel Barrels

In the Arctic Spring, when the groups would fly into these locations, they would pack an overabundance of food, equipment and other provisions. The cost of a flight had some calculation having to do with weight transported. At the end of the summer when the groups were departing, the value of their samples and work exceeded the value of any leftover food and gear so the rocks and specimens would be loaded but the rest would be stashed in some manner.

At Tanquary Camp the sheer volume of this leftover rubbish accumulated to the point of installing the metal Butler building. It was like a grocery store. There were mountains of inedible old canned meats and  butter. If you loved noodles and rice, JACKPOT! I enjoyed some of the instant coffee left there by the more recent British TransGlobe Expedition, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The best was the Klim (milk spelled backwards). There were old cans of Klim everywhere. It was dried whole milk and while it was tough to get it mixed in well, tasted fantastic. Until recent years you could not find Klim. They had stopped making it. BUT!! right now you can go on Amazon and purchase Klim!!! 1.76 lbs. for $18.99 + shipping if you are not a member of Prime. Wonderful Klim memories.

Along with all the food were many old komatik sleds and lots of very old gear. There were Caribou hides used as sleeping mats that were shedding badly. There were useless canvas tents and ice axes for climbing. There were old snowmobiles and some kind of small tundra buggy. All of these were old and of no more use. The arctic preserves all. The summer back then ranged in temps about the same as my refrigerator so nothing except the canned meats with the lead seals were questioned.

I will repeat the Tanquary Camp picture and add one from an old Friend, Jerry Kobalenko and add his website here. He is a famous Canadian Photographer.  You’ll see that Steger Mukluks is listed as one of his many famous magazine covers. Enjoy!

The Arctic has many faces.

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ ! Get an email when a new post is made!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Patti’s Story Part 10 ©

Arriving Tanquary Fjord Camp on the 4th of July     

Good morning! Our next move was to prepare to walk the rest of the way to Tanquary Camp. In order to make the trip we had to abandon our sled. We intended to go back by boat and retrieve it later which we did. We began the long hike with backpacks on ourselves and the dogs. We each had to manage as much weight as we could carry. As part of our gear I had designed and made saddle packs for all of the dogs. It was a welcome change for them the be free of the cold water and then being loose on land! Wow! The weight they carried didn't dampen the thrill of freedom! The trek took us two long days. We three Americans and all of our American dogs except Creswell arrived at Tanquary Camp on The 4th of July! How apropos!

The Camp that was currently housing a couple dozen Canadian and European Scientists and staff members including two cooks and a Camp Manager. We received a warm welcome, especially the dogs! We were immediately invited to join them for supper. It’s always an attractive thought to me, after spending any amount of time on the trail and in tents, that I might be soon sitting in a chair. I love chairs to this day and have an unnatural attachment to them. I should design chairs instead of footwear!

We found a fairly flat spot a good distance from the main camp. When you have dogs, any barking can be an annoyance. We were always conscious of that fact. It helped that our sleep routines were opposite. We made a comfortable camp and then walked to the mess hall (quonset building) and enjoyed something more extravagant than the rice, noodles, cheese and beans we were accustomed to. We were also aware that the following day Bob would be flying out and we would be traveling alone for the foreseeable. Our last supper together. The only other American influence in this midst was a helicopter pilot named Webb who had married a Canadian woman and became Canadian. The  next morning we said our sad goodbyes and Jim Webb flew Bob back to Eureka Weather Station where he would catch a Twin Otter to Resolute Bay, then a Commercial flight from Resolute Bay to Yellowknife and on and on south. 

We spent a few days at Tanquary Camp getting to know people and preparing for the next leg of our journey, a 300 mile dog packing trip. I don’t have photos of Tanquary Camp so have grabbed one from Google images. The surrounding mountains were spectacular and I was anxious to see the terrain.   
Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ !
Get an email when a new post is made!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Patti”s Story Part 9 ©

Weathering The Storm     

On July 1st, we had miraculously crossed the big lead!  Shortly after we removed the ice screws that had secured it, it floated away.  It almost seemed like a dream. We made our camp farther on, always looking for dry ice and avoiding water. I don’t recall speaking much that evening.

The next morning we awoke to gale force winds! The ice seemed to be melting as we watched. It had been puzzled with water before but now there was so much more water. It had rained during the night, though in my fatigue I had slept through it. After a short discussion we realized we were suddenly in a race to get off the fjord and onto land!  We were still a couple of travel days away from a camp at the end of Tanquary Fjord. Travel on land would be much slower and harder. The shoreline was gravel and sand, tough to travel over with this much load.
Sawtooth mountains in background

Moving quickly we packed up. Breaking camp in high speed winds is treacherous mainly because you cannot set anything down or it will blow away. Gone. Will left early to find a route, heading out with the wind at his back. The  winds from the west were blowing the ice into the east shore. We hitched the dogs in double tandem with a long lead rope to the sled, a system that gives them more leverage under these conditions. Some of the pools of water had gotten so deep that even with all of us pushing and pulling, we had trouble getting the sled through. Concerned with deep water and having lost sight of Will, I snapped a rope onto Blackie and Buster who were leading and led the team through the maze as Bob wrangled with the heavy sled.

We were nearing the shoreline before we finally caught sight of Will. He was off to the right standing next to some heaved ice, or jumbled ice, that had been pushed into shore.  We headed towards him, pushing and pulling. That ice was our bridge to terra firma. The storm was winding down, we estimated the winds were less that 30 mph. We had traveled for about seven exhausting hours that day. Happy to be on land and safe, we found a reasonable spot and made camp, taking a well deserved rest. We were tormented throughout the 'night' by screaming Jaegers, large aggressive birds trying to drive us away. It seemed the safety of land suddenly had a cruel surprise for us.
Tent Ring

The first photo shows how deep and difficult the icy melt water had become. We struggled more and more. Spring roars in the Arctic. Streams that are ankle deep one day become impassable waist deep torrents the next. The second photo is Bob, after we reached shore, standing at the edge of an ancient tent ring. It was so remote that we assumed it was undocumented. The stones would have anchored the base of Musk Oxen hides that would have been stretched over a bone frame. The third photo is a Jaeger in flight.

Happy 5th of July!

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks

Be sure to follow / like us on Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Google+ !
Get an email when a new post is made!