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

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