While a lot of our time anchored near Barrow was filled with sailing and socializing, we also enjoyed some great land-based outdoor experiences: hiking, bird watching, driving around on ATVs, and watching an incredible dog team on their summer exercises. Here are some photos from the “top of the world”, as Barrow calls itself!
We really enjoyed hiking around Point Barrow, along both beaches and tundra, always on the look out for Arctic birds! We were really excited to spot a flock of phalaropes doing their characteristic “spinning” behavior in the shallows, churning up the water for food.
They were no longer in breeding plumage – maybe a sign we should be on our way back south! – so it was tough to determine whether they were red phalaropes or red-necked phalaropes. Any birders out there who might be able to help us? Here are a couple of shots of them – let us know what you think in the comments below! Thanks!
We were also keeping a sharp eye out for polar bears, although it wasn’t likely we’d see one. Certainly wouldn’t want to come upon one suddenly, though!! (As it happened, we didn’t see any, but can’t be too careful.)
Our friends Craig and Cyd very nicely loaned us an ATV to travel the 10 miles into town from our anchorage, and also to explore the dirt roads and tundra around Barrow. It made a huge difference and we got to see a lot that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
We took it out to a big tundra pond where we could walk around looking for more birds…
…and where we saw the most immense flocks of long-tailed ducks, brants, and white-fronted geese starting to migrate south. It was only mid-August but it certainly gave us pause – it was time to stop playing in Barrow and start planning the return voyage through the rowdy seas we’d come by.
One of the highlights of borrowing the ATV was getting to drive alongside our friend Geoff’s sled dog team as they did their summer exercises, pulling Geoff’s ATV. These dogs are the grandsons and granddaughters of a team that Geoff actually took all the way to the North Pole! Such an incredible feat in so many ways – the extreme cold, the stamina, the organization, on and on! Geoff’s dog team is the only one still left in Barrow.
When it came time to get ready to leave and thus to return Craig and Cyd’s ATV, we all drove out to Celeste together, stopping on the way to re-set their fish net that they use for subsistence salmon fishing. It was another glorious day, sunny, calm, and a little over 40 degrees. It seemed like all of Barrow was at the beach, fishing, hunting ducks, and barbecuing! Summer in the Arctic!
We had one more stop to make before departing for the return passage – an island about 50 miles east that Craig had repeatedly recommended – but we were already listening closely to the extended forecast, hoping not to get a beating in the Chukchi Sea.