Carefully trying to pick my way across a marsh, I sink into a deep pocket of mud up to my shins. This wet terrain is a regular hazard on the Arctic Circle Trail.
NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Packing/Logistics
Hiking Distance 16 km (10 miles) | 6 hours
The Greenlandic morning is dark & wet with heavy fog at 8am when I begin packing my gear for the next leg of the Arctic Circle Trail. Luckily most of the day will be hiking downhill out of the mountains.
Stuffing dry kindling from my failed fire attempt under a rock for the next hiker to use, I gradually make my way into a valley lined with small lakes and cotton grass blowing in the wind.
Eventually the fog clears and I spot reindeer grazing in the hills beside me. Then another arctic hare. There are so many wild animals roaming Greenland!
Nerumaq hut is not far away, and I stop to take a short nap due to lack of sleep the night before. Today will be a long day on the trail and I’ll need all the energy I can get.
Moving quite fast now, at this pace I should finish by tomorrow evening. My backpack is exponentially lighter having eaten most of the food I began with.
The Arctic Circle Trail threads through a patch of dwarf willow trees, the tallest are only about 6 feet high. It’s the largest forest I’ve seen since arriving in Greenland last week. Trees don’t grow well in the arctic tundra.
More and more rivers snake their way down from the mountains across my path, some with small waterfalls. Most are easily crossed by rock-hopping.
The trail becomes wet & swampy again. The weather worsens.
In fact now it’s raining. I still haven’t found the next hut. Fog moves in and the sky darkens. While I’d love a dry place to sleep tonight, it looks like I’ll have to pitch camp in the rain.
I curl into my sleeping bag and snack on dried fish — washing it down with the last of my potent Greenlandic schnapps in an attempt to stay warm.
Hiking Distance 22 km (14 miles) | 8 hours
The next morning I prepare for what will hopefully be the final day of trekking. Right away my feet are sucked deep into bog mud, up to my shins. Not a good way to start!
Climbing a hill I soon discover the Tulleq hut I’d been searching for the night before. Ahhhhh! Only 10 more minutes and I would have enjoyed a solid roof over my head.
The trail rises back into the mountains through a high rocky valley, with views of snow covered peaks on either side. I find the remains of dog sledding equipment scattered about.
Hiking through boulder fields alongside a small river, crossing it a few times before coming to a wide open valley called Nasaasaaq. Jagged mountains can been seen in the distance.
Trekking down into this beautiful valley, I spy something large, shaggy, and brown moving across the trail. It’s a musk ox!
The musk ox is Greenland’s largest land mammal weighing up to 400 kilos (880 lbs). These huge shaggy creatures are related to goats, but look more like buffalo to me.
I watched a group of them from a distance earlier that week, but this bull was only 50 yards away — blocking the path ahead. The Greenlandic name for them, Umimmak, means “the long-bearded one”.
Musk oxen are an important source of meat and wool for native Greenlanders. You have to be careful not to get too close or they can charge.
Eventually this one smelled me & ran up a mountain. I don’t blame it.
After passing an out-of-place ski lift, I round a corner to find the Arctic Ocean. Perched on the edge is the colorful fishing town of Sisimiut.
Success! I made it! I hike into town past hundreds of barking sled dogs feeling on top of the world. My feet ache. My body is exhausted. Yet I can’t stop smiling.
Trekking for 10 days across the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland’s wilderness was a rewarding adventure travel experience.
I’d lived off the land eating berries & mushrooms, saw all kinds of cool wildlife, camped under the stars, and spent time alone with my thoughts surrounded by nature. It was my personal version of into the wild.
To celebrate the end of my long journey I checked into a fancy hotel, boots still caked in mud. Jumping into a hot shower for 20 minutes with a cold beer. Followed by a delicious musk ox steak dinner with Greenlandic coffee.
Damn it felt good to be back in civilization!
The next 4 days were spent walking around Sisimiut, hanging out with other hikers & a group of theater actors from Norway & Denmark. We danced to Greenlandic hip hop & learned about Inuit culture.
Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and reconnecting with nature in the wilderness has been the highlight of my travel year so far.