Arctic Circle Trail Day 2: Who Needs a Canoe When Reindeer will do? (Lake near Quarlissiut to Just past Canoe Center on Amitsorsuaq Lake)

Arctic Circle Trail Day 2: Qarlissiut Lake to Near the Canoe Center on Lake Amitsorsuaq (highlighted in red).

Today we woke up with condensation on our tent from the moisture and rain last night. But the storm system has blown through and a clear night has meant dropping temperatures. The coolness and wet tent makes it hard to get going in the morning even though it is light by 5:30am. Although we are past the summer days of the midnight sun (and no darkness) there is still plenty of daylight this time of year. It didn’t get dark until after 9pm last night.

The sun setting at around 9pm in late August on day 1 of our Arctic Circle Trail hike.

I still wouldn’t call it complete darkness. We did not have to use our headlamps at all.

We get going by about 7:20am and stuffed our tent wet and our sleeping bags damp with a little moisture on the top. We plan on stopping later, taking a break and drying them out.

Reflection on the small pond near Qarlissiut Lake where we camped on the first night of the Arctic Circle Trail hike.

This is known as a hiker’s yard sale, when everything is strewn out on rocks and trees to dry out in the sun and breeze. We used this technique quite a bit when we hiked the Colorado Trail two years ago and had torrential rains for about 2 weeks.

Ray drying out the tent mid-morning on day 2 after getting rain on the outside of the tent and condensation on the inside of the tent on the first night.

At least it looks like it will be sunny today. Our plan is to get to near the Canoe Center on Lake Amitsorsuaq which is about 17 miles from where we are camped. Lake Amitsorsuaq is about 15 miles long and is where a company took a try at a canoe business. They bought 10 canoes, built a large cabin about 12 1/2 miles from the east end of the lake (the “Canoe Center”) and tried to rent them out to hikers. The business failed but the canoes are still there. It is a rite of passage and a desire by most Arctic Circle Trail hikers to get a canoe and paddle along the lake instead of hiking around it.

Ten canoes have been left on Lake Amitsorsuaq and are available to paddle, if they are at the end of the lake when you get there. Many of them are beat up with dents and have been patched with duck tape like the one in this picture.

From the Katiffik Hut which is on the east end of the lake to the canoe center is about 12 miles. Of course this means that someone has to come in the opposite direction and paddle the canoe back.

Katiffik Hut in the foreground with Amitsorsuaq Lake behind it.
The Katiffik Hut on the East End of Amitsorsuaq Lake.

Most ACTers hike the direction we are hiking which is Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut so I can envision canoes on the far side of the lake with not many people to paddle them back. Ray and I are open to whatever happens. If a canoe is on shore at the Katiffik hut we will take it. If not, we are fine hiking.

Yay, we have a sunny day on Arctic Circle Trail Day 2

And hike we do. We get to the east end of Amitsorsuaq Lake where the Katiffik Hut is locate. Nope. No canoes. We begin the long, wind around the lake. It is a beautiful day and we enjoy the sunny weather and marvel at the geology. We see a huge recumbent fold in the gneiss and evidence of thrust faults.

Thrust fault and recumbent fold in the metamorphic gneissic rocks. The yellow straight line shows the thrust fault where older rocks have been compressed and pushed over younger rocks. The fold is also highlighted in yellow and is considered recumbent because it’s axial plane is parallel to the horizontal plane.

The thrust fault and folding of rock speak of a turbulent time. Such a violent past for a peaceful place. It is the way of the world: violent and peace, light and darkness, warmth and cold, earth and sky.

Hiking along Amitsorsuaq Lake. This is one of my favorite photos from Ray because of the colors.

It is so quiet here. Perhaps it is because Greenland is so far north there are no planes flying over head. Even when we are out in quiet places in the USA like the Sierras or the Grand Canyon there are flights overhead. It becomes part of the background noise. But there is nothing flying overhead here. Greenland is vast and isolated.

Interesting patterns along the shoreline of Amitsorsuaq Lake. Ridges of rock stick out into the lake in a consistent pattern. These were likely formed first as polygons above the permafrost layer, and then modified from wave action in the lake.

Even the sound of water is quiet. No babbling brooks, roaring streams or thundering waterfalls. The lakes are isolated here, one after another with small saddles of dry land between them.

Isolated Lakes without inlets or outlets. These lakes were left over from after the ice sheet retreated 20,000 years ago.

By late in the afternoon, we can see the Canoe Center which is about 12 miles from the beginning of the lake where we started at the Katiffik Hut. We have been hiking along the lake most of the day. We stop to observe a reindeer coming towards us. This isn’t the first reindeer we have seen on this trip but this one is coming towards us on the trail.

The wind is blowing right towards him and we are talking to him to let him know that we are here. But he keeps coming and we move off the trail to let him pass. Most of the reindeer we have seen trot off once they know we are there. I’m not sure why this one doesn’t respond to us. He seems to be an old male. Is he blind and deaf? Or just doesn’t care?

This reindeer did not seem too concerned that we were so close.

It is an interesting ecosystem in Greenland where there are not any major predators for the reindeer. The polar bears are in Greenland but they only prey on the seals and are mainly found on the ice shelf. In the United States, depending on where you are at there are bears, mountain lions, and wolves that prey on large animals such as elk and deer. For the reindeer, it is only man and mosquitoes. Yes, mosquitoes. They can take 3/4 of a liter of blood from a reindeer in a day which is enough to kill a newborn reindeer. The mosquitoes can be deadly up here but luckily for us, it is fall here and after “mosquito season”. We have not had to use our bug nets yet.

The Canoe Center on Amitsorsuaq Lake.

Eventually we get to the Canoe Center. It is a well built shelter that can hold up to 16 people. We take a look inside but there is a strong smell of garbage and a large trash bag full of trash. I’m not sure why people leave stuff here. It is not like there is garbage pickup. Leave no trace principles are not well established here.

There are two dormitories at the Canoe Center with enough bunk beds for 16 people.

Ray and I decide to camp even though we know it will be cold tonight because it is a sunny and clear day. We find a nice spot along the beach about a 1/2 mile past the Canoe Center and settle in for the evening.

Campsite Day 2 Arctic Circle Trail.

Daily Data and Feature Map

August 29, 2019
17.8 miles today
40.3 miles total
919 feet ascent
1150 feet descent
People seen on the trail: 5 (all from Germany), Trip total: 18


  1. You’ve certainly been putting in a fair amount of mileage. I agree, the distances are not long but terrain makes the easy mileage a bit more challenging. And yes, even the water is quiet. Hard to explain-such silence. Looks like the canoes took a beating even from when we were there in July. Thanks for letting us tag along with you on shore.

    1. The silence was the best part. I thought about it the whole trip. The terrain does make the hiking challenging there but there is lots of daylight to hike in the summer!

  2. Yes-the quiet! That also struck us everyday-how absolutely silent it was-so amazing! Love that you are adding in some geological history for us uninitiated-very interesting 🙂

  3. Unbelievably stunning landscape – your photos are the stuff of Nat-Geo! And what terrific documentation, I feel like I’m right there with you. Well, apart from the fact that I am warm, well-sheltered and quite far from any reindeer! You two are something else.

  4. Greenland certainly sounds like a strange place. It was on a “blue sky” day that you saw your rain, dear?

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