Arctic Circle Trail Day 3: Just Tell Him It Is a Desert (Canoe Center on Lake Amitsorsuaq to Ikkattooq Hut)

Arctic Circle Trail Day 3: Near Canoe Center on Amitsorsuaq Lake to Ikkattooq Hut

“You prospectors for Trump?” asked the short Czech guy with the pack as big as he was and a white buff with wolverine prints on his head. Ray and I both emphatically say no but we are met with suspicion. We did not tell him we were geologists. It is bad enough being Americans right now.

Pink sapphires! So exciting to see these gem stones (though they are not gem quality) and, no, we are not prospectors for Trump. We are just geologists enjoying rocks and minerals.

President Trump last week declared he wanted to buy Greenland then cancelled a trip to Denmark when the Danish Prime Minister said the idea was absurd. This all just happened right before Ray and I came here. Of course Trump can’t really buy Greenland (see but it does have extensive minerals and natural resources that are ripe for exploration (see

Trump declaring his desire to buy Greenland was the big news when we were in Greenland.

We only knew one person from the USA that had been to Greenland before we went on this hike and no one we know ever talks about coming here. Now it is all over the news. Great timing right?

A typical cairn marking the Arctic Circle Trail.

Up until we met the Czechs, our 3rd day on the Arctic Circle Trail had been a perfect Arctic day. It had been clear and cold last night so it was a little hard to get out of our sleeping bags. We didn’t get as early a start as we are used to, starting down the trail at around 7:15am but it was sunny and crispy clear. Both of us initially had cold hands that took a while to warm up even with gloves on. It definitely got below freezing last night.

It was cold enough last night that water was partly frozen in the bogs.

But the sky is so clear and with the brilliant fall colors and the warming sun, we are soon in wonderland practically skipping through the arctic muskeg and bogs.

Labrador Tea is common in the peat bogs of Greenland and is made into a tea.

We finally got to the end of Lake Amitsorsuaq which we had been hiking past for most of yesterday and headed up a low pass between Lake Amitsorsuaq and Lake Tasersuaq.

The low pass between Amitsorsuaq Lake and Lake Tasersuaq.

Soon we are distracted and down on our hands and knees picking rock cranberries, crow berries and blueberries which brighten our breakfast for the next few days.

The arctic tundra was full of berries when we were there at the end of August and beginning of September. Here I am holding a mix of crow berries (larger black ones), rock cranberries (red ones) and blueberries (smaller blue ones).

The blueberries are definitely a week or two past their prime and the few we collect are drying out and a little wrinkly. But the crow berries and rock cranberries are hitting their prime.

Rock cranberries growing amongst the sphagnum mosses.

I wonder about the critters that eat them. There are no grizzlies, black bears, coyotes, or other smaller critters except for arctic foxes out here. The blueberry bushes are abundant and cover large areas of the tundra. Who eats them? We see a flock of ravens and wonder if they eat berries. Is that why the blackish berries are called “crow” berries?

Crow berries

It is late morning when we run into the two guys from the Czech Republic giving us a hard time about President Trump. They are the first people we have seen today. We have hiked about seven miles and are just about to drop down to the Kangerluatsiarsuaq Bay which has a beautiful sandy beach.

The beautiful beach in Kangerluatsiarsuaq Bay.

“Just tell him it’s a desert” says the second guy from the Czech Republic. Ray and I chuckle at this comment with a picture of the Sahara desert in our minds. Actually, though, his comment is close to the truth. Much of northern Greenland is classified as an arctic desert with less than 10 inches of precipitation per year, and an average mean temperature in the warmest month of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Close to the ice sheet, where we started our hike, is also considered a polar desert.

Polar Desert near the Greenland Ice Sheet

Here, though, as we get closer to the ocean and more distant from the ice sheet, it is too warm with more precipitation to be considered a desert. Here we are in the subarctic zone.

Hiking through dwarf birch and northern willow in the subarctic zone. The dwarf birch is a brilliant maroon red in the Fall.

The rest of the day we spend climbing up several cliffs and reach a high area on a ridge that has been hydrothermally altered with extensive faulting. The geology is complex and fascinating here. It is in this area we find the pink sapphires that are not of gem quality but gem stones nevertheless.

A fault plane (cliff in photo) exposes an older folding event. Hot fluids migrated along these fault planes at depth creating rare minerals and gemstones.
Pink sapphires along the fault zone.

By mid-afternoon we reach the Ikkatooq hut. It is cozy and small but can hold 6 people. It is also well-taken care of, fairly clean and no one else is here.

Ray’s Hyperlite 3400 pack in front of the Ikkattooq Hut.

We discuss going on a few more miles or stopping here. We have hiked 14.8 miles so far today and there is a large river crossing about 3 miles ahead. We discuss pros and cons of crossing the river today or tomorrow. We know we will be getting our feet wet and decide it would be better to cross in the morning where there is a higher likelihood of getting our shoes and socks dried out. Besides, we like this cabin.

Home for the evening at the Ikkattooq Hut.

Daily Data and Feature Map

August 30, 2019
14.8 miles today
55.1 total miles total
1710 feet ascent
1095 feet descent
People seen on the trail: 4 new (all from Czech Republic) and Felix and Nina from Germany whom we have been leapfrogging along the trail with for the past 2 days.
Canoe Center Amitsorsuaq Lake to Ikkattooq Hut


  1. Hi!
    I am so thrilled after reading your article.
    I just returned from greenland, myself. And i did enjoy every bit of it.
    But what you explain here… I simply miss being in your company for this greenland excursion.

    I d be returning to greenland in the year to come, as i d love to explore it more!

  2. A fault in fold, then hydrothermally altered making sub-gem quality sapphires. A Trumpeting intrusion. To me it all sounds rather synchronous. And that the Czechs would feel comfortable playing with you speaks to how wonderful and embracing this beautiful land you walked through must be. And how approachable you two are while in your Wildwood weeds. I am honored to be your nearby neighbor, or at least during the rare times that you are home!

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