Sunday, February 24, 2013

winter hike to the old stone church ruins

We decided to go for a nice little hike across the bay on Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely sunny day. Of course, it was also -50°C with the windchill, but if you want to hike in warm weather in Cambridge Bay, you might have to wait possibly forever.  Besides, -50°C was a tad bit warmer than the -55°C it's been all week.

We had heard that there was the ruins of an old stone church on the other side of the bay, and we figured it might be a fun place to explore and have a little mid-winter picnic.  Our route took us right over the frozen Arctic Ocean, which was pretty cool.

"Do you think the ice will be frozen enough?" said my colleague when we planned the trip.  I held my breath. Then everyone burst out laughing.  The ice is frozen enough in November. The ice is frozen enough in April. The ice is always frozen enough. It's hard to believe there's a whole ocean under there.

setting off on our hike

this looks like a big field of snow, but this is actually the frozen Arctic Ocean. You can see my little town of Cambridge Bay off in the distance.

And so we set off. There wasn't a clearly marked trail or anything to follow - with a wide expanse of nothingness, you can pretty much just make your own path to your destination, as long as you keep an eye on the direction you're heading for.

It was a beautiful hike. The wind had traces intricate patterns in the snow, and you could see little rabbit footprints, followed by much larger footprints of bigger, possibly hungrier animals.  The snow on the ice wasn't very deep, and our footsteps made an interesting hollow crunching sound as though we were walking on styrofoam.  It kind of felt like we were walking on a big styrofoam moon. With my thick Canada Goose jacket, triple layer of long johns, jeans, and snowpants, plus my huge Baffin moonboots, I kind of felt like an astronaut, walking on a heavy planet.

the wreck of an old boat that used to belong to a missionary, decades ago

this motor boat is also frozen into the snow, but I suspect someone actually uses it in the summer.

Finally, as we crossed the bay, we caught sight of the old stone church, and made our way up the hill.

The town of Cambridge Bay used to be located here, where the ruins are, before it was all moved to the other side of the bay. The church was built in the 1950s out of the materials that they had available there: frost shattered rocks held together with seal oil and clay. Some years ago, somebody set fire to the church to destroy it, and now all that remains is the foundation and the walls.

you can see the town in the background

Gloria the Explorer

Rob, also looking like an Arctic explorer

It was a lovely spot to take a break from our hike. We re-fuelled on some nice hot crowberry tea and a bite of fresh bannock baked by a local Inuk lady, before heading back home over the bay.