We went for a hike at Atigun Gorge today. While it was frigid and windy, it was breathtaking in beauty. It also highlighted the fact that the tundra looks very level and easy to walk on when you look at it in pictures, but it's anything but that! There was a lot of slugging through small ponds, and moss and peat that give way by six inches. All of the greenery is also about six to eighteen inches high, so with each step we had to lift our feet very high. We also covered a significant number of hills with elevation. After all of that for about eight miles or five hours, we're all exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep.
In Toolik Atigun Gorge is known for its fossil bed and quartz geodes. While geologists aren't very interested in it, we had a great time running around the ridge finding them just laying around. Most of the fossils were brachiopods (hardshell creatures similar to clams), but someone did find some coral as well. Dr. Bret-Harte told us that this area contained fossils from the Devonian Era, which ranged from 419.2 million years ago to 358.9 million years ago.
In terms of animal sightings, they were few and far between. Even songbirds were infrequent. We did see some Dall sheep across the gorge, but we could only identify them with binoculars. We enjoyed looking for vole "highways" which are small routes that they take to move from one burrow to another. We saw a few, but they moved very fast, and I couldn't get any pictures. We also noticed many tracks of different animals, including grizzly bear, wolf, and sheep.