Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tuesday June 30, 1998 - Dempster Highway

Peel River ferry - sunny and warm

Now I am waiting for the Peel River ferry, the river is a lot calmer than it was the last time. They are grading the approach to the ferry.

This morning I had a cup of coffee with the Gwich'in elder, Robert Alexie Sr, who operates the Nitainlii Camp. He told me stories about the unusually early spring breakup and caribou return.
He said that the guy who ferried us across the Peel River last week was new, only one week on the job, and his boss was pretty mad at him when he heard that he'd gone ahead and ferried us across. It was very dangerous.

Robert offered me a certificate for the Order of Arctic Adventurers, Arctic Circle Chapter. I said I already had one from the Inuvik Visitor Centre and he grinned at me.

"Wouldn't you rather have one signed by a Gwich'in elder?"

I agreed that that would be superior so he signed one and gave it to me. He asked what day I crossed the Arctic Circle and put that date on my certificate.

I went into Fort McPherson to see the Tent and Awning Factory and the Grave of the Lost Patrol. I can see where this would be a very muddy town in the spring!

At the factory they just got new embroidery thread so the prices on their embroidered bags has been raised and they don't have any unembroidered stock. Oh well. I saw Liz and Clem's names in the factory guest book, I guess they were in yesterday.

I also went to the cemetery where the Lost Patrol are buried.

In 1910 a party of four RCMP constables set out on the winter solstice from Fort McPherson headed to Dawson, an 800 km trip. Setting out in the dead of winter was a mistake, so was dismissing their Dene guide when they left the Richardson Mountains, and not going back when they first realized they were lost was the last mistake. Their bodies were found the following spring just 40 km out of Fort McPherson, and their diaries told a terrible tale. Three died of starvation and the fourth shot himself. They had eaten their dogs.

Fort McPherson cemetery
The town is fairly typical, dusty with boardwalk sidewalks and large square houses. In the cemetery all of the graves have white picket fences, I've seen that a lot in Haida Gwaii, northern BC and the territories.

Yukon border

The border between the Yukon and the NWT is very bleak. There are no trees and it is very windy. I can hear birdsong but cannot see any birds, they must be in the low bushes. Creeks are tiny but frequent. Muskeg.

I stopped because I saw a hovering bird—hawk-sized, with a white head and a very long narrow tail. I don't know what it is and it flew away when I let Yohan out of the truck. I stopped in the middle of the road, didn't bother to pull over. This could be the end of the world, no radio, no nothing.

Rock Creek

Stopped on Eagle Plains by a creek with the Richardson Mountains on the east. There is less wind here and good sized trees in the creek ravine. Willows too. There were three fish in the creek catching insects in a pond on the downstream side of the culvert under the road. They might be Grayling: 10-12" long, brown-gray very ordinary looking fish.

Ogilvie-Peel Viewpoint

Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle outhouses, held down by cables
I stopped briefly at the Arctic Circle and then passed through the town of Eagle Plains around 2 pm.

The great metropolis of Eagle Plains, pretty much all of it
The girl at the gas station remembered me, she said, "You got through just in time" referring to the last time, because they closed the road the next morning.

Old forest fire
Since then I've been driving through forest, half of it burned. Now I am at the edge of the Ogilvie Mountains after driving a treeless ridge with a great view. I saw none of this on the way up. All I remember about the Ogilvie-Peel Viewpoint on the way up is the driving rain and the outhouses. I never saw the mountains.

Yohan and the Ogilvie Mountains
Well, onward we go. It's 5.15 pm and I don't think I'll make Dawson tonight. There's lots more traffic now: semis, RVs, cars and trucks mostly headed north; a few trucks headed south.

Black spruce, fireweed and foxtail grass along the roadside
North of North Fork Pass

There are washouts and mudslides all the way from the Ogilvie-Peel Viewpoint to here, a little north of the North Fork Pass. Mostly on Engineer Creek.

I think this is where the mudslide I encountered last week was

Debris in the river
There are lots of uprooted trees on the gravel bars in the river, caved-in riverbanks from being undercut by high water and a large section of the road that was originally built right in an old creek bed that is now completely washed out. It is just rough rock now, they haven't finished repairing it.

There are road repair machines and trucks all along this section and a a few men working. The first one I met told me what to expect for the next 20 km or so. He said there was a rock elephant on the mountain skyline a little ways down the road but I couldn't see it.

I saw a black bear by the road and a moose way off in the distance (with my binoculars). At first it just looked like a rock until I looked more closely with the binocs. It was just munching away. It looked up when I started the truck to drive away but didn't appear concerned.

My campsite for the night, Middle-of-Nowhere, Yukon Territory
I stopped around 9 pm in a little pull-out next to the road with a great view of the mountains, a creek, and only a few mosquitoes.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Monday June 29, 1998 - Fort McPherson

On the Arctic Red River ferry
I guess we all decided to leave today. Liz and Clem and I went into one of the Inuvik hotels for a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and coffee. We exchanged addresses and said good bye. I did some more email at the Inuvik Research Centre which was very busy today, shopped around for souvenirs and checked at the Visitor Centre for highway news. The highway officially opens at noon tomorrow, so at 2.30 pm I set out for Fort McPherson.

There was a Gwich'in guy at the Arctic Red River ferry looking for radiator stop leak, which kind of scared me. I hope he found some. Somebody told me though that you could use black pepper instead of stop leak, so I thought that might not be so bad.

There is supposed to be a fee for the Nitainlii campground but I have not seen anyone yet. A few trucks drove through but did not stay. The frappe-a-bord are dying down and now there are a few mosquitoes but not many. It's a good campsite.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sunday June 28, 1998 - Inuvik

Chuk camp
Chuk Camp - windy, warm and sunny

I decided not to go anywhere today, did some mending instead. Margaret suggested that we have a potluck supper in the camp so we walked around to all the campsites inviting everyone. I met the American couple from Texas and a Canadian couple from New Mexico.  The Texans were famous in Chuk camp because they had the biggest RV rig and Liz and Clem were inside it once and reported that they even had a jacuzzi bathtub. They hardly ever emerged because of the bugs. We had fewer bugs than the Happy Valley camp but that doesn't mean we didn't have any. The worst were the bulldog horseflies, or frappe-a-bord as Clem called them. Very large and very aggressive; they make ordinary horseflies in the south seem like harmless house flies in comparison.

I enjoyed spending time with a couple from Austria just down the hill from my campsite, Gert and Helga Pader. They were outrageously funny. Very dry wit and a constant stream of funny remarks. Not very good English, but what they knew they used well. Gert is a software engineer. Like many Europeans they get long vacation times every year and they are using theirs to explore North America. They fly to some major city on the continent, buy an old car and then travel for several weeks before selling the car and flying home. this year they are doing the North. 

They were anxious to get out of here to sell their car and fly home, so when the girl in the camp office reported today that the Peel River ferry was now open they were packed and gone within fifteen minutes. I inherited all their kindling, a dozen eggs and 2 litres of milk. Another couple from Whitehorse and fellow who was travelling with his Dad also packed up and left. The father-son duo had a tiny pickup truck like mine and they never came out of it because of the frappe-a-bord. I don't know how they could stand being cooped up in their little truck all day every day.
In spite of all the departures the potluck was a success. The Texans did not come but everyone else who had not left for the ferry did come. Margaret made deer meat stew, Liz did the fish, bannock and spotted dick pudding, Jack and Jackie (the New Mexico Canadians) made cookies and so did the young couple with two dogs. They also brought scalloped potatoes and onions done in foil. I'll have to try that.

Vern, the camp operator, has been giving me a deal on the camp fee but tonight the girl is collecting so I am paying full fee for the first time. Vern gave me Saturday for free and charged $10 for the other nights. $12 is the regular fee.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Saturday June 27, 1998 - Inuvik

Hanging out at Liz and Clem's campsite
Chuk Camp - cloudy, cool and windy

The people from Vancouver Island decided to try their luck and leave for the Dempster. Clem and Liz told me about their trip to Tuk and fed me a big breakfast of eggs, pancakes and coffee.

They said that Tuktoyaktuk consisted of a bunch of shacks, an expensive craft shop, a few government offices, and a caribou soup meal. As the trucker at the Peel River ferry said, "I'd as soon cook my runners as eat caribou soup". What the locals there have to say about native life is nothing more than I know already. Do I sound cynical? Life in most northern towns is pretty much reduced to tourism when the primary resource industries are gone. It used to be oil and gas exploration here and mining in the Yukon, but that's pretty much gone now. The Indians and Eskimo (so far all the native people I've talked to refer to themselves as "Indian" or "Eskimo") hunt, fish and trap and whatever else comes their way. Liz said she was shocked by how bad the kids' teeth were there. A lot of pop and chips; as the trucker at the Peel River ferry said, it's an essential service there.

I told Liz and Clem I'd share whatever fish I caught on my big fishing trip and left to meet my guide Alvin.

Alvin is a 39 year old Inuvialuit man who sets a net on Airport Lake for white fish, but as it turns out knows nothing at all about rod fishing for trout or pike. He put snare wire on my fishing line as a leader in case I caught a pike. We tried several places: in a creek, at a creek mouth, on the lake. I tangled my line several times but gradually got the hang of casting, which after three hours you'd think so. Alvin showed me an eagle's nest on a cliff and told me about the eagle chick in it. He walks along the top of the cliff and climbs down to the nesst to see the chick every day. He leaves fish for it. While I was casting, he was cleaning the white fish he took from his net that morning. He said if I didn't catch anything he'd give me some.

While we were out in the lake floating around in his boat, we chatted. Alvin asked me questions about my travels and told me he once lived in Hay River. I asked him what he was doing there. Long pause, then he said, "I was a bad boy." Later he said they fished and hunted and had satellite TV, "it hardly seemed like jail at all." He liked Hay River. I was there once and hated it; I guess I should have known that the Hay River jail was the place to be. Didn't ask what he did to go to jail, alone in a boat with him I didn't really want to know.

Alvin spent a lot of time untangling my fishing line; he said he would like to just cut off the tangles and keep them as souvenirs of me.

We went to Moe's cabin for a lunch of instant rice, smoked white fish, bannock and tea. Alvin lives in Moe's cabin. He's actually not allowed to be here, this is Gwichin territory and he is Inuvialuit. He should be fishing further north but he says it's too far to go so Moe lets him stay here and turns a blind eye. The sun was up and it was getting pretty hot, I was worried about Yohan shut up in the truck so I wanted to go back. Alvin gave me some bannock and white fish fillets, and smoked white fish for Yohan. I didn't much like the smoked white fish so I was going to give it to the dog, but it turned out Yohan didn't like it either. Alvin smoked it himself so I didn't tell him I didn't like it and was planning to give it to Yohan.

Liz cooked the white fish for me, we had white fish, rice, cabbage and custard for supper. There was lots of fish left over but we ate all of the bannock. We stayed up well past midnight talking. I love there camping van, if I ever bought an RV or camping van I'd like to get one like theirs. They have hookups so they can cook inside or outside under an awning, so cooking smelly fish doesn't stink up the inside sleeping area. The van is wide enough for their bed to be crosswise instead of lengthwise and there is a raised roof for headroom. They also have a vertical windbreak that attaches to the awning making a second wall.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Friday June 26, 1998 - Inuvik

Chuk Camp - sunny and hot

Liz and Clem went to Tuk with Margaret and George, the couple from Saskatchewan. I took my laundery into town. I went back to Moe's Stationery to make arrangements for a fishing trip. Moe had a guide lined up for me, I was to meet Alvin at Airport Lake at 11 am on Saturday, for $50.

I went to the Inuvik Research Centre to do some email, it turns out you can get unlimited access for free there. On the way I met Gert and Helga, an Austrian couple at Chuk Camp, and told them about the free access so Gert came along too. The librarian there helped him setup a Hotmail account. She asked him how long he was staying in town and he grinned and said, "Bad joke!" None of us know and none of us are happy about it! When the librarian wasn't there someone came in wanting to buy a poster. Gert offered to sell it to him, and said he'd split the profit with me. The guy said "I heard that!" and left.

Later when I got back to camp the two couples from Vancouver Island invited me for beer and chips and we talked about their travels to Haida Gwaii and also Newfoundland. It seemed like the two couples were going to all the same places. Liz and Clem got back from Tuk but I was busy getting supper and then it started to rain and so everyone went to bed early. One of the returnees from town said that they had heard that the Arctic Red River ferry had reopened and we wondered if the highway would open early too.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Thursday June 25, 1998 - Inuvik

Igloo Church in Inuvik
Chuk Camp - sunny and hot

Yohan seems better; he ate the chicken I saved for him and is walking around.  But even though it's a bright sunny day and Yohan is better, and I'm having all these adventures, I'm having a 'blonde day' (Liz's term; she apparently does not think highly of blondes). Clem and Liz play cribbage (they have a cribbage sticker on their van) so I might suggest a game to them tonight.

Liz is also having kind of a blonde day because they had signed up for a tour of Tuk today, but they got bumped from the flight. Liz is pissed off. They are going tomorrow, if the tour people don't screw it up. We went up the Chuk viewing tower to look at the Mackenzie Delta. We could see the Richardson Mountains, but not Aklavik.
Liz at the Viewing Tower
I went into town to send some more email, wrote to one friend about how discouraged and lonely I was feeling. Then I went to the Visitor Centre to enquire about fishing, and the guy there sent me to Moe's Stationery next to the Cafe Gallery. He also told me the latest news about the Dempster; it will be closed until July 2nd, a week from now. They will be escorting people out of Eagle Plains tomorrow, but you can't get there from here because the Arctic Red River ferry is shut down due to debris in the river coming from the south.

The Utilidor connecting Inuvik homes
This will be the longest I have stayed anywhere, and not by choice!

Ran into "Greasy Stick" and a German woman at Moe's and we chatted for awhile. His real name is Joel and she is Judith. I gather they hooked up at the dinner theatre last night. He said he was going to Alaska in his van. He plays fiddle and says he hopes he is retired.

After talking to Moe about a possible fishing trip I went back to camp. Liz invited me to have a beer and later supper, it was nice. A guy who came up the Dempster after it was closed down dripped by to show us photos of the washouts. Pretty incredible, the road is definitely shot to hell. Someone said it was on the CBC news today.

Looks like I'll have to do a laundery, I am running out of clean clothes. I'm not real happy about being stuck here but really it is an opportunity to catch up on things I meant to do but haven't done.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wednesday June 24, 1998 - Inuvik

Sign on the road into Inuvik
Chuk Camp - cloudy and cold

I slept in, had a nice hot shower in the camp washroom and a late breakfast of oatmeal. I paid for a second night (still $10!) and drove into town in the afternoon. At the Inuvik Visitor Centre I learned that the Dempster Highway was closed until at least Saturday or Sunday, maybe longer. I visited the Cafe Gallery and the Library where I sent a bunch of "Stranded in Inuvik" emails to friends in the south. At the front door of the library was a sign asking you to take your shoes off before entering. Apparently so many people track in gravel stuck in the treads of their boots or runners that it was making a mess of the floor. You get one hour free per day of internet time, but it was a slack time so the librarian seemed amenable to bending the rules. I could stay on the computer until someone showed up wanting to get on.

There are two campgrounds in Inuvik, Chuk Camp on a hill overlooking the town and Happy Valley camp right in the town. I was told that I picked the right camp because Happy Valley is very buggy, Like Caribou Camp that I visited yesterday. Because Chuk Camp is on a hill it catches the breeze and that keeps the bugs down.

Yohan is unwell. He doesn't want to eat and just doesn't look healthy. I left him in the truck all day. When I returned to camp I spoke to Liz and Clem about Yohan, Clem wanted to examine him. Clem is a retired gastro-enterological surgical assistant (GSA) with, as he puts it, a 'psycho' knack, which among other things apparently means he understands sick animals (and humans). I brought Yohan to their campsite (I drove over) and Clem 'examined' Yohan. He was extremely gentle, Yohan appeared to pour his heart out to him and said that Yohan was very sad, very anxious, but the worst thing wrong with him was his age. Clem's wife Liz thinks Yohan is just having a bad arthritis day. Clem thought that as long as Yohan was drinking water he would probably be okay.

As a consolation to all of us who are "stranded" in Inuvik, the town invited us to a special dinner theatre production. The play was called East Three, it was about the history of Inuvik which was originally called East Three. Inuvik was created to replace Aklavik which was prone to flooding. Engineers surveyed six potential townsites, three on the west side of the Mackenzie delta and three on the east side. East Three was the final choice. Kind of symbolic because this area is the meeting place of three races: Indian (Gwich'in), Inuit (Inuvialuit) and European-descent.

I went to it with Liz and Clem, there were people there from both campgrounds. The play was very good and there was also a skit using members of the audience as the characters in the skit.  Liz got to play "Pearl", the man in the next campsite to me played "Bubbles" and a guy from San Diego played "Greasy Stick".

Liz hammed it up something fierce. In fact at one point she took the story line in the opposite direction than was intended, leaving the narrator speechless. Had everyone in hysterics. "Bubbles" told me later that he was going on a 2-week canoe trip with several other people who were in the audience that night, and that he was probably stuck with that name for the duration.

Dinner included caribou meat balls, roast musk ox, white fish and arctic char, I saved a bit of chicken for Yohan. All in all a great evening of local culture and meeting people.

We are all signing up for various tours and activities, a favourite at Chuk is the trip to Tuktoyaktuk. I would have liked to go but you have to fly in and I didn't want to leave Yohan at the camp that long. Instead I asked around about getting a guide to take me fishing on the Mackenzie. You have to have a guide because it is a huge delta with many channels and you can very easily get lost. I figured leaving Yohan for a couple of hours would be okay, just not all day. He could sleep in the truck.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Tuesday June 23, 1998 - Dempster Highway

Richardson Mountains

It was a windy clear day when I woke up in the gravel pit, and cold. The wind was so strong that a raven just floated over my truck. The view was fantastic, the Richardson Mountain Range lay to the north of me. The highway goes through a broad pass that has never been glaciated.


I set out right after breakfast and thought I would be in Inuvik in the late afternoon, I was making good time. The highway crosses treeless mountains and valleys to the NWT border, and you don't start seeing trees again until you approach the Mackenzie Delta. There's a time zone change at the Yukon/NWT border.

There are two ferry crossings, Peel River and Arctic Red River, before Inuvik and when I got to the first one, Peel River, there was a long line-up of vehicles waiting to cross. It is a cable ferry and both the wind and the current in the river are very strong today so they did not want to chance a crossing until the wind died. The river flows north and many of the trees that came down in the rain the day before were floating down the river, driven by the strong current.

The semi truck that I met the day before was in the line-up a ways ahead of me. I greeted the driver as someone I knew and we chatted. His name is Norm and he told me that he drove the route between Edmonton to Inuvik on a regular basis.

I asked what he was carrying in his truck and he said, "Oh, I'm an essential service in the North. Chips and pop."

He said the highway washed out and was closed just south of Eagle Plains this morning. It was still raining down there. So we were all stuck between the Peel River ferry and Eagle Plains, no one could go south, no one could go north.

I waited all afternoon, there were about twenty vehicles in the line-up and I met people from Montana, Saskatchewan, Vancouver Island, and Alaska in the line-up. The wind would probably not die before evening.

I tried to take a look at the river but you couldn't get close to it because of the sand in the wind. There are sandy cliffs up river and the wind is blowing the sand down. It stings the skin and you have to keep your eyes closed. There is a tiny native village here. I talked to a ten year old boy who doesn't go to school but hunts moose and wolf and fishes too. There are a few native cabins, and one entrepreneurial type who sold hotdogs, chips and coke from a tent.  One cabin has a komatik in front of it.

There are no bugs thanks to the wind, except if you have to go into the woods to pee. It is mostly treeless taiga tundra here. I picked some really bright blue Arctic Forget-Me-Nots on a hillock. All kinds of tufts of tiny flowers, white, yellow and blue.

Around 6 pm the shift changed on the Peel River ferry and the new skipper decided to cross. Around 6.30 he started ferrying people across and I crossed around 6.45 pm. I drove straight through to the next ferry at Fort MacPherson, only stopping once to feed Yohan. 

The Arctic Red River ferry does a 3-point route: from the Fort McPherson side to the Inuvik side to Arctic Red River and back to Fort McPherson. There was a hitchhiker at Fort McPherson who was picked up by the car behind me, a white station wagon with four guys in it. He was from New York and was kayaking across the country. His kayak was at the ferry landing. While we waited for the ferry he set up his tent there.

After getting off the ferry I drove to Inuvik. I stopped just before Inuvik to look at a campsite, Caribou Creek, which appeared to be bug-free but there was no one there. I continued to Chuk Camp, on a hill 5 km before the town, arriving around 11.30 pm. This was the campground recommended by Al and Mick. The owner was nice, I talked to him for a while debating whether to stay there or at Caribou Creek. Caribou Creek was free, Chuk Camp was not. Regardless of what I decided the owner said I could have a shower at Chuk. 

A couple I met at the Peel River ferry, Clem and Liz, they had a Wild Rose camper. Clem said something I kind of liked while we were waiting for the ferry. We were talking about Yohan's breed. Clem thought he was a collie, I told him that I always thought so but some people where I worked thought he was a Nova Scotia Duck Toller, and that after all he was from Nova Scotia. Clem said, No he was definitely a collie, so he called him a 'Cajun Collie'. So I think that's what I'm going to tell people from now on, he's a Cajun Collie.

I decided to go to Caribou Creek but discovered that it was now very buggy so around 1 am I returned to Chuk Camp and registered. The owner only charged me $10 even though the fee was supposed to be $12.

The clock time means nothing, this far north the sun does not set but just goes round and round, so it never gets dark at all. There are no stars and no moon, just the sun. I picked out a site and went to bed.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Monday June 22, 1998 - Dempster Highway

The Arctic Circle - rain

It rained all night and didn't stop in the morning. I got breakfast ready, packed up and ate in the truck cab on my way into Dawson. I stopped at both the Dawson and NWT visitor centres for water and information. At the NWT centre they gave me information about driving the Dempster and where to buy gas. My plan had been to stay in the Dawson area, drive the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border and then start the Dempster the next day. But with the rain I thought there would be no point in driving the Top of the World as I would be unable to see the view, so I may as well go straight to the Dempster. And there was a rain warning for the Dempster too---50 mm---rain all day.

View of Dawson City from the Midnight Dome
But first I drove around Dawson up to the Midnight Dome and down to Bonanza Creek. On the summer solstice you can see the midnight sun from the Dome, you cannot see it down at the town level.

Giant dredge used to mine the gold, seen from on top of a huge pile of dredge tailings
Dawson is about the size of Whitehorse but most of the buildings are original. The roads are dirt because of the permafrost. I passed Jack London's cabin but didn't see Robert Service's place. On the road to Dawson are miles of tailings—long gravel worms spit up by the huge dredges they used to dredge the local creeks for gold.

Bonanza Creek

Prospector's cabin and antique dredge
I saw one old dredge at Bonanza Creek and of course the spot on the creek where gold was first discovered. Boy did those guys lay waste to the territory! I had this weird feeling abou the Gold Rush hype and now I know why. The history of the BC coast, the First Nations and later European settlements was interesting, but this is a history of wanton destruction.

After getting gas at a cardlock facility I set out on the Dempster. Even in the rain it is spectacular. Almost immediately trees disappear and you are surrounded by bare mountains and valleys. This is the Ogilvie Mountain Range

My truck at the base of the mountains
Ogilvie Mountains
I stopped at the Tombstone campground (named for Tombstone Mountain, which I could not see due to rain and fog) for lunch in a picnic shelter, where a group of German tourists were being guided by a German woman from Nelson. She said they come here for 3 weeks of hiking and canoeing in the wilderness. Tons of Germans come here; they live in a crowded country, have 6 weeks of paid vacation and a yearning for wilderness. Every week a flight of 300 Germans arrives in Whitehorse. Not a few end up settling here, the German guide was one who came as a tourist and stayed to become a guide. All the German tourists crowded to one end of the picnic shelter and I was at the other end alone, until the guide came over and struck up a conversation.

I drove on.

I saw this sign that said "scenic view", so I pulled in at the next turnoff, but all there was was a camper. It was pouring rain, and there were two grizzled heads at the door of the camper. I got out of the truck to ask them if they knew where the heck this "scenic view" was. They didn't have a clue, but one of them said "maybe it's us" and then invited me in for coffee. Seemed like a good idea, since there was too much rain for viewing scenes anyway. Mick and Al, and their dog Rosy. Mick is a teacher from Oregon (grades 6-8) due to retire in 6-7 years and Al is a geology prof from Tacoma Washington. They were on their way home from 5 days fishing in Inuvik.
Had a nice time chatting about all sorts of things. They recommended a campsite in Inuvik, and told me about a gravel pit just north of the Arctic Circle which was relatively bug-free for overnight camping and recommended a particular type of bug bite salve available only in Inuvik. I finally left there around 6 pm. They said I should be sure to stay in Inuvik till it got sunny again so that I could see the south part of the highway in its true glory. I finally dragged myself away from there and headed north on the Dempster.

At the Maintenance Camp I let a semi pass me, I didn't like having his big truck looming in my rearview mirror. A while later I passed Engineer Creek camp and the road by this time was extremely muddy from all the rain. Almost immediately I saw the semi with its flashers on parked on the side of the road. I pulled up behind it and walked forward. There was a huge mud slide with whole trees embedded in it across the road. The mud and rocks were still coming down the slope on the left side of the road, I think the mud slide was 2-3 feet deep and very wide on the road. There was a camper stopped in the road on the other side of the mudslide. The driver of the camper had a chainsaw and was trying to cut some of the trees, then the semi truck driver was chaining the trees to the camper and the camper guy was backing his camper away from the mud, pulling the trees out.

The semi, the camper, and the mudslide
Then the camper guy came across the mud and said to me, "Looking for adventure?"

After pulling the trees out the mud subsided a bit but was still pretty deep. The semi driver said he'd drive through first to make tracks and then the camper should go and finally me. The semi drove through and stopped on the other side, then the camper came through and continued south and finally I drove through. The mud was about a foot thick now but the mud in the semi's tracks was not as deep. I hit some stuff in the mud, probably tree debris, but no harm done. The semi truck driver told me to go ahead of him. I think he waited about a quarter of an hour before he set out, I never actually his truck but it was nice to know that it was there in case anything went wrong.

It was hard to see anything. The road was bad and I had to really concentrate but there was no visibility to speak of. At one point there was blowing snow. I stopped at a view point to use the outhouse, but there was no view. I passed through miles of burned trees in what appeared to be muskeg. Around 10 pm I began to see breaks in the clouds to the north. The coffee with Mick and Al was keeping me going, not to mention not wanting to stop due to the rain and mosquitoes.

Around 11 pm I pulled into Eagle Plains, the halfway point on the Dempster. There's a motel, a bar and a gas station. I got gas and then drove around behind the motel to park and feed Yohan. There was no rain but swarms of huge mosquitoes. When Yohan got out of the truck to eat the mosquitoes swarmed his eyes, there were dozens of them right in his eyes. I rubbed some bug dope on him and while I waited for him to eat I tried to put some netting up inside the back of the truck.

Shortly after leaving Eagle Plains I saw a pull-out and a sign for the Arctic Circle crossing. However I did not want to stop due to the mosquitoes. Mick and Al had recommended that just past the Arctic Circle there was a gravel pit that was good to camp in because it was very windy which kept the bugs down, so I was keeping an eye out for that. They said it was on the side of a hill, you have to drive off the highway and around the hill before you see it. I got there just before midnight. I could pull in and park out of sight of the road, up on a ledge with a view of the surrounding land. I could see the Richardson mountains in the distance, and it was very windy and relatively bug-free.

I wrote for a bit and didn't go to bed until almost 4 am. It is now daylight all day and all night so I have lost all sense of the time of day. I think I lost track of what day it is some time ago as well, so I feel quite disconnected from the usual measurement of time passing.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sunday June 21, 1998 - Yukon

Nona and Charlotte wave goodbye
Klondike River - overcast and showers

We all got up late and had breakfast and tea together. I felt so laid back and reluctant to leave, but around noon we took some photos of each other and exchanged addresses and I left. They warned me of 15 km of loose gravel ahead. I was covered in black fly bites from the night before on the Yukon River: my wrists, lower legs and stomach (?). I drove most of the afternoon to the Klondike River just outside of Dawson. I found a nice campsite but the black flies were intense. They swarmed my firewood and my food but amazingly they left Yohan and me alone. It began to rain so I setup the tarp over the back of the truck and went to bed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Saturday June 20, 1998 - Yukon

Snafu Lake, from my bed in the back of the truck
Tatchin Creek - sunny to overcast

I woke at Snafu Lake to a fabulous view of the lake. But on the other side of my truck was a little Boler trailer, blocking the way out of my campsite. It must have arrived after I went to sleep. I had a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal and around 10.30 am said goodbye to Ray and Laurena who were headed out. We exchanged home addresses and they invited me to come visit them in Victoria when I got back from my cross-Canada trip. That felt far more complete than at Boya Lake and I haven't felt any regret or sadness since. They were keeping Sparky very close by because there was a large eagle that appeared to have its eye on the little dog. After Atlin they were going to Whitehorse to a clinic to get Ray's lungs checked out, he's been wheezing a lot which he blames on the cottonwood pollen. Then they were going to go to Alaska. Laurena thought we might run into each other again in Inuvik since we both hoped to go there.

The two women in the little Boler trailer did not get up until after Ray and Laurena had left. I chatted with them for a while and ended up exchanging addresses with them as well. They are teachers in Whitehorse and this is the last week of school. On Friday night they decided that they would go kayaking in Atlin over the weekend. But they didn't leave Whitehorse until after 1 am and arrived at Snafu Lake around 3 am. They also liked the campsite on the sandy hilltop and proceeded to back into it with the trailer, nearly hitting my truck which they didn't see there until the last moment. I slept through it and they decided to just stay there rather than find another spot. They showed me around their trailer, it had a double bed which converted to a dinette, a couch and a kitchenette. Very cute. They bought it in Ontario for $3000.

The old Montague Roadhouse on the Klondike Highway
After the women had their breakfast and were ready to leave I was able to get out too and head back up to Whitehorse. I got gas and headed up the Klondike Highway for Dawson.

Yukon River, from the Klondike Highway
Around 5.30 pm I stopped at Tatchun Creek, just past Carmacks. Almost immediately the two women in the next campsite, Charlotte and Nona, came over to ask for bug spray. Then they came back with beer. I met their two dogs, Snorri and Elsinor and got the tour of their trailer which was similar to the Boler at Snafu Lake. It was a Glendale which they bought for $500. They are on the Klondike Highway road crew, chipsealing the highway. Chipseal is a stabilized gravel road with a lot of calcite in it (which rots steel the same way road salt does). Charlotte is from Tagish and Nona from Carcross but in the summer they work on the road crew and live where they work. Right now they are working on the section of highway between Carmacks and Dawson.

Nona and Charlotte went across the highway to walk the dogs along the Yukon River. After I had my supper I headed down to the river too and found them with a couple of young German campers sharing their beer in honour of the summer solstice. The bugs were bad. At one point we heard a rockfall on a loose gravel and sand slope further down the river. Charlotte and Nona debated whether it was spontaneous or caused by someone or something walking on the cliff. A canoe went by, part of a race from Skagway to Dawson, and we greeted them. They must have wondered about five people on the shore in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Later we went back to camp, Nona crashed and Charlotte and I stayed up till 3 am talking around the fire. Charlotte lives alone in a log cabin she built in Tagish Lake. She's very independent and prides herself on being an eccentric Yukoner. She had a black eye acquired the day before at a baseball game. I gather this has been an intense week for her between that, crashing into the chipper truck, and an altercation with the boss's girlfriend. At 3 am Nona got up and they had their supper of sausage, hotdogs and salad. then we all went to bed, around 5 am. It's so easy to stay up late because of the light; it seemed a little dim but I had no idea of the time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Friday June 19 - Yukon

Snafu Lake - sunny and warm

Before leaving Squanga Lake I tried casting with my borrowed fishing rod, but the lake was so shallow that even the lightest lure dragged in the mud at the bottom. I could see it zooming under the mud toward me when I reeled it in, like a worm on drugs. The Japanese cyclist in the campsite next to me had a squirrel trying to eat his breakfast, so he photographed it then blew smoke in its face to chase it away.

I drove the short distance to Whitehorse, stopping along the way at Miles Canyon. During the Klondike Gold Rush, prospectors had to ship their supplies through this narrow channel on their way north. Because of the extremely strong currents this was dangerous and many bargefuls of supplies were lost there.

Miles Canyon
In Whitehorse I booked some internet time at the library and took some camera film in to be developed. I bought groceries and gas while I waited for my time slot. Then I got on the computer and read some email from friends at home. It almost made me wish I had stayed home, I was still missing Ray and Laurena and now I missed my home friends. I missed the Potluck Hikers and the Salon.

Downtown Whitehorse is very small and laid out as a grid in a bend in the Yukon River. The airport sits on top of a cliff overlooking the town. After a few hours of errands, internet time and just wandering around I headed out again. I had decided to visit Atlin, one of the northernmost towns in BC and it can only be reached from the Yukon. The Alaska Highway hugs the border between BC and the Yukon, mostly in the Yukon but sometimes dipping down into BC. Anyway, my plan is to visit Atlin via Carcross and Tagish, and then to return to Whitehorse and go on to Dawson City and the Dempster Highway. The Dempster connects Dawson City to Inuvik in the NWT near the Arctic Ocean, in the summer it is the only way to reach Inuvik by land.

I stopped at the Tagish bridge to nap in the back of the truck and then stopped briefly to see the Carcross Desert. It is a very tiny desert.

I then drove into Atlin, arriving there around 7 pm. The drive wasn't that great, a lot of dirt road and scrubby forest.

The town is quaint with many turn-of-the-century buildings, a grounded steamship that used to ply Atlin Lake, a three-storey pyramid-shaped house, and a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains and a glacier across the lake from the town. I took a few photos and headed back toward Whitehorse with the intention of stopping at a campsite just across the Yukon border for supper.

Atlin Mountain and Atlin Lake
I didn't really like the first campground I came to, Tarfu Lake, so I continued on to the next one at Snafu Lake. And the first thing I saw there was Ray and Laurena's camper truck, what a surprise! I was so glad to see them and they seemed glad to see me too. It was such an unbelievable chance to run into them again in such an out-of-the-way place, I was totally amazed!

They were headed to Atlin and after that were going to Whitehorse. I found a nice campsite on a little sandy hilltop overlooking the lake and had my supper there. I was so hungry and it was so late, I didn't finish supper until 10 pm. Then I did some journal writing. By 11.15 pm the light was just starting to dim, but there was still enough to write by.

Snafu Lake