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.

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