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Old 08-30-2014   #1 (permalink)
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Arctic Adventure: the Dempster Highway

Some readers may recall that in my last trip report, from August 2013, I let on that I had originally intended to make a different trip, but work and time constraints had gotten in the way and I therefore ended up driving the much shorter route that I reported on last summer.

This year, after careful planning and a fair bit of good luck, I was finally able to achieve last year's goal of driving across the Arctic Circle, in a 12-day, 9,000 km road odyssey from Vancouver, BC to Inuvik, NWT and back.

Unlike my previous lengthy northern roadtrips, I was joined this year by my 14-year old son, who decided that this journey would be "epic" enough to warrant giving up video games for a couple of weeks.

We just returned a day-and-a-half ago, and I'm still sorting out the photos and such. I'll start putting the narrative and photos together over the next couple of days; in the meantime, here's a shot that well represents the look and feel of one of the loneliest roads in North America. Stay tuned for more:
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Old 08-30-2014   #2 (permalink)
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August 16 - 17: Vancouver to Atlin, BC

We left home at around 4:00 am on Aug 16 and headed north. The first day of the trip involved a fairly-nondescript 16-hour drive to Fort Nelson, BC, arriving around 8:00 pm. We checked into the Super 8 for the night and headed out to Boston Pizza for dinner. A planned early start the next morning meant that we turned in early for the night.

August 17 dawned clear and sunny. We grabbed our complimentary "Super Start" breakfast and continued up the Alaska Highway towards the Yukon border. After lengthy roadwork delays, we arrived at Liard River hot springs, where we stopped for a soak before we crossed into the Yukon and stopped for gas and a couple of burgers in Watson Lake.

Suitably refuelled, we continued along the Alaska Highway west through the southern Yukon until we arrived at the Atlin Road, where we turned off and headed south, into the far northwest corner of British Columbia and the small, historic community of Atlin, BC.

I have written about Atlin before and posted a number of photos of the village and the stunning scenery which surrounds it. Here are a few new shots to supplement the 2011 photos:










Coming up: Dawson City & the Klondike.
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Old 09-02-2014   #3 (permalink)
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August 18 - 19: Atlin, BC to Dawson City, YT

After a standard high-cholesterol breakfast, we made our way north back into the Yukon again. We took the Alaska Highway west to Whitehorse and Takhini junction, then took the Klondike Highway north 540 km from Whitehorse to Dawson City, where we spent the next two nights.

Downtown Dawson consists of gravel streets and wooden boardwalks, false fronts and hitching posts. Much of Dawson's historic downtown area is owned and operated by Parks Canada, which contributes greatly to the "living museum" feel which pervades the town.

In many ways, Dawson still resembles the wild boomtown of the Klondike gold rush years: - placer mining remains a key part of the economy, while the town itself is home to an eclectic range of both residents and visitors from every corner of the globe.

It's a much easier place to get to nowadays, accessed via a paved highway from Whitehorse as well as an airport with scheduled flights, unlike the often life-threatening adventures which awaited travellers during the gold rush of 1898. Nonetheless, arriving in Dawson still evokes a strong sense of accomplishment; it truly feels like you've reached the frontier. Here are a few shots:
















Coming up: More Dawson City

Last edited by Y2YTraveller; 09-02-2014 at 03:48 PM..
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Old 09-02-2014   #4 (permalink)
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Great pic's!
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Old 09-03-2014   #5 (permalink)
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Great pic's!
Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2014   #6 (permalink)
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August 19: More of Dawson City

8th Avenue in Dawson City is often called "Author's Row". Here, you will find both Robert Service's and Jack London's cabins (the London cabin was reconstructed in half scale using half the logs from the original; the other half were used to construct another half-scale replica in Oakland, CA). Across the way is Pierre Berton's childhood home.

First, the Robert Service cabin:


Next, the half-size Jack London cabin:


Followed by the Pierre Berton house:


One of Dawson City's more impressive buildings is the former Commissioner's residence, which dates from the days when Dawson City was the Yukon capital:


And finally, a hilltop view of Dawson City, with the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers near the centre of the photo:


Coming up: the first half of the Dempster Highway.
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Old 09-06-2014   #7 (permalink)
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August 20: Dawson City, YT to Eagle Plains, YT

The Wednesday morning was mostly clear. We topped up the tank and took one last look around Dawson City:


Before hitting the road, we stopped in at Dempster Highway visitor centre, where the very-helpful volunteer on duty provided us with a wealth of useful information regarding the road conditions, weather forecasts, current roadwork projects, campground availability, and so on. This is definitely a must-stop for those considering driving the highway:


The Dempster itself begins about 40 km southeast of Dawson City at the junction with the Klondike Highway. From that point onwards, it's a lonely 738 km through three mountain ranges, over treeless tundra, and across the Arctic Circle to Inuvik, NT. The first 3 km and the last 10 are paved, the rest is gravel, clay, or in some areas, razor-sharp crushed shale which keeps the tire repair shops busy. Apart from government campgrounds (most with very rustic facilities), the only signs of development along the first half of the highway are a guide-outfitter's facilities and a pair of highways maintenance camps. The road begins in the Klondike River valley and follows the North Fork of the Klondike to North Fork Pass in the Tombstone Mountains.




After about 45 km, the road enters Tombstone Territorial Park and crosses the mountain range of the same name:




The Yukon government recently completed the Tombstone Park Interpretive centre. The building is designed to have a light footprint on the land and is entirely powered by solar energy (needless to say, it's closed in winter...). It's an interesting stop, with displays on the flora and fauna of the area, as well as the geology of the region, the history of the road's construction, and so forth. The centre also acts as sort of a home base for the many hikers who travel to this area to hike the open alpine country of the Tombstone range:








We ran into a couple who were motorcycling their way to Inuvik from their home in southern Idaho. Definitely a rugged way to travel:




The highway crosses the Blackstone Uplands as it follows the Blackstone River towards the Ogilvie Mountains:


At one point, the road climbs to a high turnout with some amazing views:


At about the halfway point, 370 km from Mile Zero, lies Eagle Plains, just 35 road km south of the Arctic Circle. This is a purpose-built location which opened in 1978, shortly before the highway was completed. It consists of a small motel, restaurant, bar, gas station, tire shop, ambulance post, highways camp, airstrip and campground. The hotel and restaurant facilities appear to have had little updating since '78 but the place is comfortable enough and the food is reasonable. There is a fascinating collection of old photographs displayed on the walls around the property which are of great interest to the historically-inclined.

The property itself sits on a low ridge with sweeping views on two sides:












After eating a hearty dinner, we grabbed a motel room and turned in for the night. As the sun started to sink (well after 9:30 pm), I grabbed a few more shots:








Coming up: the second half of the Dempster: Eagle Plains to Inuvik and crossing the Arctic Circle.
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Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan: Dec 2010
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Old 09-06-2014   #8 (permalink)
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Wow, some of those pictures are so beautiful they just don't look real. Thanks so much for sharing, can't wait for the rest of your report!
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Old 09-06-2014   #9 (permalink)
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wow! Very cool! Keep em coming!
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Old 09-07-2014   #10 (permalink)
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Wow, some of those pictures are so beautiful they just don't look real. Thanks so much for sharing, can't wait for the rest of your report!
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed them.
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Old 09-07-2014   #11 (permalink)
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wow! Very cool! Keep em coming!
Thank you! More on the way....
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Old 09-08-2014   #12 (permalink)
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August 21: Eagle Plains, YT to Inuvik, NT (Part I)

The Thursday morning was again sunny and bright. Before breakfast, I managed this early morning shot from Eagle Plains:


After another high-calorie breakfast (my son has now discovered the joys of steak and eggs in the morning), we headed north to Inuvik and the completion of the Dempster highway.




35 km onwards, we arrived at the Arctic Circle:


The monument has obviously seen better days... A few shots around the Arctic Circle area:








Shortly afterwards, the road begins to climb towards the Richardson Mountains and the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories:










Coming up: the rest of the highway to Inuvik.
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Old 09-08-2014   #13 (permalink)
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Wow!
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Old 09-09-2014   #14 (permalink)
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Yes....WOW indeed! Amazing scenery and great photos.

My mom and stepfather lived in Inuvik six months a year for a few years, and Yellowknife. They LOVED it up there.
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Old 09-10-2014   #15 (permalink)
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Yes....WOW indeed! Amazing scenery and great photos.

My mom and stepfather lived in Inuvik six months a year for a few years, and Yellowknife. They LOVED it up there.
Thanks!

It's hard not to love it up there. The people are extremely friendly, the scenery remarkable and the quality of the light is unique. If only it wasn't dark two months of the year....
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