A Few Excerpts From The Book "Destination Dempster"

The guest rooms occupied the upper two levels. We selected the top floor as we always do even though the hotel was far from full. Usually a good idea, here it was not necessarily so as we were greeted with two very long, steep flights of stairs and no elevator. Oh no! Wait! No problem. We arrived with no luggage! Apparently that was common in Whitehorse. When we checked in with no bags the clerk commented, “Oh, you were on Air Canada!” Sadly the lost luggage would haunt us throughout this trip.

The road did get worse as we approached Eagle Plains. When we first got on the highway I said the road was about a 7 as dirt roads go because it really wasn’t bad, even feeling like a paved road at times. However, now the potholes were more frequent and deeper and the surface of the road became very spongy. In spots it was a 1, generally speaking about a 3. At about 30 kilometres to town the road had continually deteriorated, moving closer to zero then to just a regular piece of shit – I wondered if it could get worse.

At 9:15am we crossed from the Yukon to the Northwest Territories. This was a true milestone for me, one of two places in Canada I had not visited. That leaves Nunavut. In addition to my milestone, the border marked a crossing of the Continental Divide and a time zone change. We entered the Mountain time zone (one hour ahead – lost one there) and Wright Pass. The pass did not cause us any problems heading north but when we returned it would play a major role in our journey. Although the time changed by one hour, the SUV decided to change it by seven hours for some reason.

I quickly became acclimatized and was starting to love the place. I knew that would happen. As I glanced over at the SUV while I was cooking, I noticed, “Boy, that could sure use a wash”. I didn’t hold a lot of hope of that happening. After all, they can’t tell me where a gas station is in Inuvik, what chance do I have of finding a car wash?

Destination Dempster

About three kilometres out of Inuvik we left the northernmost reaches of the boreal forests, soon crossed the eastern channel of the Mackenzie River then crossed the treeline into the wide-open tundra of the Barrenlands. It was more than a little eerie seeing the last tree.

It was two degrees with gale force winds plummeting the temperature to about 15 below. The rocky shore would literally have been death defying so our goal of wading into the Arctic Ocean as we had done in the Antarctic Ocean was out of the question.

We were lucky to get through the pass at all. Near the summit was a jackknifed tanker truck stuck across the road and nearly blocking my or anyone else’s passage. We did manage to squeeze by although I did tap something on his truck on the way past. Once clear of him there was easily a foot of snow on the road.

This had been one wild and crazy day. We arrived in Eagle Plains, 100 yards from the hotel and were stunned to see the road was closed with padlocked barriers preventing further progress. I assumed the reason was what we had just driven through – the snow. I found out later it was closed at 10am, both ends, Eagle Plains and Inuvik, after we were on our way.

By 1:30 we sadly came to the end of the Dempster Highway. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. I believe it was about 1900 kilometres in total, all dirt and gravel and my only regret is we saw nothing in the way of wildlife. For the record my qualification of wildlife is anything bigger than a cat, has four legs and poops. If it’s a bird it has to be able to pick up a rabbit and fly away with it. Now is that asking too much?

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