Our Last Leg

We wrapped up the trip by driving 500+ miles from Eugene OR to Placerville CA to stop for a few days with our son, his wife, our two grandchildren. Several in-laws are in town visiting so we get to reconnect over dinner.
Then we get to spend the weekend playing with the grand kids and catching up with their parents.
We head down to Sacramento for some last minute back-to-school shopping and then we are off, south, towards home. We cover the 350 miles in good time, missing any major traffic problems in Sacramento or LA. The Jeep just hums along as well on the highway as it did in the Yukon mud. We glide down the I-5 across the dryness of the central valley. We finish a book on tape. Usually this stretch of freeway is boring but we are charged up, closing in on home and it actually looks different, as if we are looking at it with different eyes, seeing it for the first time. Finally we cross over into the LA basin, brown air never looked so good. We finish up the last miles to our home in Pasadena and say a little prayer of thanksgiving.
The Grateful Dead have a famous line: ‘what a long, strange trip its been’. But it has a somewhat negative connotation that does not apply here. Long, strange and wonderful would be more like it. Maybe the Grateful Dead were referring to a mind altering experience, in which case it definitely applies. We still cannot wrap ourselves around the trip we have been on.
Simple numbers come up, we are out exactly 7 weeks, we covered 8,654 miles, 220 hours of time behind the wheel. I do not have an exact fuel count but it is about 400 gallons of fuel, probably about $2,000 due to expensive fuel on remote parts of the trip. We haven’t added up the hotel rooms, restaurant and food costs and other travel expenses like the ferry and flight to Tuk. I don’t want to say that costs don’t matter, we did a lot to minimize costs but the key was to do what we want and that is exactly what we did.
We would do it again in a minute.

We started in Arizona with family & our son’s drum show, then on to Utah, Big Bend, Ogden and Brigham City. On to Idaho, Pocatello, Flathead Lake and the Big Hole. Then the Going To The Sun Highway, still memorable. Into Canada and our night at the Prince Of Wales Hotel, the Calgary Stampede. The family visit to Wetaskawin & Edmonton and exploring Edmonton. Then the adventure got serious on the Alaska Highway starting in Dawson Creek. Mile after mile up to Whitehorse and Dawson City where we took in their music festival. Then the key to the whole trip, the adventure up the Dempster Highway; Tombstone Park, Rock River mosquitoes, Eagle Plaines, countless miles of tundra, Tsiigehtchic, ferry crossings and on to Inuvik and Tuk which were are as remote and different as a place can be and actually be inhabited.
The trip down and then the Top Of The World Highway and into Chicken Alaska. The road trip to Valdez AK, back to Beaver Creek Yukon and down to Haines AK where, if we ever win the lottery, we will have a place at least for the summer. Then staying in Juneau and exploring other Alaskan towns on the ferry route. Prince Rupert and the road going east. Cute little Clinton BC. Then into Washington; the county fair in Canby, dinner and some time exploring Olympia. A couple days in Eugene to rest up and play and on to California, family and home.
But the overview doesn’t tell the tale, the details that bubble up do; the bears in Haines, walking on glaciers, kayaking around the point, new music in Dawson City, 24 hour sun, endless open spaces... May the memory bubbles never cease. Thank you for reading and staying connected. We wish you wonderful memories in your own adventures.

A Trip to the County Fair

One thing about being married to Adventure Girl is that she doesn’t like those big red colored interstate roads on the map, she prefers skinny black roads, ones with long numbers or no numbers. This taxes our Garmin GPS system but with the built in compass at least we know we are heading in the right direction, which is south currently. So we get up near Olympia WA and head south and somehow end up on a small road taking us through Canby, OR and currently on is the Clackamas County Fair. We stop to check it out and it is the real thing. Rodeo, 4-H clubs, animals and lots of mostly unhealthy (but tasty) food. There are a lot of crafts on show, live country music, more goats than we have ever seen before.
Then we head south towards Eugene, our destination today. We get on the I-5 and suddenly it is a parking lot. There is a grass fire ahead and a hay truck is burning. There must be a lot of fuel in the semi loads of hay because it is burning bright and sending up a cloud of smoke. The highway is closed we hear on the radio and we are lucky enough to get off at the last possible exit and manage a detour adding many miles through farm country and small towns which takes a lot of time but is less frustrating than being stuck in a parking lot on the freeway. When we get back on the freeway the traffic the other way is backed up for miles so it looks like the detour paid off. Because of the slowdown and the detour we cover only 275 miles today but if is a full days driving.
Eugene is quite the charming town it has reputation for being. It is fairly empty now as the university is on summer break. But there are still lots of little restaurants and entertainment. We go to hear a music/spoken word presentation, the fellow came all the way from....Seattle. It is a counter culture world here, much like Berkley. Entertaining but sometimes tiring. We are experiencing a heat wave, it will be 95 tomorrow, break out the sunscreen and get the AC working.

From British Columbia to Washington State

The major town we visit today is Prince George, BC. So far the only disappointing place on our visit mostly because of our expectations. Susan had been here a long time ago and experienced an old town with wood buildings, wood sidewalks and an old time feeling, something like Dawson City. She was eager to take me there. Well, we drove all over and could not find the old town, local young folks didn’t know what we were talking about. Turns out the old town is gone, replaced with modern structures most undistinguished. We get a walking map of the ‘old town’ and are able to make out a few old building interspersed with newer breeze block and aluminum. High point of the visit is lunch at a Tim Hortons.
Just as we thought things were going to get ‘boring’ as we headed towards home from more exotic places we come across an interesting little town called Clinton. We stay in a log lodge but this place has a restaurant and a bar. We walk the town which is old and charming. All along the street there are large displays with pictures of the town at any time between the 1880s and the 1940s and you can see which buildings are new and which ones were there in older times. We have reached far enough south that for the first time since being in the arctic Susan is actually warm. Off come some of the layers of clothing and on goes the sun screen.

We are up and off towards the USA. We head south in southern BC winding through the Fraser River gorge and find the charming town of Agassiz BC. We find a real German deli and have lunch. We would like to spend more time in town and the nearby Harrison hot springs but we have miles to cover today so we press on to the border. The border crossing takes a very long time. We literally spend a hour moving up a long line of cars one car at a time. Thought this inland crossing would be faster than going through Vancouver, not sure if that was a good decision.

The Next Leg Home

Technically we were on our way home as we headed south from Inuvik but it didn’t feel that way as we drove the Top Of The World Highway west into Alaska. This was new territory for us; Tok, Valdez, Beaver Creek YT, Haines and at Juneau we got on a ferry. Despite the ferry heading south for a day and a half and our stops at Sitka, Kake, Petersburg and Ketchican it is not until we arrive at Prince Rupert, BC that we feel we have gotten anywhere south at all. At Prince Rupert we find the BC Ferry we want is full. We would have to wait at least two days so we press on by road. First we explore the Prince Rupert area and find the old town part is really nice with the kind of charming shops and restaurants that we had hoped to find in Alaskan towns on our route. This is a town worth spending more time in but we are on our way home and so we head out west towards the town of Terrace. The road is almost as interesting as the roads into Valdez and Haines which we did not expect. Nobody seems to talk about this road but it deserves a lot of attention. For over 85 miles it follows a fjord/river valley, has tall, snow streaked mountains on both sides, frequent waterfalls and just gorgeous scenery. There is also a narrow gauge railway parallel to the road, just more charm. We get caught up in the end of a bicycle race, nice to see the physical energy while the Olympics are on.


Juneau has a lot of flavors. And we like most of them. It hs something of the feel of San Francisco in the 1950s in its construction and proximity to the sea. It has book stores and coffee houses. It is the state capital which also means it has appropriate federal government offices. This is probably the core of the employment. Next there is the cruise ‘industry’. Today was a slow day--only three large cruise ships so the town didn’t feel so overrun. On a busy day 10,000 to 12,000 passengers arrive and the old town can’t absorb the surge. Then there are the tourists who come in by air or the ferry. There is a active small boat harbor.
We visit all the book stores looking for a locally written book. Susan spends more time in the knitting shop than I do reading and playing on the internet at the Juneau Library which I thought was impossible. The library is conveniently located on the 5th floor of the multistory car park in the middle of old town.
We were blessed yesterday with the first sunny day Juneau has had in weeks, we got to the glacier and went for a hike. The Park Service does a remarkable job of taking the hordes of passengers from the ships and transferred to busses for the ‘glacier experience’. But just literally hundreds of feet away off on the trail is a very primitive world. We see bear scat on the trail. Part of the trail is a series of wood plank boardwalks, platforms and suspended sections to be able to get through the rain forrest. Later after our hike we actually see a black bear fishing for salmon in the creek. The ranger knows them all, he says this one is two years old and not very good at fishing. Just keep the appropriate distance and there is no problem.
Later that evening when the cruise crowds are back on their ships they leave the town to us, its pretty dead so we head into the Red Dog Saloon for the ‘tourist’ experience and it is really a hoot. There is a piano player with his own schtick, saw dust on the floor and mounted animals all over the wood walls.
One of the nice things about having our own car is that we get to explore on our own all around town and out of town. We drive up and down the back streets of Juneau, hills like San Francisco. We drive out of town, not all that far to the end of the road. We drive over the bridge to Douglas island and see what the community feels like. We visit the local mall, not impressive by southern California standards. While it has a full range of services like a Gottchalks department store and a Sears store, the Sears store actually has a sign that it is for sale. And things just cost more up here: the 99 cent stores are $1.49 stores. Even within the town, in the local parks there are fresh running streams of glacier cold water.

Haines to Juneau

Is it a ferry boat or a cruise ship? It holds 549 passengers but also 154 vehicles, so it must be a ferry. But it has a restaurant, bar, shop, movie theater and an on board naturalist. Cabins are available for longer trips. Our trip takes 4 1/2 hours with glacier views on both sides, a clear day after many days of clouds. This is the cruise ship route and we get to see it all. We see humpback whales bubble feeding, quite a sight. And we have our Jeep along.  All we are missing is the ice carving, gambling and endless food of a cruise ship.  Fair trade off for us.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Haines

From the newspaper police blotter:
Mon. Jul. 28. A person reported two bikes had been left at their business over a week. A person reported finding juveniles camped on their property and reported the young people were angry and shinning a strobe light into the house. Sun Jul. 27 A person reported a bear had eaten five ducks in their yard on Oslund Drive. The caller attempted to scare away the bear by banging pots and pans, but said the bear returned within 10 minutes.

We get a day of kayaking. We met some really friendly people at church on Sunday and when we said we would like to kayak they said they would be happy to contact a friend of theirs who likes to get people kayaking. It works, and Alan picks us up at our B&B and takes us to the launch point. He provides two very nice boats, equipment, a map and a push off from the negative low tide mud. We head down past two large glaciers. We see several eagles, a pigeon guillemot, and a number of other birds. Adventure Girl decides we should paddle out past the point called Seduction Point where we get to see into two inlets. The price for this is sore muscles from 5 1/2 hours of paddling, which is more than we have done in a while. And we had a boost back from a light favorable wind and a strong favorable current. The tide is over 17 feet today. Big tides here, don’t leave home without a tide book.

On Tuesday we could not located Susan's iphone. We contact the ferry and sure enough it was picked up on the last run yesterday. Its safe in Skagway and soon on the next ferry back to us. Another reason to like Alaska.

More About Haines

There is a local bumper sticker that reads: “I Died And Went To Haines”. Pretty much sums it up. Today is a slow day for us. We visit the local church where they make us feel very welcome. The laundromat is populated by people from all over the US and Canada. We see bald eagles from our room and in the evening we retrace our route to the local lake where we saw bears yesterday and sure enough we see two different bears one grizzly and one black bear. There is a ship in port today it is the Empress Of The North a paddle wheel propelled ship. The town shops make sure to be open even though the max capacity of this ship is 240. Otherwise life goes on as normal. We drive out to the local state park to view the Rainbow and Davidson glaciers. We talk to the camp host who is from California. She & her husband get to stay in the park all summer but their cabin does not have electricity or running water.
We are really happy that we get to spend a few days here to get to know the place.
Internet access here is a challenge. The library does not have wifi and its computers are reserved a lot of the time. We intended to hit a local coffee house but it is closed when we get there. There is a commercial hotspot in town but we get only a slow connection so it doesn’t seem worth it. Then in a local shop the owner mentions the high school. Yes! Like striking gold. We park outside and are able to check e-mail, update the blog and catch up on favorite websites.
We catch news about heat waves in Texas and parts of the central US but here it is an unusually cool, wet summer. Susan is layered like winter in southern California.
One of the advantages of local knowledge is when and how to do things. Nancy and Dwight from church connect us with Allen who will take us kayaking. Sweet. We arrange for the kayak trip for tomorrow in advance of a cruise ship arriving in Haines. We go down to the ‘fast ferry’ terminal to check on boats to Skagway it is quiet and there will be no problem taking over any of the scheduled ferries and no problem coming back on the late 8 PM ferry. Tomorrow? For-Get-About-It. Just about all full even with extra boats added. There are a number (plethora ?; group ?; gaggle ?; flock ?) of cruise ships due into Skagway and an expected side invasion of Haines.
Because of the slow day today the ferry company downsizes to their smallest boat but it is still too big, the crew of six exceeds the five passengers. We cross the inlet toward Skagway seeing waterfalls and forested mountains on the way. We arrive in Disneyland/Skagway which is having a slow day with only one small and two large cruise ships in port. The good news is that the place is clean and freshly painted with numerous shops and restaurants. The bad news is that the place is does not feel authentic, most of the buildings are recently built to look old, the prices are high and there are long lines of people pouring off the cruise ships eager to get on and off on schedule. Sort of like lunch time in high school. There is a railroad trip available on the White Pass railroad. Each train consists of three engines and many cars. The place is as busy as Union Station and probably is carrying more tourists than they ever carried prospectors. And this railroad looks prosperous. Gold found in different ways these days. Still we are glad to be there today. The park ranger tells us the regular population of Skagway is 750 and tomorrow it will swell to 10 to 12 thousand, depending how many stay on board the cruise ships.
Saturday August 2nd. And early we do leave, 6:30 AM or so. For the first hour we didn’t see another vehicle in either direction. We make good time going south and east on the Alaska Highway until we hit a major reconstruction of the road. We are headed to Haines Junction at which point we leave the AH and go south towards Haines. Along the way we see a bobcat, it runs across the road and attempts to hide behind some bushes. We stop and it slowly retreats into the forrest. We make good time into Haines and Alaska is on another time zone so we ‘get’ another hour. We go to the ferry terminal and are able to secure a much improved ferry itinerary. We leave in four days, go to Juneau and stay for two days and then to Prince Rupert, BC and we get a cabin!
About Haines, I don’t think it is possible to post any pictures that will do it justice. Look up some images on the web by professionals with time and good equipment. It is not only the prettiest place we have seen on our trip, it may be the prettiest place we have ever been. There is a quote from John Muir (who helped found the place) that he recommended that young men not visit Haines because they will either never leave or they will spend the rest of their lives in disappointment. There are a few places that really appeal to Susan & I, like Morro Bay CA. And I can remember twice renting a canal boat in England and feeling just a wonderful combination of adventure and relaxation. Haines is like this and we commit to each other that we will find a way to spend more time here. We have a good fresh fish dinner. They only get one sea shipment of supplies and produce once a week (it used to be only once a month) but fish they have locally. Besides glaciers, waterfalls, beautiful fiords, and a charming town, Haines also has ....bears! Lots of them. We hear about a good spot and time to look for them and sure enough, there they are. Good thing I brought my spotting scope. Better than our binoculars, the scope lets me see their teeth and ear hairs all from a safe distance. Haines really closes up early, it looks like the two bars and one restaurant are still open but that's about it. The previous week was the Southeast Alaska Fair and reportedly the town was hopping but quiet suits us just fine. Besides all the rooms in town were taken and this week we have our pick of the best places. And we have a million dollar view from our B&B room. The other time Haines fills up is in November when the largest gathering of Bald Eagles occurs. Literally a thousand gather in the area. We would love to see that but need to make room reservations a year in advance.
Another nice thing about Haines is that it is a ‘real’ Alaskan town. Skagway averages four cruise ships a day so there are more tourists there than residents. Haines averages 1.5 cruise ships a week and they are probably the smaller ones. The shops here are set up for locals and the occasional traveler not like some ports where shops are set up for cruise ship tourists and owned by the cruise lines. Everyone knows each other, there is even an award winning (in Alaska) book Susan is reading about Haines entitled “If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name”. Because there is only the weekly supply ship and things are expensive the locals rely on hunting and fishing for a major part of their food.

Beaver Creek, Yukon

Friday August 1st. We are on our way to Haines AK but to get there we have to drive back from Valdez AK through Tok AK and into Canada. We cover about 350 miles and end up in a Canadian border town of Beaver Creek, Yukon Territories. For the tiny place it is (2 motels, one RV park with shops) it is actually pretty lively. I guess being the last town in Canada going west or the first one going east fills up the rooms. Evidently it is also a destination for some people who fish and recreate in the local lakes. The few miles between the border and the town is full of wild life, we see a martin, two moose, two swans and two beavers. In the little cafe/shop/laundromat/internet place the Indian (from India, not native Canadian) fellow talked about running away from a grizzly bear a couple days earlier. The bear was diverted by the ipod he dropped, wonder if Apple could make an ad out of that.
We try to make arrangements for our ferry connection going south but discover almost everything we want is taken, there are no cabins so we would have to sleep on deck during the 3 1/2 day trip. We book it anyway. We get ready to head south early the next morning to Haines AK, a town we want to see and the ferry point for going south.

July 31

The trip today took us from Tok AK to Valdez AK. It was an interesting ride since it started out fogged in and we were disappointed as this road route is perhaps the most beautiful in all of Alaska. Fortunately after some miles the clouds lift and the mountains on both sides are spectacular. We stop at the Worthington Glacier and hike out on it for pictures. The glacier is getting smaller but not as quickly as some. Waterfalls are pouring off it and down the valley to a pond below. Of course its cold, even when the sun peaks out. We drive on towards Valdez, the last 40 or 50 miles are remarkable, could have been in Switzerland. There are snow streaked peaks and the Thompson Pass is only about 2,800 ft in elevation, yet it has recorded 1000 inch snow falls and is sometimes closed despite all the modern road clearing equipment. It is also the historic route into the interior of Alaska for the gold rush. Horse, mule and human chains climbed up the passes to get access to the interior. Many didn’t make it. And we complain while driving in our warm Jeep that we are not getting a clear view.
We explore the town which seems both diversified in its business life and its orientation. It is the southern end of the Alaska pipeline and 1 million barrels or crude are received and transferred to tankers every day. But is is a historic commercial fishing town and that is still active although not as in its peak days. Then there is sport fishing, we watch the halibut fishing derby with some really huge catches. Then there are the RV and driving tourists who are offered various glacier tours and other outdoor activities. And it is a cruise line port, so it changes from quiet to over run on schedule.
Valdez does not have a lot of charm as a town but does have a full range of services. But the geographic location is simply stunning. It looks like it is at the end of a Norwegian fiord. Glaciers are visible and fast running streams touch the ocean. The forrest is thick and green in contrast to the thinner tundra forrest we have traversed for days.

West to Alaska

Today we covered about 200 remarkable miles. We started out in Dawson City and took the ferry across the river and started out on the Top Of The World Highway. The mostly unpaved road was in pretty bad shape rut wise and even worse there was rain, fog and later just driving in the clouds. This is supposed to be one of the premier vista routes but my eyes were glued to the road to avoid going over some steep drop-offs. After a time the rain peters out and the fog lifted and, as promised, the vistas are amazing. The road is only open in the summer and only used in the daytime as the border station is only open in the day. I expected the road to get better on the US side but it actually was worse, some parts are paved and faster but then suddenly there will be potholes, washouts or really big frost heaves. This is one place that does not have to worry about enforcing the posted 90KPH/55MPH speed limit. There is also an issue that most vehicles slow down to avoid throwing rocks or mud but the big trucks just don’t seem to have good working brake systems as they don’t seem to slow down for anything.
We make it to the farthest north land border crossing in the US. There is so much mud that you have to chip off or wash the license plates to see them. We proceed on to Chicken, Alaska, a great little place to stop. A small cafe/ restaurant/trading post for tourists and real local miners who can actually order food and supplies and pay in gold. The soup of the day? Its always chicken. And fresh home made pies, buffalo burgers, reindeer bratwurst and believe it or not panini. We hang out a bit talking to the owners, locals and fellow travelers. We go to leave and encounter the most interesting event of the day in Chicken, someone has their Class A RV slipping off the side of the main dirt road. It is leaning enough that it looks very likely to roll. They call a truck size tow truck, dig out the front of it and then the RV is winched back on to the road. But the road was blocked for maybe an hour and backed up traffic but everyone seems to feel fortunate that they were not the ones who got stuck. This is the fourth such event in the Chicken area this season, the roads are just really soft with no shoulders. We take the wonder Jeep on a side road by a river that is listed for miners and fishermen. After slogging through even more serious mud we encounter real miners. Frank gets in an extended discussion with them on the design and use of hovercraft to bring heavy loads to and from their dredge operation upriver.
We are staying in Tok, Alaska tonight. Tok lists as one of its claims to fame that it is ‘the coldest inhabited place in the US’. We believe them, its SUMMER and it feels cold here.

Return To Dawson City

It was interesting to get back to Dawson City without 10,000 visitors. It is a quiet charming town. We met a lovely couple from Ontario Canada on the road and reconnected with them in Dawson at a fiddle hoe down. We had dinner together afterward at what has become our favorite restaurant, The Triple J. It was great to share and see how much we had in common.

Leaving Inuvik

We depart under full sun. While Inuvik is not a large place, in 4 days we do feel we have come to know it a bit. We know the hours of the coffee shop, what is in the two food stores, and the menus of various restaurants. Even went in the Mad Trapper Bar to check it out. One great feature is the library. It is a ‘clean, well lighted place’ with with both technical and personal support.
We went to a church service Sunday and it was a somber affair as it was this congregation that lost 4 people on Friday. They were remembered in hymns and stories in a very moving, reflective service.
Later we visited the community greenhouse. People tend their plots from May to October and then it is too cold and insufficient sun. But right now they have nearly 24 hours of sun and everything is growing. It is a riot of green.
We drive a rainy, muddy road, I can feel the four wheel drive working hard as different wheels plowed through the mud. We stop at Two Moose Lake and there is actually a moose there this time as well as the resident two swans. We proceed to the Engineer Creek campground which we skipped on the way up as it is listed as the coldest camping place on the Dempster. Susan thought to remedy this by buying an additional blanket. And it is bear territory. We heard branches breaking in the forrest and our neighbors at the campground report it was a grizzly with two cubs. They are excited but they are in an RV, we are in a tent. We break out the bear spray, put every last trace of food and things like soap and tooth paste in the car and I don’t sleep so well. Susan doesn’t sleep well either but that is because it gets really cold at night. We don’t actually see any frost or ice but it must be about that cold.

Flying to Tuk

Inuvik The End Of The Line

I’ll take you to a place up north
Like you’ve never seen before.
So pack your woolies, hats and things
Adventures we have in store.

Whether you start in Delhi, London or LA
And all those towns are fine,
When you reach Inuvik
You’ve reached the end of the line.

What do you do when you reach the end of the road? We decided to go a little further. Not by road since we could not drive but we flew to Tuktoyaktok, a native village on the arctic ocean. I had once dreamed of kayaking the 100 miles from Inuvik to Tuk. But that might take more time and we did not bring the necessary equipment and would we need a guide? (Susan always answers ‘yes’ to this question.) To get the experience we met with the local adventure travel agent to arrange for a small boat trip to Tuk and a flight back. But it didn’t work out. We kept trying to contact the agent for the trip details but could not reach him. We drove to the office and the staff informs us he is out on an emergency, his grandfather was out on a boat trip on the route we want to go and there was a problem, four of the 5 people on the boat are dead or missing. All available boats are out looking for survivors and in any case all such boat trips are canceled for the next several days. So we arrange for a day trip to Tuk by plane. And this is an experience worth doing. Tuk has about 900 people and there is no road there in the summer, only the ice road in winter. It is 90% native and the people still live off the land. Our guide hunts caribou and geese and also catches fish and beluga whales. The whole town lives this way. In the summer the town is mostly deserted as the locals have to moved to remote fishing/hunting camps. There is exactly one hotel/restaurant in the town but it is closed for renovations although we saw no sign of renovation going on. The town has exactly 6 bed & breakfast rooms to house any overnight visitors. Our guide shows us the fur clothes his wife made for winter hunting. The polar ice cap is visible from town until early June.
One of the traditions of tours here is that visitors dip their toe in the Arctic Ocean and we are eager to comply. Frank either goes a bit nuts from all the 24 hour sun or maybe needs a bath but he goes swimming. He says “come on in the waters fine” but Susan, sometimes thought to be the smarter of the two, just dips her toes. The area is well known for its pingos, which are frozen lakes that are raised to hills, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pingo We get a good view of several pingos form the air and its also a wonderful way to see the MacKenzie delta which spreads as far as you can see even from an aircraft. In Tuk we see a helicopter winching a boat down to the ground, we hear it is the fatal boat from the previous day and feel so sad, but this underscores the fact that this is a harsh land. The weather here is very changeable and one needs to be prepared. Susan and I have often thought about living in some of the more remote places we have visited, but it didn’t take much to concur that this was not one of them. Fascinating to visit but I don’t want to live there.

July 25

July 25
It is hard to express the feeling of reaching a goal after so much traveling to get here. My mind is full of all the sights, people, places and events we have experienced. Now sitting here in the sunroom of our Arctic Chalet overlooking a small lake surrounded by tundra trees and a garden of fire weed, I feel relaxed. I could stay here for a month. Outside the window there are 30 huskies in wooden pens and to the right of the kennel they are constructing a log house by hand. It is so peaceful and quiet except when the dogs start barking or howling. We saw a wolf last night and it ‘sings’ to the huskies, here they call that arctic music. http://www.arcticchalet.com/

July 24

We get up and head into town. We made it!!! We explore Inuvik. First we stop in the visitor center and receive our official certificates for crossing into the arctic and driving the Dempster Highway. We also get a lot of advice on local things to do. As we explore downtown, all two blocks of it, we stumble into a coffee shop and Susan orders a latte and they don’t look at her like she’s lost, hey, we’re not in Tsiigehtchic anymore. We wander the town and get some food supplies and look in all the gift shops. Some local stone & ivory carvings are beautiful but expensive. Actually everything up here is expensive. A small pizza is $25, fuel $7 a gallon, even the post cards are $1 each. I suppose fish would be more reasonable priced. Sounds just like prices in Tahiti but we’re missing the palm trees.

We visit a couple local churches, the Anglican church and the Catholic church which is igloo shaped, an icon for the town, its most outstanding piece of architecture. The town has a unique northern utility system where the water & sewer system is run in utilicors (utility corridors) above ground connecting buildings. In winter these keep the liquid from freezing and in summer it keeps them from melting the permafrost. In half a day we have seen most of the town. It is a remarkably diverse place. Beside the two main native people (Gwich’in & Inuit) there are people from around Canada, the US, Australia, Egypt, Africa and Europe. This is a place of opportunity for as long as the energy boom continues here.

July 23

We are up early, the sun is bright at 3 am, and hit the road by 6 am. We pass no one on the road for the first couple of hours, until we are near the Peel River ferry. The inevitable happens, a rock from a passing vehicle hits our jeep windshield and leaves a chip in it, probably fatal. We stop in Ft. McPherson and then it is off to another river crossing at Tsiigehtchic (sig-e-chic), where we have lunch along the Arctic Red River watching six bald eagles fish and play with each other in the air. We cross the MacKenzie river and stop about 20 miles short of Inuvik which we will save for tomorrow. At Campbell Lake we find a neat campground, fewer mosquitoes and fewer people. We were all alone in the campground until another couple arrived. Not sure why the place was empty, maybe it was too near Inuvik and people just press on. The First People is what they call the natives here, and the local group are the Gwich’in. The Gwich’in man at the visitor center in Ft. McPherson said he had 36 visitors on Monday, 16 on Tuesday and just us so far on Wednesday. They really appreciate their visitors. It is income but it is also the personal contact.

July 21 and 22

Its one of those mysteries in life. I have thought about this trip for a long time and planned for several years. I had some rather distinct images of how it would go. It was supposed to be sunny and bright with maybe an orchestra playing in the background. Rather than being ecstatic as we entered the Dempster there was instead a sense of worry. You see, there has not been this much rain at this time of year that anyone can remember. So instead of golden, sunny days its overcast, wet and slippery. The dust replaced by mud. We stop in at the ‘lodge’ at the foot of dempster and talk to the fellow. He has heard reports of the road being closed and he knows some German tourists got stuck but he makes a few calls and finds that the road is not officially closed and in the last 24 hours two semi trucks actually made it through. We have pictures of them, they look like some painter had gone mad with brown paint.We press on. And its worth it. We go only 45 miles up the road to the Tombstone campground. In that hour we did see one truck, one SUV and one bicycle going the other way. Amazing that a bicycle can get through where more powerful vehicles cannot. The Jeep is coated in mud. We have our first ‘causality’ on it, a chipped rear tail light.
The campground is amazing. Susan said it compared to Switzerland but all I could think of was Wales which has nice mountains and is very wet. I remember a postcard from Wales that was divided in two, the first part showed sheep getting rained on and said “winter in Wales” and the other half showed the same sheep getting rained on and the title said “summer in Wales”. But it is not usually this wet. The ranger said the fast flowing creek we were walking by is usually dry this time of year. Then we get a bit of a dry spell, enough to set up the tent and go on a tundra hike. Batches of color are actually tiny plants, mushroom and lichens when we look close to the ground, but look up and there are towering peaks like something out of Lord Of The Rings. Life imitates art? The trip is definitely looking up. Susan prepares her fishing gear but there will not be any good opportunity today, we hear about some places down the road with a good reputation for fishing.
July 22
Our goal today is to get to Eagle Plains roughly the half way point. This is the first place that has fuel, food, and a campsite. The fuel ends up costing about $7.00 a gallon but there are no complaints as the nearest alternative is 229 miles back at the start of the Dempster. We eat a quick sandwich and press on as it is early (4 PM) and light. We pass the official crossing into the Arctic Circle and stop for pictures. We just inside the Yukon/Northwest Territories border at the Rock River campground. The campground is empty, not a single person or vehicle, official or tourist. We wonder why but we have a theory; this is a secret site for biological warfare where they raise mosquitoes. Never have I seen so many. And despite sprays, thick clothes and the foresight of Susan to buy and actually have accessible face nets we still get a bunch of bites setting up the tent. Its particularly frustrating as we are driving through vast panoramas with Arctic forrest as far as the eye can see and we are somewhat confined to our tent.
It is one of those times where the sun leaks through the clouds and it is warm enough for a T- shirt but as soon as it clouds over it is necessary to have more than one layer of sweaters. Nice signs here; one directs campers to put all gray water in the out houses as they do not want even a trace of food around the campsites. There are food storage boxes and hanging racks for backpackers’ backpacks. And there is a specific sign for hunters not to bring any dead game into the area. Sounds like we are in bear territory! There was a report of a Grizzly sow with two cubs at a campsite we passed. And its cold. When we break camp in the morning the Jeep thermometer indicates 35 degrees (F not C). This is summer?
Another Day in Dawson City, July 19 and 20
Its wet out here but rain little dampens the magic. We catch several music shows in the festival. The music is enough to make us want to come back. We plan to hang around one more day. So much to see. Its hard not to like DC. Hey, Jack London lived here and he liked it! Its hard to figure what it is ‘really’ like to live here. Something Susan & I regularly do is ponder what day to day life is like in places we visit. The challenge with trying to understand living in DC during the Music Festival is like trying to understand a place while visiting on Halloween. This is a crowded, noisy time, and I don’t think of the ‘far north’ as crowded and noisy. But a fun time too.
We went a few miles out of town to see Dredge Number 4 today, if you ever get up this way its a must see. These dredges were constructed starting around 1900 and worked as late as the 1960s scooping up large amounts of old river bed looking for and finding much gold. They were originally constructed when there were no rail or land roads so everything had to come up river after spring thaw and be assembled in the wilderness. They are huge and we needed a long explaination as to how they worked. http://www.pc.gc.ca/voyage-travel/pv-vp/itm13-/page9_e.asp
Turning North Again
Tomorrow, after 4,000 miles and three weeks we turn up the last leg, we actually will start on the Dempster Hwy. http://tinyurl.com/6magz2 Historically the Dempstrer is pretty dry and dusty in July but we have had at least a week of rain now and the road is muddy with one section washed out. I asked a gal staying at the B&B we are staying at (more fair weather campers, us) who spends most of her summer up the Dempster, she says she makes it through the wash out area in her pick up truck, ‘just don’t stop’ when you hit the low mud or you may stay there longer than you want. I ask about fishing places and get some suggestions. Susan gets a fishing license, I’m the designated eater. Hope for some graying or arctic char.

Dawson City

Talk about magic, this place is carried along by its ghosts. Many of them are negative, in the Klondike gold rush many men perished and most went home empty handed. Some did well and a few very well indeed. They clawed the gold out of the rugged hills and river valleys far from the developed world. At one time Dawson City http://www.dawsoncity.ca/ had 28,000 to 30,000 residents, in the 1890s it was the second largest city west of the Mississippi after only San Francisco was Dawson. Not sure how many were transient since the whole town is kind of transient, it now has a population of 2,000 except for this weekend, the weekend of the Dawson City Music Festival, that has been running for 20 years now. This weekend the population swells to 10,000 to 12,000 which puts accommodations at a premium. We got into DC early enough to get, no kidding, the very last open room in the town. Not much negotiation over price. While we are prepared to camp we appear to be fair weather campers and fair weather we do not have. It rained all the way up and continues to sprinkle and threaten worse things. So in addition to the natural lack of hotel rooms this weekend almost all the tent camping folks are looking for rooms since the campground is literally under an inch or two, or worse, of water. But we got the very last room and were told by the booking agent, the hotel reception and the long line of people behind us how lucky we were. The tour book says that DC has more to do and see than any town in the Yukon, northern British Columbia and northern Alaska and it is true. The whole town is like living museum. Our ‘hotel’’, The Yukon Hotel, was built in 1898 out of logs. It has been updated with electricity and refinished but still is an old log place. Most of the city is. The streets are not paved so the locals mostly talk about how dusty it gets but with the rain its all mud. The sidewalks are wood. The streets & sidewalks are not unpaved for lack of financial resources, DC was once a wealthy town but its the weather. If you paved a road it might last one year; then it will sink, twist or break in the next season and every one after that. Easier to just truck in more dirt and replace a few planks on the sidewalk.
The food is terrific. Don’t know why people open great restaurants in remote places (and serve curried vegetables in filo with a brie sauce, yum) but the combination seems to work for them and it works us. And the music is great, we take in the opening act but ‘Blues Brothers’ type blues in the early afternoon sun in a sober auditorium with local officials officiating just misses the right feel. Hard to play rebel music when welcomed by the mayor. At the restaurant a band plays some really good country music and there is a lot of folk music tomorrow. We will skip the Hip Hop sessions.

July 16 and 17

I first came to Whitehorse in the 1960’s in my dreams, it took to 2008 to get the rest of me here. The place is even more wild and wonderful than my active imagination allowed for. Whitehorse looks to be a little further north than Anchorage AK, it is the capital of the Yukon Territories and has about 30,000 people maybe half the population of the Yukon Territories which has more land area than California. In other words it is big, open, far north and wild in its character. One of the interesting things about these big, open spaces is that it actually brings people closer together. The Robert Service campground in Whitehorse is on my short list of great sites. People from all over the earth, a view of the river complete with people fly fishing, and within walking distance to downtown. The people get quiet at night (but there was still enough light to read at 11:30 at night) but the animals & critters scamper and scream in the few hours of darkness. We knew it was 7 AM when the first jet took off from the airport. Shortly after that a couple pontoon aircraft took of for even more remote fishing camps that cannot be reached by road.
Whereas in Los Angeles ‘nobody knows your name’, here after you meet fellow travelers once or twice there develops real camaraderie. For instance, we crossed paths with an Australian couple, Robin and Brenden who are working in Manitoba, Canada for a year and now we ended up sharing a campsite with them in Whitehorse.
Seaplanes lumbering to get off the water. They move so slow I wonder what their stall speed is they move about as fast as I run. And their appearance is so unaerodynamic its amazing they can fly at all.
I love this place. While the modern world is here in the form of a Tim Horton’s and some chain stores still the trash cans even in the city center are not only covered but have the recessed handle to keep out critters small and large. You can actually take a boat (see the book “Yukon Summer”) all the way from Skagway, through Whitehorse, north of Fairbanks AK and come out near Nome AK. I love the road sign going out of town showing SOUTH to Alaska. And don’t ask for decaf coffee or you will get a sympathetic smile for the poor city kid whose GPS must not be working.
We interrupt this blog for a restaurant recommendation: If you ever find yourself in Whitehorse do not miss the Klondike Rib And Salmon restaurant no matter how long the line is, its worth it. The food is so good I’m not sure I want to leave town.
The Alaska Highway is pretty far north but 8 miles out of Whitehorse we take a road north off the Alaska Highway, its called the Top Of The World Highway and it takes us to Dawson City YT. we cover over 300 miles today so we are up around 5 AM, break camp and off on the road out of Whitehorse by 7 AM.

July 15

3,700 miles since we set out and the real adventure has just begun. Today we entered the Yukon. Every state and province has a motto, sometimes even found on a license plate. Illinois is ‘Land Of Lincoln’, Missouri is the ‘Show Me State’, Montana, ’Big Sky Country’ Alberta has the Wild Alberta Rose. Each captures something of the spirit of the place. The Yukon’s is ‘Larger Than Life’. I would suggest they use something like ’Wild Beyond You’re Imagination’.
We have definitely hit a wild land even though we are at the beginning in the south. Already there is permafrost in many of the endless miles of scrub forrest. But there are enough places that are not on permafrost to see how a forrest would grow in its absence. Today we went to a Laird Hot Spring to soak and decided this is a place we would like to spend more time. The lake nearby, Muncho Lake, is spectacular. Then we took our Jeep down a dirt road to Smith River falls, a beautiful roaring falls. On the animal front we saw 9 bears, many Stone Sheep, deer, elk, and free roaming buffalos. Lots of pictures but it felt like a photo safari in that you just don’t leave the car when that close ot a mama bear with cubs or buffalos with babies are so near. We arrived for the night in Watson Lake, Yukon a town of about 1,600 hearty souls. Shops close early and there are exactly 2 places to eat in town unless you include the grocery store.
There is some debate as to whether Henry Ford said: “you can have any color car you want, as long as its black”. But up here you can have any color you want as long as its brown. Unless there is a current rain out all the cars & trucks sport a uniform mud brown color.
We are staying in the Air Force Lodge, a restored BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters), that was moved here in 1942. A neat log structure that took 2 years to restore.

July 14

Two weeks, 2500 miles and in a sense we have just begun. We start today at mile 0 in Dawson Creek.  But there are several beginnings for us so far; when we left home, when we left AZ and headed north, when we left family in Edmonton and now from Dawson Creek, the next “beginning” for us will heading up the Dempster Hwy. in a few days. Then there is the return and our Alaska travels that are currently unstructured.
But every hill is a beginning, too, someplace new to us. And new things beside the view like the Canadian food poutine. Looks remarkably like chili fries only with gravy instead of chili. We are probably more adventurous in food than in travel (my take off on Will Rogers is “I never met a food I didn’t like,” but poutine doesn’t even seem interesting and it has been a loosing struggle to not to eat too much already. Maybe if it is the only thing on the menu in Inuvik.
Tim Horton’s restaurant must be doing something right. Susan will drive by the Starbucks to get Horton’s frozen Cappuccino even today when it was 45 degrees out (13C, see, we’re going metric already). We see many slow or empty eating places, but always a line at Horton’s.

The Road North - Edmonton to Dawson Creek, B.C.

The Road North

Up to now we have been retracing old routes and meeting with family & friends along the way. In Wetaskiwin, Alberta we got to help our niece and nephew, Candice and Gary build a fence, taking time off to explore Edmonton with our lovely grandniece, Ashton. First we went to the Royal Alberta Museum. http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/ The aboriginal exhibit there was outstanding. We then went to the Edmonton Street Performers Festival and saw some great comedic acts. Ashton got a very artistic face painting. The next day we went to the Reynolds Museum in Wetaskiwin where they had a special visiting exhibition on the Model T car.  http://machinemuseum.net/
This morning we had breakfast with my bother & his wife in St. Albert, Alberta and then headed out of town. We have seen many bright yellow fields, stunning in their beauty and size. They look like mustard, but are producing rapeseed oil, i.e. canola. I expect these plants to be producing fuel when oil has dried up in the middle east and the Alberta tar sands. The sky here is so big, horizon to horizon with Georgia O’Keefe clouds. Now the road north is the ‘great’ unknown for us. Here on the way to Grande Prairie the terrain has changed subtly. Whereas southern Alberta is mostly farm land with small bits of forest, now north of Edmonton there are still substantial farms, however they looked carved out of the forests. The services are now much farther apart. Road signs indicate services far down the road. Grand Prairie is a surprise, so much agriculture so far north. It is the far north end of the great plains. Once covered with tall grasses and buffalo herds it now produces a great quantity of canola, hay and other agricultural produce.  Tomorrow we explore the Dawson Creek area.

July 9 All in a Day

You may have noticed that we are fairly peppy in our travels. And this is mostly caffeine free. The tension between relaxing in a present comfortable place and moving on to new places & events down the road usually resolves by moving on. Yesterday we left the POWH 
and proceeded to Pincher Creek Alberta. I had been there some 40 years ago and did not remember much of it. Nice little town with a pioneer museum. We found a delicious little bakery and the best internet connection was sitting outside the library.
We went on to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. http://www.head-smashed-in.com/ This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a great presentation of the life of the plains Indians before horses. We arrived to catch the once a week Indian dance presentation and take in a genuine buffalo burger. This is a green and fruitful land now and I am sure it was then too. All of it would work for me except the -30 winter temperatures (C or F, its up to you, its still cold.)
Down the road waiting for us was Calgary and The Stampede.  http://calgarystampede.com/ Although I had been in Alberta a number of times I had only seen Calgary at 70 MPH form a car window. Susan had been there to a Stampede before and dragged me along. It is something like a big county fair (like the Los Angeles county fair) but with a lot of cowboys . Several were limping across the grounds. We catch the sheep shearing show, a dog show and listen to several different kinds of music. We eat non diet food, it seems like the diet will always start tomorrow. Its a great event, not tom miss if you are in the area or even as a destination trip.
On the way to our night stopover in Red Deer we stop at a Tim Horton’s restaurant, a first for us. This is a Canadian chain and is a cross between a coffee shop and a more serious food place. They have a great reputation with Canadians and their absence has been known to draw a tear whilst on travel out of the country. I think they are OK, their sandwich was OK, their soup excellent but they don’t seem to make good decaf coffee, maybe their regular stuff is better, I wish there were a Peet’s Coffee here.
After only a couple days we are becoming more Canadian, Like most US cars ours has kilometers as well as miles on the speedometer. I am now just about used to looking at the kilometer circle and matching it to the kilometer speed limit. But I think it will be along time before I get used to matching liters per kilometer to miles per gallon fuel consumption.

July 8

July 8 Today we covered less than 200 miles but what miles they were! We drove the ‘Going To The Sun Highway’ My brother told me about it and Susan had driven it before. It is a 60 mile road in Glacier National Park that has big elevation gains/losses, much exposure (like those pictures you see in Peru) and literally breath taking views. The road opened for the season only last week and for several miles there was only one lane. We had to wait for 25 minutes for our turn. This deserves many paragraphs and pictures but look it up on the internet and drive it if you can.
Now I had figured that this was the time to transition from motels to camping to save money and get accustomed to camp life. But I did not count on Susan who dialed the Glacier Lodge to check if there had been any cancellations. There were none but there were a couple openings at the Prince Of Wales Lodge in Waterton National Park in Canada, if we had passports. Of course we do but I choke at the price. Susan chats pleasantly and gets offered the off season rate (saved $100). Folks don’t seem to offer me these special deals.
I was last at the POWH 41 years ago and Susan was there 40 years ago. Both of us were poor and just visiting at the time and now we are staying here as Susan decided to raid her ‘mad money account to cover the costs, who am I to disagree? The lodge has not changed much in 40 years can’t say the same thing about Susan & I.
Border Crossing
I have been across the Canadian border at least a dozen times. Usually I can measure the interrogation time by the second hand of an analog watch (remember those?). But the young lady at customs asks where we are from (California) how long to plan to stay in Canada (3 to 4 weeks) and did we have any firearms (no). not sure what triggered it, maybe watching too many TV shows about Los Angeles but out comes an assistant, both don rubber gloves and diligently search our Jeep, I suspect, looking for a gun. They look through our food supply, camping equipment and dirty laundry but didn’t fire up our laptop, the most dangerous thing we carry. Of course they do not find anything. I wanted to bring a shotgun to protect against bears in the Arctic but Sierra Club Sue (AKA Dear Wife) nixed the idea. I expect to pick up some bear repellent spray later on the trip. Hope it does more than add festive seasoning to tourists.

July 7

July 7th. We start out from Pocatello in the fashion of Bill Guist, we investigate the Potato Museum and learn more about potatoes in general and Idaho potatoes in particular than one could imagine. Models of potato harvesting systems from manual and horse drawn through modern powered systems. Got a free (lagniappe) of potato pancake mix thrown in for the $2.50 price of admission.
Who invented Polson, MT? We are sitting watching the sun set over Flathead Lake, at a Mexican restaurant and the town is surrounded by an Indian reservation. Tropical drinks, huge alpine lake, towering mountains, and cherry orchards what could be better. This town and a number of others we visited today including Pocatello, Idaho Falls and Dillon all seem to be recovering a previous prosperity. Obviously they had fallen on hard times in the not too distant past but everywhere was construction, new businesses and vibrant life. Of course this is the high summer season, might look different in January.

Chalk One Up For The Natives.
We departed from the US 15 route to go up ID128 to follow the path taken by Lewis & Clark when they went through Idaho. This led us past the Big Hole National Battlefield. This battle, though not the war, was won by the Nez Perce, they even have the cannon captured by the Indians after firing two rounds. It is quite a story.  

Day 5 and 6 Utah and Idaho

July 5th,Day 5 of our trip, day two of driving. Last night we drove from Jerome AZ and ended the day in Beaver UT. On the road we passed the Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado river. It is only about a 3/4 mile hike to an observation point into a ‘Kodak Moment’ except our camera would never capture a decent likeness of the site.  http://www.travelsw.com/southwest-trips/southwest-trips-arizona/horseshoe.htm
And there is a campground on the river below, made a mental note to add the site to a future camping trip. The river looks tame there and our folding kayaks could get us there if we take out before the river goes wild.
Then we pressed on to Beaver and arrived for the annual celebration of Butch Cassidy Weekend, a local boy who went wrong. But there is a free and decent band in the park and, judging by the license plates, people from all over the US & Canada. We put off roughing it and got a motel room with TV, internet and a warm pool. I could get used to this.

July 6, Day 6 of our trip and day three of driving. Today we left Beaver and went up the road to Salt Lake City. Stopped and saw the Temple. The whole area was greener than I expected. Since there is a salt lake and the Bonneville salt flats are nearby I expected more like Nevada desert but its actually pretty green.

We press on to Ogden and stop at the Hill AFB air museum. While not on the level of the Smithsonian or Wright-Patterson AFB its actually an excellent site, good range of aircraft and very well presented.  http://travel.webshots.com/album/56115645rVdwpL 

Our favorite place today is actually Brigham City. Their Tabernacle has just charming architecture and is a well restored religious building. And best of all we the Bear River Wild Life Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/Refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=65530
I like to consider my self a ‘birder’. I am a member of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club but when I go out with ‘real birders’ I get embarrassed. I can figure out that a particular bird is a duck and maybe a male or female. “real birders’ know it is an immature male of a particular subspecies. This place is wonderfully full of bird life and I make a mental note to see what permission is required to take a kayak in the meandering streams and controlled channels.

We press on to Pocatello ID, the first time in Idaho for Susan & I. We had dinner at a local place and of course our main course comes with a side of Idaho potatoes. Too bad they were out of Oatmeal Pie.

Fourth of July

Sitting here in Jerome, AZ  http://www.azjerome.com, a really interesting place. An old mining town high up (5,200 ft) on the side of a mountain and full of old buildings, many abandoned. There are storm clouds around us, lightning on the distant hills and rain falling in the Verde Valley below like in ages past. One thing we like about Jerome (aside from my sister living here, of course) and places like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (which we were at last week) and Death Valley is that these places change so little. We are accustomed to the pace of change in Southern California where it is impossible to keep up. In our local stores it is unusual anyone knows or remembers us but here we visit once or maybe twice a year and are acknowledged by name in the local coffee shop. We were waiting for the local 4th of July parade but it looks like a case of ‘rain on the parade’ and it may be canceled.

Day 1

Day 1, July 1st, start Pasadena, CA destination Jerome, AZ miles 358, 7 hours driving, We began our trip north by heading east. The logic is not navigational as in rounding a mountain system or locating a bridge crossing a river. In our case it is to connect with family. It was very hot on the way, 106 to 108 as we went through Blythe, CA and somewhere in AZ our car temp indicator briefly hit 113. The air conditioning held up although we did turn it off on a couple steep grades to make sure there was no overheating. We drove to my sister’s house in Jerome Az  (http://www.azjerome.com/) an old mining town in the AZ m mountains near Sedona.Our 87 year old mother is visiting from Chicago. On July 2nd we will drive down to the Phoenix area to take in a band performance which our son Michael is in. He is in a 'drum and bugle corps’ called the Velvet Knights  (http://www.vkyao.org/vk/ ). He is on the road all summer as are we and this will be our only chance to see a performance.
We will hang out in Jerome for the 4th of July catching local parties, fireworks and whatever band in playing in the Spirit Room (the local, very colorful, bar).

The trip

If you are living a dream, is it real? What is real and what is a dream? Is it 'real' to be headed out on the road on an open ended journey or is is something else. For so long that it slips into distant memory I have wanted to drive the Dempster Highway in the Canadian Northwest Territories, visit empty places, kayak out of sight of everything.
I first heard of Inuvik in 1968. I was a freshman in college and people were hitchhiking around the country. It was the most remote place I heard of that you could actually reach with a vehicle and perservence. Ultmia Thule, the end of the world, beyond this place the map said "here lies dragons". I always kept a mental eye out for the rare references to the place.
I never had time. In 35 years of work I have had two times I managed 3 week vacations. One was between jobs and the other was after maybe 30 years and enough seniority to celebrate my wife's successful surgery. A trip to the arctic, to the end of the road requires time or great resources, I had neither. Oddly enough my brother beat me there. In September about a year & a half ago I called him on his cell phone on his birthday. He was in Inuvik! The place of my foggy, misplaced dreams! "How was it?" I inquired. He looked out and reported, "Pretty gray". The place was cold, grey and sleeting. I have more recently read articles that described the major Arctic towns of Barrow, and Inuvik as bleak places. The settling of nomadic peoples were not without problems and the oil and mineral exploration did not provide the mist civic minded personnel to these remote places. Bleak, Bleak, Bleak! But I wanted to go anyway. And so off we go.
And if you know me you have heard this story enough times, for the new viewers: Susan asks me "Why do you want to go to the Arctic?" And I reply something about nobody being there and wanting to kayak in the arctic. She replies: "Theres a reason no one lives there!" And she shows me pictures of Hawaii & Tahiti and says "You can kayak there and if you fall in the water you don't freeze to death; you just get to see pretty fish!" Still I persist, a dream is a dream. What will it be like to actually try to realize one?

The vehicle. For this trip not any vehicle will do. A few years back I actually acquired a beat up 1998 Jeep Cherokee with this trip in mind. It is a rugged beast and we have taken it on back roads in Arizona and off road in Death Valley. But it has limped home a few times and although it has a recent water pump and radiator and decent tires we just don't have the confidence to be 350 miles from the nearest service station. Any problems with the Cherokee and we would just probably have to abandon it and figure out a way to get home. But our 'good' vehicle is also a Jeep. In 2007 we bought a 2006 Jeep Liberty diesel. It was not easy to find in California, that model was never sold here new. But I wanted a diesel ever since I had my old 1966 Mercedes 200D from 1976 to 1981. Just loved it. The primary purpose of the Liberty diesel is to tow our small (17 ft) travel trailer, which it does very well. We didn't focus on its off road capacity. It is shinny and scratch free and has tires best kept on the road. But we decided that even if we need to fix a lot of scratches we are better off with the Liberty. It is comfortable cruising on the road, gets very good milage (27 MPG is the best we have had so far, cruising @ 70), has real 4WD, and skid plates under the engine, transmission and fuel tank. It will need new 'shoes', probably go with Goodrich T/A KOs which have been wonderful on the Cherokee. The key requirement is the tire have a strong sidewall. These tires are 8 ply hopefully that will see us through 900 miles (450 each way) of shale rock road that has a reputation for being death to tire sidewalls. And we should be able to cover a lot of distance on a tankful of fuel. The last e 450 miles are an unpaved road into Inuvik and there there is exactly one gas station 150 miles in. The Jeep Liberty should cover the 300 mile leg without a problem.

The route. From Dawson City to Inuvik there is only one road but there are different ways to get to Dawson City. The shortest route for us would be to go up along the coast to Vancouver BC and head up from there. There is also the option of taking a ferry up to Alaska and over to DC NT. But we have reasons for a more circuitous route. We will start by heading east to Arizona to visit family in Jerome AZ and head north from there somewhat following US Hwy 15 with excursions to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone parks. We would cross into Alberta, Canada and go up to Edmonton and another family visit. Then we turn west and head for parts of the world we have never been in before. When we return from Inuvik to Dawson City we plan to head into Tok, Alaska and then weave back into British Columbia before getting to Haines, AK where we hope to catch a ferry back to Washington state. Advance reservations are recommended in the Washington State ferry system but we are unsure of our schedule so far in advance. As we get near Haines we will call in and check for reservations and we expect several 'down' days to explore around Haines and expect there will be an opportunity to catch a place on the ferry.

Navigation. Up in northern Canada and Alaska there are only a few roads so there isn't much need for navigation support. We have maps, we have a Garmin NUVI GPS system a retirement gift from my brother Ed, an old Garmin GPS system to provide L&L points if we go off road. And we have Susan's iphone which is a great resource where there is actual cell phone coverage.