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.

3 comments:

Pat said...

Love the picture!! Use your sun screen, don't pick up hitchhikers and oh yeah... HAVE FUN

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see you!
Candice

Sybil said...

Welcome to Arizona on the first day of your Artic adventure. Hope the entire trip is fun and safe.
Love, Sybil