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?

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