The meaning of FRY

I awoke to sun and the promise of more of the same in Seattle in this afternoon. I know I won’t want to stop in the Seattle area with the rig, so I decided to jump on this opportunity to go see a bit more of this beautiful city!

To get there, I decided to take back roads to explore a bit more of the Washington coast. I set off from home around 8:30, went into Bellingham to run a few errands, and then asked the GPS to take me to Seattle the long way around.

The route took me through downtown Bellingham and down a beautiful stretch of highway that used to be connected to the Pacific Coast Highway that still exists near Los Angeles. We then entered a stretch of farmland and small towns where every other house was a gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian.

Entering Anacortes, there were a lot of signs for ferries, but I ignored them until I got this little niggly feeling. The following conversation with myself ensued:

-You set the GPS to avoid ferries, right?

-Probably. And I checked the route ahead of time.

-Check it again.

-Road, road, road, freeway, arrival. No, that’s FRY. Not freeway. FERRY!

I pulled over and reset the GPS to take me to Seattle by land only! I wasn’t really that far out of my way, thank goodness.

Approaching Everett, the GPS led me onto I-5 for a bit and that’s where I decided to stick to the interstate, not wanting to spend an hour navigating city traffic and also to make sure I knew what lanes to be in with Miranda when I drive through there on Tuesday morning.

downtown Bellingham

downtown Bellingham

This approach outside Fairhaven reminds of Montreal's Old Port and the Five Rose factory

This approach outside Fairhaven reminds of Montreal’s Old Port and the Five Rose factory

Fairhaven, WA

Fairhaven, WA

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information on Chuckanut drive, formerlly part of the Pacific Coast Highway

information on Chuckanut drive, formerlly part of the Pacific Coast Highway

information on Chuckanut drive, formerlly part of the Pacific Coast Highway

information on Chuckanut drive, formerlly part of the Pacific Coast Highway

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entering Seattle

entering Seattle

entering Seattle

entering Seattle

I got to Seattle at one, parked, and headed to buy tickets for the attraction I’d picked. Next post!

Driving the Dempster: The Road Back Home Again

Being so sore from climbing out of the ice house, I was glad to have a comfy bed Thursday night! I slept well and late, figuring that I was in no rush since I was only heading to Eagle Plains and didn’t want to get there too early. But soon as I stepped out onto the deck with my coffee Friday morning to see a heavy, dark cloud cover I realised that I might have to change my plans.

I headed back into town to the visitors’ centre to get a road report. I found out that it had rained heavily at Eagle Plains a few days prior, but had since been dry, and that it would be raining from Friday night onward for at least three or four days. There was only one thing to do: squeeze through this window of good weather and decent road conditions and head straight home!!! I knew that a best case scenario would get me home in 12 hours. I bought some snacks and hit the road at 11AM. I’d bought gas the morning before, at 1.49!!!

My attitude on Friday was that I was going to get where I was going to get in the amount of time it was going to take and I wasn’t going to rush, stress out, or otherwise set myself up for an accident. Yes, I would be tired, but it was better to be fatigued in good circumstances than it would be to have a poor night at Eagle Plains and then be tired in bad circumstances.

To my surprise, the time passed quickly even if the kilometres didn’t and I took the time to make a few stops, stretch my legs, and talk to people. Every single person I spoke to was worried about my car making it through a stretch past Eagle Plains, but was also in agreement with me that my making a run to Dawson was a good idea.

At Eagle Plains, I took the time to get fuel, have a coffee, and be warned, yet again, about a bad stretch of road upcoming. I was getting pretty stressed out by this point, but had definitely reached the point of no return.

It didn’t take long for the gravel to turn to a muddy track. I slowed to a crawl and tried as best as I could to stay in the ruts laid by other vehicles. When I couldn’t, the car just slid around and I used my winter driving skills to stay in control. It wasn’t an awful experience, though, not like that one stretch of construction on the way in that had me driving over rocks just a bit taller than my car’s ground clearance (thunk, scraaaaaaaape, THUNK!). When I was pretty sure that stretch was done, I pulled over for a snack and then pushed on. Buying those new tires in Whitehorse really paid off on this drive!

Until this point, I’d literally been outracing storm clouds to the point that if I stopped for a second, I’d start to get rain splatters. Finally, the sky cleared and the sun came out in full force. The final stretch home, in familiar territory starting at Two Moose Lake, was easy. I emerged triumphant at the Dempster corner, tired, but not excessively so, and thrilled to have made such a difficult drive without incident. I pulled into home at 10PM, bang on 12 hours from my departure in Inuvik (remember the time zone change!).

dark skies heading out

dark skies heading out

even darker skies

even darker skies

the Mackenzie River ferry

the Mackenzie River ferry

the gal at the Inuvik visitor info centre said that Tsighetchic has a sign on the hill 'just like Hollywood, only smaller'. She was right. :D

the gal at the Inuvik visitor info centre said that Tsighetchic has a sign on the hill ‘just like Hollywood, only smaller’. She was right. 😀

waiting for the Peel River ferry

waiting for the Peel River ferry

the Peel River was quite choppy on the way back!

the Peel River was quite choppy on the way back!

fairly good shot of the Peel River cable

fairly good shot of the Peel River cable

good shot of the ferry cable

good shot of the ferry cable

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I somehow missed this 'veiw' point on the way in

I somehow missed this ‘veiw’ point on the way in

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after Eagle Plains, the gravel highway became a muddy rut for about a 100km.

after Eagle Plains, the gravel highway became a muddy rut for about a 100km.

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last of the big storm clouds

last of the big storm clouds

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kind of looks like a castle!

kind of looks like a castle!

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heading into a lunar landscape?!

heading into a lunar landscape?!

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the details my new camera captures boggles me!

the details my new camera captures boggles me!

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Three of these guys were having a party in the middle of the highway. They scattered when I showed up, but he came by and obligingly posed for pictures.

Three of these guys were having a party in the middle of the highway. They scattered when I showed up, but he came by and obligingly posed for pictures.

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so good to not be outracing the clouds anymore!

so good to not be outracing the clouds anymore!

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done!

done!

Driving the Dempster: Eagle Plains to Inuvik

I was up insanely early at Eagle Plains (sleeping on the ground will do that to you). I made some coffee and oatmeal, broke camp, and heading off around 7AM. There’s a time zone change to Mountain Standard Time when you hit the Northwest Territories, so I figured an early start would make up for the lost hour.

This second half of the Dempster has a lot of milestones. The first was, of course, the crossing of the imaginary line known as the Arctic Circle. We humans make such a fuss over other imaginary things like time and mathematics and borders, so why not a line around the earth? 🙂

Next, I crossed over into the Northwest Territories! I just have one province and one territory left to visit! Shortly after that, I had the second grizzly sighting of my life. I didn’t see much wildlife on this trip, but a grizzly more than made up for that!

A couple hours after Eagle Plains, I hit the first of the two ferries, that at the Peel River. The approach to it was incredibly steep and I scraped the whole bottom front of my car getting on. It was annoying to be getting the ‘hurry up!’ motion while I was trying to avoid making any damages worth mentioning! This ferry runs on a cable, shots of which I got on my return trip, so I will be returning to this place in a few posts.

After the ferry, I pulled into the Nitainlaii Territorial Park entrance to use the outhouse. Since I was there, I figured I might as well go into the interpretive centre and see what was what. The door wasn’t even open yet that I was cheerfully greeted by an Elder who was obviously eager to chat with someone new. We talked about road conditions and then he uttered some of the most beautiful words in the English language: “I have coffee.” I had a cup with hazelnut creamer and set back off.

I then came across the community of Fort McPherson, known for its canvas products such as tents and bags. The factory wasn’t open yet for public viewing and there wasn’t much else to see in this tiny town, so I pushed on towards the second ferry crossing.

The tiny village of Tsiigehtchic, at the confluence of the Arctic Red and Mackenzie Rivers, is a sight to behold; so picturesque with its white church and set against emerald greenery. I had thought to detour there, but the ferry approaches being what they were, I wasn’t too motivate to risk damage to the car.

This ferry crossing features a larger boat which travels in a triangular pattern: south shore of the Mackenzie, then Tsiigehtchic, then the north shore. As a side note, the Arctic Red River should not be confused with the more southern Red River that passes through Winnipeg.

The wait for this ferry was much longer than for the Peel River and I also had to detour to Tsiigehtchic to let off a car. When I saw that it had trouble getting off, I decided I’d made a good decision to not get off, too.

The Mackenzie River is the longest in Canada and the eleventh longest in the world. This is a fact that was drilled into me in my elementary geography classes and I was not disappointed by the river in the least! It is big and wide and most impressive.

There’s a nice view point (or veiw point according to the NWT) shortly before Inuvik. I enjoyed the short walk up to the lookout platform, where I was awed by all the trees! Where was the barren Arctic I’d read about?!

Some more kilometres passed and then, just like that, I hit pavement and the Inuvik airport. I felt so accomplished at knowing that I’d made it through the Dempster unscathed, but I never forgot that I’d have to do it again!

30 minutes from Eagle Plains, I crossed the fabled Arctic Circle

30 minutes from Eagle Plains, I crossed the fabled Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

when I bought this car, I had no idea that it would take me to such wonderous places...

when I bought this car, I had no idea that it would take me to such wonderous places…

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

text about pingos (more on those in a later post)

text about pingos (more on those in a later post)

view at the Arctic Circle

view at the Arctic Circle

about the Arctic

about the Arctic

yet more about the Arctic Circle

yet more about the Arctic Circle

still more views at the Arctic Circle

still more views at the Arctic Circle

entering the Northwest Territories!!!

entering the Northwest Territories!!!

the Northwest Territories at last!

the Northwest Territories at last!

standing between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories

standing between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories

first glimpses of the NWT

first glimpses of the NWT

first glimpses of the NWT

first glimpses of the NWT

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grizzly!

grizzly!

grizzly!

grizzly!

grizzly!

grizzly!

on the Peel River ferry

on the Peel River ferry

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approaching Fort McPherson

approaching Fort McPherson

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Tsiigehtchic

Tsiigehtchic

confluence of the Mackenzie and Arctic Red Rivers

confluence of the Mackenzie and Arctic Red Rivers

the mighty Mackenzie

the mighty Mackenzie

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

waiting on the Mackenzie River ferry

this unfortunate spelling error was to be found at other points in my journey...

this unfortunate spelling error was to be found at other points in my journey…

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never thought I'd see trees like that this far north!

never thought I’d see trees like that this far north!

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and then, just like that, PAVEMENT!

and then, just like that, PAVEMENT!

and lane markers!

and lane markers!

what a drive!

what a drive!

Driving the Dempster: Prologue

In December 1910, four Mounties set off from Dawson for Fort McPherson, on dog sleds, to patrol and deliver mail. When they hadn’t arrived by February, a rescue party was sent in search of them. A month later, the frozen remains of ‘the lost patrol’ were found and the leader of the search party made it back to Dawson in record time with the news. This man, Inspector Jack Dempster, would be immortalized in a stretch of gravel that nearly parallels the old patrol route, a road that reaches far beyond the Arctic Circle and which links the western arctic to the rest of Canada. What a legacy.

somewhere on the NWT side of the Dempster

Driving this fabled route to the Northwest Territories was a childhood dream inspired by geography classes, movies, books, and tv shows. It was a dream much separated from that of making my way to the Klondike to the point that I sometimes forgot the two were even related. The Yukon isn’t in the Arctic except for a very narrow, inaccessible, sliver. It isn’t the land of barren rock and tundra where many Inuit still live according to the old ways. It doesn’t have the same remoteness factor, what with only one of its communities being of the fly-in variety. The Yukon and Northwest Territories evoked very different romances in me.

It was with trepidation that I set off down the Dempster. I’d done my research, spoken with many who had done it. I knew what the risks were and that my vehicle was inadequate. I left room in my budget for new tires and a replacement wind shield. I stocked up on supplies in case I became stuck in the middle of nowhere due to mechanical issues or bad weather. But I didn’t make a big deal of it, didn’t let the horror stories set a somber mood to my trip. I savoured every kilometre, paid attention to the road, and drove for the conditions.

The result is that even with several bad stretches, I have returned triumphant from the Dempster with nary a problem with the car–no flat tires, no windshield chips, no damage whatsoever. I slowed to a crawl whenever another vehicle passed me, which paid off when a rock hit the windshield and bounced off harmlessly. I drove defensively around pot holes at low speed. I inched my way onto the ferries. The point is made: slow and steady is the way to do the Dempster. If you’re traveling solo, slow even gives you a chance to admire the scenery. Just pull over to the side and let the locals roar past you!

Over the course of the next few days, I will share pictures and stories of the great big adventure of 2010 that took me right to the Arctic Ocean.

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

Improvements to the 9th Ave and Lookout Trails

The Dawson parks and recreation folks have been busy making wonderful improvements to the 9th Ave and Lookout Trails. I borrowed Oz this afternoon and set off for the Lookout to see what was the same and what was different.

Oz all gussied up in his new harness

Oz all gussied up in his new harness

these stairs lead up from the ninth ave trail to Mary McLeod Road, a vast improvement over a slippery almost vertical slope!

these stairs lead up from the ninth ave trail to Mary McLeod Road, a vast improvement over a slippery almost vertical slope!

the trailhead for the Lookout Trail used to be very hard to locate, but now there's no mistaking it

the trailhead for the Lookout Trail used to be very hard to locate, but now there’s no mistaking it

looking down the Yukon River towards Alaska

looking down the Yukon River towards Alaska

Dawson from the Lookout

Dawson from the Lookout

ferry and Top of the World Highway from the Lookout

ferry and Top of the World Highway from the Lookout

There are three changes to the Lookout Trail:

1) the trailhead is now clearly marked and easy to find;

2) the Ninth Ave trail follows the Lookout Trail for a spell and then branches off to the left; I’ll need to come back to see how far it goes;

3) the Lookout Trail is slowly being extended up towards the Slide. There was a bit of a trail last year, but now it is obviously being turned into a proper, maintained, trail.

Good job, parks and rec!

Oz was great; curious but not to the point of tugging at his leash and willing to match my pace. I love our dates! 😀