Kayaking in the Arctic Ocean

wild1

Adventurer
I spent a fair amount of time in my misspent youth around the Artic Ocean in the Prudoe Bay Area. That time of year in calm weather it was more like a big lake and I wouldn't be to worried about a quick paddle in about anything that floats. Unless conditions are stellar I wouldn't be out in anything short of a full expedition quality boat and gear. I would be a lot more concerned about hauling that kayak on the roof over your proposed route. The stress that a kayak puts on a rack is substantially higher then a more compact load of the same weight. After years of seeing what the Dalton highway did to heavy duty 3/4 ton pickups I wouldn't put a hard shell on the roof of a Jeep with anything less then a full hard mounted cage style rack. Have you thought about picking up a medium priced inflatable for the trip? It would be adequate for what you propose and you could always sell it when you get home if you prefer your rigid.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
I thought about an inflatable, but decided against it. Would still have to put it on the roof of the Jeep.
 

Jurfie

Adventurer
Well? How was the trip?

I've done many a trip across Canada where I'd wished I had my kayak with me, so I get the appeal of dipping a paddle in the Arctic Ocean.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Trip Report!

You're probably expecting a story with some wonderful ending, tales of great experiences, and great scenic pictures. Not today... prepare to be disappointed.

So by the time the trip was to start, we were down to three participants (or vehicles - there could be more than one participant per vehicle). There was me (Paul) driving my TJ solo, there was "Z" (who was going to attend with his wife), and "A" who was going to meet up with us in Whitehorse with his Land Rover (and bringing his 15 y/o son).

"Z" was having vehicle issues the weekend prior to departure, so he withdrew from the trip the Sunday prior. That left two of us - me and "A".

I left home (about an hour north of Portland OR in WA) on Thursday, 15 August. Drove all day, no issues with border crossing, and stayed in a little dive campground that actually was pretty nice for what I needed (a place to camp for the night, and bathrooms). First picture.

Next day (Friday) the Jeep started running bad, and sucking down the gasoline (glad I carry extra gas on trips like this). Then it threw a code (P0171 - running lean). Good thing I carry a code reader too. I got it to Prince George 45 min before the NAPA store closed. He put the code into his computer to see what could be the problem and fix. So I threw parts at it - got two O2 sensors, MAP sensor, air filter, throttle body cleaner spray, and two bottles of Sea Foam for the next few fill-ups, and $400-something dollars later I'm out in the gravel parking lot behind their store replacing parts (good thing I carry lots of tools). Also good thing the weather was nice. Engine ran great after that.

Next day I got to Dawson Creek - the start of the Alaska Highway (second picture). Once on the highway I noticed the Jeep had a little bit of a rumble. At first I thought "Is it the pavement"? Then I noticed it was worse when I was on the gas; and not there when coasting or off the gas. And it was getting progressively worse, but I was in the middle of nowhere so I kept going hoping it didn't blow up on me. I crawled under it and didn't see anything. Once I got into Fort Nelson I figured it out after crawling under it (again). Turns out I had a rear U-Joint going bad at the axle end (one of the four ends on the U-joint seems to have lost its little roller bearings). And of course, it was after 1800 on a Saturday night, and NAPA was closed and wouldn't open till Monday morning. Oh - and even though this is August, snow is predicted. It was already getting cold and starting to rain.

In a crisis situation, I could have dropped the front driveshaft, pulled a U-joint and put it in the rear driveshaft and kept going (with no 4WD capability). I am capable of doing that. But it was getting late, we weren't supposed to meet in Whitehorse till Monday, and with snow coming, I might want to have 4WD capability. So I got a camping spot at the Triple-G RV & Campground which was literally 15 minutes walking from the NAPA store (I'm OCD sometimes - I actually timed the walk on Sunday).

I set up camp, and then set-up for the first time the Slumberjack Roadhouse tarp thingy I had bought for the trip. First time even taking it out of the package and using it. One of the best purchases I've made in a long time (you need one - go buy one if you don't own one already). Pictures 3 & 4. It allowed me to connect the tent to the back of the Jeep. And it rained and snowed that night (but snow melted quickly that next morning). Don't let the pictures fool you - it is wet and cold - got up to chilly during the day.

So Sunday morning I dropped the rear driveshaft and removed the offending U-Joint (picture 5). I had a tarp to lie on, and it was actually kinda nice under the Jeep. I didn't bring my U-Joint tool, so I went old-school with two sockets and a hammer (no issues removing U-Joint). Now the long wait till Monday morning. Not much going on in Ft Nelson on a Sunday (I took a long walk and can verify it). They do have a very nice information place with computer access that I hung out at. Lots of folks coming in asking about weather and road conditions heading north (which was my destination - Whitehorse which was only 588 miles from where I was at the moment). One lady came in and was telling the young ladies at the counter (summer interns) how they were camping at the hot springs, and they were told to leave NOW! Seems the snow was causing trees to fall down. Not good.

I wasn't the only one having issues (but at least I knew what my problem was, and how to fix it). "A" was over in Skagway with his son (it is west of Whitehorse) and his Land Rover's transfer case was stuck in low range. He tried messing with it best he could, but to no avail. So he texted me Sunday to let me know he wouldn't be able to make it to Tuktoyaktuk (he was on a timeline). He was looking at a long slow drive (in low range) to Whitehorse just to find someone who might be able to fix it.

Monday morning I cooked breakfast (on the Jeep's tailgate under the Roadhouse Tarp), got the U-joint (NAPA opened at 0800), installed it on the driveshaft, reinstalled the driveshaft, put tools and stuff away, broke camp (lots of stuff packed wet as it never really got a chance to dry out), took a shower (the Triple G has very nice facilities), put on clean dry clothes (a shower and clean dry clothes will make you feel like a million bucks), and got ready to leave the campground.

So decisions decisions… I'd been planning this trip for almost a year. I got this far. I'm still about two full days of driving to get to just the start of the Dempster Highway. Jeep is now running good, and driveline is fixed. However, there's snow as you're heading north on the passes before you even get to Whitehorse, and now it is a solo trip for me. Do I really want to be driving the Dempster solo? At least if I had a passenger, they could tell the authorities how I died. I got lucky twice by getting to a town with the auto parts I needed before something bad happened; Whitehorse was 588 miles north, and that's pretty much the last sizeable town heading north (Dawson City is another couple hundred miles past Whitehorse, where the Dempster Highway starts). And the Dempster Highway (if you've never been on it) there's NOTHING until about mile 225 (Eagle Plains) - which is about the half-way point to Inuvik, and then another 100+ miles to Tuk. It just wasn't going to be fun doing the rest of the trip solo. I didn't think it would be safe or prudent for me to continue (not that that's always stopped me - I used to jump out of airplanes with the 82nd Airborne Division).

So kinda sadly I turned around and headed back home. If I wouldn't have been going solo, I (we) would have pressed onward to the Dempster. There was snow heading south too (picture 6).

Got home Tuesday night after some marathon driving. Talked to "A" the next day (Wednesday) and his vehicle is still stuck in low range I don't think he got it fixed till Thursday or Friday. We'll have to try this trip again next year (crazy it was snowing in August). Hopefully get more folks to go.

As a consolation prize, I was selected to be one of the 20 participants for the 2019 Four Wheeler Overland Adventure East. So in September I'll be driving the Jeep and trailer (minus the kayak) to Florida to visit my parents, and then up to PA for this Four Wheeler Overland Adventure thing, then as part of the Four Wheeler Overland Adventure thing I'll be attending the Overland Expo East in VA (I've never been to one of the large Overland Expo events), and then will return home to WA via Route 66 (ok; Route 66 starts in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles; I'll just head north after I get to LA and drive another 1000 miles back home to WA). So this trip I'll be gone just over a month. Me and the Jeep & trailer.

So that's our Arctic Ocean Kayaking trip. Sometimes things don't always work out as planned. I should have been carrying a spare U-joint (I will from now on), but my being delayed at Ft Nelson turned out to be a very good thing in hindsight. Spent about $700 total for a dry suit and water shoes I never used. I wish more vehicles had been participating. And who would have predicted snow in August? Usually my Jeep is rock solid, but it started acting up this trip (doing fine now). And I'm sure "A" after having a lot of major work done on his Rover prior to the trip, didn't expect to have any issues.

Hopefully next year....
Arctic trip.2.jpgArctic Trip.3.jpgArctic trip.4.jpgArctic Trip.5.jpgArctic trip.6.jpgArctic Trip.7.jpg
 
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Pacific Northwest yetti

Expedition Medic
Well, we have all been there.

I would of ( probably ) made the same call, weird how that changes as time goes by

Thank you for the write up!
 
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Jurfie

Adventurer
Sorry to hear it didn't work out, but probably was the right decision. It would have been more fun experiencing it with someone else, anyways.

Keep the drysuit until next year, or if you can't return it, you can probably sell it for almost as much as you paid for it on a local paddling forum.
 

AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
Cascade Wanderer said:
It's quite possible to "what if" yourself into a corner. The world awaits. Enjoy
👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

(Now also in Best Quotes thread)
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Yeah... lots of possible "ifs".

"If" I hadn't been selected to attend the Overlanding East Adventure 2019 in October sponsored by Four Wheeler Magazine, I might have kept going. But I thought it would be best to keep the Jeep intact for that trip and not push-it by myself to Tuk.

"If" I hadn't been selected to attend the Overlanding East Adventure 2019 in October sponsored by Four Wheeler Magazine, I might have kept going. But by turning around, I saved a lot of money that would have gone for gas going to Tuk that will instead go towards the Overlanding East Adventure (did I mention I quit my job this summer?).

"If" I had a job to go back to afterwards (which was in the original plan when first planning the trip), I might have kept going. But since I'm currently unemployed (by choice - still got my military retirement so don't feel too sorry for me), I wasn't feeling the need to fill my vacation time.

"If" I hadn't been delayed at Ft Nelson and had kept going to Whitehorse, once I found out "A" wasn't going to make it, I might have kept going. From Whitehorse it is only a day's drive to the start of the Dempster Highway.

"If" it wasn't snowing north of where I was, I might have kept going. Adding unexpected snow kinda pushed my decision to turn around. A couple years ago we got stuck up there around Whitehorse because nobody could go south (roads were washed out). So we had to backtrack to Haines AK and catch the ferry back to Bellingham ('twas expensive but a very nice ferry ride).

And of course... "If" I wasn't by myself, I would have kept going. But it just wasn't going to be as fun going by myself. Nor did I think it would be prudent.

Sometimes you just have to know when to say "when".
 

shade

Well-known member
I'm considering a solo drive to Tuk, but I already know I may decide it's more fun to screw around in BC & Yukon instead driving all the way there. I think you made the right call.
 

AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
Yeah... lots of possible "ifs".

"If" I hadn't been selected to attend the Overlanding East Adventure 2019 in October sponsored by Four Wheeler Magazine, I might have kept going. But I thought it would be best to keep the Jeep intact for that trip and not push-it by myself to Tuk.

"If" I hadn't been selected to attend the Overlanding East Adventure 2019 in October sponsored by Four Wheeler Magazine, I might have kept going. But by turning around, I saved a lot of money that would have gone for gas going to Tuk that will instead go towards the Overlanding East Adventure (did I mention I quit my job this summer?).

"If" I had a job to go back to afterwards (which was in the original plan when first planning the trip), I might have kept going. But since I'm currently unemployed (by choice - still got my military retirement so don't feel too sorry for me), I wasn't feeling the need to fill my vacation time.

"If" I hadn't been delayed at Ft Nelson and had kept going to Whitehorse, once I found out "A" wasn't going to make it, I might have kept going. From Whitehorse it is only a day's drive to the start of the Dempster Highway.

"If" it wasn't snowing north of where I was, I might have kept going. Adding unexpected snow kinda pushed my decision to turn around. A couple years ago we got stuck up there around Whitehorse because nobody could go south (roads were washed out). So we had to backtrack to Haines AK and catch the ferry back to Bellingham ('twas expensive but a very nice ferry ride).

And of course... "If" I wasn't by myself, I would have kept going. But it just wasn't going to be as fun going by myself. Nor did I think it would be prudent.

Sometimes you just have to know when to say "when".
That was such a well written, honest evaluation of the uncertainties of adventure travel.

And so you turned around and then proceeded in another, unexpected direction.
And now you perhaps may never know which path was your true destiny.
Should I have turned left or turned right? Ultimately, does it, will it really matter?
B4A66747-DB06-4163-B5C1-F8A6D801B164.jpeg

Congratulations on your retirement BTW.
 
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AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

(I would say that the main thing perhaps is simply to have faith in serendipity)
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

That's always been one of my favorite poems. At one time I had it posted on the fridge. Pretty much describes my life - it hasn't gone as "planned", and that's probably been a good thing, as I'm happy how-and-where I'm at right now.

But at least I had a plan and actually gave it a shot. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But if you never try (or always play it totally safe) you'll never go anywhere or do anything. I have more respect for folks that tried something - went out on a limb and failed vs. folks that sit on their ass and just criticize.

Anyone remember this song: "Right or Left at Oak Street" (its an oldie)

 
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