One night in Tuktoyaktuk - our Northern Adventure

Trikebubble

Adventurer
I have always wanted to venture North, for as long as I could remember this dream has stuck like glue inside my head. To be able to finally explore the part of our Country that seemed so out of reach growing up has always been at the top of my must-do before I leave this planet list. A couple years ago, my Wife and I started discussing vague plans to consider going North at some point in our lives, sorta, kinda, maybe. Last year, when I had heard that the new highway to Tuktoyaktuk could possibly be completed and open for travel this summer of 2018, we sat our butts down and hammered out real plans in earnest to point Up and make real on my dream.

We (we: my Wife and I, and our two trusty canine adventure companions) departed the Okanagan Valley late June in our faithful Tundra and Four-Wheel Camper (affectionately named Hawkeye Rovi) and 3 weeks and 8600km later we returned home to Penticton, BC safe and sound.

The general route we mapped out was to head North to Prince George, then turn left on the Yellowhead, quickly hop over to the Cassiar Hwy and then slow our lives down to half-speed and start enjoying what our Northern adventure was to have in store for us. We had decided to make the detour to Stewart, Hyder, and weave our way up into the mountains to view the Salmon Glacier while on our way up the Cassiar Highway. This side trip was well worth the decision. Experiencing a single glacier would have made this little add-on worth the drive, however standing there beside the road at different locations and staring in awe at glaciers made me question at the time if anything could possibly top this current experience. We then backtracked to the Cassiar Hwy and continued our northerly trajectory until we crossed paths with the famed Alaska Hwy.

Once on the Alaska Highway (which honestly seems to spend most of its time here in Canada) we continued up to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory We had originally planned on checking out the Carcross region via a secondary route but a small (fortunately, thankfully, pray to the mechanical gods small) mechanical issue had us limping the last 100km straight into Whitehorse for a quick remedy at the local Toyota dealership (thank you very much local Toyota dealership). Once on the road again, we navigated up to Dawson city, where we hung out for a few days, threw back a Sourtoe Cocktail, ordered some amazing take-out pizza, and tried to perfect the art of being a simple tourist.
 

Trikebubble

Adventurer
The Dempster Hwy. What can I say. I have heard about and read about for years. She came across as a mythical creature of immense proportions that dared not be messed with, and she did not disappoint. Rain and fog cloaked the initial leg and the Tombstone Range on our drive up, which left us with no clue as to what we were passing through, nor what we would experience on the return trip. Aside from the precipitation and low flying cloud cover surrounding Tombstone, the drive up was utterly fantastical. My preconceived notions of a flat, long, boring road with equally boring surroundings were crushed by the vast majesty of the space we traveled through. I still find it hard to locate words to describe our experience. Pictures and video hardly come close to doing justice to what awaits the Northern traveler.

We completed the Dempster proper and rolled into Inuvik on July 1st (Canada, Canada, Canada!!!), like champions of a first-time adventure in our own minds. We located a camp-spot and then our gang spent the first night of our collective lives experiencing the lack of anything closely resembling night. I kept popping my head out of the camper at odd late hours, and even odd-er early morning hours wondering when it was going to eventually get dark. The next morning (well, it could have been anytime really) we loaded up the mutts, fueled up, spent $27 on a 12 pack of bottled water, and headed up a random nondescript industrial road looking for the beginning of the Highway to Tuktoyaktuk.

At first, we were all certain we were heading the wrong way, as my trusty (up until then anyways) Garmin kept trying to re-route me over to, and on, the Mackenzie Ice Road. We quickly realized we were heading the right way, as we passed The Gates (open gates thankfully) and left Inuvik and any semblance of the world of man behind. The Highway to Tuktoyaktuk is something to behold. It is unlike any other road I have travelled on, and I can only describe it as this. It is more of a serpentine floating gravel bridge than a road. Picture those long bridges that people use to escape to the Florida Keys on. Turn them into gravel, and wind and float them across the permafrost of Northern Canada with no seemingly specific destination or route in mind. There are no pull-outs, there are no rest stops, there is simply The Road. Surrounded by thousands of miles of tundra in every direction, you feel alive and alone, alive beyond comprehension and at times completely alone.

After 150km, ½ tank of fuel, and 4 hours later we arrived in Tuktoyaktuk. First stop as always, re-fuel the rig. Pretty much our only golden rule was to re-fuel wherever the opportunity provided it. The Tundra (as in the truck, not the environment that she/we were temporarily residing in) as amazing as she is, is exceptionally thirsty, has a tiny belly and required feeding very often. The wonderful young lady at the gas station we made our stop at suggested we drive to the end of the road (“the point” she called it) and camp out on the shore of the Arctic for the evening. Her suggestion took a while to process, as we were under the impression that we would be day-trippers to the hamlet. A quick poke around, take the obligatory tourista type photographs, then turn tail and drive directly back to Inuvik, was our initial plan. Once the fireworks stopped erupting in my noggin, we did exactly as she suggested. We simply drove to the end of the road, parked our truck, popped up our camper and spent the night not fifteen feet from the shores of the Arctic ocean. Now there are a lot of “end of the roads” thrown about in this big wide world, this here, this “end of the road” really and truly is the end of the road. You cannot drive any further north on a continuous public road anywhere in North America. For that one night, we owned the end of the road. We parked our butts in our chairs, feasted on muskox burgers cooked up by a local entrepreneur. We stripped off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and waded into the Arctic Ocean. We tossed driftwood into the sea for our two luckiest dogs in the world to fetch. We sat around reading our books, and at some point, hours later realized that the sun had indeed decided to just hang about. What I thought was about 9pm, turned out to be 12:30am. The brain had a difficult time trying to reconcile the 24 hours of sunlight. And when they say “24 hours of sunlight’ they mean it, in no uncertain terms. No fading of the sun, no dusk, no nothing but hard-core daylight for every single hour on the clock. At, or around 3am, we decided to call it a night, plug up all the windows with anything we could find, and try to get to sleep.

The next morning, we awoke at our regular 6am, made and sipped at the single best cup of coffee I have ever had in my forty-nine years on this planet while sitting once again on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. We then bid her a fond and heart-felt good-bye, packed up our travelers lives and turned back towards only direction we could. The return trip was similar to the previous days trip……well, except for running straight into Tombstone Territorial Park on the most beautiful day of the year. It was as if, the mountains had decided to grow up out of the earth 2 days prior and we were the first to witness their gigantic birth. I had no idea, I still have no idea, that these mountains ranges exist up there. Again, words and phrases and written descriptions from the likes of me do the majestic terrain of the North no justice whatsoever.
 

Trikebubble

Adventurer
We rolled back into Dawson City, covered in a combination of Dempster Dust and calcium chloride and promptly looked for the closest car wash to exorcise this clingy layer of the Yukon and NWT from our truck and camper. A fistful of loonies later, and we looked acceptable enough to drive on pavement. We spent one final day playing in disguise as tourists wandering the boardwalks of Dawson City, before feeding the fridge, pantry, water tank, porta-potti tank, fuel tank, dogs, and humans and departing the greater North for a more southerly mid-North and our eventual homeward bound destination.

With our primary objective completed I decided to follow a previously considered and somewhat secondary, and then tertiary route back to the Alaska Hwy via the Campbell Hwy and South Canol Road. This track was most certainly equally entertaining, interesting and Canadawe-inspring and eventually dumped us back onto the famous Alaska highway where we started to re-connect again with society at large and begin our week-long return journey home vis Hwy 97. Somewhere on our up-bound journey my Wife/Navigator and I had discussed the possibility of culminating our summer adventure by attending the BC Overland Rally in Aggasiz. We re-hashed over the idea, then slightly modified/extended our homeward route so that we could spend the final three days of our adventure hanging out on top of a mountain with 1000 other birds of the same feather. While not originally planned it became the suitable ending to our most amazing journey.

After sitting back and reflecting on our summer adventure, all I can really say is this; go North. Go now. I realize that in the big scheme of things, this particular route and destination may have many equals or greater-thans around this world. But this adventure is ours, it is sitting there just waiting for you, in Canada, at the top of that globe we all used to spin feverishly when we were kids. So yeah, start hatching a plan point your rig up and travel, you will you will not be disappointed.
The North guarantees it.
 
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Doc Foster

Adventurer
Nice write up, now if I can’t convince the wife to go, with me, my brother surely will. I will use your trip report to help convince her to add it to the bucket list. Thanks
 

rkj__

Adventurer
Thanks for sharing a small taste of your adventure.

I just checked the map. It's unlikely I'll be taking the 6,827km (one way) drive to Tuktoyaktuk anytime soon.

But, just the other day, my wife and I were sorta-kinda-maybe talking about packing two large backpacks, hopping on a plane, and experiencing some "North" that way. We'll see where life takes us.

Happy Camping
 

Trikebubble

Adventurer
Thanks for sharing a small taste of your adventure.

I just checked the map. It's unlikely I'll be taking the 6,827km (one way) drive to Tuktoyaktuk anytime soon.

But, just the other day, my wife and I were sorta-kinda-maybe talking about packing two large backpacks, hopping on a plane, and experiencing some "North" that way. We'll see where life takes us.

Happy Camping
A lot of folks fly into Whitehorse, then rent a truck and camper and venture north. Could be an option.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

keane

Observer
Great write up. This is the trip my wife and I have started planning for next year after listening to the talk about it at the BCOR this year.
 

Trikebubble

Adventurer
Great write up. This is the trip my wife and I have started planning for next year after listening to the talk about it at the BCOR this year.
Thanks. Their talk was spot on, I only wish I wasn't called up and had the mike stuffed in my hand for a minute there. The commentary on the vast number of Ford F-150's couldn't have been more true. Ray's article was one of the inspirations as we put our plans into motion.
 

FrenchieXJ

Expedition Leader
I really enjoyed your story. I did the same trip with a little more last summer. We could not get to Tuktoyaktuk as the road was closed at that time and opened 3 mounths later. Very beautiful area! Thanks for reviving the memories.

Da Frenchman
 
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