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Inuvik, Northwest Territories to Eagle Plains, Yukon Territory

posted Jul 23, 2009, 6:25 PM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Jul 23, 2009, 7:16 PM ]
Hey all. Here is the much anticipated blog report from the first half of the Dempster highway!

Monday, July 1st, 2009
Dawson City, Yukon Territory to Eagle Plains, Yukon Territory

July first was the official start date of our trip, but instead of cycling, our goal was to find a ride from Dawson up to Inuvik. We got a relatively early start, and headed to the outskirts of town to see if anyone would pick us up. After waiting a few hours with no stops, a girl who was running by said we'd have better luck at the junction, so with our two weeks of food loaded on our bikes, we started the 25 mile ride to the start of the Dempster highway. After 10-15 miles we stopped for a break, and without expecting anything to come of it, I put my thumb out when a pickup truck drove by. Amazingly, the driver stopped and said he could take us to the junction. We gladly accepted since this would save us 10-15 miles of riding and probably at least an hour. 

The driver and his friend were both local, and they told us about some of the great views we would have along the way. From one part of the road "You can see so far, it's like looking into the future" said one of the guys. Chris would later point out that the farther away you're looking, the farther back in time you're seeing, but we agreed they probably wouldn't have appreciated that, unless you really can see back in time from those places if you were smoking one of the joints they had been passing around during our drive to the junction.

After some more unsuccessful hitching at the junction, we had basically given up for the day and were ready to set up camp. We went inside the restaurant at the corner and each got a soda, and decided to go back out to give hitching another shot before setting up camp for the night. At about 6PM a pickup truck towing a camper went by (about the third car that had driven up the road all day) and stopped to see where we were headed. The driver was Jim, a pilot who flies out of Inuvik, and he was delivering the camper trailer for his boss. This was great news for us because since he wasn't paying for gas, we didn't have to chip in at all. We loaded our bikes into the empty camper, and hopped in the pickup. We drove through some amazing scenery and after a couple hours a bell rang and Jim pulled over and told us that meant we were out of gas. Normally this would have been a problem, but like most trucks in the Yukon there was a fuel tank and pump in the back of the pickup - it's basically like having a small gas station that you carry around with you. We finally arrived at Eagle plains and stopped for the night. Jim stayed in the motel there, but let us sleep in the camper. This saved us from having to set up our tents and pay for camping, but dust from the unpaved Dempster had managed to get into the camper and all over everything inside.

Chris and I got up early and saw that one of the truck's tires had gone flat overnight. We got breakfast at the restaurant, arranged for them to hold our second weeks food, and hung around in the lounge until Jim joined us before getting started on changing the tire. At about 10AM we were back on the road, with another 220ish mlies to go to Inuvik. 

During the drive up, Jim gave us all kinds of good advice, including to never trust the Indians we'd be seeing. He had some other prejudiced things to say, but was otherwise a typical friendly Canadian. We wondered if he also didn't like Americans and Brits, but since he was a friendly Canadian, we'd have never known the difference anyway.

Just before our first ferry crossing of the Peel river, we passed a truck parked at the side of the road, and Jim said we needed to deliver it to Inuvik. Since Chris doesn't drive, I had the honor of driving it up. It was a relatively new Toyota Tacoma that had been left there in the spring between the time the river ice broke up, and before the ferry was running. 

By about 4PM we were finally at Inuvik, and we helped Jim wash off the cars before he showed us to the campground in town and drove off. We decided not to stay at the campground in town, since they wanted $22 per night. We had dinner at a restaurant called "The Roost", and then headed out of town to Jak Park, a campground 3 miles up the road. Since that was also a government campground, the cost was the same, but there were no other options so we stayed there. Sometime after we had fallen asleep, a cop drove up and told us there was a bear not far from the campground, so we grabbed all our food and threw it in the bathroom, then got back in our tents to go back to sleep.

Note: Hey, this blog stuff takes a lot of time. I'll do the other days soon. Promise.