Bucket List – Travel the Dempster Highway

This will be the first in a series of “bucket list” posts. I want to share some of the goals I have for my life, a lot of which involve travel. Some are for just me, some are meant to be shared with my family, and some are meant to be crazy endeavours with the right friends.

I want to hear your stories and dreams too, so share them! And if you have done any of the things I talk about, tell me what it was like! ♥

Me, in a Gold Dredge bucket, near Dawson City, YT

Bucket List Item – Travel the Dempster Highway

Way back in the mid 2000’s, I travelled to Whitehorse with my (then) boyfriend, to go to his best friend’s wedding. We made plans for a stay of two weeks, starting with the wedding, exploring Whitehorse and the area, plus a trip to Dawson City. It was, by far, the most unforgettable trip of my life. I gazed down at the famous Lake Laberge, remembering the ghostly tale “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. I shot Miles Canyon on a boat, during a wedding. I sat in a dredge bucket, panned for gold, and ran my hand along the weathered boards of an abandoned, heaped up paddlewheeler. I tasted the best moose roast I have ever had, roasted slowly over an open fire. We hiked, walked, and soaked in the uniqueness of Whitehorse. I stood on a mountaintop, eyes drinking in as much as I could.

It was incredible.

The rugged, untamed beauty of the Yukon, the romance of the territory’s history, and the sheer vast expanse being part of MY country was overwhelming. I found myself falling in love with the mountains, the seas of fireweed, the wildness of the rivers, and the legends of the Gold Rush. Yes, we went in August, when the sun sets only briefly, the bugs are tolerable, and the days are warm

Dempster Highway, showing winter roads to Tuktoyaytuk past Inuvik (also route of planned expansion)

. I heard echoes of the cold, dark winters, the struggle of snow and frozen expanses, but it was hard to imagine, seeing the sun flash off waves in the Five Finger rapids, or smell the calming, heady aroma of the tall, slim conifers.

As I sat at a bonfire one night, looking up into the dusky sky, I truly felt awed and at peace with our beautiful country. I have longed to go back since then.

We drove to Dawson City up the 2, us in an SUV, the newly married couple in an RV. As we neared Dawson City on the second day of driving, we passed a sign for “The 5”. Or, as it is also known, the Dempster Highway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dempster_Highway and http://www.yukoninfo.com/dempster/index.htm). My boyfriend casually remarked “Someday we should drive that to the Arctic Circle”.

And thus the seed was planted.

20130627-133850.jpgThe Dempster Highway starts at the 2, a few miles South of Dawson City. It snakes its way up, up, up to the Arctic Circle, travels through Eagle Plains and Fort McPherson, ending at Inuvik. If you want to make it to the Beafort Sea, you have to go by plane, which will take you into Tukto20130627-133842.jpgyaktuk. The trip, one way, is just shy of 750 kilometres. Some basic info, from the Dawson City website is here: http://www.dawsoncity.ca/gettinghere/drivingthedempster/.

Current news on the highway is that the Government has earmarked a massive sum of money to extend the highway all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, which is another 140 kilometres. Construction was to start this year. Part of me would be excited to be able to take the road all the way up, but part of me would hate to travel with all that construction marring the peaceful silence that can envelope one when in such a place as the Arctic plains.

20130627-133859.jpgI used to say I wanted to hike the Dempster, but with the trip being around 1400k, plus travel to the start and back, I changed my mind to driving and camping as a more realistic goal, given that likely, whomever I do this with and myself would need to take vacation from work, and that is not unlimited. I likely would not bring my children, unless they were much older than they are now.

I want to be able to sit out on the ground, look up at the sky and see the stars, look out into the distance to the mountains, to the tundra. To feel the fresh air, the solitude that such an open space can provide. I dream of being able to experience such a different place than where I am now, to celebrate my country, and feel the connection to all the people who had gone before.

This is not my only bucket list item in the Yukon, of course. This place changed me, and I want nothing more than to go back and share it with my husband and children. help them feel the awe I did.

*Pictures courtesy Wikipedia.com, Travel Yukon, and yukoninfo.com


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