up the Dempster Highway

Up, up, and up away we go…from the turnoff twenty minutes east of Dawson City, we headed into the boreal forest of the Ogilvie mountain range, tundra heights of the Blackstone Uplands, into loads of fireweed—there’s a reason the Yukon has it as its territorial flower. One lone arctic hare, a bear cub, and a few mallards were the only wildlife we could see. Later we heard about two moose being spotted at the Two Moose Lake—a coincidence? I think not. This is the Arctic as I had imagined it. Tundra, precisely as anticipated. The mountains though? Unexpected. Three series of mountain ranges? Definitely surprising.

We see an abundance of arrowhead rocks on the roads, even filling the Tombstone Territorial Park parking lot. It’s pretty obvious why aboriginals chose arrowheads as weapons. They are ubiquitous. And sharp. It’s also understandable why the aboriginals didn’t create rubber tires.

Despite the numerous warnings we had to bring a spare tire, we left ours under the carport tucked beside the four regular summer tires. The cross terrain spare tire seemed like a good idea in the tire shop, but not so clever when we tried to pack it. Where to put it with a packed storage case on top, five pieces of luggage in back, a travel bed, violins, food and water, activity bags in front. So we didn’t. We left our two hundred dollar friend at home—home alone. Halfway up the Dempster, we weren’t free of the infamous blown-tire syndrome on this stretch of our arctic journey.

Only seven kilometers away from our evening destination on the Dempster—the only motel available on a twelve hour drive, the Eagle Plains Motel—my husband reported that the road was like a washboard. It was advertised as particularly rough-going, and a quick look in the rearview mirror revealed a flattened tire. Yikes! Here we are, nearly 3000 km from our lonely friend—oh how we wish we’d have brought you. Four passers-by offered assistance with the teeny spare wheel that accompanied the purchase of our minivan. Standing by the side of the road with our four wee ones, mama decided we’d do a nature walk. Not too far, as there is next to no one in these parts. Getting lost, not an option.

Now we’ve thought of having him sent here – can we do that? Will Canada Post send a spare tire courier to nowhere? How much would that cost anyway?

And here I sit, at the Eagle Plains Motel—four children snug as a bug in a tiny two double bed room. Now for the second half of the Dempster journey—at daybreak. May the Arctic Circle and the Smartie-coloured houses on stilts yield a less eventful education of the north.



4 thoughts on “up the Dempster Highway

  1. Oh how beautiful. Loved this post and your adventures sound great even when they do not turn out as expected. Maybe especially when they turn out as expected. 🙂

  2. Yikes! That sounds like a crazy thing to happen. Thanks for sharing the story though – I will file that away in case we ever do that drive. 😉 Your trip sounds like quite the adventure and I can’t wait to read more!

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