After several hikes, spruce tip beers and many laughs with Phoenix friends Mark and Sue, we head out of Haines to the top of the Continent. Looking forward to our first motel room in two months, Whitehorse, Yukon has no rooms in town due to the Women’s World Fast Pitch Games. We finally find a smoky room attached to an alcoholic bar outside of town, and enjoy electricity, running water and flushing toilets!
A black bear highlights our otherwise uneventful drive to Dawson City. We plan to drive the Dempster Highway 500 miles north to Inuvik before taking in the music festival in Dawson.
“Get yourself a campsite across the river now,” a bar patron who recognizes Mare from our cabin deck in Haines says. “Take it for the week then you can drive and come back. They’ll fill-up for the music fest this weekend.” Wally ends up buying a copy of my newly released novel, “Broken Collar” (available at www.amazon.com or www.bottomdogpress.com) as I just happen to have a few copies under the truck seat.
After setting camp, we bounce along the Dempster, a road which some call “Dumpster.” Our Tacoma pick-up with 180,000 miles on it vibrates constantly along this road and makes Jack the dog nervous. Rushing streams, fox, and the slate grey mountains of Tombstone Territorial Park enhance our white-knuckle drive.
Fireweeds are among the first plants to regrow a burnt forest, thus their namesake. However, the
trees here are not burnt, but are stunted black spruce, which lean due to the permafrost under them.
The all-day drives brings us to the half-way point at Eagle Plains, where gas costs seven-something per gallon and shack rooms cost $150. A countless number of semi-trucks fill the grounds. We decide to camp in the Tacoma…
A trucker wearing a muscle shirt is covered in Harley tattoos. “It was human error that broke the ferry cable in Fort McPherson,” Rocque (Rocky) says with a French Canadian accent. “The river is running too high from days of torrential rains, and the cable man should have let out more slack. We’ve been here for five days waiting to get the green light to Inuvik.”
“How long would we have to wait to cross on the ferry to Inuvik?” I ask.
He laughs. “Trucks are lined up trying to cross that’s why we have to wait here. Inuvik is out of supplies. It could be days.”
Back at camp, behind the sea of trucks, we finish the last of my homemade lentil soup. A while later, a furry, Grey Jay bird munches on Mare’s vomit. It is quite a colorful collage of fresh cut carrots and celery. Perhaps the soup was in the cooler too long.
After a night of daylight, (it does not get dark here this time of year) we eat breakfast at the truck stop and talk to a couple who were stuck in Inuvik for eight days. We decide to head back down the Dempster and camp next to a river in Tombstone National Park, where soon we munch on chicken chili and beans cooked over a fire and nobody gets sick. Jack even gets to swim in the river.
Back in Dawson City, we are glad to have kept our campsite. “No alcohol allowed on the grounds this weekend,” a Ranger tells us. Then he whispers, “But nice quiet folk like you can drink, just be discreet.” Great…I must look like nice quiet folk these days…When did that happen? I don’t think I like that.
During a hike along the river Jack swims again. We spot a rickety raft. “Do you get across the Yukon in that thing?” I ask.
“Why not?” A rouge Hollander responds. Mare snaps his photo and we move on to a shipwrecked steam paddle boat. Perhaps they should have used oars also.
We hit the music fest for one night, which is about my limit for drunken crowds these days… Am I really nice quiet folk? The tourist trap drink in Dawson is a mummified toe in vodka, and the toe must touch your lips. I want to do it, but they only offer it from 9 to 11 p.m. and it is already midnight. Still the sun shines…
The next day’s drive takes us across the “Top of the World Highway,” through the northernmost customs post in the states. Immediately the scenery turns lush and we spot a bull Caribou. A small herd of young Caribou run towards our car, until Jack’s bark scares them away.
After a buffalo burger in the town of Chicken, Alaska, we reach a clean motel in Tok. Wow! Need shower following 5 straight days sleeping in back of pick-up, the three of us, lined-up as straight as logs. Tonight I pick up a pizza and we eat in bed watching movies…man, what luxury for nice quiet folk.
A mama Grizzly with two first year cubs greets us on the way back home to Haines. We love our cabin! We love our friends, and thank the Abundant Universe.