That, My Dear, Was an Adventure!

Just got back from the Dempster Highway, and I must say I think I’ve had my share of excitement for a while. It was quite the trip, with ample bouts of joy and tragedy. Where to start? Chronologically I guess.

We had been on the road for about four hours when we came upon a Yukon government highway truck, lights flashing and door open. As we got closer we saw a man lying in the middle of the road. We stopped, as did a couple visiting from Germany. We did all the usual things, including CPR, but it was pretty obvious this man was gone. We called for help but of course cell phones are pretty touch and go in rural Yukon. After several attempts we did manage to get through to the closest nursing station. A tourist bus stopped with a doctor on board so he came to try to help. He surmised the man had had a massive heart attack.

So while we waited for the ambulance and RCMP, I directed traffic from one end and Joe and the German fellow from the other. In the midst of all this, a bit of absurdity: the German man mentioned he and his wife had seen the Frantic Follies the night before. Joe told him our daughter dances in the show, so the man’s wife excitedly ran to get the program so Joe could point out which dancer was our daughter. Turns out they had taken pictures of her and promised to email them to us once they got back home. All this happy chat was going on while this poor man lay in the road. Anyway, I digress…

After an hour, the police and ambulance finally arrived, took statements, and we went on our way. It certainly put a damper on things though.

Several hours later, we arrived at our camp site on the Dempster and collapsed into our tent. It had been a long day. But the next day was going to prove to be even longer!

Up early on Sunday to battle the rain and the Dempster once again. It’s had lots of rain this year as has the rest of the Yukon and the road was a total mess: thick soupy mud and pot hole after pot hole. I’ve never seen it so bad in all the years we’ve been making this trek. We came around a bend and there was our friend Darius, soaked and covered in mud, lying on his back under his vehicle. One of his tires had expoded and he couldn’t get the spare out from under his vehicle, so we loaded him into our truck and headed on up to Eagle Plains to get a new tire. Joe then drove him back while I stayed at the hotel to get cleaned up. All of us were a soggy muddy mess by this point.

It was then that we came across this vehicle:

This fellow from Toronto was driving all over the place with his solar car, including the Dempster. I have no idea how he has been manoeuvering the road in the condition it’s in (he apparently has about 70 spare tires but has only needed four of them so far). We spent some time chatting with him before continuing our treck north, in search of cloudberries.

We did find cloudberries – more than I’ve ever seen in my life in fact. But we also found caribou…a few hundred of them. I have never had the opportunity to see a large group like that and I was so excited. They are incredibly beautiful animals. But of course they are also our winter meat, so we were up before 5 the next morning hunting. Joe got two caribou (one for us and one for the elder he hunts for) so we spent four hours skinning, cutting up and packing the meat.

Just as Joe was starting to skin the animals, an old fellow from the Northwest Territories came tearing up the tundra. I have no idea what possessed him to drive on that kind of terrain – I guess he was excited at seeing all those caribou. But of course he got stuck BIGTIME! Joe and I pushed for a while, but he wasn’t going anywhere without some major mechanical help. So we flagged down someone on the highway to go for help and we went back to dealing with the meat. It has to be taken care of quickly or the belly swells (heat from the intestines). As well, being in bear country means you don’t want to hang around with fresh meat any longer than necessary. We did see a black bear and two cubs, and another single black bear, but not in that area. We also saw a moose, but I’m getting off topic.

The caribou was packed and covered with tarp but we still wanted berries so we spent the next couple of hours picking. We left relectantly after that point, again because we needed to get the meat home. We could have picked for days and not made a dent in the patch! As it was we picked about 12 litres, then back into the truck we went for the long 12 hour drive home. We arrived in Whitehorse last night just around 11. I’m exhausted today, but a good exhausted. The Dempster Highway takes good care of us, that’s for sure! And every time I go there I am reminded that it has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in my life.


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