CycloVision Parashot of campsite at the Arctic Circle


CycloVision Parashot of the Arctic Landscape


CycloVision Parashot of friends and trekkers


Update 09/20/99 by Michael Slade from Dawson, NWT

The last several days have seen the team travelling through some of the most beautiful yet inhospitable terrain of our entire trip. Leaving Dawson on Friday, the team began its journey toward the city of Inuvik, NWT via the famous (yet infamous) Dempster Highway.

This gravel, shale and dirt road winds its way north from Dawson 737 kilometers (about 500) miles through tundra, river bottoms, and mountain canyons. Finished in 1979 to aid the Canadian government in it's efforts to map the area and search for oil and mineral reserves, the Dempster Highway is one of the loneliest stretches of road I have ever been on.

At times the surface of the road is the consistency of pavement, at others it is a slimy slippery mixture of clay, rocks and mud. Fortunately for us we have had a string of beautiful weather over the entire trip which presented us with a travelling road in about as good of condition as one could ask for. The road surface can at times reach a height of 10 feet above the surrounding tundra, and is built on a burm much like a dike in shape and size. There is really only one lane on the Dempster, but often you will have 3 sets of ruts where cars may pass one another. Most drivers we passed were very courteous and slowed to pass us, but many of the 18-wheelers that travel this road regularly barreled down on us like a Cannonball Express that would sooner run us off the road than slow down to move over and allow a safe pass.

Horror stories abound about the Dempster, and we were prepared to repair several flat tires and deal with miles of mud, which fortunately did not occur. We did have one blow out on John Passant's Disco, but being on the rear axle the accident caused no harm to vehicle or occupants.

We traveled at a leisurely pace toward the small town of Eagle Plains, population 7, which is really just a cheap hotel, gas station, restaurant and bar located in the middle of nowhere. Literally just an outpost for a gas station and road repair facility, the Eagle Plains self-titled 'oasis in
the wilderness' is barely that. It is the ONLY place to get gas or a room, and the prices were reflective of the laws of supply and demand.

Jim, Andrew, Cleo and Rufus elected to stay in the hotel, while the Slades and Passants traveled about 20 minutes further and pitched their tents in a wide spot in the road just a half a mile north of the marker for the Arctic Circle. 66 degrees 33 minutes north of the Equator.

While I can only report on our experience camping on the circle, the Wilmerdings reported that their accomodations at the hotel smelled of cheap cigarettes and Caribou blood, as the Eagle Plains hotel is a popular spot for Caribou hunters to stay and rest during the migration and hunt. We had missed a herd of 10,000 bulls travelling on the border between the NorthWest. Territories and the Yukon by only several hours, and we were extremely disappointed.

Meanwhile, the Slades and Passants were setting up camp in a 20 mile per hour wind while the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping quickly. As we had been snacking the entire drive of 7 hours, we weren't really that hungry, and the tent was pitched and sleeping bags were unrolled and we were in be by 9pm.

As the wind howled outside the tent I was glad I took the extra time to set up the rain fly and secure it with the tent spikes. I had to pound the spikes into ground as had as bedrock, folding over more than one spike as I attempted to drive it into the ground with a nearby rock (or Cro-Magnon hammer as we called it).

With the tent tight as a drum, us curled up in our bags, the wind beating on the tent and the sun setting on the circle it actually was quite a relaxing evening, and we soon drifted off to sleep.

Waking up in the middle of the arctic tundra is an amazing experience, with that sunrise being one of the most memorable of my entire life. The was still a light breeze blowing when we tore down the tents and packed up the car, and we drove down to the monument for the circle and waited for the Wilmerdings.

While we waited I photographed an Inuksuk that had been built on the tundra near the marker provided by the government.

An Inuksuk (IN-nook-sook) is a tower of rocks, much like a cairn, that the native Inuit use for several reasons. The word means Like a Person, and they are built in strategic places and have been used to help the Inuit herd Caribou towards the waiting hunters. They have also been built at places of significance, to show direction, indicate meat caches, good fishing or seal holes or other important sites.

One Inuksuk had been built and stood nearly 4 feet tall. Several pieces of colored paper with printing on it were tucked in-between the rocks. I looked at one that had blown off of the Inuksuk and the writing looked like Thai or Laotian and I at first thought they were Buddhist prayer scrolls. My father later purchased a book about Inuksuk which contained the Inuit alphabet. The papers, which I have no idea what they mean, contains pictures and writings in the Inuit language. I'll scan it and post it on the page when I get home and hopefully someone will be able to translate it for us.

The team assembled at the Circle, made several calls on Sat. phone, and proceeded North to Inuvik (In-NOO-vik). While travelling north we had to make two ferry crossings, the first at Fort Macpherson, and the second at Arctic Red River.

We crossed into Fort Macpherson, filled our gas tanks and made a wrong turn driving through town. The St. Michael's Anglican Church lies on the west side of town on a bluff overlooking the river. To the south of the church there is a cemetery with hundreds of white stone or wooden gravestones. My left foot usually speaks loudly when presented with such photographic possibilities, and it let itself be heard loudly when it stomped on the brake pedal bringing the team to a halt. I told the others to give me 10 minutes for a photograph and we ended up spending nearly an hour at the church.

I met and photographed a man who was 69 years old who showed me where his mother and grandmother were buried. We also met several elementary aged school children who we talked to and Larry ended up singing church songs and 'Old MacDonald' with them. Look for an audio update on the site.

We also met another local man who does carvings out of Musk-Ox, Moose and Caribou horns, Walrus tusks and stone. We were invited to his home to see the projects he had been working on Andrew ended up being given a moose antler that had a bullet hole in it. Apparently it was unusable to him, so he gave it as a moment of our visit.

While waiting for the second ferry to arrive, most of the team made a quick snack, while Andrew couldn't resist the sight of several native families who were camped out on the shore of the river.

He walked over to investigate wearing his straw cowboy hat and sunglasses. He said that he was scared he was going to be shot while walking over there, and the goofier he looked the better.

He introduced himself and met a woman who was filleting and preparing whitefish to be dried and smoked. He asked if any was ready and if he could have some to take with us, but was told that it was all still raw and if he'd like he could take some. He politely declined.

On we traveled to the town of Inuvik where we arrived at around 6pm and checked into the Mackenzie Hotel. After camping on the circle, we deserved a warm room and a shower.

We visited the Inuvik Volunteer Fire/Rescue Company and donated much of our medical equipment to them. They were most appreciative, as $$ for getting equipment is limited.

Keep the emails coming!

Rugged mountain ranges stretch for hundreds of miles while valleys and rivers make the scenery ever changing. Heaing North on the Demster you wonder what's around the next bend and what sights can be even better than the ones you had just driven through.

This is a perfect example of how the Dempster Highway is constructed. One track, barely enough room to pass on either side, and built up from the surrounding tundra and trees on a burm. It's also a reminder of just how far you can drive and not see anybody. Out here go prepared is more than just a catchy slogan, it's a way of life. Just about every pickup we saw had 2 spare tires and an extra can of gas in the back. Truckers have been known to start spare tires on fire to stay alive during 3-day blizzards on the trip between Dawson City and Inuvik.

The Inuksuk at the Circle. Sunrise seemed to take forever to arrive as the sun moves very slowly across the horizon and never gets above 30 degrees from the horizon. Photographing in the northern latitudes is a pleasure, as even at 12-noon the light is really nice, and is only better the nearer you get to dawn and dusk.

This is one of the scrolls that was tucked between the rocks of the Inuksuk at the Circle. Although I have spent 2 1/2 years in Asia, I have absolutely no idea what the writing says. Some of the figures look very Buddhist, so I draw a few assumptions that might be wrong. If anyone knows what this is, please e-mail me!

Photo goes here
Andrew and Michael pose for the obligatory tourist photo at the circle.

The church at Ft. Macpherson is on the banks of the Peel River which flows north and joins the Mackenzie River. We never got a straight answer why there are plastic flowers covered with a plastic tarp on the tops of the graves, but I'm not sure that a straight answer would have mattered. Up here you take a lot of things at face value and don't ask too many questions. Ours is not to question, merely to appreciate, observe and take home memories.

Inuvik Fire Department and equipment that was donated to them. Many thanks to our sponsors for allowing us to share our supplies with local departments who need support. Ironically, thier Ford F250 rescue truck was equipped with a Warn 8274-50.