Update 09/21/99 - from Tok, AK

Update by Michael Slade

The day spent in Inuvik was rather uneventful. This town is really just the end of the road, and is the farthest point north you can drive in Canada until the winter snows fall and the snow road is constructed to Toktoyaktuk. Even then, you apparently need a special permit to drive across the snow to get there. If you want to go farther north in Canada, you need wings or a boat

Team Lab-Rover left Inuvik around 2pm, planning on spending the night again on the Circle. The ferry crossings at Ft. MacPherson and Red River Crossing were pleasant and uneventful. Driving back through territory we had driven just 2 days before wasn't boring and repetitive, rather we were surprised at how diverse the scenery was both coming and going.

As we approached the circle we decided rather than fighting the potential wind and setting up camp and cooking in the weather, we'd find an established campground and relax in a sheltered valley.

We found the Rock Creek campground nestled in a little valley just 10 miles north of the Arctic Circle and we set up tents on the banks of a creek just 20 feet away. The campsite was relaxing, low key, and most importantly it was EMPTY. That is one thing you can definitely find here in Northern Canada, and that is solitude.

Dinner was cooked, tents were pitched and we relaxed by a roaring campfire and watched the stars. Very rarely are you directly underneath the North Star and have to crane your neck upward to find it off of the Big Dipper.

We rolled into bed only because the temperature was dropping steadily, but as we did so, we could see the Northern Lights starting faintly to dance in the sky. Larry got up around 3:30am to "check on the horses" and woke me up to come out and look at the Northern Lights. The sky was aflame from horizon to horizon with dancing fluorescent ribbons of light. I was amazed at how bright the sky was and how huge the lights were, and nearly forgot that Andrew and Jim were asleep in their tent missing the incredible show.

I ran over to their tent and tapped on it lightly for about 3 minutes. Rufus woke up first, gave a little bark and Jim whispered hush. I told Jim that the lights were dancing and he woke up Andrew and came outside. He stoked the fire and got it going again and we all sat outside and just stared upward. The most incredible fireworks you have ever seen pale in comparison to nature's spectacle. Oohs and aahs are incredibly redundant so you just watch in silence.

I didn't bother to try to photograph the Northern Lights the first time we saw them in Watson Lake. This time I had done a little research on how to photograph them and I thought this would be the last time I'd be able to give it a try for a long time.

I pulled out the camera, set up the tripod, composed as best I could in the darkness and started to bracket. My exposures (for those who care), started at f-2.8 and I bracketed from 1 second up to 30. I've never tried to photograph them before, so if anything turns out I'll be pleasantly surprised. After about 40 minutes of watching in awe, the temperature which was hovering just above freezing started to gnaw at us once again and we retired to our tents.

Waking up in the morning frost covered everything and the fire was once again stoked. Water was heated and hot chocolate, tea and coffee was soon warming our bellies. We took a very long time waking up, drying out tents and sleeping bags while Larry cooked gourmet omelets for everyone except Jim. He dined on Chocolate Jell-O pudding, coffee and cheese and crackers. He was tempted to light up a Cuban and chase it all down with Silent Sam. The cigar however stayed in the box, and Sam stayed asleep.

The group rolled out of camp around 1:30pm and headed for the circle where once again, photographs were taken and Larry saw two bull moose walking south along a stream bed in a valley to the east.

I broke out the 8x10 camera and took a photograph looking north and south with an Inuksut in the foreground looking each way. We pulled into Eagle Crossing 20 minutes later and topped up our fuel tanks. 5 hours later we pulled off of the Dempster and headed into Dawson for a memorable evening with Downtown Dick and the Sourtoe.

The native Athabaskan and Inuit peoples have been thoroughly exposed to Christianity, and there are many converts and numerous churches scattered throughout Northern Canada. This Greek Orthodox church in Inuvik is the towns main landmark and is the most unique structure for 1000 miles. Most of the other buildings are prefabricated mobile homes or two-story dwellings.

The river running through Rock Creek Campground proved the only spot that we had time enough for Larry to break out the fly gear and do some fishing. He spent the evening relaxing on the bank, and actually caught 12 Grayling which he promptly released (not having a proper fishing license).

Andrew and Jim relax by the campfire at the Rock Creek Campground. Jim is holding his ever-faithful companion Silent Sam, while we're not sure what it is that Andrew is drinking.