Tom Roper photo

Tom Roper photo

Adventures on the Dempster Highway Part 1

Yukon Highway 5, part 1

We have all heard of the famous highway, Route 66 in the States. I am sure many have driven sections, maybe around the Grand Canyon, but this road has nothing on our very own Yukon Highway 5, the Dempster from Dawson City to Inuvik, N.W.T. and now beyond.

The government of Canada decided in 2013 to complete the road to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean.

Turn right just south of Dawson City to begin your adventure. Gas up, as stations are spread apart on this 725km journey. Almost immediately you are confronted with the spectacular scenery of the Tombstone Range.

You have to set up camp and get into a hike. Remember if the hike is to Grizzly Ridge you may not be running into just marmots, you may see a grizzly. Remember you might never be back so what’s the rush.

Eagle Plains is the next stop of interest.

A restaurant, gas station, laundry, all the services. As we pulled in I noticed a population sign showing 9 crossed out and now 8. Interesting. We gassed up, checked the tires and decided on lunch and hey, why not laundry.

We found a booth and sat for 5 or 6 minutes waiting for a server. I got up and perused the decor, all pictures of the Mad Trapper. Interesting. I then approached the waitress. Seems the tourists were not on the top of her list. More fun socializing with the truckers. Oh well, our waitress came by and I tried a bit of small talk. Did you know a guy from Telkwa that was working up here, Jim Jackson, I asked.

Her demeanor changed instantly, her eyes flashed as she demanded, how do you know him? With the quickness of a cornered packrat backpedalled.

Oh, I don’t know him, I was just inquiring for a friend. Well he is not here and I don’t know where he is, she said forcefully. I looked at my wife and said, we will just take a coffee to go. When the waitress had left I said to Sara, I know where Jim is, he’s in a cement overcoat in the basement. Let’s get out of here and forget the laundry.

We laughed all the way to the next pullout of interest. The historic plaque explaining that the Mad Trapper was shot 125km up river from this point. Seems he was not a nice fellow.

He built himself a double walled cabin with openings slotted for his gun barrel. He was ready. I don’t want to spoil the book “ The Mad Trapper of Rat River.” It’s worth the read.

The Ogilvie mountain range, the Peel watershed, the Richardson mountains, you have to like wild places to enjoy this trip and I guarantee you will enjoy.

Our next pull out was something we had wanted to do for a long time, stand on the imaginary line of the Arctic circle. It did not disappoint, 9 p.m. and still twilight. We got a few pics and spent the night. We did not see another person.

Next day back on the road early for Fort McPherson. Suddenly I slammed the brakes and yelled muskox. We grabbed our cameras and ran off the road to get a closer shot.

Whoops, the tundra ground is not like Smithers. This is muskeg country, more water than dirt. We had to be content with a telephoto shot of a dot in the distant landscape.

Towards the end of the day we pulled into the community of Fort McPherson and headed straight to the graveyard. Another book “ The Lost Patrol “ chronicling the tragedy of a R.C.M.P. dog team patrol that got lost and perished returning from Inuvik to Dawson.

Another good read if you like northern stories.

To be continued …..

~Thanks, Tom