Tom Roper dips his toe in the Arctic Ocean during a northern adventure. (Submitted photo)

Tom Roper dips his toe in the Arctic Ocean during a northern adventure. (Submitted photo)

Adventures on the Dempster Highway: Part 2

Tom wraps up his northern adventure with Arctic Ocean toe-dipping and a missing caribou migration

We left off at the graveyard in the village of Fort McFoo. That is the local slang for Fort McPherson. An interesting place where they have a small factory that makes those canvas prospector tents, shipping worldwide.

Back on the road, with our sights set on the next village of Arctic Red River, which the tourist bureau in Dawson recommended for a good meal. There was a ferry that crossed the Mackenzie river and also stopped in Arctic Red.

We arrived around 4:50 in the afternoon and pulled the door to enter the restaurant. Someone on the other side pulled the door shut and locked it. I guess they closed at 5:00 and were not taking any chances. We then waited two hours for the next ferry to cross the Mackenzie. All was not lost as we walked around and met some friendly locals.

Now the destination of Inuvik was in reach. Flat delta country paralleling a seriously wide river, the second-longest in North America.

We decided it was time to park the camper and take a room in the Mackenzie Hotel, clean up, and head for our honeymoon dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurant we chose did not have a liquor licence. I told the owner about our occasion and asked if we could bring in a wine bottle from the truck. He said OK as long as we poured the wine into a large teapot. All good as we enjoyed our meal.

Midway through our dinner, a lady from a neighbouring table asked the waitress what type of tea we were drinking as she would like to try some.

The next day, while touring the town I noticed all the buildings had three pipes entering them. Curious, I inquired and of course, living on the perma frost no pipes could be buried and all were above ground aptly named The Utiladores.

Next on the agenda was the 86 mile flight to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic ocean. Oddly enough, in mid-September the tourist season was grinding to a halt. The pilot informed us they needed 10 passengers to fill the plane to make the trip viable. He said if we could fill the plane he would fly us.

The challenge was on, we stopped every vehicle entering town and four hours later we had our quota. Next day we were off across the delta and able to view several Pingos. These are mini mountains that are forced up from the permafrost by hydrostatic pressure.

Tuk is a small community on the Arctic ocean that was part of the DEW (distant early warning) system from the Cold War days.

Our pilot had contacted the tour guide and we all enjoyed a bus ride around town checking the sites ending at Mona’s craft store. Unfortunately, most of her stock was gone, but I found a muskrat tail hanging by her office. Can you sell me this? I asked. Of course, she said. Do you take Visa? Chik-chik, the sale was made. It was eight months later we received confirmation from Visa that the sale had gone through.

Next stop was the toe-dipping ceremony. My wife removed her boot and I cheated and kept my boot on as we dipped in the Arctic ocean. She received her diploma and I did not. Oh well.

Back on the plane to Inuvik and a fun night checking out the bars and people watching.

The next day, it was time to head south to where the 14,000 strong Porcupine Caribou were crossing on their annual migration.

I really wanted to be on the road surrounded by the herd and call the boss to inform him I would be late for work. Well, that did not happen. The caribou were nowhere in sight. As the story goes, the herd selects three volunteers to go out to the road and see if it’s safe to cross.

If the hunters shoot these animals then there is a delay while the herd looks for three more suckers. This is what I was told tongue-in-cheek.

Oddly enough there were three sets of antlers freshly removed on the side of the road. I wanted a set so I claimed them. We stayed a day and night in the area, but alas no crossing.

We had to move on, the weather was changing, snow was falling and it was time to head back home.