Our last morning on the Dempster Highway. We stopped to photograph Tombstone Mountain. Soon after we passed a lake with some beaver dens and dams. We would love to see beavers so went for a walk to investigate. Sadly no beavers to be found, but the dams were very impressive. I think beavers are probably nocturnal creatures.
While driving up the Dempster, Dennis and I were discussing why the decision was made to extend the road from Inuvic to Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk). Was it for resources (oil, mineral exploration)? Was it for the tourist market? Or, was it for the benefit of the local natives in Tuk?
While we were in Dawson City we met a couple of Americans who had just returned from Tuk. While they enjoyed the experience of driving the Dempster, they thought Tuk was dreadful. They could not understand when the road had been open for 18 months, why the local people had not taken advantage of the influx of tourists. Why hadn’t they smartened the place and introduced some tourism infrastructure. They also commented that the native people almost seemed resentful. I can well understand them being resentful. How would you like to be invaded by hundreds of camper vans and tourists driving and tramping around your home with their cameras. It must be a bit like being a goldfish in a goldfish bowl.
While we were changing the tyre by the Arctic Ocean, several ute’s full of local inhabitants passed by staring at us intently. Obviously we were as much interest to them with our strange vehicle.
People’s way of life have evolved to suit their environment. We may think our way is best and wish to impose it on others. It isn’t easy to achieve a balance. Keeping the old customs, while taking the modern benefits.
We were very lucky with the weather going up the Dempster. If it had been raining it may have been a different story. Especially with the volume of traffic. No doubt it would get very muddy and rutted. I hate to imagine what it will be like in July when, apparently, it gets really busy. Not pleasant at all. You would be permanently enveloped in a dust cloud. Gravel roads are lovely when there is no traffic, but hell if you are constantly breathing dust.
The roadsides are very pretty with masses of brightly coloured spring flowers. On one occasion we passed large patches of yellow flowers, which provoked an argument. I thought they were dandelions, Dennis said they were daisies. Dennis stopped and picked one for me. (How romantic ):) Bridget, as the horticultural expert in the family, what do you think they are? It is definitely not a dandelion.
The Highway has to be a minimum of 1.8 meters thick to prevent the permafrost underneath from melting. In many places it is very much thicker than this. The extension of the road has created 49 long-term jobs, as road crews are required to constantly maintain the surface to stabilise it.
After we left the Dempster we joined the Klondike Highway travelling south east. Not a very inspiring piece of road, but quiet. Less traffic than the Dempster!
The most important era for this area, the Yukon, was the gold rush period during the 1890’s early 1900’s. Around 40,000 gold seekers made their way to the Dawson City region. Some had tried their luck in other parts of the world but many were ordinary Americans who thought they could get rich quick and were totally unprepared for the hardships they would encounter. Few found any gold. In fact some of the merchant scamsters made fortunes. They sold the prospectors their equipment at inflated prices, then bought it back for peanuts when they gave up disillusioned. Then promptly sold it again for top dollar to the next hopeful seekers.
We were heading in the direction of Ross River and came across a small short cut off the Klondike Highway. Well it might have been slightly shorter in terms of k’s, but it was a narrow, winding gravel road. Much more scenic than the Klondike and after 2 cars pulling out as we joined it, we did not see another vehicle during the entire 51 k’s. Now we are on the Robert Campbell Highway. It is surfaced at the moment, but according to the map, this will not last. The weather turned inclement and rained hard for about half an hour. As it was 7pm and we have covered almost 400 miles today, we decided it was time to pull over. We pulled into Drury Creek campsite and fortunately the rain had stopped and we set up for the night next to Little Salmon Lake.
When we had a quick look at emails in Eagle Plains, Dennis had received one from Bill in Edmonton telling us there was a Land Rover show there this weekend. Also tempting us with brisket and Yorkshire pud on our arrival. As of yesterday Edmonton was still 2300 k’s away, so we are trying to hot foot it there by Saturday. Sorry if it is confusing switching between miles and k’s. Distances here are all in k’s but our speedo is in miles!!