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Tuktoyaktuk 2017, Part 1 of 3

Dec 21, 2017

Home – Dawson City

Includes: Peace Arch US Border crossing, The Peace, Ross River, Hyland River & Dawson.


Perhaps we should start with the goals of our journey, set the outline of what we wanted to achieve and why we wanted to complete this journey:

  1. Be the first public to travel the new section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, an extension to the Dempster Highway, to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean.

  2. Be the first ever to travel the full length of Canada, south to north, in the summer.

  3. Travel the new section of the highway prior to completion and prior to being opened to the public, by the way of a government permit.

  4. Complete the journey in old Land Rovers.

  5. Be totally self sufficient.

  6. Share our story across several publications and media channels.

Our little team of three people and two vehicles wanted to achieve a long and challenging journey. We wanted to take in some of western Canada’s greatest sights, visiting places none of us had seen before. Ultimately to share with the world our journey and the amazing places we would see. Places that the majority may not have heard of, or seen before.

The Story

The first leg of our journey started at the US & Canadian border south of Vancouver. We aimed to arrive in Dawson, Yukon Territory in just under a week.

Approximately 3200km : 4+ Days Travelling

We had a fairly tight timeline and were under pressure right out of the gate for a variety of reasons. Firstly a hugely busy year for us work wise and a government travel permit date(s) from the North West Territories Government to make and a goal approximately 4000km away from our start point. Still, nothing like a challenge to make things exciting.

The first few days of the adventure were fairly straight forward baring the odd minor mishap that was overcome with some ingenuity and team work. Travelling north through British Columbia always inspires me. I love getting away from the hustle and bustle of the “people belt” that is southern BC, or at least the very tip of southern BC. As you head north, things become quieter, cleaner, more and more beautiful and it’s worth the hours you put down to get there.

We had some spectacular but saddening sights of the forest fires as we cruised through the southern middle part of BC, near Quesnel and Williams Lake. It is truly breathtaking the scale, power and impact these mostly natural phenomenon have.

I have a favourite hunting area in the southern part of northern BC and I adore being up in this part of our great province. It is always a joy to be in the Mackenzie area of BC, so spectacular. Heading north of Mackenzie has been a dream and featured highly on my must do list.

Finally we slide north following dreams and goals, old Land Rover’s humming away in happy unison – a surprise I know… We had spent many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on making both of our vehicles fit for the purpose prior to the trip. Everything from reconditioned engines, conversions, new suspension and so on. So far money very well spent. Heading up into the fertile Peace River region was breathtaking. The classic rain forests of BC peel back to sprawling fields over laying the rolling hills of the BC. It’s a sad state the BC Hydro is working on flooding thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land to create a dam to feed the industrial and corporate hunger that dominates our world. I am glad we got to see some of this area before it is soon gone for good. It reminds me of the battle of Lyn Celyn and the Afon Tryweryn in the 60’s.

The road must go on, deadlines to meet and a place to be. Sitting there in noisy old vehicles has it’s benefits in a way. We are hardly the fastest out there. BUT, that allows more time to take in our surroundings as we consume the miles. And what spectacular scenery it is. Damn, as I write, I wish I could go back!! I will…

Just before we hit the border of British Columbia and the mighty Yukon Territory are the amazing Liard River Hotsprings & Provinicial Park. This has long been a place I wanted to visit as a young boy, flicking through majestic picture books of Canada whilst living in the United Kingdom. Finally, it was my time to soak up the natural wonder and I was not disappointed. Living out of a roof top tent and a small old Land Rover is fantastic challenging fun, but the ability to have a soak, a wee scrub and freshen up re-invigorates the body more than we can hope for, an amazing feeling.

Onwards north, still the same deadline, becoming more prominent in our minds, many more kilometres and much to do. The kilometres tick off, slowly but steadily…

North of Watson was an important area for fellow traveller Ray. His family had been instrumental in the exploration of the area and as such had a river named in their honour. Ray really wanted to re-visit this area and it of course sounded like fun to us. We managed to get a mandatory image with Ray and the river sign on highway 4, but more importantly headed towards Tungsten and the Little Hyland River which holds more heritage importance to the family. A special moment in a truly special and spectacular place. Moments like these help cement a friendship and allow one to care for others dreams. An honour.

Travelling through Western Canada, or Canada as a whole allows for the magnificence of the country to show itself. The scenery is magnificent, but so is the wildlife; coyotes, cougar, bald eagles, fox, loons, geese, wood buffalo, black and brown bear and so on abound. We are truly lucky to be able to travel through their territories!

The further we head north, the quieter things become, the more wild, the scarcer the population. We pass through small, mostly native dominated settlements such as Ross River. Stunning places, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. We pass old hugely historic roads, make notes feverishly for future adventures, eager to make our next plans, dream of the future. Even though we are less than a quarter of the way through our current adventure. Dreamers, but hopefully doers.

Finally civilization abounds again as we cruise into Dawson. A major milestone. We are in the heart of the Klondike, a massive bucket list location and an area rich in a real passion of mine, the gold rush. As part of my life leads me to work in gold rush rich heritage areas that are the Thompson & Fraser valley’s, Dawson is really exciting to me. I have spent time travelling through Skagway, the Chilkoot Trail, White Pass & Yukon and many a trip to San Francisco. Dawson was the final key in the completion of the west coast Gold Rush Trail. Dawson is a place I have to return to, to understand and explore more, to learn more of this random passion of mine. However glad we are to be here, the road continues. Next stop the mighty mighty Dempster Highway, the Canadian Arctic & Tuktoyaktuk…