The purpose of this adventure was to
drive and camp the Dempster Highway, not sight-see in between. A long
way to go, and short time to get there, so I spent the minimum time
getting there and back, but did include the road to Skagway, and the
Cassiar Highway coming home.
Dempster Highway report: altogether, a very good to excellent dirt and
gravel road. Some sections of compacted dirt were as smooth as any
asphalt. There were very few small washboards, and no large or sharp
rocks that I saw. No flats, no windshield chips, no problems of any
kind (except ridiculous fuel prices) The Dempster was a much better
road than the Dalton Highway was in 2005.
Trip highlights: Excellent, sometimes almost surreal foliage color
along the Dempster. A close encounter with a (disinterested) Grizzly.
Several great extemporaneous campsites along the way.
Lowlight: I had planned to go to Inuvik, but gross incompetence at the
Peel River ferry intervened. The ferry is suppose to operate from
9 am to 1 am. I got there are about 10 am, and 'the word' from a couple
of workman waiting there was that the ferry was closed due to 'the
river being too high'. I decided to wait a while. By that afternoon,
there was another TC (nice couple from Seattle), a big rig fuel hauler,
and 5 or 6 small vehicles waiting. One of these waiting was the mayor
of a local small town, who was returning from vacation with his family
in an SUV. He was pretty angry to say the least, saying 'what the
hell's the point of having a ferry if they won't run it' and 'we've got
to get someone out here who knows what he's doing'. By the way, the
ferry operates on a cable. According to the fuel driver and the mayor,
the problem with the river being 'too high' (or the gravel ramps being
too low, which is the same thing) is that in that case, big rigs have
to drive up onto the ferry, and can get hung up -- but the ferry should have been moving the smaller, shorter wheelbase vehicles!
Next morning, big rig gravel haulers dumped 10 or 12 loads on the ramps
on each side, and a dozer smoothed it out on the other side. Apparently
the plan was to bring the dozer across to fortify the ramp on our side,
but no -- the river was still too high. So now we're blocked by gravel
piles, and the ferry still wasn't running, with no clue given as to
when it would. I left that afternoon.
For more information on the Dempster: Travelogue
Also, Sue T's excellent pictures at her website