Driving the Dempster: The Road Back Home Again

Being so sore from climbing out of the ice house, I was glad to have a comfy bed Thursday night! I slept well and late, figuring that I was in no rush since I was only heading to Eagle Plains and didn’t want to get there too early. But soon as I stepped out onto the deck with my coffee Friday morning to see a heavy, dark cloud cover I realised that I might have to change my plans.

I headed back into town to the visitors’ centre to get a road report. I found out that it had rained heavily at Eagle Plains a few days prior, but had since been dry, and that it would be raining from Friday night onward for at least three or four days. There was only one thing to do: squeeze through this window of good weather and decent road conditions and head straight home!!! I knew that a best case scenario would get me home in 12 hours. I bought some snacks and hit the road at 11AM. I’d bought gas the morning before, at 1.49!!!

My attitude on Friday was that I was going to get where I was going to get in the amount of time it was going to take and I wasn’t going to rush, stress out, or otherwise set myself up for an accident. Yes, I would be tired, but it was better to be fatigued in good circumstances than it would be to have a poor night at Eagle Plains and then be tired in bad circumstances.

To my surprise, the time passed quickly even if the kilometres didn’t and I took the time to make a few stops, stretch my legs, and talk to people. Every single person I spoke to was worried about my car making it through a stretch past Eagle Plains, but was also in agreement with me that my making a run to Dawson was a good idea.

At Eagle Plains, I took the time to get fuel, have a coffee, and be warned, yet again, about a bad stretch of road upcoming. I was getting pretty stressed out by this point, but had definitely reached the point of no return.

It didn’t take long for the gravel to turn to a muddy track. I slowed to a crawl and tried as best as I could to stay in the ruts laid by other vehicles. When I couldn’t, the car just slid around and I used my winter driving skills to stay in control. It wasn’t an awful experience, though, not like that one stretch of construction on the way in that had me driving over rocks just a bit taller than my car’s ground clearance (thunk, scraaaaaaaape, THUNK!). When I was pretty sure that stretch was done, I pulled over for a snack and then pushed on. Buying those new tires in Whitehorse really paid off on this drive!

Until this point, I’d literally been outracing storm clouds to the point that if I stopped for a second, I’d start to get rain splatters. Finally, the sky cleared and the sun came out in full force. The final stretch home, in familiar territory starting at Two Moose Lake, was easy. I emerged triumphant at the Dempster corner, tired, but not excessively so, and thrilled to have made such a difficult drive without incident. I pulled into home at 10PM, bang on 12 hours from my departure in Inuvik (remember the time zone change!).

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  • I love the photos you are getting with your new camera. Glad you made it back safely, even though it was probably a nerve-wracking experience at times. I used to drive back and forth to CA from NC every winter, and it seemed like I was always just behind the storms or being chased by one. It’s not easy to enjoy the trip when that happens.

  • That’s how we started our full timing life, trying to outrun a blizzard on our way out of Calgary on November 18, 2008! We had to drive like H— all the way to Idaho before we no longer saw towering black clouds in our rear view mirror!
    Also love the photos. Those landscapes are breathtaking.

  • Third time in my life I’ve outrun bad weather. It’s kind of fun in its own perverse way. 😀

    The landscapes make me understand the adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’–there’s no way to describe them!

  • Martha, are you noticing a difference with the new camera vs. the old? I sure am, which is astounding because I have zero interest in photography. I find I’m capturing more details to the point that the pictures almost look like paintings they are so rich with texture.

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