Vancouver Island to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 09-22-2019, 08:49 PM   #1
Dee
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Vancouver Island to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean

Hi, I'm Deirdre Love. I live in the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island. My husband Robin and I are just home from a rather epic road trip with our 6 month old 21'Escape. We drove all the way to Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk) and camped on the shores of the Artic Ocean.

Road conditions, forest fire smoke and general remoteness were our main concerns. I have to say that we were really lucky. We did manage to drive all the way and camped in our "Love's Nest" trailer, on the shore of the Beaufort Sea. We sat around the campfire in our winter wear and wrapped in blankets. We made s'mores, drank port and sang Stan Roger's North West Passage. (Great Canadian folk song). If you'd like to know more about our trip, you can read all about it, and see photos on our Tumblr blog:
https://lovenesttravels.tumblr.com

What we learned:
1. Road Conditions:
The roads up as far as Dawson City were fine. Even the Top of the World Highway was easy going ( good gravel).
The Dempster Highway, between Dawson City and Inuvik, is a beast. Calling it a highway is misleading. The Dempster in places has a special kind of mud- very very slick, and the potholes can become craters. On the other hand, they are constantly working with graders to keep the road passable. And we were told that the road dries out quickly.

2. Watch the weather:
We watched the weather forecast and hung out in Dawson City for several extra days because of rain and snow. The day we had initially planned to go, we learned that a tour bus had slid off the road. Then they closed down one of the 2 ferry crossings that go across the large rivers. We recently learned that shortly after our trip to the "summit", a propane truck slid off the road, closing the road for 3 days. Conclusion - we were really lucky, and smart.

3. Consider not taking your trailer up the Dempster:
We were lucky. It was a great experience with only minor repairs needed afterwards, but it could have been a disaster.
Optional (Smarter?) plans:
A. Drive your trailer to Dawson City and then take your truck only, up the Dempster. There is accommodation, though not fab. Do make reservations as they are sometimes full.
B. Fly to Whitehorse and rent a truck and camper. This is the rig of choice in 2019 for this trip.

4. Get your trailer raised that extra 3". Getting on and off the small ferries was a problem for us was. We bottomed out with our electric jack and actually bent the foot.

5. Get all the insulation you are offered. Our trailer was cosy warm and a bonus is that it insulates for sound too.

4. TAKE LOADS OF SPARES:
* consider a 2nd spare tire for the truck and the trailer. (our spares are up for grabs if anyone needs some).
*Make sure you have top quality tires. There is a section of the Dempster that is shale. If the grader has been past recently the shards will standing straight up like little knives...
*spare gas. It can be a long way between gas stations. We came upon many stations that were closed, some permanently
*Fill your water and your fridge. Pizza in Tuk is $45!!

5. Communications:
They have no high speed internet service in the north. Many places claim to have wifi, but they don't really. Also, cell phone service is very patchy.

6. Timing:
August/September was the best time for us - after the bug season and before the cold. Autumn starts mid-August and winter starts mid-September.
The fall colours were A-MA-ZING! However, bird and wildlife were scarce.

7. Rookie mistakes we made:
*when securing your kitchen cabinet doors, do not put vertical tension on your bungie cords, just side to side. We actually broke the hinges off a couple of the doors!
*salt and pepper shakers do shake on rough roads. Take ones with caps.
*butter bounces too. Put it in a ziplock at least. We ended up with butter on every surface of the inside of the fridge.

8. Smart (lucky) stuff we did:
*bring a fire poker and some kindling
*bring puffy outdoor blankets. We bought a pair of the Kelty Bestie blankets. They were great for around the campfire. They were great for napping AND they fit perfectly in the kitchen overhead bins, where they held dishes etc in place while we were on the move.
*take good window cleaner with you
*Take the latest edition of The Mile Post. It is a must-have guide for any road trip north of the 49.

Warmest regards to our fellow Escapees
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:36 PM   #2
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Wow, you guys are brave. We chickened out in Fairbanks. I'd heard that the road was a potential tire killer but didn't know the reason, that makes sense.

I'm not sure if I totally agree with your timing comment. We were in Fairbanks on June 21 and it was really warm and sunny and bugs weren't an issue. But conditions do change and nothing's a certainty.

At any rate, great report and congratulations, you're definitely in a very small group of Escape owners who've made it to Tuk.

Ron
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:58 PM   #3
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For anybody heading north, you'll need music. My favourite is Blackflies and Mosquitoes by Ted Wesley.
https://www.discogs.com/Ted-Wesley-B...elease/7469088


And here is a YouTube link that you can actually sample.
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Old 09-22-2019, 10:38 PM   #4
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I just read the Blog. What a great trip. I don’t think I could get my wife to go much further than Edmonton, but I would like to go to Alaska one day.

Thanks for sharing
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Old 09-22-2019, 10:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dee View Post
5. Communications:
They have no high speed internet service in the north. Many places claim to have wifi, but they don't really. Also, cell phone service is very patchy.
Some northern residents have satellite phones, due to the lack of other communication services. Sat phones are expensive to use, but when just used for emergencies, the cost is justifiable for many. In addition to the general-purpose phones, there are satellite-based communication devices, often combined with GPS receivers, specifically for emergency communications.

I think a trip like this would be best planned on the assumption that there will be no high-speed internet access at any time once outside of a major city, but that might not be practical for everyone.

I think if you're north of 60 and get any cell phone service where you can't actually see a settlement, you should consider yourself lucky.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:36 AM   #6
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Enjoyed you blog Dee. We are going to go to from Victoria to Inuvik / Tuk next summer for a 12 day rafting trip on the Firth. We toyed with taking the trailer all the way up to Tuk but have been leaning towards leaving it in Dawson City and just taking the truck and kayaks further north. Great info and great photos. Thanks for sharing.

Scott
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Old 10-06-2019, 10:09 AM   #7
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Thanks!!

Thanks for posting. We are planning a similar trip next summer but we are starting from Toronto. I really appreciate all the details in your posts on your blog. Your comments about bottoming out on ferries makes me a bit worried! Might take your advice and leave the trailer in Dawson when we head north. We are planning a 3 week trip not including the drive to and from Whitehorse. Any suggestions of things you would absolutely include?
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Old 10-06-2019, 12:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yakanaka View Post
Thanks for posting. We are planning a similar trip next summer but we are starting from Toronto. I really appreciate all the details in your posts on your blog. Your comments about bottoming out on ferries makes me a bit worried! Might take your advice and leave the trailer in Dawson when we head north. We are planning a 3 week trip not including the drive to and from Whitehorse. Any suggestions of things you would absolutely include?

I just did a similar trip pulling my 17B in the same time frame as the Deidre and Robin. As a matter of fact I also ran into (not literally) the cyclist from Seattle they mention in their blog (but that's another story). I did not go up the Dempster this time but I did about 35 years ago - it's awesome, but trailers are not recommended. Stop in at the NW Territory Tourist info centre in Dawson City and they will tell you the same thing. Also, in addition to spare tires, be sure to have windshield insurance coverage as chances of a rock chip are high on the Dempster.

I too bottomed out at the hitch stand getting off the ferry crossing the Yukon River at Dawson. Luckily no damage. The territorial campground is across the river from the town and I went back and forth w/o the trailer daily. (There are some RV campgrounds in Dawson, if one prefers these.) Stop in at the Yukon travel info centre in Whitehorse, which is great (free wifi) and pick up maps and a pamphlet covering all the Yukon Terr gov't campgrounds ($12, no services, but free firewood!)

Dawson, by the way, was the highlight of the trip for me. For starters, cruise ships don't go there, if you get my drift.

Lastly, be sure to take a decent tool kit. I went a total of just over 10,000km, as far as Homer, Alaska. The only gravel road I was on was the Top of the World Highway from Tetlin Jct (Ak) to Dawson (Yk) - highly recommend, by the way. That road was in good condition but I still had part of my black tank pull busted off, a retaining strap for the sani-dumping tubes detached, the top hinge pin on my fridge door worked loose and fell out (amazingly, the door stayed on!) and the top hinge on my bathroom door broke. I also have a trailer axle issue that I'm hopefully getting Dexter to repair, but don't know if this had anything to do with the trip. Also, I don't mean to imply that all the foregoing happened because of the gravel road, but I did discover it all either on or just after the gravel part. The axle issue came up when I got home where I discovered one trailer tire was totally worn on the inside edge after only 20,000 km.

Good luck and wishing you the best weather. The scenery is spectacular but only if you can see it!

Lawrence
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Old 10-06-2019, 01:59 PM   #9
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Brian said:

“there are satellite-based communication devices, often combined with GPS receivers, specifically for emergency communications.“

We have carried this for a number of years. When in the middle of nowhere, I send our daughters our GPS location. That way should we suddenly drop off the edge of the earth, they know where to send the posse.
Plus text communication if desired.

We have never needed the emergency feature, but find comfort in knowing its there.

https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/
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