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:
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!!
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.
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