We survived the Dempster!

Dawson Travel Blog

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Mud and potholes

7.20.08

 

We survived the Dempster! 

Here’s a riddle:  What’s more difficult than driving a dusty Dempster?

Answer:  Driving a wet, muddy, pot-holed, treacherous Dempster!

Oh yes!  By the grace of God, we made it to the end after about 27 hours of driving.  I cannot begin to describe how bad the conditions were.  I’ll try to upload some pictures of bad spots, but during “prayer moments” of course I couldn’t get pictures.  

 

Some people we saw in Inuvik are here with us at the campground tonight are and greeted us tonight with “That was SOME road today!”  They actually live in Inuvik and, having taken the Dempster many times, declared this trip the worst.

AAA service- haha- a bike to borrow and a gas can just 9 km from the end of the Dempster
  I asked what made it so awful coming down this time:  was it the foot deep mud or the punishing potholes (from 4 days of rain) and they thought the potholes were what made everyone cheer upon reaching pavement at the end. 

 

I don’t know which was worse to be honest.  Truckers put chains on their tires to get through the mud.  We slipped and geared down mountains, but actually slid off the shoulder one time, which gave me a heart attack, but Ciao Baby was able to pull back up before tumbling off the raised permafrost covering.  I hope I don’t have nightmares or PTSD from that. 

 

It was all I could do not to kiss the ground upon finishing the Dempster.  Really, I just wanted to stand for a minute and have a good cry, but instead we spent a small fortune and got Ciao all cleaned off at the pressure car self-wash.

Artic or Bust fun with the mud
  Huge chunks of mud covered every component underneath and fell off with a thud.  We have some small damage to the step, lost the pull on a dump valve, etc, but felt fortunate not to have severe damage.  No flat tires, no running out of gas, no sliding off the cliff- a success for sure!  New friends at the car wash said they helped a lady who got her gas tank smashed on the trip.  You cannot go far on that road without gas!

 

So, next time I’ll fly.  Really, I’m surprised the didn’t close the road.  I cannot imagine that most cars could ford that mud.  (Note:  I later heard that the road north of Eagle Plains indeed was impassable the day after we took it.  Families were doubling up in the Eagle Plains Lodge and they were running out of food.  2 of 5 motorcyclists crashed in the mud and although one had a broken back, he lived.)

 

Last night, we were south of Eagle Plains (the halfway point on the Dempster), but still nearly 2 hours at crawling speed from the next campground south.

  I spied a gravel side parking spot and backed in to stay for the night.  The worry is not that police would tell me go- that’s a joke.  There are no police out there.  I worry more for our safety with no one around, no cell phone service, etc. 

 

Of course, the night before, in a campground on the Dempster, there was just one other camper and then some guys drove in a jeep, parked a few sites up, walked within a foot of our camper, and down a trail behind us- at 12:30 at night!  I then moved the RV to the site across from the tenters and the guys left soon thereafter- I did report them in the office in the morning- but really- there is no one else there.  No camp host, no camping office.  It really is the wilds. 

 

So within a campground or out, there can be times of high alert and I cannot say I slept long or peacefully in our dispersed camping site.

Mud!
  But then again, what evil person would be on the Dempster, with it's bad condition, and in the rain?  Unlikely!

 

Very strange:  Only one or two cars passed us this morning, yet we go much slower than the pickup trucks, big trucks, or truck campers.  Where was everyone?  They said the Dempster was open, when we got off it and asked, but I wonder if people could really get through.  We looked like the Dukes of Hazard playing in the mud at times.  <shiver>

 

Okay, so after all this trauma, as I’m pumping gas at Dempster Corner (the end of the Dempster), a nice family with a pathfinder pulling a pop-up camper pulls up and asks me:  “How’s the road?”  I sure hope they took my advice to wait and see if it dries up some.  Someone else suggested they fly instead.

Dawson City
  The cashier later told them it was a 12-hour drive, to which I made her specify that was only the huge trucks (it is double that for normal folks).  All I could do was shake my head for the trauma they’re about to endure when the take that horrible road. 

 

Either the road needs to be dry or no-go in my book.  Even in dry weather it is miserable with 60 miles of cobblestone-like streets, only to be replaced with 60 more miles of punishing potholes, followed by 60 miles of unprotected cliff edges with sloping road sides, etc.  In wet weather, it is plain dangerous.

 

But we've finished the Dempster and now we’re in the delightful touristy town of Dawson City tonight.  We're at the only campground in this really charming, historic gold rush, downtown.  Two RV Caravan groups are here and the place is buzzing with excitement.

The Henry's who were instrumental in the Dempster's building

 

We’ll spend the morning here exploring and then head on the Top of the World Highway into the U.S. tomorrow.  We want to go to Eagle and then Chicken to explore.  However, the Church’s RV Alaska book says that road conditions deteriorate badly during times of rain, so I think we’ll play that gravel road by ear.  I’m not doing another Dempster-type highway, even if it is much shorter than the Dempster.

 

The kids are doing great- very helpful, working on their schoolwork when they can.  Charles got a 2-day headache from all the Dempster potholes.

 

There are no strangers here- everyone is very nice and helpful.

  When you wash your car, walk down the street, or in the campground, new friends are everywhere.  Best tips and good advice come from unexpected places.  We saw our Inuvik friend from California at the General Store here in Dawson City- she’ s traveling for 2 months with her 12-year-old daughter in a van with a pop-top.  We thought that she was in our campground, but when we knocked on the van door, we instead met a guy who looked nothing like her.  J  What are the chances of 2 pop-tops from California?

 

I did wander down by Diamond Tooth Gertie’s famous casino and bar and saw a minute of the can-can show, but minors cannot go in and we instead enjoyed making new friends from Colorado at the RV park.

  They are on an Adventure Caravan tour for 60-days through Alaska and full of fun.

 

I'm sitting on the camp office porch right now and an old-timer just arrived from the Dempster and he said, "That's the worst I ever seen it."  He used to work on the Dempster!

 

Note:  I cannot seem to get my inbox to send.  It just tries repeatedly, but thank you for all the nice comments and emails.  We love hearing from you and appreciate it.  :)

 

 

susandent says:
You are one amazing driver! What an ordeal - the mud sounds like the worst part - like driving on ice. The pictures are great! Know you're excited about seeing Ned soon. We sure appreciate your blog and updates. Be careful - we love you! Mom & Dad
Posted on: Jul 23, 2008
N_loves_T says:
Poor Ciao Baby! Poor bikes! That's a lot of mud and dirt!

Glad you made it to Dawson City. Hope you recover soon. See you soon!

Love,
N/D

BTW - cool fox picture!
Posted on: Jul 22, 2008
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Mud and potholes
Mud and potholes
AAA service- haha- a bike to borro…
AAA service- haha- a bike to borr…
Artic or Bust fun with the mud
Artic or Bust fun with the mud
Mud!
Mud!
Dawson City
Dawson City
The Henrys who were instrumental …
The Henry's who were instrumental…
Foxes
Foxes
Mud
Mud
Mud!
Mud!
Mud and potholes
Mud and potholes
Lia geared up for the car wash
Lia geared up for the car wash
Dawson City
Dawson City
Dawson City and the Yukon
Dawson City and the Yukon
Our back windshield after Day 1 dr…
Our back windshield after Day 1 d…
Rain
Rain
Potholes on soft shoulder too
Potholes on soft shoulder too
Raised road
Raised road
Construction mud
Construction mud
Construction mud
Construction mud
More rain
More rain
More mud
More mud
Fording the mud
Fording the mud
Fording the mud
Fording the mud
Dawson
photo by: silan