We had breakfast at Eagle Plains Lodge, and, after fueling the car and washing off some of the mud from the rear window, we were on the road by 9:50 a.m.
This second half of the Dempster is not as primitive as the first 250 miles. There are several little villages along this stretch. The scenery was spectacular, but the mosquitoes were horrid! We did put some repellent on today, but every time we opened a car door, even a crack, those hungry little buzz saws swarmed inside. Karen [a friend from work] loaned me a couple of netted mosquito hoods, and I forgot to bring them. Sure could have used them today!
We stopped as we crossed the Arctic Circle and took photos. It was windy and cold, but the vista was awesome. I know it's just an arbitrary mark on a map, but it still gave me a thrill to stand at the Circle and look out over that unspoiled, rugged land. Another couple, tourists from Germany, were there as well. We visited with them a bit and found that we'd all be staying at the Finto [hotel] in Inuvik. I loved and agreed with the lady's comment as she gazed out over the landscape: "It's peace for your soul."
Looking across the confluence of the McKenzie and Arctic Red Rivers
We made a brief stop in Fort McPherson, a small village on the Peel River. It was originally established by the Hudson Bay Company, in 1840. We went to the old graveyard beside Saint Matthew's Anglican Church, which holds the remains of the "Lost Patrol." I had never heard of the Lost Patrol, but Dan knew all about it, and I guess it is famous in Canadian history and legend. Here's a quotation about the Lost Patrol, from Don Bain's Virtual Guidebook:
"Just before Christmas in 1910 four men from the Northwest Mounted Police (mounties) left Fort McPherson on routine patrol to Dawson City, carrying mail and official communications. When they still had not arrived by late February a search expedition was sent out after them, headed by Corporal Dempster (for whom the highway has been named) and accompanied by a noted Indian tracker. The bodies were found just 26 miles away from Fort McPherson. They had been unable to locate the pass out of the delta over the Richardson Mountains, had run out of food, then inevitably they had frozen to death."
The road was quite smooth with a few exceptions. We did meet up with some construction, near both of the river crossings, which made for challenging driving. They do not reroute "traffic" because of construction here. You just cautiously wind your way through it, being careful not to drive into a ditch or get in the way of some piece of equipment. There are also places where the Dempster widens, and a sign warns that the road is now a combination road/landing strip for airplanes. No loitering allowed in these stretches.
We pulled into Inuvik at 5:3o p.m. (we lost one hour as we crossed into the Northwest Territories). Inuvik is a delightful, small town. After checking into our hotel we went out to explore. The houses sit up above the ground on metal stilts, to keep the permafrost from melting. There are many apartment complexes. A lot of the homes and other buildings are painted in bright "Crayola" colors. We were told that the reason for the colors is to bring a little brightness to the long, dark, black-and-white winters. All of the residential utilities run above ground, through an insulated and heated pipe, called the utilidor.
After we went to bed, I was still too keyed up to sleep. Besides, I wanted to stay awake until midnight to witness a true "midnight sun." Dan was asleep by midnight, but I wasn't, so I got up and took a picture from our hotel room window, through the vertical blinds. It's not a particularly nice picture, but as you can see, the sun was brightly shining at midnight. It never got any darker than this.
Today we drove 6-1/2 hours, another 250 miles. On this stretch of the Dempster we met a total of 23 cars, 5 bicycles and 1 semi! The longest time between cars was 47 minutes.
[Here's a website with some good information on Inuvik, if you want to learn more about it.]