Tour Arctic Trip 2011 – The Dempster Highway

Friday August 5 – Mile Zero to Tombstone Park

Today is the beginning of Tour Arctic's ride on the Dempster Highway. We have a new crew from Cabin Fever Adventures, a different heavy-duty truck, and Bud, the owner of, is riding with us. CycleCanada is the overall organizer of Tour Arctic. Tour Arctic is one of their many tours.

The Dempster is so much different from sitting here writing this story in my living room in Ottawa while nibbling on some toast with Nutella on it to make it extra yummy. Almost every morning is so cold on the Dempster that the Nutella won't spread. The evenings are cool too. One can actually feel the temperature start to plunge at 6 or 7 o'clock in the evening every day. It's time for the sweater, eh? Some days the temperature can get up in the 20s Centigrade in the afternoon. However, at least half of our trip on the Dempster is cold and raining. Fall has just begun.

Mile zero of the Dempster Highway is warm and sunny for all Tour Arctic participants. We stop at the sign and take our pictures. Just before this, most stop for at least a coffee at the Klondike River Lodge at the corner of the Dempster and Klondike highways. This time, I feel hungry and have 2 eggs, hash browns, and toast with my coffee. Hey, the breakfast prepared by the crew in Dawson City was wonderful and filling, but I need some more food after riding 30 km, eh? It's important to eat at Klondike River Lodge since this is the last restaurant until we see Eagle Plains in four days, and I'm unsure yet of the capabilities of the new crew. The breakfast is good. The hash browns are pieces of real cooked potatoes, fried a bit to warm them up.

After very few kilometres on the Dempster Highway, I am at the point where the pavement ends. I take a picture of my bicycle lying down at the point of change. I think it's crying? Does it know about the rough, dusty, and muddy road ahead? Does it know what adventures await us? Within one kilometre is a one lane wooden bridge indicating the level of traffic on this highway. There's also a sign indicating 735 km to Inuvik, the next pavement and the end of our trip.

1. The end of Pavement on Dempster Highway – Next pavement is by airport in Inuvik over 700 km ahead.

2. First bridge on the Dempster Highway



At one point, a few kilometres after pavement ends, I see a porcupine walking down the other side of road towards me. The porcupine keeps right to the edge of highway. Porky scoots into the bushes in the ditch when I say “Hi” when we're almost at the same point on the road.

The traffic is light today with 3 or 4 semi trucks at most, and less than 100 vehicles overall. The cool or cold weather in the morning warms up to t-shirt weather by afternoon – sunny and warm – but there is rain late in the evening. The rain continues through the night and the next day.

Tour Arctic camps in Tombstone Territorial Park. There are mountains. It's like Banff with a different set of mountains. Before going to the campsites, I visit the Interpretive Centre where there is lots of interesting stuff to see. Most of the second floor exhibits are about the history of interpretation at Tombstone Park since the Interpretive Centre was just built a few years ago.

After setting up our tents I decide to take a short hike on a path along the North Klondike River. There is time for this before supper – it's nice to have a crew to get it ready and free up one's time to discover the Park? The park staff in the Interpretive Centre recommended this hike and they are to be thanked. The hike adds a new dimension to my appreciation of Tombstone Park. Only on this trail do I start to appreciate the fauna and flora, and the peacefulness of the Park. Two other cyclists, Dave and Felix, join me on the hike. I take pictures of local fauna and a couple of videos of walking down the trail. We see the low height of the tree line as we are almost above it when just a few metres above the campground.

After supper, I attend a park interpretation session in the cook-house that is right beside my campsite. This is one of a series of sessions that feature art along the Dempster highway. The session is organized by the park interpreter who told me about the nature trail. The featured artist, Faye Chamberlain, is a first nations person who is based in Dawson and just here for the weekend to do this presentation and have a workshop tomorrow. Faye moved to the area with idea of living off the land. She then started to make art from the residuals: bones, fur, road kill, and quills. She has since developed fish scale art, caribou tusking, and tufting of moose hair. Overall, attending this presentation was a great idea. It gives me further insight into the people, their lives, and cultures.

The Animal in Art

Friends of the Dempster and the Tombstone Territorial Park are joining forces to create Art Magic in Tombstone. The artist show and talk with Faye Chamberlain starts tonight at 7:30. The guest artist will also be hosting a workshop on Saturday at 10 a.m. The workshop, called Fish and Fauna: from the water and the land to our hands, will include fish scale art and caribou tufting at Tombstone Interpretive Centre - but don’t forget $10 for materials when you show up. Spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

[quoted from Yukon News, Get Out! Friday August 5, 2011 By Roxanne Stasyszyn ]

5. Tombstone Territorial Park

6. Picture of ??? taken when on short hike near campground in Tombstone Territorial Park.

7. Picture taken when on short hike near campground in Tombstone Territorial Park.

8. Fireweed near campground in Tombstone Territorial Park.

Saturday August 6 – North Fork and Windy Passes

This is a day of 2 mountain passes, North Fork Pass and Windy Pass. North Fork Pass is cold and wet. It's raining heavily so I move on quickly. Windy Pass is a disappointment: all Dave and I can see are clouds. Hey, we're in a cloud and there is no wind for the first time today. What is this no wind in Windy Pass?

Even so, there is a moment of excitement in Windy Pass. Dave and I almost get run into when paused at top where there's enough road for a 4 lane highway and more – 2 lanes of road plus a huge parking lot! We're the only people here. We almost get run over. My that pick-up truck is in a hurry!

I leave camp early in morning when I'm packed up and my gear is in the truck. It's cold and wet and I need to keep going or I'll start to freeze. Some people want me to wait for others to get ready and travel with them. I enquire and ensure myself that, yes, we're still going down the road – The Dempster Highway – today in spite of the conditions. This makes sense as we need to get at least 90 km of Dempster done today or we're way behind on our 8 day trip of the Dempster. I ride slowly and alone, for over 60 km hoping that others will catch up or our crew's truck will pass to reassure me that the plans are still as written. Finally, Dave passes when I'm stopped to eat some treats.

Dave and I ride together for the remaining 40 km of the day. We arrive at the Red Creek campsite just before the truck. Actually, it catches up with us in the next kilometre where we're still looking for the campsite. Actually, Dave and I looked the spot of our final campsite over and did not think that it is a campsite. We did stop awhile and I took some pictures of Red Creek.

The truck comes by in next kilometre and tells us “campsite is back there” pointing at the rocks beside the Red Creek. OK! I put my tent on top of many stones of varying sizes – the best spot available for my tent! I then write up my diary for the day.

The view of the scenery was poor all day as there are either lots of clouds or the road is in a cloud. There appear to be lots of round mountains amongst the clouds, but this is all too vague in the current fog. I take pictures of things closer at hand like streams and shrubs.

The weather is poor – a bit miserable, eh? It is raining heavily when I wake up, pack my equipment and have breakfast. The rain only lets up when we are almost in camp. There is also wind in the face for a bit this morning. This is new as the wind has been either weak or behind us before this moment on this trip. Another cyclist tells me that it was 3 C in the first mountain pass, North Fork Pass, and the high temperature today was 9 C. The sun finally comes out while we're waiting for supper, at about 10 minutes to 6 pm in the evening.

Tour Arctic is starting to have problems due to weather with lots of rain. Unknown to us at this moment is that these problems will grow, not go away, on our quest to Inuvik. The weather makes travel speed slower as the roads are mushy at times. In North Fork Pass, the road is mushy due to heavy rain and the wind is in my face. I find that I can walk at 4.6 kph and bike at 6.2 kph with about 3 times the effort so I walk some of way up the pass.

The weather also causes the road to be muddy. Dempster mud has a way of sticking to everything. Those bicyclists without fenders are slowed down even more as this mud gets all over their chain drives, all over them, and all over the rest of their bicycles. They arrive in camp today with mud all everything. Those with fenders, like myself, are much better off. All I do to help my bicycle work better is put on more chain oil. I use ProLink Chain Lube. It cleans as it lubricates.

The traffic is light today with less than 50 vehicles overall. The highway varies from being smooth and well packed to being very muddy with lots of potholes and washboard. The road dries up and becomes harder as the day progresses. Perhaps there is less rain as we ride further north, or, the road is well drained and dries quickly in the almost 24 hours of daylight.

9. North Fork Pass




13. near Red Creek along the Blackstone River

15. Camping at Red Creek – my tent is the first yellow one behind the trailer

Sunday August 7 – Ogilvie Ridge

As in previous days, the day starts cold. I have on lots of clothing. Luckily, I soon take the clothing off and cycle in a t-shirt and cycling shorts. In fact, I do 7 mile hill bare-chested. I mean I haven't seen any bears so there needs to be something bare about this trip? This bare is not affected by bear spray?

The weather starts to change when I'm within 5 km of camp after the top of Seven-Mile Hill. I watch rain showers going up the next valley just before camp. I feel a shift in the wind. The weather is changing. It's raining as I write my diary on my Netbook in my tent at about 3 pm. I'm lucky that the weather was sunny and dry for today's travel since I could see mud tracks on much of 7 mile hill. This hill hindered Tour Arctic participants in 2010 as it was soft and muddy then. For us it is a hard surface.

The features of today's ride: a pleasant ride down a river valley with mountain views on both sides and great views from 7 mile hill. The riding is easy today, until I hit 7 mile hill. The wind is at my back, the terrain is almost flat, the weather is sunny and warm, and there are scenic views of mountains with rock faces. What else could one ask for?

As well as being pleasant and warm, all of today's travel before 7 mile hill, is along the Ogilvie River that flows to the Arctic. At one point, Dave, Gerry, and I sit beside the River and have a snack. I take a video of the river flowing. After we mount 7 mile hill, I walk further up the first peak to get better views for my photos.

There is still some traffic today even though it is Sunday. The beat never stops in the north in the summer. Again, overall, the traffic is light today. One draw-back of today's travel is that the road is consistently continuously rougher than yesterday. The last section of road, on 7 mile hill, is more challenging as it has lots of rocks sticking up in places – small rocks, consistent enough to be rough and potential tire puncturers. As we will find out in the future, the road today is wonderful compared to some of the Dempster dirt further north.

16. Ogilvie Ridge

17. Fireweed

18. Ogilvie Ridge

Today's camp is in an alpine meadow at the side of the Dempster Highway. My tent is protected a bit from winds by some shrubs and small bushes. I arrive in camp about 2 pm today or a little after since travel is a very good, hard surface most of time and I'm combating the roughness of the road by using stand-up bicycle strokes. These are the same as pedal strokes that some riders, like myself, use when climbing. The trick is to quickly move the front dérailleur to one or two gears higher, stand up, and move body weight from pedal to pedal. This is a very efficient way of climbing for people with strong core muscles.

I have a short nap in the afternoon after starting today's diary. I guess I must be tired, eh? I complete the diary before I go to sleep in the evening. I nap just on the soft moss natural surface, but do blow up my air mattress for sleeping at night.

Eliol, one of the crew, demonstrates yet another way of cooking with fire. He did this for breakfast and and uses it again for dinner today: start a dish, like deluxe scrambled eggs on the stove; the final part of cooking is to take dish off stove, put lid on dish and build fire on lid. At dinner, after the cooking part is done, some campers gather up more sticks from local shrubbed areas and keep the fire going for quite some time. They are aided by parts of old logs found in an old fire pit and some pieces of discarded construction materials.

As for bugs, there were lots of mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums at yesterday's campsite, and there are very few at today's campsite. However, I notice that in my tent tonight there are a few bugs as it's a bit warmer than outside and these somehow got in. Were they waiting at the door when I returned to tent? I need to kill these before I sleep.

Yesterday, I had a cleaning shower in a shower unit that was set up by Cabin Fever Adventures. It's an elaborate tent with a water pump and instant heater attached. It's not available today since there needs to be a stream running near by and none are to be found. The chemical toilets are working. These, again, are in designated tents. They are portable chemical toilets with lids that are taken off and toilet seats inserted by the crew. They are then used like any other out-house toilets.

20. Our camp tonight along the Dempster Highway near Seven-Mile-Hill

21. My tent at tonight's stop along the Dempster Highway near Seven-Mile-Hill

Monday August 8 – Complete First Half of Dempster Highway and Stay at Eagle Plains

I experience many different road conditions on the Dempster Highway today. The day starts with wet,damp, sandy mud with tracks on the road and tires sinking in so much that I am slowed down. Later, the road has washboard, stones, potholes, sandpaper, and road construction. Remember, this trip is a game of survival rather than a lily-white-ride in the city, or even in the country on paved, clean, low-traffic roads.

22. Soft sand and mud in morning

23. Rough washboard

24. Pot-Holes

25. Exposed Rocks on the road

26. Sandpaper Road - lots of bumps

27. Road construction for the last 13 km today

I write my notes in my diary today in the front lounge of Eagle Plains Resort where we are camped for the evening. There is Wi-Fi without a password, many really comfortable chairs and couches, and an electrical outlet for charging the battery of my Netbook. Well, actually, I end up doing some notes in the laundromat which is not as comfortable and moving to the lounge ASAP.

The Dempster follows a ridge line today so I can see mountains on both sides most of the time. I take a few pictures and some movies of 360 degrees so I'll remember this place when confined to my home during next winter's blizzards. In Ottawa, we sometimes do get a few days with a wind-chill of minus forty Centigrade and other days when the temperature plunges so quickly that there is thick ice everywhere. I can appreciate why many people leave the Arctic and move south in the winter because it is even colder than in Ottawa and a wind chill of minus 40 is bad enough. What is minus 60 like?

The weather is cold in the morning for this time of year. I wear 2 synthetic tops (Polartec and polypropylene) and 2 bottom layers over bicycle pants of the same materials. I gradually remove the cold-weather gear. I'm sure glad that I purchased another layer of Polartec clothing at Mountain Equipment Coop when the trip started in Vancouver. They are helpful and necessary. I recommend bringing one or 2 more layers of warm, dry clothing than one thinks is necessary, on trips like Tour Arctic. The extra clothing saves me many times on this year's trip.

I am able to wear a cotton t-shirt for awhile in early afternoon. At this point, it's warm enough when the sun is out, but a bit cool when the sun is behind a cloud. Travel is also aided by a wind that is at my back most of the day. The wind is very light.

Travel is very slow at first as the road is very mushy. It did rain a number of times last night. Perhaps that's why the road is mushy, or, maybe this section of Dempster is always mushy? There is no further rain today and eventually the sun is out at times. Fortunately, there is very little traffic on this first mushy part so it is easy to follow any established tracks in the road rather than ride through the pure mud at the edge.

Bicycle riding is also more difficult today due to the constant up or down of the terrain, many very rough sections of road, and road construction which has lots of huge construction trucks moving dirt around and a couple of road machines shaping the road.

The terrain does hinder travelling quickly today. I only recall going up or down; never having a flat area. Speed is hindered further when one adds in bumpy and broken road conditions. One result is that I often need to brake when going downhill due to the condition of the road; whereas, on a smooth, paved road, one tries to go as fast as possible when going downhill, and in this way, pick up overall speed. Added to this is the fact that there is no EMS Emergency Medical Services on the Dempster. One must be more careful when taking actions like going downhill on very rough, broken, pot-hole filled sections of road.

I stand and pedal lots of the time on the rougher parts of the road. I use the same approach that I use when going up a hill (as an alternate stroke to sitting and grinding): shift to next higher gear and slowly move body-wight from side to side to get pedals to move. This is definitely an alternative way of taking the bumps. One positive result of this method of riding is that I do not get a sore behind on my whole trip on the Dempster Highway. Many others complain of such pains. I also stand when going downhill: lean back on the seat and get the body-wight behind the seat (by moving the posterior behind seat) so that bicycle's centre of gravity is further back. I have another hidden secret on my approach to the rough road: I started wearing my new 2011-model of Louis Garneau shorts yesterday. They have much more padding. Before that I was wearing old shorts which have minimal padding.

Overall, many Tour Arctic participants found today's trip difficult – the big question: “Does it get any worse?”

I skip a possible nap in afternoon when I get to camp at a quarter to 3 pm. Instead I erect my tent, have a shower, and wash clothes. As it is, there's one men's shower and all four male riders who arrived early suddenly want to use it! There's only one working washing machine in the laundry room ( and 1 broken machine) so I need to wait. I end up also washing clothes in my load for Nelson, and John and Lindsay ( the latter 2 are married). One nice result is that I get to wash my clothes for free as they each pay half.

In camp I wear my ball-cap again today, as usual, when I remove my bicycle helmet. In this part of the word, eh, everyone else seems to have a cap on! Mine is green with a “Cloudweil” logo to one side.

The first, and only, tragedy of Tour Arctic 2011 occurred today. This was the explosion of bear spray canister. We all are required to carry one of these. One cyclist reports at supper being quite sore on one leg as the pepper spray (bear repellent) container that was on her bicycle exploded 65 km back on the road today. So far, trip leaders advise her to put cold water and ice on it. Much later I search the Internet and discover that baby shampoo is also a good idea for washing off pepper spray.




31. Eagle Plains camping

Tuesday August 9 – The Arctic Circle, Caribou Herd, Wright Pass, and NWT

After Eagle Plains there's a long down-hill for those north-bound on the Dempster Highway. My first crisis of today, perhaps of the trip, occurs on this stretch. About 2 km down the hill I'm rounding a bend that is a blind corner due to the trees and the terrain. I suddenly see a grizzly bear about 20 metres ahead, running away from me on road. I pause a bit and get Dave to pause a bit. We then proceed down the hill past the spot where we last saw the friendly Griz, and that was our last view. The bear has disappeared – doing it's own thing somewhere else, eh?

Today's trip is filled by big events:

    1. Ride across the Arctic Circle is early in today's travel so the group agrees to meet at the sign that marks the spot. There is then a group picture, and many have others take their personal picture. I thank Lindsay and John for taking mine after I take there's.

    2. See caribou: early on, the crew slows their van to indicate the present of five caribou. OK, well, is that all? Later, we see a herd of caribou on the tundra just before the start the climb to Wright Pass. Such a sight is expected as we are travelling through the winter range of caribou and many are already there as the fall season is fast approaching.

    3. Enter North West Territories via Wright Pass. This is a very scenic pass. I stop and walk for a bit on the south side to enjoy the view and take many pictures.

32. Our crew taking pictures of us at the Arctic Circle

33. Our group of cyclists at the Arctic Circle

The terrain today is rolling with many large hills and steep climbs. Mixed in with this is lots of open space since the Dempster is above the tree line most of the time, particularly at the tops of the steep climbs, eh? Some other riders are finding continuous days of hilly terrain to be tiring and difficult. One rode in the truck today rather than bicycling.

Though some aspects of the terrain may be problematic to some today, the weather is cooperative to all. It is warmer in the morning than yesterday and there is no real rain, but just a few drops around supper. A general descriptor of conditions is cloudy with sunny intervals and almost warm in the afternoon. So warm that I wore t-shirt and shorts when climbing Wright Pass, but was cool for a bit before and put on jacket afterwards.

Other than the terrain, the road conditions are OK most of today with a relatively solid road and low traffic though there are sections of pot holes and rough road – it's a northern road, eh? What should one expect? Most of the traffic is other tourists who are also looking for grizzly bears and Caribou. The road conditions change markedly when we enter North West Territories at Wright Pass. The road is then under construction with a thick layer of gravel. It's difficult to control the bike and treacherous going down hill. I descend slowly from Wright Pass.

My speed of travel is delayed all day since there's a great fear of grizzly bears by the trip organizers when going through the wintering range of Caribou. Our truck stops every 10 km and waits for everyone to catch up before continuing. It is true that when there are caribou there are grizzlies and, we are in winter range of caribou so expect to have grizzly bears in the area. I do see bear scat (poop; excrement), but not any bears. There are definitely bears around as of bear scat is quite fresh.

Other riders do encounter a grizzly bear after going through Wright Pass. As I am starting up Wright Pass, a pick-up truck passes and tells us there is a grizzly bear to the left just after the pass. It's a mother with cubs who has just killed a Caribou so is very touchy. I take time going up the Pass as it is beautiful, particularly on the south side. I do not see the bear and proceed to the campsite 10 km further on. The late arrivals at campsite tell of seeing the bear guarding a caribou that it had just killed. Some truckers stayed with them while they went past that area, and some saw the bear go up on its hind legs and look around.

Now, how does one know that one is north?

  1. Sunlight most of day

  2. Airstrip on road

  3. Road that appears to disappears into the earth.

34. Eagle Plains in morning

35. Bridge over Eagle River

36. Bridge over Eagle River

37. Where does the road go? Is there a black hole ahead?

38. Caribou herd in valley before Wright Pass

39. Wright Pass

40. Wright Pass

41. Going down Wright Pass

42. My tent in the evening in our campground with Wright Pass and Richardson Mountains in background

Today's camp is about 10 km inside North West Territories, downhill from Wright Pass which is the NWT border. I get to put up a dry tent for first time in a long time. My tent is on some arctic plants and moss that makes it quite soft underneath. Luckily, my tent is just far enough away from the truck that I only put it up once. Some participants in Tour Arctic are told to move their tents since they are deemed to be too close to the truck and it's claimed to be a source of food that may attract grizzly bears. Am I potential grizzly fodder? Probably, the local grizzly now has it's Caribou to feed upon?

There are little annoying black flies around camp today but this kind does not appear to bite. They just want to get all over exposed skin, mainly the face, and between face and glasses. Some people put their bug hats on to combat the flies. I just grin and bear it. These flies are like sand flies in southern Ontario.

When I update my diary further at 2:30 am, I hear ducks, or some kind of bird, outside ... nothing too serious ... the bird either flies by and quacks or flies away after quacking?

Wednesday August 10 – Pelly River Ferry and Fort McPherson

My notes from August 10 are: “I'm sitting in synthetic sleeping bag in my tent writing this with my Polartec underwear on – it's supposed to keep me warm and has so far, even when wet.” I'm in survival mode. The Polartec works yet again as the testimonies in many catalogues say! I arrive in camp today wet, potentially cooling when I stop, and covered with mud. I remember that the Polartec will keep me warm if used correctly. I soon remove my leggings which are over top of bike shorts, remove the bike shorts, and put the Polartec leggings directly on my skin. The Polartec proves so successful it eventually produces so much heat that I can add other damp clothes to my sleeping bag and they get dried out. Only 9 of 18 cyclists completed today's section of Tour Arctic. All others hitch-hiked some of it. It was a challenge.

At the beginning of today, all seems fine: there is some fog and it is cool, not cold. Everyone leaves camp in a hopeful mood, and no one rides in the truck. The only problem on the road at first is an excessive amount of loose gravel. This is like at the end of yesterday's ride – ever since entering NWT. About an hour into ride, I feel a couple of rain drops and decided to suit up for rain: jacket, pants, and booties. I really do think I'm overreacting to a couple of drops of water. However, it is soon pouring and continues to do so all day with less rain, at times, but always rain.

The road soon turns to mud and the mud is very challenging to ride in. It is so challenging that I tell others afterwards: “I was so happy to make it through that I forgot to take any pictures.” At times the mud is 10 cm thick, though usually just 2 cm or less. It inhibits everyone's travel; I departed at 7:30 am and get into camp at 6 pm – 10.5 hours travel for 118 km. I guess that`s faster than walking? Others arrive at 8 pm – 12+ hours of travel? Some saner people hitch-hiked.

There is a ferry over Pelly River a few km before Fort McPherson. I am lucky that it leaves immediately after I get there as I'm wet and getting colder. Jerry is already on board. He's a true trekker. We ride to Fort McPherson together. The road after the ferry is in better shape: mostly flat and just mushy rather than muddy. There are pebbles at times which inhibit speedy travel.

I visit the Fort McPherson town site. It has a 2.5 km paved road that I ride end-to-end while taking a few pictures in spite of the rain. There's competition for residents' grocery dollars with a co-op and a commercial grocery store.

In Fort McPherson, a truck pulls up beside me. A local person has kindly transported two of the riders. They're looking for a third. I reassure them that I'm continuing to ride the route.

When I'm 12 km from camp, I see our truck coming toward me. Is it going to pick up others? When I'm in camp, it comes back empty. Those remaining on the road are pedalling on to camp. They arrive at 8 pm. Are they heroes or fools? What am I?

Today's camp is beside Frog Creek. It is a quaint spot on a little lane at the side of the Dempster by a pond. It has a problem today: there's this sticky mud everywhere. It gets all over my bicycling shoes and booties. The cleats no longer work. The mud is 10 cm thick in places. Gee, this is the first time since childhood that I've had such great opportunities to play in mud.

43. Rocks on the road

44. Tire beside The Dempster just north of Fort McPherson

45. House on stilts in Fort McPherson – to accommodate Permafrost

46. Inns North in Fort McPherson – note this building is also on stilts

Thursday August 11 – MacKenzie River Ferry

Again, today, a number of participants in Tour Arctic choose to find other ways to camp beside bicycling. Some have broken equipment – problems with broken dérailleurs and dérailleur hangers? Others are worn out by our cumulative trekking.

Dempster dirt sticks to everything so much that I end up stopping and taking off my front wheel twice in the afternoon today so I can clean away all the Dempster dirt and mud that have accumulated. Dave and I are first into camp at about 9 hours of travel for 112 kilometres.

The weather today is rain, rain, and more rain. At least that's what it looks like when I start to bicycle The rain continues at the start of this morning's bicycling. It's a continuation of yesterday's rain. By mid-afternoon the rain has stopped and I am comfortable in bike shorts with polypropylene long sleeved t-shirt. Today, another inhibitor to progress that is due to the weather is the head wind that is at times very strong and cold. Unfortunately, the rain starts again in the evening when the slowest riders are arriving.

Most of the road is mushy today as a result of the amount of rain received recently. One result is that I put out lots of effort but go very slow – I put out effort that normally allows me to go 25 to 30 kph, and I only go 10 to 15 kph. It is disheartening. I need to dig deeper all day. The scenery is also somewhat monotonous – continuous tundra.

Other than these incidental problems with the weather, my most exciting moment today is seeing a cat at the side of the road – probably a Lynx. I am just cycling along and think I see a bird on the should a ways ahead. As I get closer, I determined it is a cat with long legs. I stop a few hundred metres back. The cat is pacing back and forth for a bit. It continues to pace when a white pickup flies by it. Dave also stops. The Lynx glances at me and Dave and then disappears. We wait a few minutes, and I check the area with my monocle before we continue along the other side of Dempster. We have no more problems with this Lynx. I was scared though since it was pacing. Why was it pacing?

Today's ferry is over the Mackenzie River. I am forced to wait a bit as the ferry is at the next of 3 stops when I get there so I wait while it unloads and loads at 2 ports of call before it comes to get me. While waiting for the ferry, it's bloody cold with a strong wind coming off the water. I hide behind a barrel at an otherwise exposed position. Somehow, in all this turmoil, I get talking to a local resident for a bit. He tells me that the weather we are having (cold and rainy) normally sets in by mid-August and stays until snowfall. It's fall now? Warm, sunny days are normally just in July and early August.

Another man invites us (Jerry and I) to share his very warm pick-up truck for trip to next ferry landing where he gets off. After this, I keep warm by finding the door leading down to the engine room. It's open: I stand by it and keep warm. This trip IS a game of survival, eh?

I perceive that I have no brakes, except the one created by putting my foot down when I'm going down hill to the ferry. While waiting for the ferry I adjust the front brake through all the mud and crap on the bike. It does stop me and the bike now. I check to ensure that brake pad is not scraping the tire. All is fine as there's lots of room on these cyclo-cross wheels that I purchased last February specifically for this trip.

There are big cheers when each real cyclist gets to camp today at Gwich’in Territorial Park. Gerry and myself arrive about 6 pm; others arrive up to 9 pm. Actually, a few hitch-hiked again today lowering the overall tally: 6 of 18 riders actually ride every kilometre of Tour Arctic 2011.

It's like a festival in the evening as this is our last camp dinner together and tomorrow's ride is short so we all agree to sleep in for an hour. The food is pizza of many types that's made by the crew on their camp stove! Quite impressive! Oliel plays his fiddle again. I feel sad since it's my last night in a tent for awhile? The trip is almost over. It's the last night of blowing up air mattress?

I walk around the campground late in evening through the midnight hours: I find a water-sports-oriented area with a beach down a hill by Campbell Lake. It's quite a scenic spot.

47. At Frog Creek this morning there's mud of at least 4 cm everywhere! Oh such mud to play in. It's been a long time since I played in the mud in childhood.

48. Crossing Mackenzie River by ferry

49. A stream bed just after our road-crew's truck passed Jerry and myself

50. Looking out across Campbell Lake at Gwitch'in Park where we camped

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