So this it, we have arrived in Port Angeles for the early ferry tomorrow. Trip is over sadly. Thank you for following our adventures.
After a brief visit to the Outlet mall in Anderson, which has only about half a dozen stores which were totally quiet at opening, we keep on the road North. No huge discounts for Black Friday, so no big crowds either.
We take a moment in Shasta city to admire Mt Shasta and also a little bit further Red Mountain.
We make it to Eugene in pitch dark weather and a fine but cold drizzle. It was a wonderful sunny streak we had the last 12 days!
Before leaving Monterey this morning, we went back for a walk right to the end of the pier to visit the sea lions we heard last night.
Then it’s a long grind on I5 with the heavy Thanksgiving traffic. It is the last day of sunshine with rain and overcast weather in the forecast for tomorrow, so although we are still quite far here is a picture of Shasta in a mix of sun and smog.
All the stores and restaurants are closed, Thanksgiving is a full Holiday here, only gas stations are opened.
We have turned around in San Luis Obispo and started northbound again. We travel on highway 101 this time in the middle of the Salinas River valley.
There are many different crops, different types of cabbage, walnut tree plantations, but mostly it is vines as far as you can see to the foothills on either side of the river.
We are back for a long stroll on Carmel Beach because it’s a treat for Mini to run around free and play with many other friendly canines. We also enjoy the great sunshine and warmth on the beach then tour downtown Carmel with the quaintest small size homes, tiny boutiques, quite a few art galleries. We have burgers at a patio at a fancy supermarket, cooked on the grill outside just for us.
We spend the rest of the day by the harbor in Monterey walking the giant pedestrian/cycle path entertained by the pinipeds’ barking.
First thank you all for the kind comments and your appreciation for this blog entirely done on my cell. It does help me focus on our experiences and it is lovely to read your takes on our travels. Excuse the lack of response but please do keep commenting!
Today is a lazy day, we go back to the rock, a volcanic formation, and walk along the cliff’s side to a point covered with cairns built by visitors.
Then after grocery shopping at a fantastic supermarket all geared up for Thanksgiving, we end up in Los Osos across the bay for lunch at a seaside café. Another take on the Rock. The temperature is very enjoyable at 24 C.
At El Choro State park, adjacent to a golf course and the Botanical gardens, we end the day with a sunset hike to Eagle rock up in the hills.
It’s dark very early, sunset at 5pm, and not much daylight after that. We turn in early as it’s now cold, probably 5 C overnight.
Still southbound on the Cabrillo highway through Cambria and Cayucos to reach the approach to Morro Bay. We finish the last 2 kms to the rock on foot on a dog friendly path.
We go on to San Luis Obispo to see the Mission and the downtown, very neat town with many cafés and outdoor patios where Mini is allowed. Big surprise, we can have lunch with the whole family. Good thing as so many of the parks and beaches here do not allow dogs at all.
After the wonderful California paninis loaded with avocado, cilantro, artichoke and chicken, we back track to the Botanical gardens for the full tour on the discovery trail that takes you up in the foothills. It is warm, dry and sunny, the trees smell good, we enjoy every minute of it.
We then go for a stroll on the harbour to catch the sunset over the rock.
Back at the motel, we discover that they provide a full pet station, complete with pooping matt, full shower and fresh towels. This is truly five stars. She also received 2 high value treats and a little box full of doggy bags to attach to her collar. Maybe next year she can use that one if she grows another foot!
We keep heading south on #1 now called the Cabrillo highway.
We spend a little time in Carmel by the sea , walk on the no leash beach to Mini’ delight and go by the 1770 Mission and it’s basilica. The houses in Carmel are gorgeous but not oversized mansions, the streets are lined with trees and it’s alive with pedestrians.
We keep being astonished by the beauty of the ragged coast and the fine sand beaches. This are is called Big Sur (big South) because the people from Monterey go there on holidays.
One of the many marked vista points is a beach populated by juvenile and female elephant seals plus one odd male that arrived early this year. This beach is a birthing ground for the seals during their migration all the way to Alaska. Apparently, there are over 20000 of them on this coast going up and down with the seasons.
In San Simeon, we go for a walk part on the beach and part on the bluffs.
There are many seagulls and other sea birds and one single egret.
First thing, we cross the Golden Gate bridge without any traffic, it feels pretty wonderful to be back although last time we were here, we crossed it on mountain bikes.
We stop for a quick hike at Land’s End park down and up many steps and paths lined with eucalyptus and cypress trees. It smells wonderful and the views of the bridge are eerie in the morning light.
When we pass Golden gate park it’s busy everywhere. On Saturdays the Upper Great highway along the beach is closed to traffic, so it’s popular with expert cyclists in colourful lycra, beginner cyclists on rented bikes, and packs of joggers.
We drive on the Great highway behind the dike where parking is free up to 4 hours and it’s quite a show to watch the surfers changing out of the back of the vehicule, gathering all the gear, and heading to the parade.
We keep going on highway 1 still hugging the shore line most of the time and winding its way south incessantly going up and down.
When we reach Monterey Bay, we go for a stroll at Lover’s point, another alive place and the bike rental central.
We finish the day by driving the “17 mile drive” a scenic tour of the Pebble Beach community. We get a glimpse of the Pebble Beach golf links and of the Lone Cypress perched on a rock.
The nights are pretty chilly, so at the motel tonight I brought in my HBC blanket from the camper. All is good.
Today was a driving experience. The coast from Fort Bragg to the Golden Gate bridge, so many twists and turns, many hairpin turns some steeper than Tour de France routes, roads so narrow that it’s a challenge to keep inside your lane, stupendous precipices and hardly ever railing, speed limits going as low as 15mph in the sharper turns.
But in return, amazing views of the ocean, the surf, the rock formations, the bluffs, and roads lined with old pine trees or Eucalyptus providing great shade. The road is so challenging that turn out spaces for slow drivers are frequent and their use mandatory as soon as there are five cars behind you.
Beside the roller coaster in a camper, the high point of the day (literally) was the Punta Arena light house, tallest on the West Coast at 115 ft.
It marks the Arena rock, submerged 6 feet at low tide, responsible for over 100 shipwrecks.
Close to the light house we went on a walk on the top of the bluffs which are a National Monument , it was almost like walking “The Salt Path”. Many birds and turkey vultures soaring above.
First big event is the border crossing from Oregon to California, all vehicles are stopped by the fruit police. We do declare our 2 oranges and after establishing whether they were of the big or small category, the officer gives them back because they are deemed clean enough. We do have to swear to dispose of the peels in the garbage, we would not want to contaminate the California compost with orange peels bought in Oregon, but originally grown in California…
We take a first hike in the frisk morning at Lagoon creek and head to Redwood National Park and hike the nature trail through the giant redwood trees.
Further South we cross another bigger Redwood forest, the Humboldt State park on the Avenue of the Giants, a smaller road parallel to hwy 101, which takes you through the whole park on a narrow two lane road with giant trees sometimes growing right to the white line marking the shoulder.
Finally in pitch dark, no lights, no moon, we drive the twistiest road I now know, the northern section of California highway 1 to Fort Bragg.
We start the day with a hike at Cape Perpetua State Park, south of Yachat. It’s a 6.5 miles loop on the Cook ridge trail out and on the Gwynn and Oregon Crest trails on the way back. We go through a spooky old growth forest with giant sitka spruces and enormous firs and cedars. Even the ferns seem to be oversize despite the unusual fall drought.
The rangers said that we were too late for mushrooms but we luck out on a handful of chanterelles. This means that we are not completely skunked this year despite the lack of mushroom on Vancouver Island.
Shortly after that we stop at a view point to get a picture of the Heceta light house and get surprised by the roar of the sea lions on a rock below our bluff.
Perched atop 1,000-foot-high Heceta Head, the lighthouse is one of the most photographed on the coast. The light atop the 56-foot tower was first illuminated in 1894. Its automated beacon, seen 21 miles from land, is rated as the strongest light on the Oregon coast.
Highway 101 south magnificent, we enjoy the steep cliffs, the long sandy beaches and the small towns. In Florence, we see giant sand dunes and from 4 to 6, we are delighted by the colours of the sunset. And by the time we arrive at Gold Beach, it’s no longer golden, everything is ink dark. No light pollution in Oregon. In fact no lights at all.
Great start of the day with a bright sun, clear sky and 5 degrees. As we make our way south it will reach 16 degrees and the strong wind gusts are not unpleasant.
We joined highway 101 South just before Astoria and cross the giant bridges and causeways over the Columbia river, the last encounter of the ships heading to the Orient. They are all lined up upstream of the bridge presumably waiting for the low tide.
Then we drive through Seaside, the quaintest seaside town in Oregon, I imagine. We are writing it down for a stop on the back North as today we want to make it to Newport, Oregon.
We also go by Cannon beach and Hug point.
Dinner is at the Italian café in Newport where Chef Zach also the Maitre d’ serves a wonderful menu with succulent vegetables and local porcini , enough to get me excited about hiking in the woods tomorrow.
Back in the camper on the way to California for a couple weeks.
We are crossing Juan de Fucca strait on the Coho ferry with shorts, sandals and sunscreen for when we get away from the cold weather in Victoria. It may not get that hot, but even a few degrees warmer and dry weather will be a huge treat.
Mini has come along for the ride and she is wearing her winter sweater for the ferry ride as she has to stay in the cold camper.
We catch the sunset as we approach the Olympic mountains.
Well it is a long weekend so new windshield replacement in northern BC is not likely to happen before Tuesday even if our item is in stock locally. We decide to cancel further driving around, the detour to Barkerville and the hikes around Quesnel and to go regroup at home. So we follow google ‘s directions, clean the broken glass with acetone, fill all the cracks with Crazy glue and tape them with industrial strength transparent strips. Hopefully, we have got this contained.
Better to deal with an Autoglass business that we can go back to if there are issues with the work. So we drive from PG to the ferries in 10 hours, through more smoke in the Fraser canyon and the temperature reaches 34.5 degrees.
We go without further incidents except the extension of the cracks to about 40 cms across the driver side vision line for me. The repair did not hold completely but it got us there.
We arrive at 6:15pm but miss the 7 pm and thanks to Daughter CJ’s inventive contribution to our pantry I am able to fix us a quick dinner of pure grains à la mexicaine Aztec chipotle with vegetables and chicken in no time. A well deserved feast to conclude our gourmet tour of the North.
So we had to shorten our northern adventure quite a bit. Will have to think of another expedition closer to home this fall and of course Alaska is in the book for next summer, maybe all the way to Kodiak island on the Alaska ferries.
Thanks for reading and commenting, always a pleasure to hear from you from so far away. As they say, wish you were there with us. And you were in a way!
The day starts well enough but as we are on the way to Hudson’s Hope our windshield gets it by a rock from a truck with a wood load and we get a loonie size chip. Bad luck, on a nice paved highway too.
We go on East along the Peace river to the Williston reservoir and the WAC Bennett dam in pretty heavy smoke due to local forest fires caused by lightning. But nothing too serious.
In fact after some consideration, the visitor center decides that they can run the tour anyway so we jump on the school bus and cross over to the other side of the reservoir on the top of the dam. Pretty spectacular, the water on one side and the hydro lines up to 500 kilovolts on the other side going locally, to Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, to Alberta and even some all the way to New Mexico. This a huge facility with enormous capacity.
After that we get on the way to visit Barkerville, but just as we reach Bear Lake on hwy 97, we get another hit from a truck, this time the chip is toonie size, deeper, and spiders in 2 long cracks horizontally. It is very bad luck, 2 in one day. We decide to investigate, make some calls and stay in Prince George for the night.
Except for the sun’s comeback, nothing important today. The high point was talking to Nicolas who turned 34. He made the suggestion that we detour to WAC Bennett dam for a visit so that will be tomorrow.
We had a good communion with nature this morning walking the ski trails of Fort Nelson with no one around at all. We also filled up the water tank at the Rec centre where we met super nice Californians heading up to the Dempster in a Sprinter van. Suddenly, we felt and maybe sounded like experts, amazing how much we have learned in just over a couple weeks.
This afternoon the Alaska highway took us on the Sikani river bridge where a tanker of condensate went off the road and burned down last Thursday. It is still single lane alternate traffic for now, hopefully the bridge can be saved.
We are in a big provincial park tonight at Charlie lake, named after the engineers of Charlie company. We walked to the lake on a long alder forest trail after dinner. We still love camping very much.
Another brilliant early soak in the Liard river at the hot springs and we are off again in the atmospheric river. It rains so much, so hard that we abandon hiking at Muncho lake and Summit lake.
But we are lucky with wildlife sightings, first a moose and then caribous.
And this is the antithesis of the items in the camper collection so far. A 1972 VW microbus plated in Sao Paulo, travelling from Argentina to the Arctic ( maybe from Terra del Fuego so the gateway to Antarctica to the Arctic). Ojala means I wish, looks like they done it as we follow them going East/South on the Alaska highway at about 60 km/hr up the hills. An almost lifetime commitment to no frills travels.
We continue East on the Alaska highway and for the first time ever in my life, we get yellow signs to warn us about Bisons on the road and the live herd does appear, for real.
Then, we are at Liard hot springs campground, surrounded by electric fences to protect against the bears. We have a wonderful soak in the river which is very very hot in some spots. Just perfection, the greatest spa of all.
Today, we head back East to Watson Lake and catch up with friends Stuart and Patty who just came up the Cassiar highway on the way to Dawson city for a cool dinner and show on Aurora Borealis at the local “Northern Lights” planetarium.
Nothing much to report about this rainy day except a few local berries we encountered on our 3k interpretative walk around Wye lake.
Today was big hike day, nothing else to accomplish!
We decided on this historic trail up into the alpine below Montana Mountain. The trail was originally made to service the tramway built in 1905 by Sam McGee for a silver mining operation. There are many remnants of the tramway and mining artifacts along the trail. The view from the top is fantastic, with Windy Arm of Tagish Lake below, and all of the surrounding mountains
The trail is about 9km according to the guidebooks but we did a little extra to get to another view point, so 10 km total in exactly 5 and a half hours including 2 stops. Does not sound like much at all, until you input 804 meters of vertical. From 689m in the old quarry where we parked by the Windy arm of Tagish Lake to 1493m where we turned around, the full Sam McGee trail ++ and a pretty close look at Hero mountain even further up, an overnight hike people do to get a chance to glance at the sheep.
Around 1300m of altitude we found an amazing patch of crowberries so picked a few.
Mini did the whole 10 k, she went straight to her basket when we got to the car, did not even beg for a lift to the passenger seat! A first.
Sat Aug 27, 2022 Day 13 South of Carcross BC, on Lake Tagish YT, Conrad territorial park 98 kms trip total 5958 kms
Slow start taking full advantage of the motel and the view of the Yukon river.
We finally load the camper and as we do the final pre-departure check on the street parking, a fox appears and stops in front of us, checking us out without any shyness or fear. His tail is about as long as his body.
Then a 5 kms hike on the trails bordering the river from the SS Klondike paddle wheeler to the dam and the fish ladders. The Chinook are very few here this year.
Then, we drive East on the Alaska highway And rurn South at #2. First, Emerald lake, then we take a short walk around Carcross, famous because of the White pass and the Chilkoot trail. But it does not stand up to my memories of 9 years ago. The train does no longer come all the way past the border because of the Arrive Can requirements and the place has been appropriated by the cruise ship business and looks like a Potemkin town. The Caribou hotel is being renovated so only the Matthew Watson general store is still holding the fort so to speak and I get a T-shirt in honour of Klondike Mike. (Best non fiction Gold rush/frontier book ever).
Again the campground is a gem, Yukon government’s latest addition, and we have a view on the lake although somewhat obstructed by gorgeous alders. It’s very windy so no bugs, and because we came in earlier than our usual we have BBQ ribs on the alder fire. Life is good, no frost expected tonight!
Chilly and windy start this morning but the sun shines and we are again on the way to Kluane National park West of Haines Junction for a longer hike.
First we check in at the North ranger station as they like to know where people go (and bears as well). We are lucky today as about 20 Dall sheeps are on our side of the ridge of the mountain (out of the 200 living up there.
From there we start the Sheep creek hike and it’s not Shitt’s creek. It is glorious, worth climbing 450 meters over 5 kms. Freezing at the top so we basically run downhill back to the camper.
Another interesting encounter today at the ranger station, the Body duck from Scania shipped here from Switzerland. I can’t imagine what the Europeans think of traveling in the Yukon, polar bears, ice, giant potholes, creeks to cross without bridges? What makes them think that they need this sort of armored camper to survive. The funniest part was that as soon as they arrived, the woman ran to the pit toilet. So what’s in there? No loo, just survival rations and guns? And tiny windows so no one can see their goodies.
Thursday Aug 25, 2022 Day 11 Haines Junction Pine lake territorial park campground 358km total trip 5504 kms
The ride was so smooth today, all on paved roads and no constructions. Had a slight scare as we are testing the diesel range of the camper, but we got to the station with 3.4 l to spare, so over 30 kms, phew!
We zipped through Whitehorse again as the SS Klondike paddle wheeler is temporarily closed to the public. Just a brief stop at the supermarket to top up the groceries. That means a very easy dinner of Rotisserie chicken and mixed veggies with blueberry pie. Yes, every meal is a one-pot entree cooked on the one induction burner, I love the quick clean up! Then we are on the last stretch of the Alaska highway going to Kluane National park located near the border.
Today we met a Dutch couple in a VW van they own and shipped here to tour and a French gang from Lyon in a big Iveko camper they also brought along. So that’s Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Dutch and French cruising our parks in their European made , shipped here, campers. And there are likely many more.
After reserving our spot, lakeside again, at the campground we go for a short easy hike along Kathleen Lake in the southern section of Kluane, again profusion of mushrooms and berries.
Tonight, the campground has cell signal, which is fabulous but the temperature is going down low in the mountains so we have the HBC blankets out and we will brave the cold.
Overflow camping was great, only one really quiet neighbour, and no pit toilet door or trash container banging. We go back north 2 kms to hike the Klondike river trail which is a delight of inedible mushrooms and also wild cranberries, blueberries and crowberries. And that’s the bonus for being surrounded by the rugged Tombstone mountains turning to fall colours.
After that, back to the Dempster for the last stretch, 72 kms to go and we are back on pavement, direction Whitehorse as we visited Dawson City extensively last year.
It has been a total of 1773 kms of unpaved Dempster. Enough for a bit! But not long, as the Klondike highway has long stretches of really rough terrain as it’s being widened and rebuild. You have to go about 20 to 30 km/h and wait and follow a pilot to guide you around the heavy machinery working. At Pelly crossing, we splurge over $25 worth of loonies and toonies for a power carwash, we can open the doors again without the free mud massage.
It’s much warmer now, goes above 20 C and the bugs are back with a vengeance on the windshield and to bite us. Haha, I do prefer the cold even with the heater not functioning.
We stop at Twin lake territorial campground and luck out with a lakeside campsite as the Handicap site is free for the taking after 6pm so long as we are gone by noon tomorrow.
Started cold and foggy, cleared up to allow pictures, then rain. Overall a difficult ride with lots of rough sections and slow downs.
At a construction site waiting for the pilot truck, we meet Austrians who shipped their Mercedes Hymer from Hamburg to the US and now tour the North, although their heater is broken and they have no hot water either.
Best encounter of the day is a beautiful big lynx I got to see almost face to face with the window down. He was along the shore of the Peel river likely hunting for ducks and other birds.
Then on Two-moose lake we see no moose, but a lonely swan , apparently he does not have a mate this year.
At the observation area there we meet Czech people taking pictures, they do not speak any English so we still have no idea what was in the dozen large black garbage bags they carry in the back of the pick up. Poached caribou, real garbage or their luggage?
We arrive at Tombstone just as the campground has filled up, so we are in the overflow area which is rather nice and quiet. It is also bordering the interpretative trail which we walk before our dinner of beef broccoli with Chinese Udon noodles. The rain this evening is not completely unwelcome as it rinses some of the muck on the camper.
After I posted the blog in Tuk yesterday, we checked the weather forecast and with lots of rain coming, the already very muddy road between Tuk and Inuvik would turn into a slide, so we decided not to camp in town in the chilly arctic air ( also still can’t figure out what’s wrong with Webasto the heater) and we drove back to Inuvik territorial campground , a grand facility with view !, flush toilet!!, hot showers !!!, and cell signal !!!! all within a kilometre of the town.
On the way back we are overpassed by a couple of long tail jaegers, pretty sight. We pass a few snowmobile wreck yards or summer storage areas, hard to tell.
Both in Tuk and Inuvik the houses are modest and built off the ground because of the permafrost.
Most interesting was Bob’s gas bar where we got our overpriced Diesel,which is also, the garage, storage, boat haulage, barge building, laundry, coin car wash, welding, transport and convenience store.
After 7 days of camper, time for luxury. We end up with the very last room of the dingy motel with only a small bed. But the shower feels wonderful and Mini loves the bath.
It’s about an hour and a half from Fort McPherson to the next ferry , this one across the McKenzie river. We see only one car the whole time as we are between the 2 ferries and they don’t open early morning. But still no wildlife but a ptarmigan. It is overcast with a drizzle.
Still some skinny trees here despite the high latitude, it’s because of the natural irrigation and micro-climate from the McKenzie.In general, it looks like a big swamp, the highway perched up like a dyke.
The NWT portion of the Dempster is in better shape than the Yukon. We can cruise at 70ish if we are prepared to slow right down for potholes and washboard.
Surprise, 10km south of Inuvik, by the airport, we hit a paved highway after 731 km of unpaved! So smooth!
We pass Inuvik and drive all the way through Tuktoyaktuk to the Arctic ocean.
There was a good frost last night but the heater would not start, still better than a tent…-3 at 8 am but clear. We had a very good day driving the unpaved and challenging Dempster highway, passing Eagle plains which is nothing like a plain, then the Arctic circle at 3:30 and km 3388 of our trip. Shortly after we cross the border to the North West Territories, my first visit, and crossed the Peel river on a small cable ferry manned by 2 people and with a gravel landing “dock” to arrive at Fort McPherson campground. Most beautiful landscapes but no luck with the wildlife.
9 C this morning mostly sunny but we get a welcome shower to rinse the windshield and the van. Water is scarce here, and there was a boil advisory at Fox lake
We made it to km 72 of the Dempster which is the campground in Tombstone territorial park and luckily got a nice site. Yukon price, always $20 with firewood and pit toilet included.
And I was going to forget, we saw a Lynx close up trying to cross the highway in a construction zone. Lean and beautiful animal. Sorry not fast enough to get a picture.
Started with the fog and 11 C but it turns out into a beautiful day. We even spot a moose crossing the road. The Cassiar is a bit better today, but still no yellow line divider, driving takes focus.
At 2054 km from Victoria, we reach the Yukon border and soon join the Alaska highway. Still Internet dead zone until Teslin, and then again until Whitehorse. Just after Teslin, we see a grizzly cub on the side of the highway, but no Mama bear. In Whitehorse, we top up the groceries as there will be very little from here on but we basically keep going. The miles add on.
We tried camping at Lake Laberge territorial park where Robert Service is said to have composed the Cremation of Sam McGee, but it was full. So on to Fox Lake, just a little further North, beautiful campsite with the sun setting on the lake. Mini is happy, there is a Chihuahua next door, better than the huge vicious Dalmatian who broke his leash to attack her this morning.
Started at 8:30 sunny and cool at 17 C, drove through pretty Smithers and stopped on the Buckley river to see the pink salmon run and bought some cold smoked from the Wet’suwet’en nation.
At Kitiwanga, the junction to 37, the Cassiar highway, we fuel up at the busy Petro-Can station, fuel will not be so readily available after this. Good thing we have a range of 1000 kms. Then, the wilderness begins. No more cell signal, basically no population, and scarce services. It’s moose country although they do not show up to greet us. In fact, we see signs to watch for livestock, but there are none of them either. Did not come all the way here to see just cows!
The mountains look grand and the open views over miles and miles are worthy of Hollywood ‘s best Western movies. We are in the land of the Nass and Stikine rivers and many big creeks whose names are not so conspicuous.
After a long day, mostly driving we end up at a small campground past the town of Dease Lake on a cliff above the water. Gnatty, rainy, no cell signal, wifi only standing outside by the office in the rain with my friends the bugs. Got to love you all to publish the blog today. But of course we are in an internet desert, no reception since Smithers and likely the same tomorrow. We will see if I can upload a few pics.
Off by 8:15 am, sunny with a few clouds, temperature down to 17C, perfect travel conditions. The bugs were unreal last night so no swimming in Lac La Hache, we stop in Quesnel to fix the chip in the windshield we got north of Lytton yesterday in the landslide area. D’Arcy glass does a great job and after we are all set we do a lot of driving, occasionally racing with the trains and their hundreds of colorful wagons.
It’s a mix of ranch land and forests with evergreens and also alders as we get further west, and just before Telkwa we get to see the Coast range in the distance with still a bit of snow on Hudson Bay mountain in Smithers.
We pass Prince George and Vanderhoof, lunch at a rest area off highway 16, the Yellow Head highway, and there we meet a couple from Switzerland traveling in a Sprinter van made in Switzerland, then shipped to Halifax for a year (the only legal way for them to do this with insurance). They arrived in May crossed Canada, went all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, and Prudhoe Bay, now they are going home via the US.
We are lucky to get a campsite at Tyee Lake, busy spot with tourists and fishers. Got a swim in the warm lake and now ready to sleep with the trains whistling in the background.
The new camper is loaded and organized, we left Victoria this morning on the 9am ferry to the mainland with Mini the Yorkie-poo as our CSO (chief security officer).
We will be driving almost 4000 km through British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, the most northern section on the unpaved Dempster highway.
We will be going up the Fraser canyon, the Cassiar highway, the Alaska highway, the Klondike highway and finally the Dempster through the Tombstone mountains to Inuvik followed by the last chunk on the new also unpaved road to Tuk. Hopefully, we can reach the Arctic ocean. Well that’s the plan until we switch to plan B, but at this point there is no agreed plan B.
So traffic was incredibly slow out of Vancouver and we just made it to Bridal veil falls for lunch but we got a good glimpse at Mt Baker.
Then along the Fraser valley further, the Fraser canyon, the Thompson river.
Then we arrived at Lac La Hache provincial park in the Caribou district just in time for dinner. Park is not busy and we got a big open spot trying to keep the bugs away. Trying, not succeeding.
Good first day, camper Wolf (a grey one) is doing great! More news when we get cell signal next.
Iqaluit is a bit of a shocking return to the South with an avant-garde airport, big pick up trucks everywhere, a paved ring road, line-ups of colorful government buildings and gangs of kids wearing hoodies and tight leggings.
It is also very much the North with the distinct culture and language of Nunavut, and still the frontier with wilderness all around and of course the ruggedness of Frobisher bay.
A storm is brewing, we have gale winds blowing and some showers and there is nowhere to hide. No harbour for the boats, no lee for the people. Iqaluit was started there as an army base for Distant Early Warning or DEW. The traditional village called Apex is smartly located at the end of a 2.5 km smugglers coastal trail on a beautiful sandy beach and in the lee of a hill.
We actually walk there to see the original Hudson’s Bay post or white house with red roof in Inuktituk.
We also walked all through the Territorial park bordering the airport and the river. Camping is obviously encouraged and there are dozens of permanent waterproof tents throughout the park. Locals are fishing for arctic char in the falls despite the signs saying not to.
This is the last post for this trip as we are flying home now. Thank you for following and all the encouraging comments.
Early start to walk to the airport at the top of town, no taxis in Pond! We are booked on First Air, feeling lucky for our confirmed seats although they cost as much as a return trip from Victoria to Europe. And that’s a two and a half hour flight only to Iqaluit, taking off on a gravel runway with no control tower. This said we are pleasantly surprised by a wonderful Starbucks coffee and a delicious sandwich. Service is good in the true North. Also, you can board without a security check and walk unescorted to the plane. Today, we are lucky, flight 883 coming from Arctic Bay is only 30 minutes late.
We have three more flights after that to get home. After a stopover in Iqaluit, the next one will be on Canadian North to Ottawa, then two more with Westjet.
There are two other boat crews in the airport. Like us they will not pursue the NWP this year. One boat is going to Halifax and the other somewhere South, both leaving some crew members off. One of them mentions that 2018 is the coldest summer on record up here since the sixties.
It sounds like everyone has listened to the Coast guard warnings.
We feel bad to abandon the rest of our crew. The plan is for les Marseillais to get off in Nuuk, Greenland. Meals will be dull without their unique sense of humour impenetrable to anyone not born and bred in Marseille and impossible to translate.
Harry is to go as far as St John’s, Newfoundland recrossing Baffin bay twice to help the Freds and meet up with his wife in Boston. We will miss his adventure stories and good company.
The Freds are talking about the Azores, the Canary or the Antilles. They need to fix the autopilot, the left rudder and a few other things urgently before going off shore again. Our friendly and hardworking hosts deserve some downtime and a bit of luck.
We had no alternative but to heed to Mother Nature, we’ll be sailing our 40 foot Dufour up the BC coast again soon and hopefully enjoying a bit of Indian summer weather. It’s not so bad at all, who knows, we might even -in fact likely- spot whales!
This is it, we are on to plan B. The ice reports have gotten worse and are forbidding, no way to get to Cambridge bay, or Gjoa Haven or even just through Lancaster sound for at least 10 days and there are no guarantees anyway. Most boats if not all 18 that were waiting are turning around and so are we. Even if we got through the first part later, we are almost certain not to be able to get past Cambridge bay or Tuktuyaktuk at the best. It would be too late in the season to negotiate the Beaufort sea with so much ice, winds, and darkness.
The Canadian authorities notified Fredoya directly that the conditions were not allowing for a safe transit and that boats deciding to persist against their recommendations would not receive assistance making their way through. They warned that they should be prepared to overwinter on the way.
Best to heed to that, so this morning we turned around, heading South to Pond inlet again. It’s foggy and wet again, with icebergs to keep us alert at the helm. There is a feel that summer is already over in the Arctic. We make our way back to Pond inlet slowly in swelly seas. Surprisingly, I manage to keep seasickness at bay.
We anchor in front of the Village, surrounded by many good size icebergs, it’s chilly out.
Good thing our Skipper has prepared a special treat for tonight, the brandade de morue is finishing to bake in the oven. Fred fished the cod, salted it, desalted it , Fredo boned it.
We were planning to poke our head North into Lancaster sound but after hearing from Muktuk about the conditions, we opt for a walk on shore hoping to sight some wildlife. We dinghy across the shallow silty bay, Fred carrying the safety Remington in his backpack.
We are not very lucky with the wildlife and only see a gaggle of white geese on the tidal flats but the arctic flora is worth the effort of walking through the swampy grounds.
We returned to the boat thoroughly soaked from the heavy rain and wind in the face.
Dinner makes us all feel better as we are joined by the crew of Muktuk. Fred brings out his tender seal and then we devour Alexandra’s chili, polenta and cake over sea stories. They have already done the NWP both ways and have decided yesterday to give it a pass this year due to the ice conditions. They say that they are not prepared to spend the winter in Cambridge bay with two teenagers.
We have also heard of other boats turning around, one has gone to St Pierre et Miquelon, one is off to Panama. To be continued…
We are going North from White bay to Tay bay on the North West corner of Bylot Island. We start at 6 am with no wind, no fog and no rain for a while, then all of the above. Winds reached 40 knots in the evening and we have a magnificent ride downwind under Genoa alone, or even a partially furled genoa.
Our speed is good and we arrive past many glaciers to the narrow channel into Tay bay safely. Inside the bay, there is not much shelter from the wind but we have a huge delta anchor, 100 meters of chain and a good muddy bottom. So when another storm at 40 knots goes through in the middle of the night, the captain does not wake up, I am the only one listening to the whistling and slapping in the rigging.
There is only one other boat anchored in Tay bay, a forty foot aluminum hull French boat called Muktuk with an Austrian family on board. They spent 22 hours crossing Lancaster sound from Cumings inlet through thick ice, and some very large floes. But they did spot a Polar bear and her cub floating on a small piece of ice. A high price to pay.
We lost signal yesterday shortly after leaving Pond Inlet, so today the post is by satphone, which means no pictures. Sorry about that. I will add them later.
Yesterday was a delight, the fog lifted and we went West in Eclipse Sound 36,8 NM under power as there never seem to be much wind in Eclipse Sound. We had a small scare with the engine but this was fixed quickly and we anchored safely in a natural harbour on Baffin Island between Emerson and Curry Island across from Frechette island. The sceneries were grand all around us with incredible cliffs reflecting in the calm waters. We did get the autopilot part but in the end, it still does not work, looks like we need more parts. Story to be continued. Dinner featured Arctic char, yet another treat!
This morning, we had a shore excursion and the beachcombing produced a giant whale vertebrae and a narwhal head with a very small fragment of the small tooth left, the long tooth had been poached sadly. All this to be verified by experts. This is just my guess.
At 11am, we go although the fog has not quite lifted yet. We motor along the coast of Curry island around the cape and angle South, a very light breeze finally pushes the fog away and we are presented with landscapes reminding me of the Grand Canyon, because of the scale and the geological formations. We keep pushing South and arrive in White bay. The sun is out, the air is fresh and we climb up the mountains for a higher viewpoint of the canyon-like bay. It feels as if we are the first people ever to walk there, we build two cairns with flat rocks. The ground is very wet and muddy and there are a few flowers that are beginning to wilt. Summer is almost over.
There are six loaves of freshly baked bread on the galley counter as we go down the companionway. It smells great and it’s nice and warm.
We are at 79 degrees West, the furthest we have been so far from 56 degrees W in Upernavik. The weather is abnormally cold for the season, the global warming seems to be reversing with two year old ice lingering through the NWP. The ice map is not improving either, in fact some areas that were melting are now showing red again.
We went to visit Kisha and Ruda at their camp by the river yesterday and walked by old round houses build with stones, sand , mosses, lichen. There are many bones of whale and other mammals and birds emerging from the ground. Kisha says that they were built by the Tuniq, a very small people but excellent hunters, at the time of Thule.
There is no dock in Pond inlet, so no fuel dock, and we top up the diesel by ferrying cans from the fuel truck on the beach to the boat.
Although we did get our auto-pilot part last night, and Fred installed it, it does not do the trick, seems that it might be the motherboard that’s failing. As we reach Emerson island, we stop the engine to call the technical support via satellite phone so we can hear clearly. This does not work and when we go to start the engine again, it does not start.
We call the manager of the COOP store to get a tow , the only number we have. Channel 16 is not within range. Louise alerts the RCMP. We talk to them and we agree on one hour to try to fix the engine before they send the tow. At the 55 minute mark, the engine starts. We resume our way to the mooring as planned and let the RCMP know we are good. By good, I mean the engine is running, but no progress on the autopilot. We keep moving towards Frechette island.
We get woken up this morning by rumbling noises along the hull of the boat. This is just some flat pieces of iceberg that are travelling fast with the current and hitting us pretty hard. We receive quite a few hits, the bergs pivot as they hit us and continue their drifting East. We then watch them hit the two other boats anchored behind us. Only the tanker is spared, having relocated well offshore towards Bylot island. The floating line delivering fuel cannot be put in jeopardy. The tanker comes only once a year with gasoline, diesel and kerosene in different tanks, 7 million liters in total. We seem to be fine although a tiny bit shaken, yes not just stirred.
It’s just one thing after another, now that Fred got the heater to work again with an extra pump and lots of air bleeding, we did not get our autopilot part last night. It stayed in Iqaluit. First Air is just as unreliable as Air Canada. There is only one flight a day so crossing our fingers for tonight.
Narwhal in the library.
Salmon fishing canoe
We have another walk in the barrens today, this landscape really grows on you.
On the beach we see the nets used to catch arctic char, one fish per dog! I want to be a dog in my next life.
Although we cannot reply to your
comments, we love your encouragements and all the kind words. It’s been wonderful to get all your news.
We are hoping to pick up the broken part for the auto pilot from First Air this afternoon, already a day late and now the plane is late. We have thoroughly been back and forth and back again, we know this town pretty well by now. The dust, the zipping ATVs, barreling trucks add to the fun.
A Russian cruise ship with 80 passengers has come and unloaded some of them in large expedition zodiacs so the airport is crazy.
Good thing we spent over three hours walking on the beach this morning. The flowers were gorgeous and we spotted a narwhal carcass missing head and tusk.
Eclipse sound and Pond inlet are stunning when the sun comes out on the glaciers on Bylot island.
The dogs are all chained here and they sleep to pass the time. They do great us as we walk past with a cheerful tail wag.
And finally since you are all wondering about our dinner tonight, it’s arctic cod fished by Fred in Greenland.
We land the dinghy on the beach getting slightly wet due to the swells since there are no docks in Pond Inlet.
Then we walk west on the beach for about 2 mm and it feels really good to see the green hills and wild flowers. When we reach the river we walk up to the bridge but before we cross we stop to talk to a couple camping near an old abandoned settlement.
Kisha is a retired Mountie from Iqaluit and his wife Ruda is a native of Pond Inlet. He speaks English very well and translate in Inuktituk for her. They spend the summer in a waterproof tent she has sewn fishing arctic char in the river with nets. They heat the tent and cook the fish on a homemade replica of the traditional stoves. She has her Ulu and he has a harpoon/knife for protection from the Polar bears. He tells us to be very aware of the bears, that they are not very aggressive, but that they can be unpredictable.
We go to the COOP store where iceberg lettuce and chips are both $9.99. Then we go to the Northern Store, originally started by the Hudson Bay Company. The post office is there as well and a Timmy booth. The post-mistress is very talkative and is very reluctant to sell me 2 stamps for Canada. She kindly recommends that I get the 8 stamp book picturing a woman with a fur hood who looks exactly like her friend. So I do!
Then we walk past the Provincial government and the high school, past a very modern home.
Finally as we get ready to get back to the boat, we have a long chat with four little girls in grade 2 and 3. They learn English at school and we have a long conversation. They all have lots of siblings and many dogs, very bad teeth but bright smiles and seem quite happy playing on the beach completely unsupervised and talking to strangers.
We start the morning with seven showers , each one of us getting a turn.
Fredo also put a load in the washing machine on board, a small genie that can take 8 kg and return them smelling fresh again using 60 litres of water. The ultimate convenience. Fredoya is so well equipped.
Fred serves a good lunch of smoked halibut and coleslaw with fresh baked buns and yogurt for dessert. Then we each get our daily treat of one calisson d’Aix en Provence , an almond based sweet brought by Helene. Life is good in the NWP.
Dinner is even better with tender seal steak and roast potatoes and French crotin de Chavignol.
We have been cleared by Canadian Border officers with great alacrity, so all is well, we can go to shore in the morning.
Our neighbouring berg before dinner and after.
And other neighbouring, the coast guard Pierre Raddison, with its own helicopter.
[Status publish + 3 hours]
[Tags: nwp, northwest passage, Pond inlet, beloeil island ]
We are in sight of Baffin island , about 15 miles from our chosen Anchorage south of Bylot island. We have gone through thick fog and rain, but it’s lifting a bit as we approach land. We can see snow and ice on Baffin island. It looks like a Christmas card scenery. It’s chilly on watch and tea is a real treat when you get relieved by the next dress for the North pole crew member.
Two very large icebergs greet us as we get closer. Fredo has hoisted the courtesy Canadian flag and we are ready for clearance from Canada Customs. This is it, as we enter Pond Inlet, we are in the Northwest passage.
The entire crossing of 370 NM took four days with two overnights.
We have planned to anchor on the way to Pond inlet Nunavut at Beloeil island so we can rest a bit after 3 days of agitated seas.
Our auto-pilot part should be at COOP in Pond inlet Monday evening, we are all excited to have a cultural day tomorrow.
[Status publish immediately]
[Tag: NWP, Nortwest passage, Pond inlet,Baffin bay.]
Dunnery and I have been married 33 years today, we are giving ourselves rain-checks for celebrations. The hour long watches continue day and night. It is not harder at night because there is no night. It’s no longer a midnight sun , moot point when it’s that overcast anyway, but there is no darkness. The few isolated icebergs we pass are easily visible as they reflect the light.
We are in the middle of Baffin bay, no land visible, only birds to keep us company. Eta to land is Saturday night.
We start crossing Baffin Bay at 11:45 towards Dundas Harbour on Lancaster sound. The heater is still not cooperating and after about 3 hours driving with fog under auto-pilot, It stops working as well. Daughter Veronica is our saviour, she managed to order and ship us the part for the auto-pilot by First Air, and it should be there on Monday. We will pick it up at the COOP store. In the meantime, we take one hour watches driving the boat in the elements. And catch sleep in between.
I got sea sick when we stopped the engine, to diagnose the auto-pilot and after dinner, I am really very sea-sick. I put a patch on and after a pretty green face 4 hours, it starts working and I feel human again despite the swells. We are sometimes under genoa and sometimes motor-sailing, the wind is DDW, hard work.
[tag NWP, Northwest passage]
Foggy departure at 7am, with a light wind from the South. The morning is a treat despite the fog as we pass monumental icebergs and incredibly artistic ice sculptures, that remind us of swans, sphinxes, towers, forts, an ice-cream cone with caramel drizzle and even a thousand carat blue diamond ( a few of the bergs are completely transparent and a sharp shade of blue). We are going North along the West coast of Greenland.
Around noon, we have lunch under way, a nice carrot and slaw salad accompanied with foccacia, choice of sausage/walnut or cheese/rosemary. By the way, dinner last night was delicious “redfisk” a kind of dorado, served with green beans, and cooked perfectly. We eat it all every meal with delight as all the fresh air makes us very hungry.
By afternoon, the winds have really picked up and the waves are bigger with chop. The icebergs are numerous and very impressive and sometimes intimidating. We squeeze through some ice mazes and it takes great focus to meander safely without hitting any of the smaller pieces of ice especially when we are under sail. I forgot to mention that it rains all day, or to quote Helene, ” it’s rain only interrupted by showers”. Outside temperature is 9 and inside is much the same as the attempts at fixing the heater have not yet been entirely successful. So ” cool temperature interrupted by cold spells and tea” sums up the day.
The big surprise or disappointment, or both is that when we arrive in Nuusuaq with hopes of shopping at the village shop for groceries, the entrance to the bay is completely closed by a nicely aligned string of giant icebergs. We try to make our way through a very small break between shore and an iceberg, but it is just too narrow and we have to pivot and retire the way we came, feeling almost trapped in a fortress of ice, surrounded by high towers of blue and white ice with waves breaking hard on their base. For a few seconds, it’s pretty eerie in the gray weather and the fog patches. But this is what we came for, it’s grand.
It’s lucky we find another bay, mostly clear of ice only about 7 miles away. Dinner is only delayed a few minutes and I am actually called up by the chef to shell the wild mussels. That’s a priority, off I go! I so need my dinner after this 12 hour day. We have reached 74 degrees North, a first for me.
We had a delicious dinner of Arctic char given to us by the crew of Destiny. The night was comfortable at anchor despite the heavy rain and howling winds. By late morning, after checking the forecast, Skipper Fred decides that we are going to go North along the coast of Greenland. We leave just past noon after a lunch of fresh prawns and coleslaw. I am at the wheel for a while quickly becoming drenched and cold. So Harry and Dunnery take over and take us through hundreds of small and gigantic icebergs. The ride is spectacular despite the mist and rain. We hit quite a few of the smaller ice cubes, and the noise on the hull is terrifying at first. Then, getting used to it, we relax and enjoy the show. By the end of the day, we reach the latitude of Ivnarssuit, the village that made international news with their view blocked by an iceberg. Turns out that berg is not so gigantic at all, I have a picture of it for you to check later, but the news was as usual much hoopla for nothing. Now, we are anchored in a small bay across from that village. The new plan is to keep going North along the Greenland shore one more day before crossing Baffin Bay.
All is well with the food, the sleep, the company and the navigation. We have no way to know if the SPOT is working but I keep giving position and a ok message daily. We have a little heater problem, so it’s slightly chilly but our best people are on it! We are also on water rations, as we do not collect rain water. [end]
[NWP, Northwest passage]
Unfortunately, the Satphone did not send the picture yesterday so we are investigating…
We had a wonderful dinner last night of Icelandic lamb shoulder with green beans and French fries, a quiet night at anchorage and this morning was much cooler with a fresh breeze from the South/Southwest.
We went back to Upernavik to the Government run grocery store for a top up, Fred had a couple boat parts fixed by a mechanic , and we took a quick tour of the village, going by a few houses, a yard with tied dogs – the bitch with her 6 cute puppies- all of this located below the runway where we landed 2 days ago and nicely tucked in the lee. That runway was recently built by moving tons and tons of rocks an gravel. It is 799 meters long as at 800 , it would have required a control tower.
After the land excursion, we left for Aappilatoq just North of Upernavik. We found a key hole anchorage to get relief from the wind and the chop. We had to navigate through many icebergs, big and small. All very spectacular ice sculptures. First turn at the wheel was interesting, much different from the 40 footer. One has to keep a sharp lookout for depth and icebergs as the charts are not to be trusted and the bergs move constantly, sometimes faster than us, but nothing scary yet!
Helene and Fredo have now gone to pick mussels for dinner at the low tide, and the others are in the process of re-hoisting the fore-sail.
Then, we will prepare for the big sail across Baffin Bay tomorrow, aiming for Devon Island (yes, Franklin was there) north of Baffin Island in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut. Maybe 400 nautical miles from Greenland.
This morning, we met some of the crew of Destiny from England, another sailboat that will be transiting the NWP.
So, the plan is that I will keep sending a daily blog update, so long as I don’t get too sea sick (no problem so far) and that I will upload pictures next time I have Internet.