Day 7 – Up the Dempster to the Arctic Ocean and Tuktoyaktuk

From the junction of the Klondike and Dempster Highways, it’s 456 miles (734 km) to Inuvik, North West Territories and then an additional 86 miles (138 km) north to Tuktoyaktuk, North West Territories beside the Arctic Ocean.

The Dempster Highway is only paved for the first 5 miles (8 km) from the Klondike Highway and the last 6 miles (10 km) into Inuvik. The road is open year round but it is a hard road on vehicles and tires, its gravel surface has sudden changes, potholes, becomes boggy and slick in wet weather and is made of crushed shale, which is very damaging to tires. You will need to use 2 free ferries on your drive to Inuvik. Calcium Chloride is used to stabilize the road during wet conditions so it’s advisable to clean the vehicle as soon as you can after traversing this road.

Woke up the next morning and there was a light rain falling. It lasted for a few hours in the morning then cleared up.

Making our way up the Dempster we pass Engineer Creek Yukon Government Campground at mile 120 (193.8 k) where it was decided a short break was needed. We drive around the loop of campsites to explore the possibility of this being a stop on the way south. It was fortunate that we went through as I noticed a gentleman’s vehicle I knew from Instagram that was also making the trip north. He had already been to Tuktoyaktuk and was making his way south. Stopped for about 30 minutes exchanging tales of our adventures so far. The campground is full and very quiet although quite soggy from the rain and has many mosquitoes swarming about, no doubt from the rain. This was an area with he most mosquitoes experienced on the trip.

You must go all the way to Eagle Plains for gas, food, and lodging. This small outpost is located 229 miles (369 k) form the the gas station at the intersection with the Klondike Highway. Remember to fill up with gas when available along the Dempster, there might be long distances between services.

At 252 miles (405.5 km) from the Junction with the Klondike Highway you arrive at the Arctic Circle.

At 289 miles (465 km) you pass into the Northwest Territories. This Territory has approximately 519,734 sq mi (1,346,106 km2 ) with a population of only 44,420 residents (estimate for 2019).

Just a short distance takes you to the first ferry crossing at the Peel River. We are the only vehicles on this northern crossing of the ferry.

Video by H. Berge

Video by H. Berge

One mile past the ferry crossing we arrive at our camp for the night, Nitainlai Interpretive Center and Territorial Park Campground. The center has very nice exhibits and displays of the Gwich’in culture. The adjacent campground has water, firewood, toilets and wonderful warm showers. It is a nice respite after a days driving.

7-27-25

Before settling down for the evening gasoline is required in the vehicles and as tomorrow is Sunday the stations won’t be open till about noon. It is a short drive north into Fort McPherson, a town of a population of approximately 791 people with a Café, 2 grocery stores, 2 gas/diesel stations and an 8-room hotel 342 miles (465 k) along the highway.

 

Day 6 – Campbell Highway, Klondike Highway and onto the Dempster.

After an easy breakfast we left camp about 8:30 to continue along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway following old fur trade routes. This 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2, the Klondike Highway,  for the adventure to the far reaches of the Northwest Territories and the Arctic Ocean along the Dempster Highway.

The highway is named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in distance than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

Stopping at several overlooks of the Yukon River we noticed several small dots moving along the river. Canoeists were floating and paddling with the current, their boats loaded down with camping gear. Now that looks like a great adventure to make (another bucket list item).

We are now in a landmass named Beringia stretching from eastern Siberia, through Alaska, and to the Yukon. This area was not covered in glaciers at the time of the Ice Age but was an area of dry, dusty, treeless Steppe where you could see Bison, wild ponies, Wooly Mammoths among other animals. During the ice age the water level dropped 425 feet (130 m) creating Beringia, the land bridge between Russia and North America.

Making it to the the Klondike Highway I stopped at a scenic overlook and made lunch. What a delightful place to eat.

It was decided early that this day would be another drive day to make it to the Dempster Highway quickly as a storm was moving into the area. Wanting good weather in Tuktoyaktuk we pressed on making it to the start of the Dempster at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Filling with gas at the intersection we continued about 70 miles to stop and camp at the end of a emergency airstrip. Pulling far off the end of the runway and completely off the marked airstrip we set up camp at 7:00.

Day 5 – Into the Yukon Territories

Leaving the Northern Rockies Lodge we continuing traveling on the Alaska Highway heading toward the Yukon Territory.

 

 

Lower Liard Bridge built in 1943 is a 1,143-foot (348 m) long suspension bridge is the last remaining suspension bridge along the Highway.

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is a day use area with some camping. A short hike leads back into the Hot Springs Pool and has been a favorite stop along the highway to soak away those long days of driving. Passing through Liard River Hot Springs there are buffalo all over the road. It was like I was transported to Yellowstone National Park where I was stuck in a Buffalo traffic jamb. The buffalo here stuck to the shoulder of the road not creating a problem for traffic.

 

The Alaska Highway travels east and west for a portion of the route today so you pass into and back out of the Yukon Territory for a few miles until you enter it for good about the 7.5 miles (12 k) before the town of Watson Lake.

 

Next stop was Watson Lake, a town 612 miles (980 km) along the Alaska Highway is best known for the few acres of the offbeat at the Sign Post Forest. Designated in 2013 as a Yukon Historic Site, was started by Carl Lindley by adding a sign at this location pointing to his hometown with the mileage. Other G.I.’s added more signs to the post for their hometowns. started this collection of signs and license plates from all over the world during the construction of the AL-CAN. Numbering about over 80,000 signs travelers are still adding to this collection. Right behind is the Alaska Highway Interpretive Center, which has a video on Yukon history with photos and displays of the construction of the AL-CAN. This was town was important during the construction due to the airport and being one of the major refueling stops of the Northwest Staging Route.

 

Turning north along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway, a 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2.

 

Named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in mileage than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

At Ross River, a supply and communications base for prospectors in the area that is now a jumping off point for hunters and canoeists, it was decided to stopper the evening at Lapie River Campground. Setting ups camp we took the short walk down too the river to enjoy the sounds.

 

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

I had just an evening and a few hours the next morning to explore the Alabama Hills. I got in after dark and it was very windy and cold Halloween night so I didn’t want to spend too much time outside. I shall return with more time to explore the Movie Road and Movie Flats to find the locations of the arches and television / movie shooting locations. The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine will provide a history and has information and self-guided tours of the area.

Alabama-Hills-Movie-Location-Map

Map of several of the Alabama Hills movie sites

These hills, arches and rock formations on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada are in the shadow of Mount Whitney just west of the California town of Lone Pine. Located right off the road to Whitney Portal, the starting point for climbing the 11th highest peak in the United States and the tallest in California, this BLM land is open for exploring, hiking, astronomy, camping and exploring. The formations are part of the same geological formation although geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada Mountains just adjacent to the east

Mines in the area were named after the Confederate Civil War ship the CSS Alabama by sympathetic confederate miners of the time and then it became the name of the entire area. When the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864 the mining district, a mountain pass and peak and a town were named Kearsarge by sympathetic union miners.

Used by television and movie productions for filming, especially Westerns. Since the 1920’s this rugged environment has been shown in approximately 150 movies and a dozen television shows. A few of the early television shows have been Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Audrey Show, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. While Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock and How the West was Won are some of the Movie Classics. Current Films have included Gladiator, Django Unchained, Iron Man, Man of Steel, Firefly and Tremors.

Nighttime is just as impressive as the landscape during the day as the Alabama Hills is a Bortle Class 2 “average dark sky” site. On a clear moonless night many star formations and the Milky Way appear brightly in the night sky.

My visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park on a trip south to visit family.

Lassen_Volcanic_National_Park_map

I left Vancouver for southern California and my first overnight stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. As the name implies it’s major features are volcanic in origin. Being the southern most volcano of the Cascade Range the prominent features of the park are the largest plug volcano in the world, Lassen Peak and it’s sulfur – thermal hot springs.

7-2

 

Originally two separate National Monuments dedicated in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments were declared Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916.

0-0

I arrived late in the afternoon after an 8 1/2 hour drive and set up camp at Manzanita Lake Campground located in the northern section of the park. Then I proceeded to walk the loop trail around Manzanita Lake, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice campfire before retiring to my tent to read and fall asleep.

 

Accessible by five vehicle entrances the majority of visitors enter either from the north or south along State Route 89, named the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway or Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, off State route 44 in the north and 89 from the south. Three unpaved roads enter the park but do not connect with the main road through the park, Highway 89.

The north-south 29-mile (46.6k) road, Highway 89, was constructed between 1925 and 1931. The road summit is the highest in the Cascades topping at 8,512 feet (2,594 m). This road is closed in the winter months due to snow, which can reach 40 feet (12.2m) deep.

0-4

Early morning along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

 

I got up early, had a quick breakfast and packed up to head south along Route 89 to visit the sites of the park. It was very interesting stopping at the many informative signs along the road to read the history of the park.

 

The last minor to major eruption started in 1914 and lasted until 1921 creating a new crater on Lassen Peak. Releasing ash and lava it fortunately did not kill anyone. This eruption covered many miles of forestlands with landslides and the new growth forest today stands many feet above the old forest floor. These landslides also created Manzanita Lake as it damned Manzanita Creek.

The first blast was on May 19, 1915 and was said to be a night to remember with it’s steam explosion and subsequent mudflows. Had it not been for Elmer Sorahan many people might have died but he ran 3 miles (4.8k) to warn others after escaping the explosion.

 

Three days later on May 22, 1915 another explosion on Lassen Peak threw ash, pumice, rock and gas into the air that was more devastating to the area than the first. The pressure in the mountain built up like a lid on a boiling pot of water and finally blew. You can now explore this area on a ½ mile (0.8k) loop trail or take the strenuous 2,000 foot (609.6m) 5 mile (8k) round trip hike to the top of 10,457 foot (3,187m) Lassen Peak. Many other hiking opportunities exist in the park along with backpacking, auto-touring, bird watching, camping skiing, skiing, snow play, and snowshoeing.

There are 5 hydrothermal areas to explore within the park. Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Thermal Geyser. I am limiting myself to 2 for this trip.

4-4

My first hydrothermal area would have been the hike out to Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal Area, a moderate 3 mile (4.8k) round trip hike. This is the largest hydrothermal area of the park with temperatures of up to 322 degrees F (161 degrees C). I had done this hike with my kids back in the early 1990’s although I found the trail closed this season for maintenance of the trail and boardwalk through the 2018 season.

My next stop was Sulphur Works, a formation of mudpots, steam vents and boiling springs located right off the main road. This hydrothermal area in near the center of a massive composite volcano that collapsed many thousands of years ago. Mount Tehama or Brokeoff Mountain was estimated to be 1,000 feet (304m) higher than Lassen Peak. Active 400,000 to 600,000 years ago it is estimated to be nearly 11 miles (17.7k) across and had towered to 11,500 feet (3,505k).

 

My final stop was the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the south entry of the park to visit the small museum learning the history of the park, peoples and area and had a nice talk with the Rangers.

Now for the long 8 hour drive down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along State highway 395 to the BLM area of Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, CA.

Fort Stevens and Ecola State Parks, Oregon

After a restful nights sleep I make a small breakfast, pack up and head out for the short 1-hour drive across the Columbia River into Oregon for a visit to Fort Stevens State Park. Located in the far northwest tip of the state this park is bordered on 1 side by the mouth of the Columbia River and on  second side by the Graveyard of the Pacific This 4,300 acre (17.4 sq km) park has much to offer to its visitors; walk or drive along the beach, hike coastal and forested paths, bicycle along bike trails, camp, beachcomb, birdwatch, visit a shipwreck, explore an abandoned military installation used during the Civil War and World War II. Or just relax and enjoy the area.

Fort Stevens Park Map

My first stop was to see one of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Along with approximately 2,000 other ships since 1792, the remains of the Peter Iredale now rests on the sandy beach. Only a portion of this 275 foot (83.8 m) long steel ship remains, grounded where she came to rest in 1906 from a navigation error in dense fog by its Captain due to the areas treacherous weather and storms. It has become an attraction since the day it grounded on the sandbar.

 

Next stop was Fort Stevens. First built in 1863-64 during the Civil War it was in use up until the end of World War II, it was part of a 3-fort system at the mouth of the Columbia River to defend this waterway and ports from attack by sea. The other 2 forts were located in the state of Washington; Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia a few miles up river from Fort Canby. (For my visit to Fort Canby and Cape Disappointment see LINK)

Day 2-26

Fort Stevens installation map

 

 

 

During World War II a Japanese submarine fired upon Fort Stevens in June of 1942, making this fort notable as being the only military base on the Continental United States to be fired upon by an enemy since the War of 1812. 17 rounds were fired at the fort with no real damage being done.

After a full morning of exploring the buildings and small Fort Stevens Visitors Center – Museum I enjoyed a late picnic lunch and continued my journey south on Highway 101 to visit Ecola State Park. This 9 mile (14.5 k) long stretch of beach lets you enjoy hiking, picnicking, tidepooling, surfing and scenic coastal vistas. Located just north of Cannon Beach, OR I leave Highway 101 and travel the13 miles (21 k) of twisty narrow roadway into the north area of the park to see Indian Beach Day Use Area. This secluded beach is a spot frequented by surfers, beachcombers, and tidepool explorers and is reached along a short path down the hillside to the beach. Extending north is a network of trails that will provide a 2 ½ mile (4 k) loop trail to the top of Bald Mountain or continue north to Tillamook Head trailhead which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. The loop trail is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Tail, walked by Lewis Clark and a band of men from the Corps of Discovery to search for a beached whale in 1806. They were hoping to return to Fort Clatsop with whale blubber as they fought hunger from their time there. They sadly return empty handed.

Day 2 Ecola State Park Map

 

 

 

After this beautiful day of exploring I returned to my car and drove the 2 hours back to my home to plan the next trip in a few weeks, south to visit my family and friends at the home I just moved from.

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.