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.

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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.

 

FORT VANCOUVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

This National Historic Site has a long history on the north bank of the Columbia River, starting as a Hudson Bay fur trading post. The Park is a collection of 4 distinct sites, Old Fort Vancouver, The Village, Pearson Air Field and Vancouver Barracks, each having a history of transition, settlement, manufacturing and conflict.

“Old Fort Vancouver”, visited before (LINK) which I will discussed more in a future post, was established around 1825 by the Hudson Bay Company. Serving as the main headquarters of the Company’s interior fur trade from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and everything west of the Rocky Mountains.

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Reconstructed Old Fort Vancouver

“The Village” provided the area for housing the workers and their families who supported Fort Vancouver. Established in 1829 it had a population exceeding 600 and was one of the largest settlements in the west at that time.

“Pearson Air Field” first used the Polo Field of the Vancouver Barracks as a site for aviation enthusiasts to gather and show off their aerobatic skills in the early years of the 20th century. During World War I a Spruce Production Mill was built on the Polo Field to supply aviation grade lumber in the manufacturing of war planes. After the war the Spruce Mill was removed and “Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome” was built, in 1925 it was christened “Pearson Air Field,” after Lt. Alexander Pearson. I will go into more detail of this part of the Park in a future post.

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Canada / Alaska Adventure in July-August

All right my trip is getting closer and I’m in the final stages of preparation. Vehicle is ready just needs final fluid changes before leaving. Camping gear is waiting. GPS route is set and just the final tweaks and additions are being done.

2018 Tillamook

Will be leaving Southern California on July 9th heading to Vancouver, WA along Highway 395 for the birth of my 4th grandchild. Leaving Vancouver I will head to Glacier National Park, Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada then start the northern push to Dawson Creek, B.C. and start the drive there at Mile-marker Zero on the Alaskan Highway (Al-Can to us older folks) to Watson Lake, Yukon.

Turning off the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake I’ll be on Canadian 4, a gravel road, to make my swing to Dawson, Yukon and the Arctic ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. At this, my furthest point north, I start my swing back to Dawson and turn west to continue along the Top of the World Highway to Tok, Alaska.

Leaving Tok I will go south on the Alaskan Highway to Haines Junction and continue to Haines, Alaska along the Haines Highway to ferry across to Skagway and head back to the Alaskan Highway along the South Klondike Highway. I will leave the Alaskan Highway just before Watson Lake and turn south onto Canadian 37, The Cassier Highway, to Prince George, BC. From there I will continue south along Canadian 97 making my way back to the border and return to Vancouver, WA to visit my new grandchild before returning home south along Highway 101.

I have found during research a great resource for the area called, “The Milepost”. this details the Alaskan Highway and side-routes in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukona nd Northwest Territories. I also picked up a camping guide named “Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping” that includes all the Alaskan Highway and the same side-routes in it’s pages. Although this book was written for RV’s in mind it is good source for me, tent camping, to hit some campgrounds with services such as WIFI, showers, and laundry facilities along the way. It ranges from private, to Provincial Parks, to free camping areas along the roads.

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January 27,2018 Bickel Camp Fundraiser

 

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Good Morning, 6:30 AM 28F degrees

Well I am heading back out to Bickel Camp, Burro Schmidt Tunnel and a ranger led hike into Nightmare Gulch in Red Rock Canyon State Park for a fundraiser to help offset expenses on the upkeep of Bickel Camp.

Bickel Camp is full of mining equipment on display at this historic 1930’s era mining camp. The camp is still there to be visited by the adventurist explorer. Luckily this has remained on the “Adopt-A-Cabin” program and there is a caretaker on site to help explain and protect the remaining historic artifacts. Donations to help preserve and maintain the site are appreciated. 2 of Walter Bickel’s granddaughters were there walking us around the camp and telling of the fun they had out here when they visited. They told us one story of Bickel finding a stranded motorist in the desert and helped him get unstuck, turned out it was Jimmy Durante. Another interesting fact was that both Bickel and Schmidt were in the service during WWII, living within sight of one another they had a strong friendship and even rigged up automobile headlights so they could send messages back and forth in Morris Code. And yes the light at Bickel Camp is still standing.

For a full history on this wonderful place to visit follow this LINK.

 

After wandering around the camp and being entertained by first hand stories from the granddaughters we all head the few miles down the trial to Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel to explore the hand-drilled tunnel nearly a half-mile long that was dug with a single 4-pound jackhammer, and dynamite.

For additional information see my previous post LINKED HERE.

 

Next up it was to find our way back to asphalt and turn south into Red Rock Canyon State Park and the hike into Nightmare Gulch. We all meet-up for a short lunch stop at a park rest area before heading out the dirt road to the trail head. Although we did not do the loop we drove as far as we could to the official trail head and took a 5-mile total out and back hike into the canyon. Led by 3 Bureau of Land Management rangers we were given lessons in history, geology and ecology of this area. It was a great hike and took most of the afternoon.

 

Leaving the trail head at about 4:30PM I still had a 3 hour drive home. Arriving home at 7:50 PM I was exhausted as I got up at 3AM to get there and meet someone at the turnoff to the Camp. This adventure was wonderful as I met new adventurers and discovered this magnificent canyon that I will return to to follow the entire loop trail.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 6

Well we plan another easy day as it’s getting late in the trip and I think we are all tired from all the visiting and traveling that has been done. Today it was decided to go to a nature reserve for a short drive and walk, as the weather is finally getting rainy. Imagine that, rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest during winter.

This 5,150-acre (2,084 ha) area of marshes, grasslands and woodlands, named the Ridgefield National Wildlife Reserve is just north of Vancouver, WA and is one of 4 reserves located along the Columbia River in the greater Vancouver area. Established in 1965 to protect waterfowl, it was established with the 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley for wintering birds migrating and nesting from Alaska.

The area includes a 2-mile (3.2 k) self-guided walking trail that’s objective is to showcase the Columbia River Watershed, the 4.2-mile (6.75 k) auto tour route and a seasonal 1.2-mile (1.9 k) hiking trail.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it protects sandhill cranes, various shorebirds, and a large variety of songbirds, mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks. Mammals calling the reserve home include deer, coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits.

The refuge consists of five sections, each unique in habitat supporting the wildlife that reside there. Two of these sections are open to public visitation and enjoyment, while the remaining three are kept as sanctuary for wildlife to rest, nest and escape human disturbance. This maintains an important balance for those species less tolerant to human presence to thrive in an increasingly urban area.  The visitors then get the chance to view and experience wildlife and habitat, receiving the many benefits of being out in nature.

The Columbia River has long sustained human population and dates back long before Euro-American arrived. There have been large Native American settlements found on the reserve. The refuge also preserves the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River with evidence of at least 2,300 years of continuous human occupation. That history and culture is interpreted through the Cathlapotle Plankhouse built in 2005 and open to visitors on the weekends in the spring and summer. The plankhouse was built to represent the buildings Lewis and Clark might have found here at their Wapato Portage village.

Since we are visiting in January we are not to leave the car due to the large flocks of geese and ducks nesting in the area between October 1st and April 30th. The cars become your movable animal blind as the birds are accustomed to the vehicles presence. There is an observation blind halfway along the route you can park and take the short hike out to it.

There are 14 interpretive markers and signs along the way along the one-way road. It was a fun drive as we were one of the few vehicles in the reserve on this weekday morning. We saw many birds, mammals and 2 deer along our route. When we left the car to hike to the blind my grandson had an old cell phone that he uses to take photos and he was just shooting away at all the details on the forest floor trying be like his Dad, it was so cute.

It has been a tiring week of visiting family, meeting new people and seeing new sights so we leave at lunchtime to head home for a late lunch as I need to pack and rest for my drive home.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 3

I wake up starving and head down to breakfast provided by the Quality Inn in their small dining area. Starting off with cereal, I consume that and there is still a large hole in my belly so back to the buffet line I go for a second helping of something more substantial. AH HA, I spot bacon, sausage, a waffle maker, biscuit, muffins, bagels, English muffins, white gravy, donuts and more. I decide biscuits with gravy, a couple of sausages, a bagel and some orange juice will fill the hole very nicely. Finishing all this my stomach is finally quite happy.

Back to the room to clean up, pack and get on the road for the day, it is still dark outside at 7AM as I pull out of the parking lot.

Heading south for 14 miles (22.5 k) I follow a small dead-end road to Cape Arago State Park looking for the Cape Arago Lighthouse. I reach a turn around at the end of the road and get out to investigate this picnic/hiking area still searching for the lighthouse. The sun is just coming up and it is cold and windy, I almost loose my hat in the gusts of wind. This would be a lovely place to visit in good weather. Continuing back along the same route I notice a sign for a botanical garden that would make another interesting stop but still being too early it is closed. Further on I spot the lighthouse. Wondering how I get to it I find a road that is signed “Lighthouse Road, NO ACCESS TO LIGHTHOUSE”. Disappointed I am glad I stopped to get the photos I did from Sunset Bay pullout when I saw it in the distance.

 

The first lighthouse was built and illuminated in 1866 due to the amount of shipping that was coming and going in Coos Bay. This tower was only 25-foot (7.6 m) high with an open base. Connected to the keeper’s residence via a 1,300-foot (400 m) wooden walkway this tower was soon in need of repair due to its western exposure on the small island. In 1890 a second wooden tower, located higher on the island, stood 100 feet (30 m) tall providing better illumination. Erosion threatened this light and in 1934, the third light was built made from concrete to better withstand the inclement weather of the area. Decommissioned on January 1, 2006 the third light remains, all other accessory buildings have been demolished.

 

Continuing back to Highway 101 I head north for my next stop at Umpqua Lighthouse, 34 miles (54.7 k) north. A Coast Guard survey during the summer of 1849 determined the best locations for lighthouses along the coast. The mouth of the Umpqua River was selected as one of only six sites in the Oregon Territory, which included the modern day states of Oregon and Washington. In the fall of 1856, the officer in charge of lighthouses approved the erection of the lighthouse at Umpqua. In Oregon Territory, local tribes used the Umpqua River as prime hunting and fishing grounds and did not want the lighthouse built. But rather than attacking the Lighthouse the local tribes sabotaged the construction by stealing critical tools and supplies. Lit in October 1857 this was the first light along the Oregon Coast. The structure of the original lighthouse was compromised due to a sandy soil and river flooding not considered by the builders. The light was being removed in 1861 when the workers ran for their lives and watched the tower come crashing down just after they removed it’s light.

 

The lighthouse was replaced with a buoy and a decision that a new light at Cape Arago, twenty-five miles to the south would better serve seafarers. Eventually in 1888 it was petitioned that a new lighthouse be built at Umpqua so that a ship at sea would pass from one light to the next with out loosing sight of a light on land. Building the lighthouse further inland on a headland above the mouth of the river this is the farthest distance from a river or ocean of all the lighthouses along the Oregon Coast.

The new lighthouse keepers were housed in a duplex home, for the two assistants, a barn, cisterns, and two oil houses that were completed on January 1893. All that remained to be done now was to install the lens in the tower and the light was finally established on December 31, 1894. This new lighthouse stood 165 feet (50.3 m) above sea level and was constructed of brick with a plaster overlay. Decommissioned April 28, 2009 it was  “no longer a critical component for safe navigation”.

3 to WA-6

Highway 101 in Oregon

I head north 40 miles (64.4 k) on Highway 101 to Heceta Head Lighthouse in Devils Elbow State Park.

Just a few headlands over from the Sea Lion Caves lies one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon, the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Surrounded by a state campground and park, the lighthouse can be seen from Highway 101, or visited if you are willing to take a short uphill hike.

 

Parking at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Park there is a lot for day-trippers to experience the surrounding area. The Scenic Viewpoint on 101 is a great way to see a number of different attractions although parking below the historic Cape Creek Bridge will let you walk out onto the beach, bird watch the birds on the large rocks in the small bay, hikes or visit the lighthouse and caretakers cottage.

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Walk to Heceta Head Lighthouse

Perched 150 feet (45.7 m) above the sea the Lighthouse is one of the most-visited lighthouses in the United States, with thousands of visitors each year enjoying its history, romantic aura, and a beautiful setting.

 

In 1888 the Lighthouse Board recommended that a first-order lighthouses be constructed here at Heceta Head and at Umpqua River. Looking at the forested site today it is hard to imagine that there was very little vegetation when the lighthouse was constructed. A forest fire swept through the area a few years earlier, wiping everything out. Construction began in 1892 with the contractors completing the dwellings, barn, and oil houses in January 1893. The 56 foot (17 m) tall masonry tower stands fifty-six feet tall has it’s light 205 feet (62.5 m) above sea level. This is the most powerful light on the Oregon coast and can be seen 21 miles (33.7 k) out to sea. With three keepers and their families at Heceta Head, a small, one-room schoolhouse was built at the station to educate the children.

 

Life became a little more modern and less isolated in the 1930s as the Oregon Coast Highway was being built. In 1934 a power plant/garage was built to electrify the station eliminating the oil vapor lamp. Meanwhile the keeper’s dwellings received lights and an electric washing machine.

Early years Heceta Head Lighthouse

Early years Heceta Head Lighthouse

The station was originally equipped with a separate dwelling for the head keeper and a duplex for the two assistants. The addition of electricity reduced the keeper’s workload and in the end 1930s the position of second assistant keeper was eliminated. Thus the remaining two keepers occupied the duplex, and the single dwelling was removed in 1940.

75 Coastguardsmen were stationed at Heceta Head during World War II as part of a coastal patrol. The commanders lived in half of the duplex, while the enlisted men were housed in barracks erected on the site of the former keeper’s dwelling, they patrolled the coast with roughly 12 dogs 24 hours a day.

After atomization in 1963, the remaining duplex cottage was leased to Lane Community College for extra class space and since 1995 the cottage has served as a Bed and Breakfast. Heceta Head Light and Keepers Quarters were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

It was 1:30 PM as I left the lighthouse and still needed to drive 191 miles (307.4 k) to my son’s house in Vancouver, WA. This dive took a little more time due to the Friday evening New Years Weekend traffic in the Portland Metro Area. Arriving at 5:30 PM we all went out for pizza and I fell into bed by 9:30 PM, tired after a very long tiring day.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 2

Up at 7AM in the dark, I showered, packed and departed to visit some painted ladies of the town. No not that kind, but the beautiful Victorian Houses located throughout the city of Eureka. My Air BnB host told me of Hillsdale Street and Carson Mansion as places to see fine examples of this Victorian, Queen Anne style of architecture.

These wonderful homes are located throughout the city in various stages of maintenance that go from restored to dilapidated conditions, along Hillsdale Street they are well maintained and are a great display of this style of architecture. Visiting Hillsdale Street lined with these homes brought back such a noustalgic past life that would have transported me back in time if it weren’t for all the modern cars parked out front.

 

Next stop was to have a breakfast consisting of 2 blueberry pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, hash browns and a large glass of orange juice to fuel my day of sightseeing along the California and Oregon Coast, yes I was hungry and finished it all. I planned to visit several scenic overlooks and lighthouses along the way to my next stop just north of Coos Bay, OR only 218 miles (350.8k) and 4 ½ hours of drive time north.

My first stop was still in Eureka, just down the street from breakfast, the Carson Mansion. Placed on the Historic American Building Survey in 1964 it is one of the most photographed Victorian homes in California. Completed in 1884 it has been a private club since the 1950’s.

 

My next stops, lighthouses in Trinidad, CA and Crescent City, CA were also recommended by Patricia, my B&B host.

Prior to satellite and electronic navigation sailors relied on dead reckoning, compass and visual sittings to sail the waters of the oceans, during the darkness of night they relied on the stars and visual sightings. Many ships were lost due to running aground due to heavy weather along dangerous coastlines.

Fires built on hilltops once defined port access and placing that fire on a tall platform increased its visibility out to sea. Later lighthouses were located along coastlines to help define the coastal shoreline and locate dangerous areas that could sink a ship. In heavy fog, that is quite common along coastlines, so a light and foghorns (bells in olden times) warned mariners of hazards.

 

Trinidad Lighthouse is only 20 miles from Eureka located on Trinidad Head a small section of land jutting south out from the coast defining the harbor entrance. Built in 1871 the small 20-foot (6.1m) tall tower sits on a promontory 176 feet (53.6m) above the sea. Originally consisting of the light tower, a single residence, and small barn; a fog bell house was constructed in 1898 with a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) bell that was operated by weights. The Trinidad Civic Club erected a facsimile of the tower in 1949 at a park overlooking the harbor and installed the original lighthouse lens in its structure and the 4,000-pound bell displayed alongside the tower. This Memorial is now under protest by local Native Americans stating it has been built on an ancient burial ground.

 

62 miles (99.7k) north of Trinidad is the Lighthouse in Crescent City on Battery Point. This lighthouse built in 1855 is on a tiny point of land that is only accessible during low tide. Built in a Cape Cod style of architecture this lighthouse survived the March 27, 1964 Alaska earthquake tsunami that hit the city and killed 11 people.

 

Heading into Oregon I stop 35 miles (56.3k) north at Whaleshead Beach to walk along the sand and enjoy the coastal scene.

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Whalesehead Beach, OR

Another 58 miles (93.2k) later I stopped at Cape Blanco Lighthouse at 3 PM. A lighthouse sitting on 200-foot (61m) high cliffs jutting 1-½ miles (2.4k) out into the Pacific Ocean, this forested head of land had to be cleared of the spruce forest so the light could be visible from sea. Getting out of the car was a struggle; the wind was blowing so hard I could barely stand up. Walking the ¾ mile or so path to the lighthouse along a ridge-line didn’t interest me today so I leaned against a pole just to get a steady photo of the lighthouse. I’ll return on a future trip to visit this one.

 

On the way in off Highway 101 I noticed a sign leading to the Hugh’s Historic House (Hughes Ranch) that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, I decided to go in and see it, as I didn’t make the journey to the lighthouse. Situated behind a hill it was in the calm leeward side away form the strong ocean winds. Built in 1898 for the dairy farm of Patrick and Jane Hughes this Victorian style two-story house was home to Mother, Father and 7 children. Local church groups decorated every room for the Christmas Holidays. The well appointed home with authentic furnishings was a joy to walk around and listen to the curators tell of life of the inhabitants.

 

Finishing the day’s 218-mile (350.8k) trek in North Bend, OR I stop for the night at a Quality Inn Hotel at 5 PM to rest for my final push to Vancouver, WA the next day. A nice clean quiet typical motel room awaited me that evening for another great nights rest.