Day 27, NWT and back to Engineer Creek


We woke up to ravens bouncing and pecking on our roof!  Not sure if the warmth brought them, or the remnants of exhaust fumes, but they were there bouncing and trumpeting to each other!  I guess the dance party  means it’s time to get up!!

The evening sky became overcast by morning. A thin streak of blue was all that was left of our glorious day yesterday! Time to get up, get breakfast and perhaps beat as much of the rain as we can!. We’ll be heading into deeper grizzly country today… the campground at Rock River is closed due to a bear attack, so it’s either stay in a lay by, or push to one of the campgrounds further south again. Weather and road conditions will dictate.

The sun is trying to poke through! Maybe we’ll get lucky!

We started out around 9, and saw that our friend from last night had gotten a head start.  We drove along Eagle Plains and marveled at the scenery, from wide rolling tundra plains to boggy ponds surrounded by spruce and dwarf aspen.  There was even an emergency airstrip on the highway ( the first of two we would see today!)

They actually use parts of the highway for emergency runways…hard to imagine why!

About 40 kms past Eagle Plains road stop we came to the Arctic Circle..  Breathtaking views!  We caught up to Mercy and her dog ( both of whom we met last night) and drank in the scenery. The Richardson Mountains are in the background and would escort us up to the NWT border.  The tundra is just beginning to change its colours… it’s late this year, but the blush is certainly coming on a number of plants.

Our new friend Mercy took this, with her dog!
Arctic Circle info. Yup, we’re pretty far north!

As we drove north we passed the closed Rock River Campground. And just 5 kms past this was Gorges Gap.  Mercy had stopped her van at the top of the hill and we pulled up in front of her vehicle to get some photos. Another breathtaking vista of tundra and mountains.  It seems every mountain we drive around there is another change of topography, equally beautiful!

Gorges Gap

Our next stop was at the NorthWest Territories border.  Although we knew we could not visit, we heard that we could at least drive 40-50 kms to the health officer checkpoint.  The weather was still lovely, so we decided to drive as far as we could.

Not a lot of folks here, so on we went!

 Here we left the Richardson Mountains and headed to the Peel Plateau.  The road went in and around mountains displaying massive folds in their rock walls.  It was also the best conditions of the Dempster that we had driven on!

Crossing the Richardson Mountains
The road carves through the mountains

We descended down the gorge towards the Peel River, and soon passed by a settlement called Midway Lake.  Situated on the Peel Plateau, it’s the site of the annual Midway Lake Music Festival.  Not been my welcome in the NWT we drove on without exploring.

Midway Lake

We soon came to the Health Check point at km 50, within site of the Peel river crossing snd Fort McPherson. Dan got out to talk to the officer and I took pictures! What a friendly place! And low and behold, this little construction trailer had cell phone reception!!! We asked if we could wait in the car to download emails, and the guy said sure. Then he walked up to our car and asked us if we had enough gas to get back to Eagle Plains, and we said we did. He said he has started to being extra gas to the trailer in case people need some, instead of them going into Fort Macpherson. The, he said they had just put a fresh pot of coffee on, and did we want a coffee! While we didn’t take him up on his offer, we thanked him profusely and said we’d be back when we can enter!

Dan pleading our case with the Health Checkpoint worker
Km 550, our furthest point along the Dempster Highway

Finally we turned the car around and started heading for home.  A sad time for us, but we’re thankful to have gotten as far as we did.  Mercy had pulled in behind us, so the convoy turned and headed back south.

Heading back through the Richardson Range, passing Midway Lake once again. (Look at that beautiful road!!)
Rock River TP shut down due to bear attack. (Defensive, no one hurt)
Just before the rain!

As we drove it started to rain. While the NWT roads were good, the Yukon roads got very rough. We made a short stop for lunch at the Arctic Circle and met up with the ranger who was heading up to Rock River Campground to inspect for bear activity and possibly reopen the park. While we had been told at Eagle Plains that it would most likely be closed for the season, she said no, indeed not, and that it would be open for one of their busiest seasons- fall colours and northern lights. She also told us that the ravens in the morning were most likely trying the wake us so we’d feed them!! After a great chat we got back in the car and headed for gas in Eagle Plains and then headed south to try and reach Engineer Creek. After EP, the roads got worse! Washboard, potholes… we could barely average 50 kph when the speed limit was 90! Even the transports were taking it slow! I thought we might try for Tombstone tonight, but with the road conditions we were tired after almost 500 kms of dirt road driving today.

The campground only had one other camper when we arrived, and to be honest, we picked a nice site that we had scoped out on our previous visit, and just stayed in our RV, made dinner and let Dan trounce me in cribbage!

Another great day of travel. We’re hoping the rain plays itself out tonight and we’ll head back to Tombstone TP for another couple of nights after this. Hoping to get some weather that is conducive to hiking because there are a couple of great hikes right from the park.

Until tomorrow, stay safe!

Categories: 2021 C2C2C Exploring Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast - a 40th Anniversary Tour

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