Sarah Turner from Hingham left the UK on Thursday
5 February, destined for Canada. She will spend six weeks driving
10,000 miles from Alaska to Arizona, raising money for Marie Curie
Cancer Care. Here she tells her story.
Friday 20 February:
My plans were rearranged by Stan at Eagle Plains,
the Yukon Quest dog race is on - a 1,000 mile race from Fairbanks
Alaska to Whitehorse Yukon.
A sled team rides into Dawson.
It's said to be the toughest sled dog race in the
world and the first teams were expected in Dawson City so I headed
back there. It's been an easy drive through fabulous weather and
I arrived in Dawson mid-afternoon.
The dog teams get spread out so I only saw one
team arrive, half a dozen already here and the rest expected over
the next couple of days.
Stan had fixed me up to stay with his partner,
but she'd left town on a snowmobiling weekend so the front door
was open… only in northern Canada! So a big thank you to Jo for
agreeing to let me stay. I was embarrassed to use the house so threw
my sleeping bag on the floor.
Tomorrow I really do head south…
Thursday 19 February:
It hit -38C last night and is similar today in
the mountain passes, but as I headed south it crept back up to around
As I retrace my steps to the Alaskan Highway, which
will link me with the top of the Rockies for my trip south, I thought
I'd give you a little bit of info on the Dempster Highway.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the
hightway is named after Sgt WJD Dempster of the Northwest Mounted
Police who went in search of the 'lost patrol' in the winter of
The construction of the road actually started in
the 1950s but it was not until the 70s, with the large scale oil
exploration in the Beaufort Sea, that it was continued to Inuvik.
In total it's 457 miles long and is the only road in Canada to cross
the Arctic Circle. It passes through the Ogilvie and Richardson
Mountain ranges and the views are breathtaking.
I may have driven it in winter, but in spring and
autumn it provides a spectacular feast of colours along the route.
There is accommodation to suit all, from hotels and B&B's to camping
and RV sites but you really are in the wilderness. If you haven't
booked a holiday yet and are the type to take to the great outdoors
then I would say you HAVE to drive the Dempster. Hire a car or an
RV and pack your hiking boots, etc you won't be disappointed.
When you arrive in Inuvik there is the warmest
of welcomes awaiting you, as there is at Dawson City too. Dawson
and Inuvik are very different. At the bottom of the Dempster, Dawson
offers you a glimpse of 'Gold Rush' whilst Inuvik is a much more
native arctic experience - you've got to do both.
I missed out last time I came to Canada and didn't
get further than Whitehorse (which I love) but, whilst it may be
a very long cul-de-sac I'm very glad I made the effort and came
all the way. Furthermore if you do it this year you too can join
in the anniversary celebrations.
I managed to drive all the way to the Beaufort
Sea, but outside winter when the river is flowing, Inuvik is as
far as you get by road. You can charter planes and boats to take
you even further into the wilderness and explore the culture, wildlife
and scenery this part of Canada has to offer, it is like nothing
The wildlife was conspicuous by its absence on
my drive, but there is everything to see. Bears, including Polar
bears in the winter on the Beaufort Sea, wolves, musk ox, caribou
and all sorts of other amazing creatures. If you'd like to find
out more about the Northwest Territories visit their website at
or see some of the ideas from BBC
Meanwhile if you don't hear from me for a day or
two it's because nothing exciting has happened and I won't bore
you with the return run.
The BBC is not responsible for
the content of external internet links
Wednesday 18 February:
I planned to be in Inuvik by 1pm to meet Judith
Venaas from the North West Territories Tourist office who had been
very helpful, booking me accommodation. This meant an early departure
from Eagle Plains.
I fired up the truck but hadn't set the Webasto
early enough so it wasn't really warm enough, I kicked in the Thermoline
fuel line heater to help. After a few minutes it was running better
and I eased away.
The drive to Inuvik was uneventful. The road was
not too good through the mountains, but as the sun broke through
I was on good fast road.
I crossed the Mackenzie River at Tsiigehtchic,
served by a ferry in the summer, in winter it gave me my first taste
of ice road. You are greeted in Inuvik by the Igloo Church, today
under a mist of ice fog.
The whole town is built on pilings to protect the
permafrost it is built upon. From here I joined the 'ice road'.
The frozen Mackenzie Delta is turned into a road by ploughing to
level and drilling to bring the water onto the surface of the ice
which then freezes to thicken the ice, it will carry vehicles up
to 64 tonnes.
The drive to Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk) is around 200km.
The ice is rough and full of pot holes and
cracks but if you avoid the worst, then the ride is good.
Concentrating on the near road surface to dodge
the holes means it is easy to leave setting up for the bends a little
late, but I did manage to keep the truck pointing forwards at all
times despite a couple of late bends.
Most of the drive was once again in bright sunshine
but as I approached Tuk the mist closed in once again and the settlement
appeared ghostly out of the gloom.
When not frozen in Tuk sits on a peninsula on the
Beaufort Sea. The main industry here is oil and there are various
refineries along the route. As I turned around and headed back to
Inuvik the sun began to set, but the light held until I arrived
safely back in town.
As I parked up I touched the door handle, it was
as painful as touching a hot pan, it had been around -30C all day
and the whole car was frozen solid. The roof rack and its contents
look like they been sprayed with moon dust and everything is brittle.
Even my drinking water remained frozen all day despite being in
a heated car!
Having made it to the top of my run it is now time
to turn tail and head south. It was well worth the drive for the
scenery, the people and to experience the weather.
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