Heading North

Greetings to all of my followers. There’s a new bike trip in the works, and I decided that, rather than starting a new blog, I would re-start this one.

This trip, like my last one, is a cross-Canada trek, albeit with a twist (a 90 degree one, in fact). Whereas my previous trip was east to west, this traverse will be south to north, starting in Victoria, BC and terminating in Inuvik, NT. This journey spans roughly 20 degrees latitude and covers between 3500 and 4500 km, depending on how much I meander.

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What this journey lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality; Northern Canada offers up an enticing variety of landscapes, from lush, mountainous landscapes to desolate stretches of tundra. There’s no denying that, along with its unique environments, this trip will offer an array of circumstances not found on my previous tour. For example, I will have to become far better at resource management, as scarcity of services becomes a real issue once I am north of Dawson City.

A blessing and a curse, the route I have chosen is one among surprisingly few options. I plan on cycling to Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island before taking a ferry through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. From there, I will most likely spend a day or two on Haida Gwaii before heading inland on the Yellowhead/Dease Lake Highway until it connects with the Alaska Highway (#1) just after crossing into the Yukon Territories. This highway will take me through Whitehorse and, should I not choose to take the Klondike Highway (#2) exit, eastern Alaska. Whichever route I decide to take will ultimately bring me to Dawson City, where I will continue on the Dempster Highway towards Inuvik.

That final stretch of road is considered to be a “rite of passage” of sorts by many touring cyclists. It is a roughly 700 km elevated gravel road that diverges from the Klondike Highway (#2) just east of Dawson City and continues on towards Inuvik, where it terminates. It is not uncommon to come across Grizzly Bears, and as accommodations will be almost exclusively wild-camping, it’s hard to ignore the very real danger that such an endeavour brings with it. Yet, despite these realities, many men and women have successfully navigated this route, an indication that I’m not about to embark on a fool’s errand.

An extension of the highway is currently being constructed to connect Inuvik with Tuktoyaktuk, but that it not scheduled for completion until 2017. As such, my trip, which takes me as far north as one can via road, will bring me just out of reach of the Arctic Ocean. However, as I will be spending a good deal of time within the Arctic Circle, I’m not too disappointed. The polar bear swim will have to wait.

This trip will present some significant challenges, some that, over the last few months, have kept me awake at night in anticipation. I will have to be far more conscious with how I store prepare and store my food, especially as I go further north. A dirty pot could mean an unwelcome visitor or two. There will be far longer stretches of isolation that there ever were on my last ride, and I suspect that I’ll be doing a good bit more wild-camping. Whereas for some these might be reasons to plan a trip elsewhere, I welcome these challenges. Northern Canada remains relatively uninhabited, and I can’t help but feel that I will be travelling into lands yet to be wholly scoured for resources or attenuated for public consumption. There is an unfettered and vibrant world beyond the trappings of contemporary civilization, and I relish the opportunity to be a part of it, if only temporarily.

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” 

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Stay tuned for a gear breakdown!

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3 comments

  1. Hey Joe, John and I will be following your travels closely from start to finish! The bears are a reality but it’s the mosquitoes and black flies that could drive you mad! I’m going to make you some deet-free insect repellant that works well, as long as you apply ever couple hours.
    Sally

  2. I miss our early Sunday morning meetings… Just remembering the hills from Campbell River and beyond as challenging and in this summer sun a good workout.

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