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July 21, 2009

Dempster Highway km 490 - 65km from Inuvik - 121.5 miles

By Marcelo
I am seating down on a folding chair on top of a hill overlooking a "live painting" of the world I see below; mountains, hills, white puffy clouds against the deep blue sky back drop, the gravel Dempster highway draws a line on this fabulous painting, from below my feet to infinity behind the mountains. It is very quiet up here, the wind blows gently. The air is green and pure, earth is vibrant and I am lost in its greatness. I car passes by, I saw its dust from the gravel road long before I could see the car. I wonder what those people in car thought of the sight of seeing me in the middle of the tundra, armed with a laptop wearing a bright neon jacket. "better leave that person alone" :)
more later...
On my walk back to our 5 star gravel pit camp site I deliberated on the idea of driving solo. Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes, No... I have been wanting to do this trip solo. So, why not. Now is as good time as any other time, Yes was the right answer. I was surprised to see that everyone was already up. Josh was cooking breakfast/lunch. Claire had started to clean the van other follow her initiative. Talk Claire about my solo drive plan, she asked how much time I want, "two hours", she share the plan with the rest of crew. Jumped on XOF1 and took off. It was liberating, felt one with the road and the world, no support vehicle, no emissions just sun rays powering the car, climbing hills, turns on foot of giant mountains, soft gravel. My solo joyful drive was cut short by construction on the road, I got flagged down to wait for traffic, only five minutes I was told, 20 minutes later, there was still another five minutes, start collecting rocks. The flag guy probably start to wonder how would I carry so many rock on the solar car :), I was just leaving sign, XOF1 of rocks on the road, assuming the team would be making a stop at the same location later, they would be able to see it. Finally got back on the road and once again my solo ride was cut short, this time with flat tire was the deterrent. Not much I could do, I got our of the car, pushed to the side of the road and hitch hiked back to meet the crew. A number of construction trucks went by but none going as far as our camp site. I finally got a ride with George Roberts from the Yukon, a metal artist who was attending the Arts Festival in Inuvik. No eagle to give a ride at first, he enjoy the solo drive on the Dempster. He tells me that he has been attending the Arts Festival for 13 years, we talk about the solar car, life, the environment. I was taking short clips of the scenery, he points out some small patches of ice, perhaps reminiscent of glaciers,"When I first start driving here in the summer, ice always covered the top of those mountains over there, I have been witnessing its decline, now there are only some small patches of ice" he says. It would sure be nice to see more ice over there!
Not too far from our camp site, I spotted Anne's little tough car already on the road, flag them down and jump onboard. Claire quickly grabbed me lunch, Josh spicy spagetthy and some awesome olive oil garlic toasts. got the rear tire replaced and back on the road. Just before making our first crossing at Peel river we did a quick stop to buy some dry smoked fish, it was delicious! Got across the river on the ferry, at the visitor center on the other side a came across a familiar face. Robert, we met last year, when we camped there, the next day was a cold morning, he made us (Mo, Carrie and I) tea and share stories about the land and his family. It was good to see him again!
North of Fort McPherson, we made a stop a the camp site were we stopped on the way to Inuvik the first time, Max discovered a pond loaded with frogs, tiny little ones, they were plenty jumping everywhere. This time we couldn't find a single one. I was disappointed to see oil stains near the water, they are sensitive creatures.
On the road again, we crossed the Mighty MacKenzie river, it runs north to the Artic Ocean.Had the opportunity to visit the deck, Anne was already there. She was admiring the captain's job. I can see her being the captain on that ferry one day.
The sky was cleared and looking promising. However, it didn't take long after we crossed the MacKenzie the weather turned on us, quickly the sky got covered blocking the sun. The batteries were already running low, we pushed the car to its limit, on empty battery we managed to find a tiny pull out, it was an entrance for an abandoned cabin. Anne got the propane burner going and cooking. Exploring the surroundings there was a tent and a bicycle, we never saw anyone.
The mosquitoes were the most aggressive we have seem, the tiny little bests were determinate to eat us alive, It was driving everyone crazy, making sleeping very difficult, never left us alone the entire night.
Didn't set up the array, overcast weather and shadow of trees.

By Claire

By Anne

By Laura

By Josh

sign of intelligent life
Solo drive
the tundra look like waves hitting the shore
it disappears between majestic mountains
UFO does exist. Here is one!
George and Marcelo.
Marcelo - Thanks for the ride!
Green air
235km to Inuvik. Follow the arrow
rear flat
Dusty environment
Tire changing on film by Josh
Cool shot by Claire
Piping out hydrocarbons
It doesn't take long the array is covered in dust
solar admiration, construction workers paused to watch and take photos of the solar car
More dust in the horizon
zoom zoom around construction equipment
Water give us a break from the dust
220km to Inuvik
surveyers pointing at the UFO.
- Huhh, should we report this?
Are you still there?
Peel river in sight
climbing down towards the Peel river crossing
things got a bit dusty
Another familiar face from last year drive on the Dempster
smoking fish
smoked fish
sharing a snack
entering the first ferry boat
Solar cars over there
ICE (internal combustion Engine) vehicles over here
Ferry operator taking a close look at the solar car
Getting cables from inside the solar car through the cap in the visor
11km to Fort McPherson
At the visitor center across the river, Robert recognize the solar car and come by to say hi
Looking for a fellow green, the tiny frog was plenty at this pond last year. We couldn't find a single one today. Perhaps, it was the wrong time of the day. However, oil stains near the pond could indicate pollution may have affected its habitat. The only reptile north of the Arctic Circle
Flower powered vehicle would do well here
The dusty solar car is now a canvas
The mighty Mackenzie river in the horizon
Shadow Claire
Tsiigehtchic is hard to pronounce
Getting cold feet
Our boat
once upon a time the water was all the way up there
Anne on the tower capturing the moment
All onboard!
Captain - Okay sailor, go scrub the deck!
We'll get it clean one day
all the way here to eat dust and the last time we saw the sun
75km to Inuvik
Batteries depleted, not enough to make to Inuvik
Anne pealing a yahm for an awsome meal