Dempster Highway, Yukon + North West Territories – November weather at the Arctic Circle

If you believe Canadians and tour guide books Canada has super summer weather. It has 30°, even in Yukon, and there is very little rain. Really! In the last days it rained at least once per hour, interrupted from short cloud-free periods with sunshine. Today it is raining since hours, the thermometer doesn’t’ even reach 7°C. Probably no summer day. Just accidentally. The tundra landscape is fantastic anyway. High valleys, hills and mountains are completely overgrown with low brush and grasses. Clear creeks wind in-between, getting a red-brown colour from iron oxide. They flow to Ogilvie River that accompanies the road for a while and grows constantly. The loveliness of the landscape is misleading: You can’t put one foot beside the road without sinking to your knees in the swamp. The non-frozen part of the permafrost ground acts like a sponge. Below 1000 m you will find trees again, if you want to call them so. The cute conifers are neither high nor thick and consist mostly of a thin black trunk. On the outside a few thin needles are arranged from top to toe. The trees do not widen downwards and look like outsized pipe cleaners. Rainfalls are filling the plains more and more, trees seem to grow out of lakes. The river beside the road is coming frighteningly close. It got an enormous speed and is building up waves of likely one meter. From the slopes beside the road falling rocks and landslides are coming down. Waterfalls are building up, flooding the road and starting to wash it away. Some parts of the road have already broken out. We are catching a moment with less rain for a photo at the absolutely beautiful bird-eye’s view from Ogilvie Ridge Viewpoint. A Swiss guy from Alaska is informing us that the road has been closed due to wash-outs yesterday, but we have been lucky to pass.

Road condition is getting worse. The surface is slowly exchanging to soft soap and deep ruts are wearing out. The trip becomes a mudbath. I’ve never seen so many so dirty cars. Next we are driving into the clouds, even we aren’t that high. We are in the middle of the rainclouds now and are having fog and rain at the same time, that’s really rising our mood. It is cold, it is wet, and we can’t see anything.

At kilometre 406 we reach 66°33’ northern latitude: the Arctic Circle. From here on we are driving in the Arctic. That’s not only an imaginary line, vegetation changes immediately. Big areas are covered with yellow-green grass, and less trees, bushes, and even “pipe cleaner firs” grow until they disappear nearly entirely. The road is built on a three metres thick insulating gravel layer above the permafrost. When discovering the Richardson Mountains we are crossing the border to North West Territories. There is suddenly a wild run on the left. We found a part of the huge Porcupine Caribou Herd that lives up here in the North. We are descending from 500 m elevation to nearly sea level to cross Peel Rivers by complimentary ferry. At midnight, rain is stopping and clouds are diminishing. It hasn’t been so bright for the whole day.

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