The Dempster Highway,
Canada’s only all-weather road to cross the Arctic circle, was officially opened in 1979.
That same year, in the Netherlands, a girl was born and decided to go cycle that road in winter one day.
Oh hold on….
That plan didn’t develop until about a month ago.
Still, being the same age as a road seems a good enough excuse for just about anything.
So extremely well prepared (as I am ),
I made my way up north and started riding.
When I cycled through Canadian winter last December/January I had hoped for clear blue skies, nice and cool, sunny days and crisp winter scenes.
Instead I got a dreary dark ride (nice and cool none-the-less!)
This time I got lucky. All what I could possibly hope for in winter was thrown right at me.
I even started off with tailwinds!
Lawrence had pointed across the river with the words; “You see that house there? It’s where uncle George lives. So we call it Georgetown… “
I cycled past uncle George’s and started heading up the road, just being amazed and in wonder by my luck in the weather. Sure I had heard there’s a blizzard coming my way but that wouldn’t be ’till after the pass.
And that was still many miles away.
The scene was great, the road was wonderfully quiet and the ride went well. With the temperature of about -20 it’s pretty cool but I noticed the sun trying hard to give me a little bit of warmth.
I arrived in the small town of Fort McPherson where the Hanthorns run the small church, being extremely warm and welcoming they invited me to stay in the building where I had access to a kitchen, shower and a warm place to spent the night!
I enjoyed the sunset and moonrise when going for a little walk about.
My preparations for this ride are of my usual high standard;
So I had no idea what the next day had in store for me.
I thought I would get to James Creek road station no problem, as it was ‘only’ 77 km away.
I might have thought differently if I knew I would be climbing for about 65 of those. But at least that keeps you warm. I much prefer uphill over downhill in those conditions as I cool down to fast on the way down.
Again the road was gorgeous and the wind was good.
And crossing the ice bridge at Peel river I made two wonderful new friends, who were to accompany me all the way to James Creek!
Without complaining those beautiful dogs walked/ran with me for over 60km!
When I stopped for a break, they patiently waited, when they heard something funny they stood on the lookout to make sure everything was ok. and they stuck to my side higher and higher up.
It surprised me to see almost no traffic at all the whole day.
But just at the end Paul, who’s one of the workers at James Creek, came up to let me know the road ahead is closed due to bad weather and snowdrifts.
That explained that.
By the time I made it to their humble abode I didn’t mind much at all,
I figured a closed road is a perfect excuse to take a break…
Alfie & Paul are just 14 km from the Yukon border, but they can’t work over the other side.
So we had to sit around waiting for the workers on the other end to get their ass in gear and clear the roads (yes you, Ryan :p )
The forecast wasn’t all too good, and when I asked Paul if they could let me through early the next day so I could avoid the upcoming blizzard he kindly agreed that was a good idea.
That’s how I found myself on the closed road on another great sunny day enjoying the stillness.
I made it to the top of Wright pass which coincidentally also happens to be the Yukon Border
and the landscape opened up ahead of me
You can imagine my surprised to suddenly see a head bobbing up over the horizon,
Meet Greg van Tighem, he’s riding the same road in the opposite direction to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. (Check out his page)
We had a quick chat, but neither of us wanted to stand around too long as you do cool down rapidly.
A fat bike seemed a rather good idea in the snowdrifts. They do slow you down in a hurry…
It made me laugh to cycle as fast as I could into a snowdrift to see how far I could get in. That is not far at all, it’s good the road was closed cause a loud laughing Dutch girl up side down in the snow must make people wonder about my sanity.
Finally I saw the machinery that clears the road coming towards me. I hoped they’d be slow enough not to have the road open before I got off it.
I knew by now the 110km to Eagle Plains were out of reach.
Lucky for me a trucker had rolled his rig just at the Arctic circle and now it just stood there waiting to be dragged out. Making a perfect shelter for weary cyclists. Greg had told me he spent two nights holed up here in the Blizzard that came through just before me.
I realised it’s exactly 10 years ago since I last crossed the Arctic circle on my bicycle, slightly different circumstances back then…
I found the key and made myself at home, just after I pulled off the road it must’ve opened as a horde of vehicles came blasting by. So it was a good thing I didn’t push on that evening.
If only I remembered how Greg told me to turn on the heater!
At least I was out of the weather and by morning the road was quiet again The wind had started to pick up a little
and by the time I got to eagle plains they had closed the road again. By now the temperature was slightly higher, maybe only -10 but I still had to stop three times going down a big hill to make sure my hands didn’t freeze.
With cracked lips, burned face (who knew sunblock freezes!) and sore legs, I enjoyed a huge burger and devoured every last crum on my plate.
I didn’t plan to stay there, but Ryan offered me his floor to sleep on.
He also offered me food, socks and marriage.
I had to decline that last one…
When I met him out on the road the next morning he gave me sandwiches and said I should go meet his friend Ricky, he looks after the oil camp 40km down the road.
It had started to snow. And Ricky, originally from Old Crow, showed me around on his skidoo.
At this stage I had started to lose my lungs (well, that’s what it felt like) so I stayed a comfortable night inside and Ricky made sure I was well loaded up on calories before heading out the door.
That horseshoe bend had me going!
The road winds all over the show and the one radio tower I passed 4 hours ago didn’t seem all too far back when I looked around.
The scene was still stunning and from this high viewpoint I got an excellent view.
Looking around at all the rolling hills with a stubble of trees I thought Canada looked like a big hairy chest you could just canoodle into.
Or am I just going crazy?
I was going so slowly as the road is getting softer, I really struggled and couldn’t believe the road just wouldn’t go down.
When it finally did I noticed a hut, but trying to reach it I buried myself to my armpits in snow. Here is where snowshoes might come in handy, I climbed out and cycled further along a river to find a good camp spot.
Right under an eagle’s nest I found it!
Later I found out this spot is called warm Creek.
I checked, it wasn’t actually that warm. But I needed a wash, so I jumped in anyway.
Truck driver Renee, who I met at Eagle Plains, saw me pulled over and stopped to check if everything was alright. (I was fully dressed at this stage) Everything was, so leaving me with a bag of Moose Meat he headed off down the track.
I ran into him again a few days later when he pulled over to make me a lovely fresh cup of coffee! Much appreciated Renee!
There has been some wonderful help along the way. It’s not all that busy right now, in fact about 9 days the road has been closed so there was hardly any traffic at all.
But when there was, they were good. This is Joe’s truck, who invited me in and let me stuff my face with fruit salad,
And trucker Doug who couldn’t believe I didn’t want or need a ride, he asked about 12 times before he was satisfied I really was ok out here on the road.
The temperature had gone up so much now that my lovely ice road turned to a slushy bath of mud. And where studded tires are really great on ice, in mud not so much..
I was slow.
And this day I was very tired and it cost me all my energy to push into Cache Creek where I was told there is a cabin.Not just a cabin! It was a wonderful well equipped home in the wilderness, including new friends. Dori, Jeremy, Denis and Phillipe on a Skidoo-trip.
There’s no amount of tiredness that can’t be fixed by a bottle of wine, so they argued, and kept pouring my glass full until it was after midnight and I really needed to get some shut-eye.
Funny enough, I felt much better the next day. Maybe it’s true and alcohol is the solution!
That or riding on Advil… I guess it helps.
Or maybe the promise of a warm bed & a shower if and when I would make it to Dawson City.
I started to see more signs of spring, little birds fluttering about,a few rabbits and foxes.
I had to climb another rather large hill and by now the wind has truly turned against me, so a steady climb that wouldn’t mean much now became a struggle and a half. Just when I made it over the top it began to snow. And rather heavily too. I was happy I hadn’t seen any traffic, but just then a truck came up behind me. I moved out of the way and got myself bogged instantly. It has been warm and under the fresh snow the mud held on to my tires firmly. As it was colder now it froze and I was well and truly bogged. My luck had it I was only 500 meters from a road maintenance camp where I managed to wake up Steve who had been expecting my arrival.Apparently the truckers all speak about this mad woman on a bicycle so they all know where I am 🙂 My bike was clean in no time with their high pressure cleaner.
It seemed a clear sunny morning,
But don’t let that fool you!
I loved this part of the country! So much so I was very tempted to turn right back around. But I was told by Dori & Jeremy there’s lasagna & chocolate cake waiting for me in Dawson City,
and that was only 40km down the road with a tailwind.
Surely stopping in Dawson for a day (maybe two) wouldn’t harm me…
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34 thoughts on “The Dempster Delights”
De fantastisch spannende continuing story of the cycling dutch girl! Ik kijk er altijd naar uit. Bedankt voor het delen van je avonturen en de prachtige foto’s
Absolutely unbelievable ! Again enjoy and safe journey.
Prachtig. Prachtig. Prachtig. Helemaal verzonken in de foto’s en tekst. Zucht… al houdt ik niet van kou, hoewel… ik heb er eigenlijk niks op tegen (50 graden staat me nog zo voor de geest). Dit spreekt me zeer aan. GAAF! Wat een geweldig mooie foto’s. De honden waren lief!! Enige voorbereiding qua kleding is wel vereist. Draag je nu een kontflap 😉 heerlijk!
My biggest compliments! I never had the courage to do the same, but we can perhaps meet at the Yellowhead, where I’ll start after the ferry im Prince Rupert at May 31th for crossing Canada under summer conditions… but maybe you don’t take this road now again.
Awesome – amazing countryside and beautifully captured with your pictures. I complain when our minimum temperature get to nearly freezing – and you are living in that!!! Fantastic
Love your work, dear gal.
An inspiration to us all to make the most of life.
One thing, can you fix the sharing feature on your videos. I’d kinda like to post a link to an individual video, say, Snow, but currently there’s no way to access it specifically.
Man, but what are you going to do for an encore? I hear it’s getting around to summer in the Sahara . . .
Hey Greame! I don’t think I have that feature here, I’ll have to check that. Sahara huh… well it’s on my list (it’s a long list though)
Wonderful!!! Love the wildlife especially the Ptarmagin & the lovely fox! Looks incredible country to be out in!
Very special trip by a very special lady. Enjoy all the great shots, especially enjoy the wildlife and the wild woman swimming shots . Can’t help but wonder if the dogs were able to find their way back home.
My prayers is for your safety and joy in your adventure. You are a source of inspiration to everyone. Well done.
😉 Just great crazy girl !!!
Great photo’s. Like all the video’s. Glad it’s you and not me. I like to be infront of my fire at night. Great dogs, you never said what happened to them. Did they just back home (60kms) away after running with you. Enjoy your ride.
The dogs, like me, had a good meal and a good sleep at James Creek. They made it back to Peel river where they live the next day 🙂
I like your photography. Happy peddling.
You’re such a badass. I love reading your posts and how you meet people everywhere.
You seem to be having an awesome time!! Great report.. Beautiful photos..
Love your words and images! Thank you for sharing! What’s the tent you are using?
GEWELDIG en wat een dooorzettingsvermogen
Great post Mirjam. Keep it up brave cyclist.
sweet story again, nice with the videos!
Je bent een echte inspiratie Mirjam, en zo knap van je dat je het allemaal durft in de kou en al die fijne mensen ontmoeten.
En dan die prachtige foto’s we genieten ervan. We zijn blij dat we de reis een beetje mee mogen maken samen met je een dikke knuffel keep on peddaling and stay safe and warm, greetz Dory XXXXX
Mirjam, Ik heb weer genoten van je foto’s verhalen en filmpjes. Af en toe vraag ik me wel af of jij wel van deze planeet bent. Al die ‘ongemakken’ die anderen zouden tegenhouden, neem jij met een glimlach. Maar ik vermoed dat al het mooie dat je ervoor terugkrijgt het ruimschoots compenseert.
Between you and Iohan, I just might be convinced to do that route myself before the ice road is no more
respect dame…..mooie foto’s!!
Great ride. This article motivated me to start biciclying my Argentina un a few months. God speed for all sporting people
Great work Lady.
I know Grand Forks was a lifetime ago but here in the Sunshine Valley, where the garlic is up and the lilacs are in bloom my thoughts wander north to a young lady making her dreams her reality. Pedal on my friend. Someday, when next we meet on the horizon we’ll have plenty of fodder for talk-story. Aloha nui loa.
Hoi Mirjam, net je blog gelezen en de foto’s en filmpjes bekeken. Tussen de middag teruggekomen van Sardinië dus een wat late reactie. Wel weer een geweldig verhaal! We hebben gauw weer contact. Kus!
It was a big surprise and a bit of good luck that I ran into you on the closed Dempster Highway that day, thanks for sharing your food and drink and introducing me to Alfie and Paul at James Creek Camp, they let me stay the night and helped clean and oil my bike and provided water for my ride to Fort McPherson. All the way to Tuk I heard tails of the crazy Dutch girl cycling alone. Lol
It is interesting to read your blog, seems we met a lot of the same people, good friendly folks up on the Dempster.
Safe travels, keep the wind at your back and air in your tires, enjoy each day!
You are an inspiration to all!
Greg Van Tighem endms93
Amazing…..congratulations! Hope to see you race the Tour Divide 2017.
Hats off to you indeed young lady, total respect! Most of my viewing on this tour recently has been with Iohan aka “Bike Wanderer”. This really does appeal to me, the challenge, the remoteness, the wilderness and the beauty of the landscape itself. Stuff like this doesn’t cost much but it is priceless. All it takes is guts and a lust for life. Loved your videos, thank you!