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the Canadian Arctic

a travel blog by Victoria & Robert

We are heading up to the northern part of Western Canada with the end destination being Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.

The trip starts on August 31st in Vancouver and via Vancouver Island we will be driving through Prince Rupert, Whitehorse and further north. On the way we will be fishing, hunting and living close to nature. Our home will be a comfortable tent and hopefully we'll be able to camp in the wilderness north of the Artic Circle and see some Northern lights.

Feel free to stop by, read about our adventures and comment on our posts and pictures! You can follow our travels on the map above as we will add to it with each new blog/destination.

Victoria & Robert
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Dawson, Canada

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on September 18, 2009 from Dawson, Canada
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Searching for gold in Dawson, grey flamingos and more...

Whitehorse, Canada

This entry will be a little bit different. So far, Victoria has done all the writing for the blog and Robert has done all the driving and making sure our car gets us from point A to point B. In other words, we've tried to divide tasks and responsibilities a little bit just to make our lives a tiny bit organized. (Anybody seeing us will probably still chuckle at our organizing skills...)

To mix things up a little, we decided that both of us would do a blog entry each. Just to get a little different perspectives on things. After all, the way Victoria perceives and describes things in the blog might be a little different from how Robert sees them.

So here we go. First out is Victoria who will write about searching for gold in Dawson, keeping fit in the wilderness and having a good laugh about grey flamingos.


Back in Whitehorse! We are back at the B&B where we stayed the night before we set out to conquer the Dempster highway. In a week's time it feels as if fall (yes, 'fall', not 'autumn') is a little bit further along. All the leafy trees are bright yellow and orange and the air has that little 'nip' to it that kind of smells snow or at least colder times.

We spent three really good days in Dawson City which is highly recommended! Great little town that has been able to maintain a century old atmosphere without being overly touristy. Most towns trying to preserve old buildings and history still has Starbucks and Tim Hortons crammed into a heritage building but Dawson is just... Dawson. No 'Gap', no 'Blenz', no 'Superstore'. Some of the little shops are even the same as they were almost 100 years ago. Mud roads without pavement and houses that truly look like they are 80 years old!

There is a claim along the river where people can pan for gold for free ('without getting shot' as one local explained it. It sounds like there is still some strict rules on who any little gold flakes that might have been overlooked in this heavily explored area would belong to).

As we approached the claim there were already a few people by the river in pouring rain with their shovels, pans and buckets. We didn't have our own equipment but the couple that was there offered us their to have a try. I started out first by scooping up some dirt and washing it in the stream. No luck though but it was fun. Robert had a go at it as well but unfortunately we didn't get rich!

We continued on to have a look at Dredge number 4 which is now a National Historical site.

Back in town we also visited the city museum which was located in a beutiful building. It was very impressive, informative and interesting with exhibitions and artifacts telling the story of this area from a geological, native people, as well as the gold diggers' perspective.

The next morning we left Dawson but if opportunity presents itself, I would love to come back! We took the ferry over the Klondike River to drive a bit on the Top of the World highway which goes into Alaska but unfortunately, the fog made it impossible to see anything so we turned around after about 20 miles.

Oh, before we left I went for a run in the morning and I would dedicate just a few lines on my attempts to stay in shape during this trip. As most of my close friends know, I'm known to be a litte bit 'nutty' when it comes to exercise and some have asked how I mangage that being on the road. Well... it does take some creativity. While I realize that I won't be able to swim everyday I think that almost four weeks into the journey, I've got a fair amount of exercise in. I've done one ocean swim, one lake swim and two pool swims. On top of that I've run seven times and gotten a bit use out of some stretch cords. Some of the runs have been around the camp ground eight times in fear for bears if I would venture out on the road. On runs where I have gone outside my 'comfort zone' I've been running with a bear bell that makes sound like Jingle Bells that probably can be heard in half of Canada! Other runs have been like orienteering with me running with a map trying to figure out where the heck I am and where is the hotel????? So again; it is possible to stay in shape but some creativity helps...

On our way down to Whitehorse we passed an air field with lots of grey birds. I thought they looked as cranes but Robert is convinced that they were flamingos. I've heard of Canada geese but never Canadian flamingos! 'Flamingos don't have to be pink!!!!' Robert says. I had a very good laugh over the grey flamingos and we still are not agreeing if grey flamingos exist (I maintain that the birds we saw were cranes) but if somebody knows, let us know!

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on September 21, 2009 from Whitehorse, Canada
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Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Fort Nelson

Haines Junction, Canada

So it is Robert's turn to add to the blog, but he has opted to defer his entry so Victoria is back at the keyboard but she will still try to write from the perspective of both of us.

We came back to Whitehorse and spent one day just doing 'boring' chores. Even as free spirited travelers, there are some necessities that have to be taken care of such as laundry, fixing with the car, taking a nap ;) etc. so we spent one day dealing with that.

Once again we stayed at La Bicicletta B&B where Anne and Ante took good care of us!

The second full day we decided to drive out to Haines Junction which is the gateway to the Kluane National Park. It's a junction because if you continue north on the Alaska highway it will eventually take you to Anchorage but if you go south at the junction you will end up in Haines, Alaska.

The drive out was absolutely stunning and the mountains got higher and more impressive the further we drove.

Since the weather was perfect we decided to take an air tour over the glaciers. Sifton Air offers different kinds of tours so we were lucky and got space on the one that would give us a glimpse of the large ice fields.

The plane felt very small. Robert got to sit with the pilot up front. Victoria was sitting in the back.

The flight was amazing! Photos can only give you an idea of what it was like. The weather was clear, mountains were high and the sky unlimited. In a small plane like that it also gave you a true sense of how large nature is and how little humans are. Every little bump could be felt but it gave you a perspective of the magitude and size of the mountains compared to five humans squeezed into a yellow tin can!

Safely back on ground we both concluded that it was worth every penny and something we would strongly recommend to anybody wanting to experience something special.

Next morning we got in the car again and embarked on the last bit of the Alaska highway that would eventually take us to 'mile 0' of the highway which starts in Dawson Creek (not to be confused with Dawson city) in British Columbia.

The drive wasn't much to write about and we spent the night in Watson Lake which definitely wasn't much to report. There is a tourist attraction in form of a sign post forest where street, city and town signs are collected. That was kind of cool to see, but beside that, there was not much going on in this town!

We continued the next morning to see the bisons that we had heard rumours about. Our hopes to see anything weren't too high though since we haven't seen that much wildlife. So when we suddenly spotted a couple of bisons on a field next to the highway we were so excited!!! Robert got out of the car to get a better look.

We saw more bison (we learned that they are called 'wood bison') and were quite pleased with seeing so many when we turned the corner and... there was the whole herd! Not one or two but more like 40 or 50!!! strolling down the highway in a leisurely pace. Bulls, cows and calves all in one big group. Very amazing sight.

One HUGE bull was eating grass next to our car and he was so close we could have touched him if we had reached out.

A couple of minutes later we also saw some caribous that crossed the road. Suddenly the drive felt like a Canadian safari!

The drive continued and at Liards Hotsprings we stopped to stretch our legs and to dip into the supposedly warm water. A boardwalk took us into the hotsprings which were beautiful and VERY HOT!

There were three pools were the top one was just too hot to get into. The second and the third pools were managable but still in the range of 45-50C. Natural hot tubs! Very relaxing and nice and a good break in the driving. The only thing that was a little bit of a turn off was the smell of sulphur from the water. We probably smelled like rotten eggs when we were done!

In the evening we reached Fort Nelson and set up camp for the first time in a couple of weeks. Being back in B.C. and more south, the weather has warmed up to be more suitable for outdoor life. We also think we are getting better at the 'setting up camp' part and the tent was standing in only 10 minutes. We are very proud!

Tomorrow we are off to Dawson Creek and the end of the journey on the Alaska highway!

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on September 22, 2009 from Haines Junction, Canada
from the travel blog: the Canadian Arctic
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The Canadian Rockies & Alberta

Banff, Canada

Wow! Time flies and once we stop and attempt to write a bit for the blog so much has happened since the last entry that it is a little bit difficult to remember what we saw, and where it was, and when!

We continuted from Fort Nelson To Dawson Creek and with the arrival to Dawson Creek which is known as 'mile 0' on the Alaska Highway we concluded that we had driven pretty much all of the Canadian part of the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction to Dawson Creek. The Alaska highway was built in 1942-43 during the WWII by the U.S. Army and completed in just eight months.

After leaving Dawson Creek we entered into Alberta. The first towns to drive through were Grand Prarie, Beaverlodge(!) and then Grande Cache were we camped for two nights.

In Beaverlodge we were greeted by a giant beaver statue.

Of course, Robert had to climb up on the statue to get a picture with him and the beaver...

When he got down again we realized that apparently the town of Beaverlodge were not encouraging climbing the beaver as we noticed a sign that pointed out that climbing the beaver could be dangerous and lead to injury. Two things come to mind: 1. Beaver jokes... don't climb the beaver! hahaha! 2. If there is a sign saying something is 'forbidden'; Robert will do it.

In Grande Cache we decided to set up camp and were surprised to find a really nice municipal camp ground. We spent two nights here and for the first time experienced camping in weather below freezing. The town is on a high altitude so during night the temperature dipped into a couple of degrees in the negative territory (Celsius). A little chilly, but after putting on a touque, socks, long sleeved shirt and and extra fleece blanket, even Victoria was warm!

To keep us warm in the afternoon and evening we kept a camp fire going. Victoria had a go at chopping wood for the first time and managed quite well to chop the logs without chopping her legs off!

Robert took the opportunity for some grooming. With kitchen scissors and the side mirrors to the car, he took to the task of trimming away some of that hair. Victoria assisted and these are the 'before' and 'after' photos....

We explored the surroundings of Grande Cache a little bit by taking a trip out to the Sulphur gates which is where two big rivers merge; Smoky River and Sulphur River. The landscape is beautiful and a geologist's dream with different types of rocks in a beautiful setting.

Our first night in Grande Cache we had just arrived when the family in the camp spot closest to us came over and invited us to their camp fire. Very friendly and perhaps even a little bit surprising! Nice people in Alberta!
The next night, a lone motorbiker pulled up to the camp site when dark was setting in and since he looked cold and probably didn't have an axe to chop wood for a fire, Robert went over and invited Marc. Marc was a super nice guy who was on his way home to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories from a two month long trip down south through the U.S and back. Since Marc is an experienced outdoor person and (obviously) avid motorbiker, Robert and Marc connected and had a good chat about motorcycles, hunting and stuff. It is really amazing how many nice people you can meet if you just reach out a little!

Back on the road the next day we entered the Jasper National Park. We first drove to Jasper where we spent the night at a really nice hotel. We were getting a little 'lazy' but truth to be told, most campgrounds are closed for the season and as we now were in a national park you can't really pitch a tent just anywhere.

We saw some mountain sheep.

Dinner in Jasper was consumed at the local Korean restaurant. The very friendly staff tried to force Robert to use a fork as they doubted that he would be capable of using chop sticks. Robert insisted (and presvered) that he was fine eating with chop sticks but the Korean lady was hard to convince. Victoria ordered a traditional dish but needed help preparing it. The Korean lady looked questioningly at Victoria and then showed her how to mix the veggies with the rice. Then she went back to the rest of the staff and the conversation probably went something like this "strange Korean girl sitting over there. Can't pronounce the food she ordered correctly and doesn't know how to mix the rice with the veggies!!!" Victoria eventually explained she was born in Korea but grew up in Europe which was met by a long sentance in Korean and more confusion as Victoria looked like a big question mark.

The next morning we drove into Banff national park and made two stops: one at the Athabasca falls and one at the Columbia icefields.

As we were going higher and higher, we reached an altitude of over 2,000 meter. It got chillly and by the time we got out of the car to look at the glacier it was again below freezing and with some snow flurries.

We hiked up to the end of the glacier which is a rapidly receeding glacier that reached about a mile further down the hill just less than a century ago. Little markers along the hillside showed the reach of the glacier at different years.
Once at the edge of the glacier there were a billion different signs warning for the danger of stepping out of the designated trail. Of course that made Robert want to take a closer look.

Back in the car we now headed for Lake Louise and then on to Banff.

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on September 30, 2009 from Banff, Canada
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Hotsprings, cold nights and time zones

Radium Hot Springs, Canada

The last three nights were spent at the Canyon RV resort (sounds exclusive) which is a very well maintained camp site right outside Radium Hotsprings. The actual hotsprings are located 4 km up in the mountain in the Kootney National park, but a village with the same name is located just below the mountain range.

We arrived to the campsite early evening and were greeted by a very grumpy camp site receptionist. We were the only ones in the whole campsite that stayed in the tent so we quickly became labelled as 'the brave ones'. The weather over the three days was a mix of rain, clouds and some rays of sunshine. The temperature dipped down to around freezing at night, but we have finally mastered the art of bundling up with blankets, extra sweaters etc. when going to bed so it didn't feel too cold (however, not applicable to Robert as he insists that his sleeping bag is 'toasty warm').

The reason why were are in this area of British Columbia is that Robert is on the hunt for a mountain goat. Through the province there is a draw for certain animals and he was 'lucky' to get the goat. Victoria, with no hunting experience whatsoever is observing and learning. While she has never been an opponent of hunting, she has never really understood the attraction to go out and kill an animal. However, she is quickly realizing that the people hunting for wildlife in most cases are way more environmentally conscious and respectful for nature and animals than the people who never have been involved with, or close to hunting. Through our travels we have met many people who are out hunting as it is prime hunting season. The knowledge and respect for nature and animals and a wish to live in harmony with the environment is very geniune and sincere. There is a personal opinion on hunting, but Victoria's point of view is definitely changing.

In Radium we visited the hotsprings on several occasions. It was the perfect way of ending a chilly day; soak in the 40C warm waters! Victoria took it a bit to the extreme and ran up the mountain to the hotsprings, swam and then ran back. Perhaps not the most common opinion on relaxation!

After three days in Radium we realized that we are still in the Alberta time zone even though we have crossed back into B.C. We thought it was just this little village that was the exception because it is so close to the Rockies, but when yet another waitress looked a little annoyed when we came in to the restuarant 10 minutes before closing time, we realized it was because it was 9:50 and they were closing at 10. We thought it was 9pm!

We are now heading a bit north towards Golden. We will find a backcountry campsite and set up a base camp. From there, we will go out on day trips to try to spot the elusive goat!

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on October 4, 2009 from Radium Hot Springs, Canada
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Mountain goats, frozen sandwiches and never ending hikes....

Golden, Canada

It's been over a week since we wrote last time.We have spent seven days in a tent in the Kootney mountains and are finally back to 'civilization' at a Ramada Inn in the town of Golden. Because the lack of modern technologies of internet and electricity over the past week, and in order to give a synopsis of the last week, this entry will be without photos which will come later.

So we were finally off to Golden to see if Robert could spot the elusive goat..... Without knowing pretty much anything about the whereabouts and behaviours of goats and neither of us had never been in the Kootneys before so it was a little bit like finding a needle in a haystack. However, we knew what mountain goats looked like because we had seen them in pictures and we saw some 'live' ones on the side of the road high up in the mountains when we drove through the Banff National Park. That must have been a good start. Right?

In Radium hotsprings, Robert had got some leads on where around the town of Golden he might find the goats, so on that advice, we set off on a forestry track straight into 'goat land'.... or at least what we thought would be the home of the mountain goat. We set up camp at a remote site and since there was a little of a chill in the air Robert put in the wood burning stove that we have for the tent. It would turn out that would probably be what saved us from freezing to death!

The first day of goat hunting included a plan to go for a four hour hike up a 7000 ft mountain. A neighbour at the camp site had given us some vague leads on where to go and since we were clueless we thought that it couldn't be that difficult and set out to follow this trail that the guy had told us about. It turned out that the 'trail' was virtually non-existent and we spent the next two and a half hour climbing a VERY steep hillside. 15 minutes into the hike Robert pulled a calf muscle and for a moment we were wondering if the goat hunt had ended before it really even started.... Luckily, the calf warmed up and we continued.

Victoria made a snow man before we set off:

During some parts of the 'hike', we were literally hanging on to tree branches to pull ourselves up! Victoria was the lucky carrier of a 35lbs backpack which contained all our gear and emergency supply, and both of us where absolutely exhausted when we reached the top of the mountain. Having set off quite late we had to pretty much turn around right away so we spent the next two hours climbing down again without seeing any goats or any other animals. Oh, wait. Yes, we did see a few bear tracks and cougar tracks. We even found some fur balls that the big cat had coughed up which contained hair, pieces of bones and claws from some unlucky animal that ended up being cougar dinner.

Completely exhausted and a little bit discouraged, we decided to take the next day off and go down to Golden. That night there was a full moon and in the distance we heard the wolves howling. The morning was a slow one also because we woke up and realized it was minus 12 C! Thanks to the wood burning stove in the tent, the temperature inside was hovering about 10C or so above freezing, but as soon you left the tent, it really felt chilly! Golden is a little town on the west side of the Rockies in the Kootney mountain range on the British Columbia side. The surrounding environment is beautiful in the Columbia valley with mountains on both sides, farm lands and wetlands where the river cuts through the mountains. In town we did our bi-weekly laundry at a laundromat and found a very cute bookstore with a nice cafe.

The next day we got an early start as we wanted to be up on the mountain by mid-morning and our experience from the first hike was that it would take us about 2 hours just to get to the top of the mountain range. Even though we had sworn never to do the same hike again, we decided to take the same route as we knew that it at least would take us to the top. The night before it had snowed quite a lot, but thankfully, it wasn't as hard this time. Perhaps it was psychological because this time we knew what was ahead of us and how long it would take to reach the top, or perhaps it was also because our bodies had adjusted better to the altitude. In any case; one thing was crystal clear: finding a mountain goat is not easy and requires that you are in decent shape! If you are not alread, you will for sure get fit!

We reached the mountain ridge around noon and it provided the most spectacular and beautiful view!!! We had a great view of the Rockies, the Kootney mountains and the Columbia valley.

However, it was quite chilly with a considerable amount of snow and the clouds were sweeping past the mountains very quickly. When the sun was shining it was warm and wonderful, but as soon as a cloud came in everything changed in a second and it was easy to understand how people get caught by surprise by weather on top of mountains and get in trouble... In other words: weather on top of a mountain is very unpredictable and can change quickly.The best way to describe mountain weather is 'temperamental'.

We spent about two hours walking on top of the mountain range but didn't see anything in terms of wildlife. So eventually we decided to head down again and turned around to follow our own tracks in the snow. That's when we saw that a the tracks of a BIG cat had walked the same direction as us very recently. The only feasible explanation is a mountain lion and it was probably a good thing we didn't see it!

After another day's rest we decided to give it one more go. It would be nice to at least see a mountain goat even if only in the distance!
The alarm went off early in the morning again and...ugh... it was -16C!!!!! The wood burning stove in the tent had kept the temperature somewhat comfortable during the night, but by now, the milk, toothpaste, water and everything else containing liquid was frozen solid...... We eventually learned to bring the water into the tent during night, but we didn't want to bring any food inside as we had already seen quite a few black bears and knew very well that we were in grizzly country so we felt it would be unnecessary to invite the bears for dinner inside our tent... A guy with a cabin in the area stopped by and asked if we had seen the big grizzly. "Which grizzly?" Robert asked? "The grizzly, the size of your car" the guy replied. "Hmm.....no... we haven't seen him.....yet".

Robert had studied the maps in great detail and had this idea that taking a new route up the side of a mountain would be worth a go. Oh boy, were we wrong about that!!! This time we went straight into the woods. No trail whatsoever but a bunch of fallen trees which we climbed over and under. After that, bushes with branches sticking out in all direction making it extremely difficult to walk forward. In short: we spent four hours struggling through very dense and difficult terrain- all on a steep incline. During our lunch break we discovered that all the food was frozen so we chewed on some icy sandwiches and tried to not break our teeth on the granola bars.

Still no goats in sight but we did see some tracks! However, after five hours we decided to turn around again. As stated before, we concluded that going down is at least as difficult as going up! Victoria was trying to keep up as best as she could with half a foot shorter legs compared to Robert but after falling flat on her face in the snow for the 20th time and getting even more snow inside her boots, she couldn't keep quiet anymore: "Robert! I don't want to come across as complaining, but I AM NOT HAVING THAT MUCH FUN ANYMORE!!!!!" Thankfully, Robert's reply was 'Well, that's ok. I stopped having fun about 3-4 hours ago! But don't worry. We are almost there!"

It turned out it would take two more hours before we reached the road where the car was parked and by now we had hiked non-stop for eight and a half hours!!!! Needless to say we were completely drained and we concluded that the day had been somewhat of a disappointment. The only good thing was that it was a hell of a good workout! Our legs were covered in bruises and our hands were full of bits from the trees we had been grabbing on to, but at least we must have buns of steel by now!!!!

The day after, we decided to break up camp and head back into town. By now, we had spent ten consecutive nights in the tent so the thought of a 'real' bed and being able to go to the bathroom without having to worry about running into a bear felt quite compelling!!! The last night we woke up to find that 'somebody' or 'something' had picked up the core of the corn on the cob from our meal that we had thrown on the the camp fire ... It could have been a bear the size of our car or something smaller and it's probably better that we don't actually know what it was...

Tomorrow we are heading back to Vancouver. Probably via Revelstoke and then Kelowna. We plan on spending 3 days in Vancouver to sort out all our stuff and re-pack for the next leg of this journey which will take us east across Canada!

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on October 11, 2009 from Golden, Canada
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Rainy vancouver

Vancouver, Canada

We made it back to Vancouver! After we left Golden, we drove east via Revelstoke, Kelowna and Hope. It was strange to approach the metropolitan civilisation and at first we were confused about all the traffic on the road, thinking 'something must have happened', before we realized we had just hit rush traffic. We simply weren't used to seeing so many cars at once after six weeks in very rural areas!

The three days in Vancouver were spent taking care of som admin stuff, re-packing the car and meeting up with a couple of friends. It was a little strange to back in your 'hometown' (at least for Victoria who have lived in Vancouver for eight and a half years) and not have a permanent address in the city. However, both of us felt a little clastrophobic with so many people in such a small space.

When we checked out from our hotel after three days it felt good and we are now ready to embark on the journey east. We will be maintaining the blog for the next portion of this trip, so come back soon to see what we are up to!

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on October 16, 2009 from Vancouver, Canada
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Next part of this trip

Vancouver, Canada

We are on the road again and back on the computer to give you updates on our whereabouts. However, the trip across Canada will have a slightly different url as Blogabond gives you the ability to create smaller mini blogs for each segment of a longer trip. Our travels across Canada will therefore have the innovative name of 'Across Canada' and the posts specifically associated with that part of our trip will be found here: http://www.blogabond.com/TripView.aspx?tripID=10182

Alternatively, just go to our 'homepage' where you will be able to see both our blogs so far (Canadian Arctic and Across Canada):

Hope to see you there! Again, feel free to comment and let us know what you think about our (sometimes) crazy adventures!

-Victoria & Robert

permalink written by  Victoria & Robert on October 20, 2009 from Vancouver, Canada
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This is the blog of a Brit and Korean looking Swedish-Canadian who met in Vancouver and decided to travel the world together.

We plan on traveling through Northern Canada to the Arctic Circle, then across the country to then continue over the Atlantic sea and resume our adventure in Europe...

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