We went up the Dempster Highway to go camping this weekend. This is a remote gravel road that goes from 40km east of Dawson City, up north, ending in Inuvik, 736km later. (And by next year will go all the way to Tuktoyaktuk on the the Arctic Ocean!)
It is wild, remote country. Very few people, lots of animals and bears. I’m so ridiculously bearanoid, I made it clear I was never camping in a tent in the Yukon. Jeff found a compromise and decided we should camp in the Tombstone Territorial park campground. It is just right on the edge of the treeline, just south of wide open tundra. There are 36 sites, no services, but outhouses, and free firewood! $12 a night, self service (so bring cash if you go so you can deposit it in the money pot!)
I soon convinced myself if I could increase the number of people to bear ratio, within a square kilometre, I would be safe in the tent. Campground camping seemed like a good compromise to me.
And I did it! Two nights in the tent! There were only a dozen other people camping, and half of them were in truck campers or just sleeping in their cars, vans, and pick up trucks.
We had clear skies, sunshine, and also rain, snow, and clouds on this camping adventure. We saw a high of 11 or 12° C and a low of likely below zero. It was COLD on Friday night. Cold enough the water along the road in the drainage ditches froze and the truck roof was covered in frost.
We picked a spot right on the North Klondike River. They have gravel pads for tents. We brought our big tent, but Jeff didn’t want to bring our big deep super-sized bed of an air mattress, and got us two little Wood’s self-inflating air pads to sleep on. Which were hideous. Maybe I would have liked them when I was 20, but at 40 years old, my bones need more.
We spent Friday evening, and all of Saturday driving up the Dempster, slowly, wildlife searching. Jeff fished a few times but the fish just weren’t around. The streams have cleared up, so you could see that there just weren’t any fish in them. Just cold, clear water. So we took a lot of pictures, and used the binoculars and spotting scope and watched animals instead. We only went up to kilometre 180 or so.
- 6 moose including a baby!
- 30-40 Dall sheep
- 7 caribou
- 10 foxes plus fox babies!
- 2 lynx
- dozens and dozens and dozens of bunnies – snowshoe hare
- lots of ptarmigan back in their brown feathers
- many ducks
- immature bald eagle eating a bunny
- ground squirrel
- and no bears! But saw so much bear poop on the roads!
Camping with midnight sun is … interesting. The weekend feels like one long day because it never got dark. On Friday night, the sky was clear, and I waited up for the pink sunset reflection to leave the mountains. Which was almost 12:30am. The sunrise was before 4am and it wasn’t dark in between. It is nice not needing a flashlight. But when I’m drinking beers by a campfire, it is nice to take a quick pee in the woods under the cover of darkness 😉
Food tastes so much better when you are camping! (And when Jeff is cooking!) We had steak and potatoes on Friday night. My new survival knife cuts steak really well 🙂
All Yukon campgrounds provide free firewood. It is spruce and was a little too fresh, but we did well mixing in a few dry pieces we had in the truck. Jeff chopped a bunch up but wished he brought a bigger axe. Next time!
Camping in May is great! No bugs at all! It was just way too cold for them. Here’s the view out the driveway of our site (#15).
We were looking closely where we saw a pregnant moose a few weeks ago, and I think we spotted her! Or a relative 😉 I thought she was sitting in the bushes, but now while I’m looking at the photo and can zoom, I think she’s standing. She didn’t move a muscle as we sat on the road and watched her with binoculars and the camera. In case she was the pregnant moose, we moved along and didn’t stick around to stress her.
Saturday morning started off so cold, but it was a beautiful morning!
Our campsite was down the valley here. You might see a white spot where the roof of the park’s interpretive centre is.
We saw a fox sitting in front of a den on Friday night, and while Jeff was fishing, I got our binoculars and looked around and spotted the fox again nearby the same spot. We went back to see her.
Then Jeff spotted something in her den! Can you see it?
A fox kit!
Look at the fluffy guard hairs on its coat! It is so fluffy!
Wait! There are more!
It is hard to stop myself from sharing 20 photos of these adorable fox babies! Okay, just one more!
We revisited another one of Jeff’s fishing holes and saw some ducks sleeping in a big puddle (but no fish):
We have tree swallows everywhere. I just love watching them. The next couple of pictures are from Two Moose Lake:
So many different kinds of ducks here! No swans this weekend though.
A bit further north of Two Moose Lake, we spotted two moose!
One was definitely bigger than the other, and the younger looking one has antler stubs, so maybe this is a momma moose with her last year’s calf.
I have no idea how Jeff spotted the next fellow, and while he was driving! This fox was stretched out snoozing, on my side of the road. I thought he must have been hurt or wounded, but nah! He was just sleeping. He’d open his eyes for awhile and look at us, then close them up and sleep on.
The wildflowers are really coming to life. Just from Friday to Sunday there was a remarkable difference in the number of flowers around. Tons of these wild lupins:
They are much shorter than the east coast variety, and I think I’ve only ever seen this blue/purple shade. Leaves look the same as the ones growing in our Nova Scotia yard though.
We watched the Dall sheep on the mountain where we spotted them about three weeks ago. We saw one with a baby sheep too! They were far up on the mountain though, and Jeff’s spotting scope on the window mount was really the only good viewing, so I don’t have a photo of the baby lamb. We saw sheep again another 70 km up the road though.
Let me zoom in on the same photo and adjust the contrast a bit so you can see them! There are two near the middle of this photo:
Jeff found the gyrfalcon next on the cliffs near the road too! The bird is in there, but it is a bit of a stretch for our zoom lens!
We went just a bit further to where road crews were fixing a pretty significant spring wash out. It looks like one of the mountain streams took out one side of the road. It is weird to see just a car or two for hours and hours and then suddenly see half a dozen dump trucks and an excavator!
On the way back south, there were sheep right on the road!
Sheep are cute too!
None of these sheep had babies yet. Maybe we’ll have to go back in a couple weeks!
Further back south, we saw another baby! A moose baby! Awwww!
They were a long way away, but the momma moose still turned to take her baby back into the safety of the shrubs. It didn’t look like a brand new baby, but maybe less than a week old!
We headed back to the campground for another delicious dinner. Pork chops this time! We have so many cans of potatoes on our shelves. They cook up deliciously on the camp stove in a cast iron pan!
After dinner it started to sprinkle. We stoked the fire and sat for hours beside the river, keeping toasty by the fire. So toasty a big ember burned through my coat and sweatshirt before Jeff found it. I was smelling burning but we couldn’t find it until I almost felt it!
It was really loud by the river, which was nice so I didn’t jump at every noise, thinking it was a bear, but there was a few bunnies bouncing around the campground!
After 10pm, the sprinkles turned to rain, so we turned in early. Luckily, despite the rain and wind, it was a warmer night. It snowed all night in the mountain peaks around us. Each had a fresh cap of snow by Sunday morning!
By 6:30am we had enough of sleeping on the little air pads and needed to get up and stretch (and pee). It starting sleeting a bit, so we had a quick breakfast, and then packed up our gear and wet tent and was out of there by 8:30am.
The sun came out as we headed south. We saw two lumps on the side of the road, both the same size, and they darted into the woods. Jeff pulled the truck up to where they went in, to see if we could spot them. We were thinking fox, but we didn’t see their tails. That is because they were lynx! Jeff got a few great pictures of one because they sauntered further into the woods.
See the ear tufts?
They didn’t look fully grown. Not babies this year, but maybe last?
Still didn’t see any bears at all! Just a lot of bear poop. But we did see another fox closer to town!
Overall, A+ weekend! We still fantasize about a truck camper (the kind that go in the box of your truck) and a beefier truck to go with it. Then we could camp anywhere and have a more comfortable bed (and less to pack/unpack/dry/). Maybe next year!