Outdoor Running Adventures

Running in northern BC with my dog Kobi


Day 8 of the 12 Days of Yukon

This is a long post so grab a snack! Day 7 is here if you need a catch-up.

Day 8 is the day we go to Inuvik!  The plan was stay one night in Inuvik after Herschal Island, fly back to Dawson City and hit the road to Whitehorse, stay the night there, pick up the trailer first thing and then hit the road back home.

The airport parking lot in Dawson City is across the road from the airport. We were initially a little concerned about leaving our truck parked in such an open area full of most of our stuff, but we were assured by airport folks that it was perfectly safe.

The Dawson City airport is a very small airport, but has daily flights to Inuvik and Whitehorse. There is no security here so we checked in and had a seat. The airport is basically a counter and a small waiting room. I was looking around to see who all would be on the flight with us and there were only 2 other guys waiting.  I noticed that one of the girls who was sitting at the counter when we checked in started walking into the bathrooms and yelling “Inuvik, flight for Inuvik is ready.”  I notice the two other guys waiting had stood up and were following this girl. I had just enough time to tell husband, “looks like we’re boarding.” I grab my day pack and follow the small crowd.

We were quickly out the door which closed behind me.  I look behind me and don’t see husband.  I walk all the way to the plane, constantly looking behind me and still no husband.  I decide I need to take matters into my own hands and walk all the way back to the airport building.  I get back to the “airport” where there is a side door and I see the other check-in counter girl. I talk to her through the door and say, “my husband appears to have not heard that we’re departing.”  She just glances at me and doesn’t acknowledge that she understands the need for him to get on this plane.  I can see husband through this back door just standing in the airport looking lost so I yell through the back door, “Jay!!  Lets go!!”  Well, that gets everyone’s attention.  He finally gets ushered out by the first girl and I’m politely told that she had things under control and I should’ve stayed at the plane. Good thing this was a small airport or I might have been in a bit more trouble.

Now that we’re on the plane and I have husband with me I can relax a bit. I notice that one half of the plane has these weird seat covers.  Then I realize the seat covers or holding cargo.  This flight stops in Old Crow first and then to Inuvik.  Old Crow is a fly in only community so all their supplies come by plane, but this morning appears to be the day that there is an extra large load of cargo.  Turns out unloading all this cargo takes a long time. 

Old Crow is one of the last fly in communities in the Yukon.  It was cool to see locals driving up to the airport on their quads.  The smoke from all the fires was pretty bad this day so the view on the flight wasn’t so great.  Here’s something neat about this community.  One of the priests, Father Mouchet, who lived there way back when, loved cross country skiing so much that he made some trails and set them every winter and made everyone ski.  Turns out one of the residents, Martha Benjamin, was pretty good at it and was a champion level skier in the ’50’s and early ‘60s.  She almost made it to the Olympics, but apparently the Olympic committee decided not to support any Canadians so she never went. 

This was all I saw of Old Crow. It was also very smoky that day.

We re-board 40 minutes behind schedule.  Once at Inuvik, I rush to the bathroom (as I figure the twin otter isn’t going to have one) and hear our names being paged in the airport.  Judi was there waiting for us.  We load up in her giant van with 6 others – 3 Americans, 1 German, 1 Canadian (plus us) and one of Judi’s “volunteer” workers (she sounded French). One thing that stood out was that one of the American’s was eating an egg salad sandwich.  All I could think of was, I hope you fly well as that is going to be nasty if you don’t.

We wait in the hangar for about 40 minutes for our pilot to finally give word that the weather looks good and we can go.  That was a relief as I didn’t want to be the one holding up this flight. We load up and we’re off.  Everyone is pretty stoked at this point as you never know if you are going to get clearance to go.  

We’re all given ear plugs and find a window seat (every seat is a window seat).  Thankfully the lady in front of me (a teacher from Ontario) gave me a heads up to watch for beluga whales on the way.  Our tour guide Judi didn’t offer any information as to what we’d see along the way.  

Twin Otter views

About 30 minutes into the flight we see the odd beluga whale in the Mackenzie Delta.  That sounds so cool, “Mackenzie Delta.” Husband is sitting behind me so I occasionally look back and give a thumbs up.  We’re both glued to the window.  

Somewhere over the Mackenzie Delta

After close to an hour and 6 beluga whale sightings later, we get so close to Herschel Island we can practically see it.  Now, here’s the thing about Herschel Island, it is an island in the arctic subject to sudden weather changes with a very short and rough air strip.  Our pilot gets on the speakers and announces that the island is now fogged in and we can’t land.  I can’t begin to express my disappointment, but I also have to accept that pilots know best and I don’t want to end up in a fiery plane crash on an incredibly remote island in the arctic.  I also try not to dwell on the fact that I don’t get a refund if we don’t land.  The pilot offers us the “scenic” route back to Inuvik.  It was pretty cool.

The scenic route

Shortly after the twin otter is heading back to Inuvik, I notice that the Arctic Chalet volunteer worker has her eyes closed.  I think to myself, who would close their eyes and miss out on this view?  A person vomiting their guts out, that’s who.  Apparently husband and the German fellow behind me were handing her extra vomit bags.  

More scenic route

The view was pretty cool and I saw so many belugas I lost track of how many I saw.  I saw mama belugas and baby belugas and pods of belugas. It was cool.  We were on the look-out for musk-ox, but saw none. That would’ve been very cool.

We get back to Inuvik and everyone is trying to be cheerful, but we’re all mostly pissed off, but what can you do.  While Judi was driving us all back from the airport to her place, I’m listening to a conversation with the American’s about one of them running with some of Judi’s dogs.  She does dog sled tours in the winter and has a pile of white Alaskan malamute dogs.  We get to the chalet and check in and also pay for the twin otter flight, that charge stung a bit. I ask Judi how far it is to town as we have stuff to see and we’d like to have dinner at Alestine’s. Judi says she can drive us there in about 20 minutes as it’s about 3km from her place.  She also says Alestine’s fills up pretty fast as it’s small. I ask if I could perhaps run with some of her dogs as they have a little trail they’ve built up behind their place.  You see, everything is very wet in Inuvik so it’s not very easy to get around in the summer months.  She says feel free to ask the girls that look after the dogs and they’ll set me up (recall vomiting French girl).  I decide I’ll do this in the morning. We quickly drop our stuff off at our cabin, which was really nice and get ready to head to town!   

These are the dogs I might get to run with

Judi drops us at Alestine’s and we were lucky as we get 2 of four remaining seats. Alestine’s place is cool.  She does the cooking in a modified school bus and the restaurant is in a little detached building that holds about 12 people total.  She specializes in the “catch of the day”.  Today’s catch was some kind of whitefish.  I opted for the fish tacos.  They were very very good.  Now if you’re familiar with First Nations, you will know about bannock.  I am a bannock fan, especially fried bannock (who wouldn’t like deep fried bread).  Alestine had her version of fried bread for dessert and I had to have some.  She typically dressed it up with dream whip and sprinkles, but I asked for just the fried bread with some sugar on the side.  It was so good.  

We then ventured into town and hit the local grocery store just to get a sense of how expensive everything was in this place.  Things were terribly expensive.  We bought a small instant coffee, like micro small, and it cost over $5. There wasn’t a huge selection of things and bananas were not the greenish yellow I like, they were nearly all brown. I recall a bag of chips cost $8. Considering the distance groceries have to be trucked in I can see why they were so expensive. We then found the round church and got our bearings for the Art Festival happening in town.  We’d do that before our afternoon flight tomorrow.  I also saw on Facebook there was an Arctic Market happening tomorrow.

We caught a cab back to the Arctic Chalet and I made Jay walk the trail with me located behind the main lodge.  It was about 1km one way.  I’ve never ever ever experienced mosquitoes like I experienced on that trail.  I will never forget that.  Jay doesn’t “walk” with me ever and I doubt he ever will again. The one time he agrees, he gets completely attacked by mosquitoes.

Us getting swarmed

After our pleasant speed-walk back to the cabin we settled in for the night. Of course we had to chase around and kill a few rogue mosquitoes that got in with us. I then laid out tomorrow’s plan with husband: get to the recreation centre to see the art show, hit the arctic market, get to the airport. Easy peasy.

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Day 7 of the 12 Days of Yukon

On Day 6 I neglected to tell you I had dropped into two information centres. First I hit the NWT information centre. I asked the lady there, “what would you do in Inuvik if you only had 4 hours?”. She told me to see the round church, check out the aquatic centre, and go to Alestine’s for dinner. I made notes. Then I hit the Yukon information centre across the street and asked the info dude there about running trails in the area.  He brought out a little map and pointed out a loop around the town that connected back to the dyke that ran along the river beside town.  I asked him if I should be concerned about bears and he said they could rent me a can of bear spray. Translation, yes, you should be concerned about bears. I explained I had my own bear spray, thanked him for his time and took the map he had highlighted for me.

Now back to the early hours of Day 7. I went off in search of the loop and found it after asking for directions from a guy walking his dog. The loop was pretty cool as it went behind town up on the slope where all the prospectors had set up camp around the town in it’s two year hay-day (I’ve included a photo way below that shows you what town looked like then).  You could see evidence of old garbage (cans and bottles)  as well as some rock foundations.  I then ran past moose hide slide.  There’s a bit of a neat story to that slide so check out the link if you have time.

I really liked this little sign along the trail. It made me miss Kobi more.
View from the back of the loop
Another view along the trail
Moose Hide Slide

After my run around town and before heading back to the hotel, I ran to a bakery and purchased the most delicious sticky bun I’ve ever eaten, a loaf of bread (because I threw my other 7 dollar loaf of bread), and some other dessert-like treat I can’t recall thanks to the sticky bun that I still dream about.  We went back to the Alchemy Cafe for breakfast (second breakfast for me) and I had the most delicious cold brew coffee.

This is what it looked like back in the old times (photo credit Parks Canada, Klondike National Historical Sites)

I had been working on convincing husband that we needed to drive at least part of the Dempster Highway and he finally conceded. We drove to Tombstone Park, about 70km up the Dempster.  Holy doodle, what a cool place, but what a lot of people!  I wasn’t expecting that.  It was also kind of smoky from the fires.  We got to the interpretation centre and I asked a helpful staff person where there was a shortish trail that I could run in 30 minutes so as not to annoy my husband too much.  She didn’t laugh, but took my request very seriously. She provided me with directions to this perfect trail and off we drove a little ways up the Dempster. We found the side road and parked where it ended. It was pretty off the beaten path, so much so, that once I started running, I lost the trail.  Then I saw a caribou carcass, freaked out and started running back to the truck. Then I experienced a severe leg cramp and hobbled the rest of the way back.  It was a short run.

This was the trail that just ended
That’s the Dempster down below

Apparently July 2019 was the driest the Dempster had ever been. Perhaps that’s why there were so many fires happening too.

We proceeded back to Dawson City and hit the museum and walked around town a bit more checking out the historic sites. There was also a music festival happening over the weekend so a lot of bands were coming to town and you could hear lots of bands practicing or doing sound checks. I realized I was old at this point as I mostly found it loud.

Robert Service’s former cabin.

For dinner we hit the hotel restaurant and I had arctic char, again! This is my all time favourite fish. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get organized for our morning flight to Inuvik the next day. We’d be staying overnight at the Arctic Chalet in Inuvik – the place that Judi the Herschel Island tour organizer ran. I had only brought a small day pack with me so it was a bit tricky packing everything I’d need for one night into a very small bag considering I was packing warm gear for Herschel Island, just in case.