The day had finally arrived - on Day 18 of my journey, 7/13/2012, my goal was to ride the Dempster Highway as high up as the Arctic Circle. I just realized that this was Friday the 13th... hilarious. [344 total miles / ~319 dirt] I got a slower start than I wanted to, eventually pushing out of Dawson at ~11am. I was going back and forth about whether or not to stash some of my gear at the hotel to lighten my load [pick it up on my return through Dawson]. In the end, I decided that +/- 20 lbs. wasn't going to make that much difference, and I didn't really know what lie ahead, in terms of conditions. The road had been completely closed for several days, earlier that week, due to a mudslide. Again, they had seen epic rains here, just a few days prior to my arrival. Given all of that, I didn't want to be without camping gear, extra food, etc. in case I didn't make Eagle Plains that day, for whatever reason. So, I geared up and headed back East from Dawson to the start of the Dempster. There is a gas station and several signs at the beginning of the highway - plenty of chances for photographs and final reflections on what you're about to get into. I had heard that there was no such thing as an ambulance on this road. A serious accident meant an airlift out - probably to Whitehorse. The road itself is interesting construction - it's a gravel pad 4' - 8' high. Concrete or a lesser pad wouldn't work because of the constant freeze/thaw and movement of the permafrost below. Consequently, one of the biggest hazards for motorcyclists is going off of the road and not being seen by anyone - it's such a long drop. Kate got me a SPOT tracker for my birthday this year - lovely peace of mind for stuff like this. 370 km translates to 230 miles. The big Suzuki is good for about 200 miles, best case scenario. That's if it's smooth, steady, highway riding - which this won't be. I'll likely need every ounce of that 2.5 gallon jerry can. This would be the last pavement I'd see for 3 days... ...and it begins! Right off the bat, the scenery is amazing. It's really cloudy, but they're isolated, not a solid blanket. It made for really dramatic lighting when the sun did pierce the haze. The landscape was more varied than I imagined - there was swampy wetlands [that's snow and ice still on the river]: Rocky cliffs: Gravelly moonscapes [I'll drink to that] : Raging rivers: ... and some really interesting vegetation. The trees were really scrappy and thin - I guess their roots were very shallow due to the permafrost. I don't know what was up with these things - something out of a Dr. Seuss book. There were fields of this flower, as far as they eye could see. CJ and I had discussed what the road surface might be like on the Dempster - comparing it to other surfaces we'd seen through B.C. In the end, there was a bit of everything - hard-pack dirt, soft dirt where they had just graded the road [very slippery], loose gravel [the worst], and.... slippery clay-gone-mud. The rains started after I'd been on the road about three hours - long enough that there was really no turning back even if I wanted to [I wouldn't make it with the amount of gas I was carrying]. It was bitter irony that the first real rains I had seen the whole trip happened when I was riding dirt roads for several days - with no paved alternatives. It was intermittent rain - no big deal, except for what it did to the roads. What would have been nice, solid, hard-pack dirt & clay became deep, slippery, snot. I just slowed down and tractor'd on - grateful for my semi-knobby tires and the additional grip provided by reduced air pressure. You could see clearly which clouds were dumping rain and which weren't: Here's me ... a bit soggy and a lot happy. I really enjoyed the riding - with all of its challenges and accomplishments. How can you not be inspired by scenery like this? I arrived into Eagle Plains at around 6pm - tired, wet, and proud of myself. Eagle Plains is more-or-less the midway point on the highway and more-or-less the only sign of humanity I'd seen since Dawson, besides a handful of other motorists. There is a gas station [the only one on the route], a motel, and a restaurant / bar. Given that it was still raining, and feeling like I had earned it, I treated myself to a crappy $140 motel room for the night. I guess you can pretty much charge what you want in a place like that. I had heard when I started up the road that the ferry crossing at Fort McPherson was out due to high / strong waters [ recurring theme]. Apparently, it's a cable-guided ferry, and that cable had snapped. I was cautiously optimistic that it would be repaired by the time I reached that point on the road, but this is what greeted me at Eagle Plains: Word was that the ferry was still down, and it would be several days yet before it was repaired. I'd still be able to make it up to the Arctic Circle, but not much further. That was ok by me - the Arctic Circle had always been my goal, and timing was tight to catch my ferry down the inside passage. Inuvik would have to wait. The ferry crossing being out was awesome for me in that there was very little truck traffic on the road. All trucks headed South were held up at Fort McPherson [or never left Inuvik], and all trucks headed North were holed up at Eagle Plains or hadn't left Dawson, awaiting assurance that they'd be able to complete the route. When I checked into the hotel, the receptionist / bartender / waitress [German, of course] tipped me off that it was a beautiful thing to see the Arctic Circle at 'sunset' [such as it is] around 1am. Sounds like a plan! The arctic circle is only ~40 miles further North from Eagle Plains, so I had a bit of time. I dumped my bags and hit the restaurant / bar. The fact that the road was closed North of there had another entertaining consequence - it meant that the bar was full of sauced-up truckers killing time on the company dime [maybe...]. The soundtrack was nothing short of hilarious - the bartender's iPad blasting through cheap computer speakers... mixed with French-Canadian trucker talk. The numa-numa song [I am not kidding] segued directly to country/western classics and then on to 80's pop ... it was pure magic. <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/60og9gwKh1o" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="420"></iframe> At around midnight, I pushed off North with a light load. The road was damp, but not slippery = fun riding. I had left my camera battery charging in the hotel room, so the iPhone would have to do. At ~1am on July 14th, I had arrived - the apex of my journey - the Arctic Circle.